See more Nonprofitspeak 101 terms and explanations in the Appendix of the Idealist Guides to Nonprofit Careers.
Also see an extensive glossary of terms on the Nonprofit & Philanthropy Good Practice website.
A section of the Internal Revenue Code where the standards for "charitable" status
under U.S. tax law are defined. Organizations that qualify are exempt from U.S.
corporate income taxes on their program revenues. Gifts to these organizations can usually be deducted from individual income taxes as well.
Non-wage compensation that usually falls in one of the following three categories: insurance, reimbursement/bonuses, and time off. See a mini-benefits glossary here.
The group ultimately responsible for the success of a nonprofit corporation or association. The method by which its members are selected and some guidance about how the Board of Directors will operate can be found in the organization's charter documents (articles of incorporation and by-laws).
Above all else, the Board of Directors is responsible for acting, at all times, in the organization's best interest. Commonly accepted elements of the board's responsibilities include: oversight of operations and planning, financial controls, assuring compliance with laws and regulations, assistance with securing adequate funds, and representing the organization's various constituencies.
A way of referring to all the activities of for-profit organizations inclusively—the business sector consists of everything done directly by businesses (companies and corporations) that are organized and operated to provide financial returns to their owners. Also known as the for-profit sector. Read more about social-impact careers within the business sector.
Titles such as "Master of Arts" or "Ph.D." (which stands for Doctor of Philosophy and is the highest academic degree typically awarded by U.S. universities). Various schools and academic subjects, such as Public Policy, Public Administration, Social Work, Nonprofit Management, and Business Administration may have their own names for the degrees that are granted after study. Law schools, for example, may grant a JD or LL.D. to successful students (those initials stand for "juris doctor" and "doctor of laws" and are both based on the use of Latin for academic titles). Check out the Idealist Grad School Resource Center.
A program or activity that works directly with an intended population. The term is used to distinguish such programs from those that seek to change conditions generally through advocacy or public education. This term is also used to distinguish hands-on work with affected populations from background and supporting services in organizations, such as administration, fundraising, and research.
A concise and compelling self-introduction that leaves a lasting, positive first impression, and lets the listener know briefly who you are, what you're looking for, and the memorable reason why. Learn more about activating your network during your career transition.
The individual responsible for the leadership of a nonprofit organization including managing staff, reporting to the Board of Directors, and overseeing financial, administrative, and program operations. Through these responsibilities, the executive director shapes and implements the mission of the nonprofit. The ED title is a nonprofit-specific term for the CEO or president of an organization.
A conversation between a job seeker and someone who is knowledgeable about the
labor market of an area or the requirements of a particular career choice when there
is no expectation that the conversation will lead directly to an offer of employment.
Informational interviews are often seen as a way of widening one's circle of contacts
while simultaneously acquiring better knowledge of employment possibilities. Learn more about activating your network during your career transition.
A person who is working for a short time in a job that combines assisting in the work
of an organization with a specific educational program that builds professional skills
or supplements on-campus study. Interns may be paid a nominal amount or serve
on a voluntary basis. Read about internships as an entry point for nonprofit careers.
In most states and many cities, nonprofit organizations help other nonprofits with the daily challenges of their work. They offer technical assistance training, help-lines and web pages with useful information, and bring people together to share ideas and support each other. Whether or not you work for a nonprofit now, you can take advantage of training and networking at management support or capacity building organizations in your area, and find help locating a group in your area.
Creating and using contacts within a community to stay current with developments, find career opportunities, learn new approaches and techniques for addressing issues, establish political alliances, etc. Many conferences and association meetings offer formal networking opportunities. Informal networking can occur at any occasion when people who share common interests or other community ties gather. Sometimes called schmoozing. In some areas, there are organized networking opportunities for people who work in nonprofit organizations or who would like to do so. See the section on activating your network during your career transition.
Non-Governmental Organization (or nongovernmental organization). NGO is often used to describe private international aid groups that raise money in some parts of the world to provide services and assistance in others. More generally, the term may be used to distinguish volunteer groups and charities that perform community services that may also be provided by government agencies.
A shorthand term for an organization that does not include making a profit for owners or shareholders among its goals. Nonprofit is often used as a general description for groups that are organized and operate for charitable purposes and that use any surplus of income over expenses ("profit") to expand their services. "Nonprofit" should be spelled without a hyphen in contemporary usage.
See a discussion about the terms nonprofit and not-for-profit in Resources for Nonprofits.
A way of referring to all the activities of nonprofit organizations inclusively. The nonprofit sector consists of everything done directly by agencies and organizations that are neither businesses nor governments and that are more or less supported by donations, program service revenues, and volunteers. Explore the nonprofit sector.
A term used to describe activities and organizations that are not part of any government. Sometimes private sector refers only to for-profit firms and their activities; sometimes it includes nonprofit organizations as well.
A way of referring to the activities of governments inclusively—the public sector consists of everything done directly by agencies and organizations within governmental units and which are more or less supported by taxes. Read more about the government sector.
Someone who addresses community needs with creative business practices that can yield financial support for the work or result in significant cost savings through innovative program design. Read more about business sector careers with a social impact.
An organization or activity that is not required to pay a tax. Most frequently used in connection with federal corporate income taxes (many "nonprofits" fit the IRS definition of "tax-exempt entities"). Nonprofits may also be exempt from local or state property taxes on buildings and other assets that they own and from a wide variety of other taxes depending on the rules of the areas where they work. Since many units of government have many different taxes, it is important to remember that being exempt from one form of taxes does not automatically create an exemption from others. Just because many nonprofits don't pay federal corporate income taxes doesn't mean that they don't pay any taxes at all. Learn about the other sorts of taxes nonprofits may, or may not, pay in a brief summary of the complications of local, state and federal tax rules.
A person who undertakes a task without expecting or receiving financial compensation.
To volunteer is to offer oneself as a candidate for work of that sort. Some volunteers
receive living allowances or stipends. Sometimes people who have volunteered
to perform a hazardous or onerous task are described as volunteers even when the
work itself is compensated; thus the armed services in the United States are sometimes
described as a volunteer army. Check out the Idealist Volunteer Center.