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Fundraising Glossary



501(c)(3) – the IRS designation for nonprofits.



Acquisition – the act of purchasing an item or receiving an item donation for an online, live, or silent auction.

Annual fund – any organized effort by a nonprofit institution or program to secure gifts on an annual basis, either by mail, through direct solicitation, or both. Also called Annual Appeal or Annual Giving Program.

Auctioneer – the person who conducts an auction. The auctioneer introduces each lot offered for sale, acknowledges bids, and announces whether lots are sold or unsold and their final bid prices. While not a requirement for conducting a benefit auction, auctioneers can train and receive certification to conduct such auctions.



Badge* – an image, usually square and displayed on a blog, which signifies the blogger’s participation in an event, contest, or social movement. Having a badge lends authenticity to a blogger’s Website content, and, where the blogger represents a nonprofit, may help to drive donations and even attract new donors.

Bboard* – a contraction of the term “bulletin board system,” a Web-based site that allows users to post comments and questions to which other bboard readers can respond. Nonprofits can encourage an online community and strengthen relationships by hosting bboard(s) for their donors or constituents—which can drive increased giving.

Benefit – a special event to raise money for a nonprofit or school, with all net proceeds (after expenses) going to that charitable organization or school for which the benefit is being organized. Benefits can include live and silent auctions, raffles, fund-a-need, special appeals, retail sales, and other revenue-generating tactics.

Best practice – guidelines that, when followed, allow an organization to most efficiently achieve optimal results—for example, gala fundraiser check-in and check-out best practice. Organizations arrive at best practice by identifying processes, putting them into action, and observing results. Methods that provide the best results are adopted as best practice.

Bid – an offer of a certain sum to pay for an item.

Bid sheets – documents used in a silent auction to track items bids and bidders. They generally show a minimum starting bid amount, with room on the page for bidders to note their bidder number and the amount of their bid. Some organizations include incremental bid amounts on the sheet to drive higher bid amounts. Bid sheets can also contain a photo, illustration, or description of the item for bid.

Bidder – an individual making a bid.

Block grant – grants awarded in a lump sum to a state or local government by the Federal government to be used to address a specific issue or problem.

Blogger* – an individual who maintains a blog. Nonprofits can leverage their blog to optimize their search engine results and enable more potential donors to find their Website, inform and galvanize their online community to support their cause, and influence the press and public policy.

Blog post/entry* – content published on a blog. Entries may include text, photos, illustrations, embedded videos and links, and URLs for online sources used.

Blogroll* – an assembly of blog URLs—blogs that the blogger reads regularly—displayed at the sidebar of their blog. A blogroll can be an effective nonprofit tool to influence donor and constituent opinions and can drive donations to a cause.

Blogs* – a contraction of “Web log”, a Website where individual(s) provide entries of any type of content from video and podcasts to traditional text and photos to inform or entertain an audience and create online and offline discussions; presented in reverse chronological order.

Board of Directors – body appointed or elected by members who collectively oversee the activities of an organization. The duties typically include approving annual budgets and governing the organization by establishing objectives and policies. Committed and knowledgeable Board members can often be a powerful resource for nonprofit fundraising campaigns. Can also be referred to as a 'Board'.

Boardreader* – a Web-based aggregator of message boards and forum discussions. Nonprofits with message boards and forums listed on boardreaders can benefit from that listing by acquiring new members that can become donors over time.

Brainstorming – a process used to tap the latent knowledge and insights of the members in your nonprofit. Often informal, it is a group creativity technique designed to generate a large number of fundraising ideas.

Business Master File (BMF) – the Internal Revenue Service's list of 1.5+ million nonprofits registered with the IRS as tax-exempt organizations.



Campaign – a fundraising initiative where a nonprofit’s staff and/or volunteers solicit donations in a variety of ways, including face-to-face, by email and direct mail, or through a benefit event, in an effort to raise money for the nonprofit.

Case study – a written example of an organizational process, for example, how a nonprofit helped a constituent reach a goal (like finding employment) and the method(s) used to accomplish the goal. Case studies establish trust with donors, and, when leveraged for fundraising tactics like a Fund-a-Cause, can drive increased donations.

