From ‘delivering interventions’ to being ‘independent care specialists’, too many charities and social enterprises fail to communicate the importance – and emotion- of their cause by using jargon to describe what they do.
Lancashire social entrepreneur Donna Rowe Green shares her story of how using the right language for her audience transformed her enterprise from barely surviving, to thriving:
“In May 2012, I – as a Horticultural Therapist and wife of a veteran – had an idea. Why not use my professional and personal experience to deliver support to Lancashire veterans using gardening? So that is what I did – and we opened Dig In North West in April, 2013.
With TV coverage and green space secured, I expected the referrals to flood in – given the identified need for service. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case.
And by Christmas, 2013, I was having to consider closing the doors on the garden, and my dreams to make a difference.
Until, I took a step back and reconsidered the first impression I was giving to potential visitors with the strapline of my social enterprise.
The full name was Dig In North West – Horticultural Therapy for Military Veterans – and it dawned on me, it was failing the audience it was intended to attract, for two reasons:
‘Horticultural therapy’: Horticultural. Who uses that word? Only those who are a professional in the field. And therapy – my target demographic are rarely actively looking for therapy. So, with a bit of surveying of friends and family, it was clear that this term sounded intimidating for many, who assumed you needed expert knowledge or skills to get involved- not realising it was simply gardening and enjoying the great outdoors.
‘For Military Veterans’: I realised that very few service men or women under the age of 60 would identify themselves as ‘veterans’ – immediately isolating a massive sector of my target market.
As a result, I changed the strapline to: Down to earth support for the military community.
I also changed the call to action from ‘get help’ to ‘can you help us?” – a much more attractive proposition to people who identified with helping others, rather than themselves.
The changes that were made were a crucial turning point – we didn’t close the doors that Christmas, and instead grew to now become a six figure revenue enterprise helping the military community in ways I could not have imagined.