"Support" and Other Corporate Funding Euphemisms

by Laura Chynoweth, Founder & CEO

One of our clients recently asked me how I am able to find information about corporate funders and their funding interests. I briefly marveled at this 35-year-old who didn't seem to realize that we are living in the Google era, meaning people no longer need wonder about, well, anything really. Then I realized the obstacle that impeded this technologically savvy, articulate woman's search for prospective funders lay not with her capability level, but rather, with prospective funders' use of euphemisms.

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Corporations have a knack for choosing the perfect words to "spin" unpleasant topics, and their carefully crafted content evolves over time. Just consider:

  • "Downsizing" = Layoffs are coming. = Job cuts are nigh. = A large group of people is getting fired.
  • "Let go." = Eliminated. = Someone was fired.
  • "Reassigned." = Someone was not doing well with their original assigned task and was given a new one to try. = Someone was demoted.

Notice how all of these examples are attempts to add tact to unpleasant situations. In other words, they are euphemisms. It should come as no surprise to anyone that most people associate asking for money with a certain level of unpleasantness. Fear of rejection aside, this feeling is a result of the historically taboo nature of open discussion of money in the U.S. By corporate logic, then, using euphemisms to refer to donation and sponsorship policies makes sense.

Here are just a few that I've come across in my virtual travels:

  • Social Responsibility
  • Corporate Giving
  • Commitment to Community
  • Corporate Values
  • Community Support
  • Giving Back
  • Philanthropy
  • Community Relations
  • Philanthropic Relations

While some of these are a bit more obvious than others, the meanings behind all are less than straightforward. (This is not to say that nonprofits aren't also guilty of overusing euphemisms. Count the number of times your organization or one you support uses the words "support" and "help" in their next direct mail piece.)

To answer to my nonprofit friends and clients seeking corporate funding: look for terms like these hiding in plain sight on your prospective corporate funder's website and/or annual report.

And though no one from the corporate world asked, my suggestion to corporations seeking meaningful partnerships with local nonprofits (and good PR to boot) is to make their corporate giving procedures more readily accessible to those in the non-corporate world.