Comments* – replies or opinions in reference to a specific topic; usually left on blog posts or on a bboard. Nonprofits can learn a great deal about their audience via these comments that can be leveraged to improve their operations and services and drive increased giving.

Consigner – an individual or company who provides items for sale, for example, for a benefit auction, but retains the ownership of such until the items are sold.

Consignment – an item offered for sale, for example at a benefit auction, where the auction organizer pays for the face value of an item if that item is sold. The difference between the winning bid and the face value of the item is kept by the nonprofit.

Constituents – a group of individuals or sponsor companies that make up a nonprofit’s donor base. Can also be a nonprofit’s client list.

Corporate sponsor – a company that provides a nonprofit with monetary donations or in-kind services as part of their overall business strategy.



Direct public support – contributions, gifts, grants, and bequests received directly from the public. Includes amounts received from individuals, trusts, corporations, estates, foundations, public charities, or raised by an outside professional fundraiser.

“Do-good” networks* – online philanthropic communities.

Donation – a voluntary gift (usually money, service, property, assets) to a cause.

Donor – an individual or company that commits money or services to a nonprofit.

Donor-advised funds (DAFs) – charitable giving vehicles administered by a third party created for the purpose of managing charitable donations on behalf of an organization, family, or individual.

Donor base – a database comprised of contact information for past, present, and future donors.



Endowments – a gift, grant, or bequest made to a nonprofit. Can also refer to a fund that is made up of gifts and bequests that are subject to a requirement that the principal be maintained intact and invested to create a source of income for an organization. Donors may set up an endowment to fund a specific interest, or a nonprofit's governing body may set up an endowment. For either scenario, such an endowment requires that the principal remain intact in perpetuity, for a defined period of time, or until sufficient assets have been accumulated to achieve a designated purpose.



Fund-a-cause – see Special Appeals.

Fundraising – the act or process of raising money for organizations such as a nonprofit or political party.

Fundraising expense – an expense incurred when soliciting contributions, gifts, grants, etc.



Goals – the result or achievement reached at the end of a process, for example a revenue goal for a fundraising event or capital campaign.

Government grants – funds disbursed by an organization, often a government department, corporation, foundation or trust, to another organization, like a nonprofit entity or educational institution. Most grants are made to fund a specific project, require some level of compliance and reporting, and usually require a written grant application or proposal.

Grants – a dollar amount formally bestowed on an organization.



Hashtag* – similar to regular tags (see the definition for Tags), these are keywords associated and assigned to an item of content with a hash mark (#) attached to the front of the word. Hashtags make it easier to follow a topic of interest discussed on Twitter, for example, a donor tweeting on his success when bidding on an item at a benefit auction.

Hyper-local community* – a group of people from a specific location who interact in online communities using social media tools. These groups are excellent donor targets for regional nonprofits or schools.



Indirect public support – contributions received indirectly from the public through solicitation campaigns conducted by federated fundraising agencies or organizations such as the United Way; from a parent organization or another organization with the same parent; or from a subordinate organization.

Influencer* – an individual knowledgeable in a specific subject, highly recognized in an online community, with the ability to sway others’ opinions; key influencers are seen on an online community as references who can offer assistance on specific subjects. An influencer that advocates for a nonprofit can be a powerful fundraising tool for that nonprofit.

In-kind contribution – services provided to a nonprofit organization in lieu of money, like printing services, floral arrangements, or furniture rental provided in support of a benefit event.

IRS Publication 78 – also known as the Cumulative List of Organizations, IRS Publication 78 lists all organizations for which charitable contributions are considered tax deductible by the IRS. The Publication 78 record for each organization includes the organization's name, its city, and its current tax-exempt status, including what percentage of contributions to it are tax deductible.



Letter of Determination – a letter from the IRS to a nonprofit organization stating that the organization’s application for tax-exempt status has been approved. The document also identifies the section of the Internal Revenue Code under which the organization qualifies. Many corporate sponsors require a letter of determination to verify an organization’s nonprofit status so that donations can be considered a tax write-off.

Live auction – usually held at benefit events, live auctions occur when items, either purchased or donated, are presented by an auctioneer to a buying audience in order to drive competitive bidding by audience members, with the item being paid for by the highest bidder.



