13 jargon not-for-profit words and why you should know them

Posted by | November 3, 2020 | Career changers, Charity sector insights, Job hunters, Looking for work

13 jargon not-for-profit words and why you should know them blog header

Confused by not for profit (NFP) lingo? Our jargon buster may be just what you’re looking for!

NFPs are a mysterious and insular world for those of us outside their boundaries. Like a far-off planet in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,  NFPs have their own rituals, customs and language. And if you’re Arthur Dent, the differences can make it very hard to get your towel-clad foot in the door. 

Don’t panic! We’ve deciphered of 13 of our favourite words and phrases of NFP jargon. No need for a Babel Fish here.


Capacity building. #1. Capacity building

Deciphered: Any action that improves an NFP’s effectiveness. 

Capacity building includes professional development for staff, collaborating with partners, getting new sources of income or creating new strategies. 

In a sentence: “We provide capacity building support to eligible Kumara-growing programmes.”


Leaf on tree rings.

#2. Circular economy

Deciphered: A closed-loop production model where resources are used for as long as possible.

This might include designing products to have a long life and be easily repaired, recycled and dismantled for re-use.

In a sentence: “The circular economy is much more than just recycling.”


Hand holding up a dollar bill. #3. Crowdfunding

Deciphered: Raising small sums of money from many people to fund a project or initiative. Usually online.

For example, you crowdfund to refurbish a community yoga centre on PledgeMe.

In a sentence: “Our unicorn sanctuary just got turned down for another grant. Let’s try crowdfunding!


Holding out oranges. #4. Crowdsourcing

Deciphered: Asking for input for a large number of people, usually online.

For example, Greenpeace crowdsourced slogans like “Some say catastrophe, we say opportunity. Let’s go” for a satirical campaign against Shell Oil.

In a sentence: “I think ‘Eden’ is a bit derivative. How about we crowdsource the community garden’s name instead?”


Many hands together, painted with a heart. #5. Consensus building

Deciphered: A way of resolving conflicts between lots of parties.

International negotiations on limiting greenhouse gas emissions would be one example.

In a sentence: “We need to build consensus on creating an international Hermione Granger Appreciation Day.”


#6. Greenwashing Green bottles in a crate.

Deciphered:When an organisation makes a misleading or unproven claim about the environmental benefits of its products or services.

An example would be shampoo packaging that reads ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ without any certification.

In a sentence: “Did you see that ad for ‘eco’  bottled water that uses 30% less plastic?! It’s total greenwashing.”


#7. Incorporated societyHeap of rubber ducks.

Deciphered: A type of legal structure for NFPs in Aotearoa.

Other legal structures include trusts, charitable trusts, limited liability companies and incorporated (and unincorporated) trusts, societies and associations…Find out more at the Institute of Directors.

In a sentence: “We need to work out the legal structure of our Duck Protection League. Should it be an incorporated society or a charitable trust?”


Tiny houses. #8. Microfinance

Deciphered: Microfinance is a financial service for low income or unemployed people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to access it.

This could include low interest loans and access to savings accounts.

In a sentence: “The need for microfinance originates from deep-rooted institutional problems.”


#9. Extended producer responsibility (EPR)Wire basket of eggs.

Deciphered: Producers taking responsibility for how their products are disposed of our reused.

For example, a company that collects the glass bottles its kombucha was sold in and re-uses them. Responsibility can be physical and/or financial.

In a sentence: “Extended producer responsibility has huge role to play within the plastics industry.”


#10. Social entrepreneurTyping on a laptop.

Deciphered: A social entrepreneur uses a start up company or a business to help solve social, cultural or environmental issues.

For example, Jess from FRANK Stationery could call herself a social entrepreneur.

In a sentence: “Our plant-powered start up incubator will produce highly successful vegan social entrepreneurs.”


Casino chips. #11. Stakeholders

Deciphered: Anyone who is interested in or affected by an NFP.

Stakeholders could include clients, employees, funding bodies, supporters and board members.

In a sentence: “Before we re-brand the Vampire Protection Society, let’s ensure we have buy-in from all our stakeholders.”


Wind turbines. #12. Sustainability

Deciphered: The ability to continue doing what you’re doing.

For example, the fishing industry would only be sustainable if it was possible to keep up current fishing methods for the foreseeable future. Sustainability is now often used interchangeably with ‘environmental’ or ‘eco friendly’.

In a sentence: “You know what we need? We need to put sustainability on our website in really big letters. That’ll make us look great.”


Three people outside each holding a cup of coffee. #13. Triple bottom line

Deciphered: An accounting framework that takes into account financial, social and environmental impact.

For example, Commonsense is an organic retailer that makes financial profit, but not to the detriment of people or the planet.

In a sentence: “An increasing number of financial institutions use a triple bottom line approach in their work.”


Smash! Kapow! Bam! We’ve busted 13 words of NFP jargon (that’s not-for-profit if you also hate acronym jargon), but there are plenty more where that came from… Is there any NFP jargon you love to hate? Let us know in a comment below!

Want to read more about working at an NFP? Find out about the challenges in leading in the not for profit world

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

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