By Levi Weinhagen

It’s time for another round of philanthrosaurus – a chance to translate trending or clichéd phrases and concepts in philanthropy.

Thought Leader: While the field of philanthropy continues to need and demand expertise, the desire to use or be labeled an expert has gone out of fashion. The expert evokes the idea of someone standing at a podium and lecturing to a room of bored program officers on how to streamline their documentation processes. In comes the “thought leader” ready to toss aside the podium and dazzle everyone with her dynamic approach to philanthrop­ic work that includes ideas from Silicon Valley, fortune 500 companies, and guerilla art collectives. But make no mistake, calling someone a “thought leader” is no guaran­tee that they aren’t bringing in bad habits with their new ideas. A rose is a rose is a rose, as Gertrude Stein would say.

Unpacking: If you’ve been in a meeting in the last year, you’ve almost certainly encountered the phrase “Let’s unpack that.” This phrase typically means one of two things;

1. I’m not sure I understand what you’re really saying.

2. I’m not sure you understand what you’re really saying.

The term makes the task sound like maybe it’ll be an adventure, which is why it’s become so popular. The downside is it can lack clarity. Sometimes saying plainly, “I’d like to better understand what you’re saying” is necessary and important.

Piggyback: You can add a thought to one that’s already been shared, continue on with an idea, or simply agree with a colleague. Unless you’re doing that while riding on their shoulders, there’s no need to use the word “piggyback.”

Circle Back: My favorite jargon phrase that usually comes with a hand gesture is “circle back.” The urge to create a half circle with one’s hands when saying this phrase often proves too powerful to resist. Sometimes the suggestion to “circle back” to something later is sincerely about timing or focus of a meeting or conversa­tions. However, it often means the speaker doesn’t want to talk about what was brought up, but doesn’t want to say that. Most perniciously, this phrase will be used instead of someone just saying no to an idea and then the idea is ignored in the hopes that it will drop off into nothing­ness through the passage of time. If you’d like to revisit something at a later time, be sure you establish when you’ll get back to it and remember that a circle isn’t the only way to get back to something.

Levi is a program manager at MCF and is the private, independent and family foundation contact. Additionally, Levi has been collaborat­ing with artists and creative types for all of his adult life as a theater maker, comedy writer, and performer.

Giving Forum Spring 2018