Monday, April 18, 2016

As we gain fluency within our sector, we can discuss our work with greater nuance and clarity among other grant­makers, but can forget that the daily terms we take for granted might come off as confusing or intimidating to grantees and partners. One day you find yourself scratching your head about what your col­league across the table means by “community engagement.” It seems their meaning is completely different than your interpretation. It has become JARGON.

Here are a few jargon terms or buzzwords and our attempt at definitions:

Hacker philanthropy – a term coined by Sean Parker in a June 2015 essay for The Wall Street Journal describing the new wave of “barons of this new connected age” – young, wealthy technologists who are bringing their hacker sentiments  to their approach to philanthropy. They are skeptical of established philanthropy and have a desire to provoke it by doing things differently: deploying capital quickly, remaining small and betting big, focusing on ‘hackable’ problems, following market logic and getting political. One clear example of this in 2015 was the commitment by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan of nearly all their money to philanthropic efforts via an LLC.

Impact and Design – Ok, we’re just going to come right out and say it – “impact” and “design” – two words which showed up in our 2015 Annual Conference theme are terms that have shown up so much in the social sector in the past decade that they are left rather meaningless. However, there are guides to what design thinking actually looks like in philanthropy and nonprofits. Nadia Roumani of Stanford University’s Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society shares case studies on her blog “Design Thinking Philanthropy” and editors Marc Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider have produced a tactical guide “This is Service Design Thinking” to provide tools to those redesigning services instead of spaces.

Move the Needle – It’s hard to pin down the exact origin for the term, but some say the expression “moving the needle” first appeared in England during the industrial revolution, referencing the gauges on steam engines. It’s now commonly used in our field to describe trying to make substantial progress on a seemingly intractable issue.

Convening – Other fields might call it a conference, meeting or forum. We call it a convening and often dub ourselves the “conveners.” We convene grantees, policymakers, other funders and community partners. We build relationships and networks. Just as we want to become better grantmakers, we seek to be better conveners. (Plug: Attend MCF’s October 18, 2016 program on this topic to discuss convening approaches with your fellow members!)

What jargon terms drive you crazy or leave you confused? Tweet us @FollowMCF #Philanthrosaurus

Part of the Spring 2016 Giving Forum