In 2 days, over 2 billion people worldwide (or about 1/3 of the world’s population) will celebrate the Christmas holiday. Whether folks celebrate Christmas as a religious or cultural event, a primary component of the holiday is the act of “gift giving.”
During the Christmas season, people give gifts to friends. They give gifts to family members. They give gifts to children and elders alike. They give gifts to work colleagues. They give gifts to neighbors. They give gifts to service providers – the person delivering the mail, barbers, and hair stylists, etc. They give gifts. . . .
Have you ever wondered why we don’t talk about “making donations” to all these people?
Many charitable organizations use the words “giving” and “donating” interchangeably. Just pick a website for a national or international charity of your choice and you likely will find the words “donate,” “donation,” and “donating” front and center.
And yet, when we pause, just for a moment, to examine how the words “donate” and “give” make us feel, we find the following distinctions:
- Relationship: The word “donate,” has the connotation of supporting the faceless masses; The word “give” has the connotation of caring for those we know and value;
- Worth: The word, “donate,” has an overtone of offering our second-hand items that we no longer use or want (i.e., “donate your old car,” or “donate your used clothes.”); The word, “give” has the overtone of offering your best or something that you view as valuable;
- Beneficiary: The word, “donate,” is understood as an act that is primarily beneficial to those who receive; While the act of “giving,” is understood to be meaningful for both the giver and receiver.
In addition to the different understood meanings of the words, “donate,” and “give,” we are now learning that these words come with different fundraising outcomes. As a current client of mine recently pointed out, there is now new research from the American Marketing Association to support the notion that “give language” is more productive than “donate language” when it comes to inviting charitable support.
The way we frame how people can help – the words we choose – matters tremendously. We say we want people to feel more connected to our cause and more care for those we serve. We say we want people to experience the authentic joy of being generous in support of others.
It all starts with what we are inviting them to do. Choose wisely.
On a personal note: Whether it is in the celebration of the Christmas holiday, another holiday, or for any other reason, I sincerely hope the gift giving experience is deeply joyful and gratifying for you and everyone you love.
On a professional note: I sincerely hope 2023 is the year we stop asking people to “donate.”