by James Hodge & Scott Arthur, founders of Appreciative Philanthropy

Advancement Resources is thrilled to announce their strategic collaboration and partnership with James Hodge and Scott Arthur of Appreciative Philanthropy in creating dynamic new training for development leaders, principal gift professionals, and major gift professionals who aspire to lift benefactors to higher levels.

Despite our many years of working in development, we are an abject failure at something important to us and for our work. We have failed to change the dismal language around fundraising and philanthropy. Professionals still cling to a denigrating lexicon around our work. It’s a language that is demeaning to the profession, its professionals and, most importantly, philanthropists.

Words matter. Consider the words we use to define us and others: prospects, suspects, targets, pitches … really? Leaving money on the table … do not even get us started on that one. To be fair, many have changed the language they use in teaching, consulting, and the daily work we are privileged to conduct. Our respect goes out to these leaders. Yet, much more must be done.

Let’s start with how we define those who invest in the important work our organizations do. Working in medicine for 35 years, we do not use the word “donor,” as there are many varieties of donors in medicine. Certainly, donor is appropriate in many situations, but we prefer the word benefactor. People want to see themselves as benefactors of significant gifts who have true equity in important and just ideas.

Our language speaks to objectifying benefactors for their money rather than engaging them in meaningful acts of caring and sharing. It speaks to seeing philanthropists as a means to the ends, their contributions, rather than as ends in themselves. An “I-Thou” relationship-based stance, rather than an “I-It” transactional approach, will bring back the nobility of our work and its spiritual, rather than merely material, orientation.

We have to start somewhere. Phasing out the old language and bringing in the new is a good way to begin. The chart below is just a suggested first step. We must build an awareness of the old unkind lexicon and an openness to a new way of thinking and talking about our profession and our benefactors. Thinking about the language we use with and about our benefactors is only the first step in the essential shifts necessary for elevating our work.

Old Lexicon New Lexicon
Targeting Identifying
Hitting people up Inviting
Suspects and prospects Potential friends and benefactors
Pitching Co-creating ideas
Leaving money on the table Scaling to idea-exact costs
Schmoozing Engaging
Begging Inspiring (ethical inspiration)
Sales and selling Compelling ideas worthy of investment
I raised I had the honor of working with inspired and generous philanthropists.
Ultimate, big, biggest gifts—size related Significant, meaningful, purpose-related contributions

We invite you to join in co-creating a new dictionary of dignity and respect. Share your thoughts and suggestions on social media about the relationship-based language you use to talk about your profession.


Join us for the three-part virtual training session, Changing Hearts and Changing Minds: Inspiring Principal Giving. The combination of Advancement Resources’ high-quality, research-based training coupled with the contagious enthusiasm and boots-on-the-ground knowledge of Appreciative Philanthropy equals an unparalleled experience in exploring what it takes to achieve a paradigm shift in philanthropy at your organization.

Invigorate and inspire your work by attending the Changing Hearts and Changing Minds: Inspiring Principal Giving workshop.

Register today!