Message boards/forums* – an online discussion site; people looking to discuss particular issues or needing support post a message on the forum or message board to get more information or start a conversation with other forum members. These are great resources for nonprofits looking for new donors if the forum issue aligns with the nonprofit’s cause.

Micro-blogging* – a form of blogging where the entries/posts are limited to a certain amount of characters or words, i.e. Twitter. A tweet from an influential micro-blogger can drive donations to a particular cause.

Micro-philanthropy – donating in small amounts ($1, $5, $10, $20) to a nonprofit.

Mission – a brief description of an organization’s fundamental purpose. A mission statement answers the question, "Why do we exist?" A well-defined, clearly-stated mission helps a nonprofit drive giving.

Multimedia* – the use of multiple media in a single computer application or on a single Website. Examples include YouTube and Flickr. Multimedia sites can be leveraged for fundraising, for example, posting photos or video from a past benefit event to drive ticket sales for an upcoming event.



Net income from special events – income earned from fundraising events and activities, less costs.



Online auction* – a method of raising money by posting items for bid on a Website and enabling bids on those items via the Internet.

Online community* – a group of like-minded people using social media tools and Internet sites to communicate. Online communities can be powerful advocates for nonprofits.

Online fundraising* – the act of soliciting donations using Web-based tools like email, online auctions, and social networks.

Operating programs – programs and activities through which an organization accomplishes its mission and for which nonprofits raise funds.



Peer-to-peer fundraising* – the act of soliciting nonprofit donations directly from one’s online contacts using Web-based tools like email or social networks. Generally, social media tools and peer-to-peer fundraising software facilitate this fundraising method. Often the peer-to-peer fundraising software is provided by the nonprofit to their supporters to enable them to solicit donations for that nonprofit via the Web.

Planned giving – the process of giving stocks, bonds, or other assets to a nonprofit through the provisions of a will.

Platform – the framework or system within which technology-based tools work. A platform may be as broad as mobile telephony, or as narrow as a piece of software that offers different modules like blogs, forums, and wikis. As more tools operate solely on the Web, rather than on a user’s computing desktop, the Internet is becoming categorized as a computing platform.

Podcasts* – online audio or visual recordings syndicated on the Internet and available for download to portable media players such as an iPod. Nonprofits can publish podcasts about a cause to drive donations to that cause.

Post-event evaluation – a formal analysis of an event’s process, delivery, and content, and results. Performing a post-event evaluation helps an organization pinpoint areas for improvement and identify activities that should be either eliminated or repeated.

Private foundation – a legal entity set up by an individual, a group, or a family for a purpose such as philanthropy. Unlike a charitable foundation, a private foundation does not solicit funds from the public.

Procurement – the act of acquiring items for a live or silent auction.

Public charity – an organization receiving a substantial part of its income, directly or indirectly, from the general public or from the government. The public support received must be fairly broad, not limited to a few individuals or families.



Reader* – a web-based tool that aggregates information from an RSS feed. Nonprofits can utilize readers to stay informed about issues related to their cause, and leverage that information to fundraise.

Revenue – the total dollar amount of an organization’s income sources for a particular tax period.

Revenue goal – the targeted net dollar amount to be generated by a fundraising campaign.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS Feed)* – a Web-based system that generates frequently updated information from a site (i.e. blog posts, tweets, and online articles). Nonprofits can leverage RSS feed to stay informed on issues related to their cause, or monitor their image with donors.

Ruling Year – the year that the IRS granted an organization 501(c)(3) status.



Search engine* – a Web-based tool designed to search for information (Webpages) on the Web. Potential donors use search engines to find a wide variety of information, including nonprofit Websites that address a cause that interests a potential donor.

Search engine marketing (SEM)* – a form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote Websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs). According to the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, SEM methods include: search engine optimization (or SEO), paid placement, contextual advertising, and paid inclusion (from Wikipedia, definition of Search Engine Marketing). Nonprofits can leverage SEM to drive more potential donors to their Website.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)* – the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a Website from search engines via “natural” (”organic” or “algorithmic”) search results. Nonprofits can be found more often by potential donors when they optimize their Website for search engines.

Sentiment* – an assessment, positive, negative, or neutral, that determines the tone of a Web article, blog post, company, etc.

