Philanthropic Jargon Worth Knowing

Philanthropic Jargon, Philanthropy Words
IMG: via Shutterstock

Like any other field, philanthropy has its own evolving set of jargon known best by insiders and those involved most in giving to or running nonprofits. Here are eight new words being used frequently in conversations about philanthropy:

Data is the set of hard facts used to educate the public, improve nonprofit functionality, and show the impact (through numbers) that the nonprofit is having. Many are still working out the kinks of how best to share this information. Data scientists are those that work to make sense of incoming data and create graphics to visualize and better analyze the data.

MOOCs, or massive open online courses, is the acronym used to describe the many free, full, online courses being offered by college professors and universities all over the country. They offer the chance for people to self-educate themselves, whether or not they are currently enrolled as a student—which helps them get and keep jobs.

Flash-mob philanthropy functions much like you might expect. A group of strangers comes together to perform a dance or some other action—but instead of just doing it for fun, they’re using it to raise money and awareness of causes or to run advocacy campaigns. Hackathons get groups of coders, designers, philanthropists, etc. together to create technological solutions to social issues. The production of apps, maps, and mobile tools help disaster response, job seekers, and more.

Social-welfare organizations are those nonprofits that are involved in politics, and therefore don’t offer charitable deductions to donors. Technically speaking, these nonprofits are classified by the IRS as 501(c)(4). They often work to promote and influence political campaigns, such as the most recent 2012 presidential race.

Resilience is the replacement word for “sustainability,” many believing it to be a better descriptor for bouncing back and continuing to survive despite the challenges that lay ahead.

The Fiscal Cliff is the term used to discuss the end of certain tax cuts and the beginning of new budget cuts that will begin on January 2nd, 2013. If Congress can’t come to an agreement on how to address the rising U.S. deficit, then we will hit the fiscal cliff, and likely face some grim prospects—especially in the philanthropy world.