7 Nonprofit Terms we Need to Change [Part 1]

By Moshe Hecht

Confession. I’m no veteran of the nonprofit space. My background is in marketing, branding, technology, music … anything but nonprofit.

Before you all run screaming for the hills. I grew up in this space. I watched my parents and older siblings live, breathe and fundraise for their nonprofit. So it was a natural move for me to begin my work alongside different NPO’s, developing and implementing effective fundraising strategies that would not only raise more funds, but would raise more awareness for causes that matter.

But today, with tens of thousands of NPO’s spread across 25 countries, the time has come to create a revolution.

When we think about a revolution, how does it begin? Before the protests, the hunger strikes and the tea parties, what was it it that primed the collective consciousness for this change?

The answer, dear friends, is language.

The very words we use not only give shape to our message, but through them, we have the power to build and tear down worlds. For centuries, language has kept entire cultures and societies intact, while destroying others. It has reinforced hegemony and maintained class systems. Conversely, changes in language have brought down the very structures it once upheld.

So let’s bring out the wrecking ball! Here are seven Nonprofit terms I believe could use an extreme makeover.

1. Volunteer vs. Influencer

It’s statistically proven that it’s not recognition or compensation that engages volunteers the most, but rather, it is the opportunity to take part in something meaningful and larger than oneself. And the more meaningful the volunteer task is, the more they are engaged. For volunteers of days past, all that was required was to come and give some time and energy. You’d make a few calls, collect a few donations, possibly sweep some floors, and then you’d go home.

But today, volunteering is so much more than that. Everyone today possesses unprecedented influence. With the current reach of our social networks, each of us has the potential to reach hundreds, if not thousands, and influence the trajectory of the larger narrative. Think of the power wielded by YouTube celebrities. Credentials, experience and education don’t matter –

the content is either engaging and amazing or it’s the proverbial falling tree.

As a volunteer you’re not only part of the story, you’re the storyteller.

Only when we as NPO’s recognize the tremendous potential of our volunteers to become influencers, we can then harness this power to grow the greater mission and message.

2. Anonymous vs. Private Giving

People are entitled to their privacy. It’s a fundamental human right. But when it comes to giving, some individuals – out of genuine humility or otherwise – choose to only give anonymously. And in doing so, they miss out on a huge opportunity to inspire others to live by their example and create a culture of giving.

The problem with the word “anonymous” is it conjures up this image of some abstract bringer of good – this hypothetical ghost-giver – whereas private giving is more grounded in reality. The giver is not “anonymous,” he or she has an actual identity but chooses to keep his donation private.

And the only reason someone should give anonymously, is to maintain his/her privacy.

3. Major Gift vs. Angel Gift

The term “major gift” was coined for larger NPO’s, community hospitals and foundations to distinguish more sizeable gifts. But with thousands of start-up NPO’s who continue to innovate and change the conversation on more limited funds, we should consider redefining “major gifts” as “angel gifts.”

Often, these community-based grassroots organizations go even farther than orgs with a $5M operating budget. And though perhaps smaller in amount, the seed money propelling these orgs off the ground may attain greater velocity and impact than a “major” gift at a “major” NPO.

A Free Bird, which provides therapeutic arts education to children and teens impacted by cancer, is an entirely volunteer run organization with a huge impact. Powered by angel investors, AFB is constantly seeking creative methods of fundraising, partnering with the likes of Macy’s, Barnes and Noble, Chipotle, Blick Art Materials, and Alex and Ani to fund their programs.

While technically not “major gifts,” these smaller donations enable children with cancer to fulfill their artistic dreams – whether from home or the hospital. An upcoming initiative will be held at Maimonides Hospital, with more than 35 children inpatients painting a large mural to inspire hope.

The point is, it’s not just about how much you are given, it’s how creative can you get with it. And we need to recognize these passionate angel investors. They may not be “major” benefactors, but their contributions may go even further. Keep in mind, millennials are as charitable as ever. They want to make a difference. To give like never before. Whether through actual monetary donations or more unique methods of support such as sponsoring goods, food, or service for an event or program.

Part 2 can be found here.

Moshe Hecht is chief innovation officer at Charidy. An entrepreneur whose passion lies at the intersection of technology and charitable giving, Moshe personifies the company’s “why” and is a driving force in its vision and success. @moshehecht @wearecharidy