Silent auction – usually at held at benefit events, where purchased or donated items are staged and event guests are invited to bid in writing on the items, usually on a bid sheet.

Social bookmarking* – a Web-based method for searching, organizing, storing, and sharing items of interest (i.e. blog posts, online articles, pictures, etc.) using the item’s URL.

Social media* – Web-based technologies used for social interaction that enable the creation of user-generate content. Social media tools include blogs, podcasts, videos, microblogs, wikis, etc. Nonprofits use social media to create tools that inform their audience and drive support and donations.

Social networking* – Web-based, interactive communication in which participants in online communities share content in a controlled way with members of their own personal network. Nonprofits can engage in social networking to communicate with their constituents and drive giving.

Social networking sites* – Websites that host multiple communities of individuals with similar interests that have set up personal profiles on that site. These sites offer an online venue for people to engage with one another and share content. Nonprofits considering adding social networking to their fundraising initiatives should match their cause to the most appropriate audience to attract optimal membership, a vibrant online community, and increased giving. Example online communities include:

  • Facebook® – An online community that connects individuals with similar personal interests.

  • LinkedIn® – A professional online community used to network with fellow professionals and share content (like resumes) and expertise.

  • MySpace™ – An online community optimized for sharing media (like music and videos).

  • Friendfeed – a real-time feed aggregator that consolidates social media updates and allows users to create customized feeds.

  • YouTube™ – An online site for uploading and discussing videos; YouTube videos can also be embedded in other social media sites such as blogs or social networks.

  • Flickr® – Online site for storing, sharing and commenting on photos.

  • Twitter™ – A micro-blogging community where posts and links are 140 characters or less.

Special appeals – a fundraising campaign focused on a specific need, like modernizing the kitchen in a homeless shelter or funding a training program for the unemployed. Also called a Special Campaign, Fund-a-Need, or Fund-a-Cause. Can be conducted as a stand-alone appeal or in conjunction with an event.

Sponsor – organizations that provide a significant source of revenue (called a “sponsorship”) for a nonprofit. In general, these organizations provide support for both for philanthropic and business reasons. Typically, organizations sponsor nonprofits supporting causes that align with their business goals, for example, an athletic shoe manufacturer supporting a nonprofit advocating for children’s physical education, or a technology company supporting a nonprofit offering science scholarships to deserving high school graduates.



Tags* – a keyword or term associated and assigned to an item of content (i.e. blog post, video, photo, etc.). Usually added to content to enhance search engine optimization and make the content easier to organize and find using a search engine like Google. Nonprofits wanting to be found more often on the Web by potential donors should make content tags an integral part of their Website strategy.

Technorati™* – an Internet search engine designed to search blogs. Nonprofits with blogs can join Technorati to get found on their site by potential donors. However, they need commit to publish frequent posts to keep getting found.

Threads* – a group of related posts on a bboard or forum.

Tweet* – The post/entry made on Twitter (see social networking sites).

Twitter search* – a search engine that filters out real-time tweets.



Uniform Resource Locator (URL)* – the address of a specific Website or file on the Internet.



Volunteer – an individual who donates their time to perform tasks in service to an organization (usually a nonprofit).

Volunteer trade – an agreement to exchange a group of volunteers from one nonprofit with a group of volunteers from another nonprofit to carry out specific tasks. Volunteer trades are usually done for benefit events, so the volunteers from the nonprofit holding the event can attend that event as a guest.



Web 2.0* – the business, technology and communications revolution that views the Internet as a participatory platform rather than simply a means to present information. Nonprofits can cost-effectively leverage the Web 2.0 platform to build their constituent community.

Webinar* – a seminar delivered online, either live or recorded and archived for replay. Nonprofits can use webinars to inform an audience about a particular cause, drive public opinion, and potentially build their donor base.

Widget* – a mini-Web application placed on a Webpage, blog, or social network profile that provides visitors with user-specific information. Widgets are key elements in peer-to-peer fundraising tools.

Wiki* – Webpage(s) used to collect content about a topic. Anyone with access to the page(s) can edit or modify the information.



Year-end giving – donations that occur in the fourth quarter of the calendar year. 40% of all online giving is done in December. The most common year-end giving driver is the giver’s anticipated end-of-tax-year benefits.

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