“When you came out of your mommy’s tummy…”
“Snuffles went to doggie heaven…”
“Your Uncle Charlie gets silly when he has had too many adult soda pops…”
“Young people in our state are struggling with homelessness…”
“The results of our research are particularly alarming…”
Hunger has a debilitating effect on a child’s ability to learn…”
In one way or another, each of the above 6 statements are all passive (and, perhaps, upsetting to read).
The first 3 statements try to politely understate unpleasant situations when talking with children (to safeguard their feelings and soften the harsh truth).
The last 3 italicized statements are also used to understate something unpleasant (homelessness, alarming research, hunger’s effect on learning) when communicating with donors.
Unfortunately, the end result is the same. And this is a problem because your donors aren’t children. After all, in order to motivate your donors and prospects to care enough to want to give to your organization, you’ve got to make them feel something.
Our best advice if you’re guilty of using passive language that’s not upsetting to the reader is to stop it! Now!!
Instead of saying, “Children in our city are struggling with hunger.”
Say: “Kids in your city are going to bed hungry and hurting.”
Instead of saying, “The latest statistics are especially concerning.”
Say: “This is the reality and it is very scary!”
Instead of saying, “Hunger has a negative effect on children’s ability to learn.”
Say, “When kids are suffering from hunger, they can’t be expected to learn.”
Instead of saying, “And your Uncle Charlie is an angry drunk.”
Say, “Your Uncle Charlie got very sleepy and grumpy.”
Make donors feel something when communicating with them.