Voice and Style Guide

You found it: the magic behind Funraise's sunny, spunky, scintillating voice.

Funraise is more than technology; we’ve got heart and imagination and an exploring, curious spirit. And a sense of humor (we think.)

But how do we stay true to our characteristics and values as we build the technology that we dreamed of when we were the fundraisers, development directors, grant writers, and nonprofiteers? We use our words.
 

Content Goals

Funraise has content goals. Otherwise, why even make content, right? As we build content, we want to think in terms of the long game. We also need to remember that we’re in the middle of the long game right now… so, stuff we’ve done in the past can help us out or bite us in the butt. 

Here are our long-game content goals:
  • leave a specific imprint on the mind of anyone who comes across our brand.
  • be a mirror, reflecting to the consumer that they, too, have the problem we're discussing, while at the same time providing the solution.
  • entertain consumers whether they're trapped doing booooring work or just learning about our company.
  • provide an understanding of how our audience's work is affecting world events (that they may not have thought of) and vice versa: show them how current events, new laws, breakthroughs in technology, societal paradigm shifts, etc affect their work, mission, goals. 
  • persuade them (at once or over time) that Funraise is a pretty awesome platform and learning more about it would be beneficial to them.
  • bring our visitors a new perspective on technology, equity, donor appreciation, and communications in the nonprofit sector.

Content should be

  • Valuable
  • Focused toward the situation at hand
  • Clear
  • Representative of Funraise’s brand
  • Clean
  • Clear
  • Active voice
  • Start at the beginning, end at the end
  • Identify options, sections, destinations

We value accessibility in writing, which means writing for audiences that don't consume content the way we do. These audiences may include visually impaired, colorblind, text-only, non-English language, non-native English language.

No one is an island and everyone makes mistakes—get someone to glance over your work before sending or publishing to evaluate writing, images, and timing.

We refuse to use language that excludes or metaphors that set us in opposition. If we're against an idea or value system, we'll be direct, not subtle. To this end, we strive to use gender-open or gender-creative writing rather than gendered terms.

  • NO: Sir/Madam
  • NO: Mr./Ms./Mrs.
  • NO: his/her, his or her
  • YES: use of names
  • YES: use of they/their as singular pronouns ("when your CEO submits their application")
  • YES: speaking directly to the customer/lead ("submit your application")
  • YES: restructure sentences to take out pronouns ("Submit your application" vs "...they submit their application")

Funraise supports Black Lives Matter. We support equity for POCs. We build content that doesn't shy away from questions of equity and centers the voices of those who have been silenced. To this end, we strive to use language that acknowledges our privilege and uses it to uplift others.

Ugh

Funraise’s tone is playful and friendly. There’s very little room for jargon in the way we communicate because jargon is not only the antithesis of friendliness, it’s also just boring and hard to read. I like this example of jargon: “an orderly transition between career changes while undergoing a period of non-waged involuntary leisure during your temporary outplacement.” Otherwise known as being fired. 

  • Back up, what’s “jargon”? Jargon is when you use big words to impress people. Here’s a fun article on jargon: https://www.plainlanguage.gov/resources/articles/keep-it-jargon-free/
  • Please don't write as though you're speaking to a police officer, relaying factual details with unnecessarily stodgy words, ugh: "On [date], at approximately 0639 hours, the victim stated that an unknown suspect willfully and unlawfully stole the victim's properties including the victim's firearm. The incident occurred at [address]"

Please don't write with a voice that could be related to specific public figures

  • For example, Donald Trump uses rambling, repetitive, unfinished sentences, short, 1-word sentences ("Sad."), and employs a small list of words that play a large part in his speech: Sad, Huge, Big, Smart, Fake

Dated slang is a no-go. It's one thing to be nostalgic or to use established slang, especially when it fits our friendly vibe. When it's brand-new or sarcastic or otherwise condescending or snarky, we need to stay away. Examples: 

  • NO: "spill the tea"


Equity in Content

We're beside ourselves with excitement over SumOfUs.org's style guide. It's A LOT, to be sure, but it's thorough and comprehensive, organized and easy-to-navigate, and having it as a resource is a huge help.  https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.sumofus.org/images/SUMOFUS_PROGRESSIVE-STYLEGUIDE.pdf

This is a superb examination process for content. Created by Vu Le and updated regularly, it uses a REACH (Representation, Experience, Accessibility, Compensation, Harm Reduction) approach to screening for equity in content. https://nonprofitaf.com/2019/08/content-creators-heres-an-equity-screen-to-use-as-you-work-on-your-next-blog-post-book-podcast-or-video/

We use "crazy" only in rare and highly specific circumstances. Same goes for words that are associated with other mental or physiological disorders. Ugh.

Culturally appropriated slang, ugh. It's not that we shouldn't use these terms at all, but we should make conscious choices as we create content, using terms that are clearly not appropriated when we can. Examples: 

  • NO: calling our customers "homies" or "fam"
  • NO: saying that we're "woke"
  • YES: saying our customers are "woke" 
  • NO: I hate to say it, but we should stay away from "Yaaasss" if possible, and definitely "Yas, Queen!" and “queens”
  • NO: "rule of thumb"
  • NO: "pow wow"

Gendered language is outdated and perpetuates institutionalized stereotypes. Ugh. An exception is when we know for sure a person's gender, regardless of what we see when we look at them. Also, for nonprofits that focus on working with a specific gender, like Beloved Atlanta, we can talk about their constituents' gender. (But it's nice to be gender-open even in this case!)

Race touches our society every day, in ways white people often cannot see but BIPOC feel. Funraise supports Black Lives Matter. We support equity for POCs. We build content that doesn't shy away from questions of equity and centers the voices of those who have been silenced. To this end, we choose language that acknowledges our privilege and uses it to uplift others' perspectives. In supporting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color through content, Funraise must tamp out microaggressions, highlight the "hidden" inequities, and uplift anti-racist perspectives, language, and stories. 

Funraise actively eschews words and content that do not align with our values and commitment, including words or images that reinforce stereotypes, language that trivializes the experiences of BIOPOC, messages that reinforce white dominant culture or norms that are rooted in white supremacy, and strengthens a counter-narrative based on a racial justice equity vision by asking and answering as we create content:

  • How does our content counter the existing narrative and correct inequities? 
  • How are we centering and uplifting voices of communities of color?

A great source of guidance when writing about race is Race Forward's Race Reporting Guide: https://www.raceforward.org/sites/default/files/Race%20Reporting%20Guide%20by%20Race%20Forward_V1.1.pdf

  • Black people, Black woman, Black man > African American or African-American
  • Indigenous and Aboriginal are identities of people, not descriptors, and therefore should be capitalized.
  • white people, white woman, white man. We do not capitalize white as it does not point to a specific culture or ethnicity. Additionally, white supremacist groups tend to capitalize white to show dominance and superiority. Our decapitation of the word white serves to distance ourselves from those hate groups. 


Images as language

Words don't always get the message across in the most complete, efficient way, so when an image, emoji, or meme can help us express what we're trying to say, let's use it! Especially if we're writing a lot of words, sometimes an image is just humongously refreshing to the eyes and brain.

We use images when they contribute heavily to the content, similarly to how we don't talk just to be loud. We use only properly-sized, correct filetype images, and we get someone to look over before publishing.

Regarding digital blackface and digital cultural appropriation:

  • Funraise is not a person, so Funraise's voice cannot lay claim to any one race or culture. Having said that, lots of images, memes, or emojis reduce a race, culture, or group to a trope—so we don't use those! 
  • The goal is to normalize diversity rather than establishing one group as "the norm". By referencing mostly white or male or able communities (for example) in our imagery, we are establishing those groups as our default, which others anyone outside that group. 
  • For example: If we use only kittens in our animal imagery, it becomes an outlier to use an image of a tortoise, bringing extra attention to the tortoise's non-kitten-ness rather than bringing attention to the fact that the tortoise is a Funraise customer.

Our use of imagery should reflect our stance on slang: "Dated slang is a no-go. It's one thing to be nostalgic or to use established slang, especially when it fits our friendly vibe. When it's brand-new or sarcastic or otherwise condescending or snarky, we need to stay away."


This is Funraise's "at-a-glance" voice and style guide. There's loooads more, including a more robust Brand Voice Guide, a messaging architecture, a Funraise company persona, and other awesomely fun stuff for word nerds. If you're interested in hearing more, email us. Hello@funraise.org is waiting for your outreach!

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