Over the years, the Non-Profit (ie. charities) community has developed a set of terms to define specific activities within the Non-Profit sector. These terms are frequently used but not often understood by the general public. Unfortunately, some organizations have taken advantage of this and use these terms to give the impression that they do a lot more than they actually do... This has resulted in misunderstandings and mistrust between the donors and charities/organizations. Because of the articles I've seen and the growing mistrust of charities I've noticed recently, I decided to make a list of frequently used terms within the Non-Profit sector and break them down for everyone.
Please feel free to ask questions or make comments in the section below.
Raising Awareness: Telling people about a specific topic like breast cancer or early childhood development.
This usually involves the following activities: organizing parties & fundraising events and maintaining a website and social media presence, Sometimes this involves public speaking engagements which are usually part of a fundraiser or program.
Advocacy: Defending the rights of a group or trying to bring about change at a policy level.
This usually involves the following activities: meeting, calling, tweeting, messaging, and/or emailing leaders in the government or community about a cause (ie. lobbying), as well as protesting and getting petitions signed.
Capacity Building: This should always involve a Training or Education Program.
Definition: A purposeful, external intervention to strengthen the ability to successfully manage their affairs over time. Capacity building involves some kind of external intervention or support with the intention of facilitating or catalyzing change. Capacity building should usually increase the recipient's problem solving skills.
Examples of what capacity building is NOT:
a.) Giving someone a car does not build capacity if they don't know how to drive the car and have no way to pay for the fuel.
b.) Giving someone a computer or software does not build capacity if the recipient does not know how to use it.
c.) Giving someone money is not capacity building without training; it's a "grant".
Examples of capacity building:
a.) Providing a community with computers, internet connection, and computer skills training.
b.) Educating a community on the importance of early childhood education and providing the community with free preschools and preschool teacher training.
c.) Providing women in impoverished communities with small business training and grants to start their own businesses.
Technical Capacity Building: Training that teaches the student a specific skill set
Definition: Addresses a specific issue concerning an organization’s activities and is carried out in the context of a specific project or program with which an organization is involved. Does not normally involve an organization in a fundamental process of change or touch on the culture, vision, values or other core elements of that organization.
Examples of technical capacity building:
a.) Teacher training
b.) Training on how to use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint
NOTE: If you hear an organization say they do "capacity building", always ask them, "What specific programs do you currently have in place that build capacity? What specifically do you do on the ground?" If the organization is properly using the term, they will be able to tell you exactly what they do, not what their goals or objectives are.. Organizations frequently use this term without understanding what it actually means.
Programs: These are the specific activities & services that an organization or charity does to benefit their "target demographic".
Target Demographic: This is the type (ie. group) of people the organization aims to help.
a.) At-risk female children between ages 0-6 years old in Lima, Peru.
Area focus: This is where the organization will provide their services or programs.
Implement: This means putting an idea, program, or plan into practice. The process of turning an idea into reality.
Sustainability: The ability to continue an activity indefinitely without destroying the environment around the activity or requiring constant financial support.
Sustainable - Train members of a community to be preschool teachers.
Temporary - Provide a community with volunteer preschool teachers.
Sustainable - Provide members of a community with training on sustainable farming techniques and seeds.
Temporary - Provide members of a community with free canned foods.
Sustainable - Dig a well in a community to access clean drinking water.
Temporary - Provide a community with free bottled water.
Develop / Developing: Planning, designing, expanding, maturing, and/or growing an idea, organization, program, community, or government
Grant: A specific amount of money given to a person, organization, or government to achieve a specific goal
"At-risk children" / "Vulnerable children": Children who are orphaned. Children who experience violence, neglect, abuse, poverty, and/or malnutrition in the home or community. Children with disabilities.
Vulnerable: Someone or something has an increased likelihood of a negative outcome - In need of protection, special care, or support.
Empower: Give someone the power and ability to do something. Make someone more confident or stronger. Give someone control over their future, life, environment, career, or education. Empowerment can include providing knowledge, training, education, or advocating for the rights of a specific group.
Charities who claim to "empower" a group should almost always directly provide programs or provide grants to other organizations that directly provide education or training to that group.
NGO: Non-Governmental Organization. This is a non-profit organization (ie. charity) that operates nationally.
INGO: International Non-Governmental Organization. This is a non-profit organization (ie. charity) that operates in multiple countries.
CSO: Civil Society Organization. This is a broad term that encompasses all non-profit organizations.
CBO: Community-Based Organization. This is a non-profit organization (ie. charity) that provides programs or services within a specific community.
NPO: Non-Profit Organization. A charity. This is a corporation established to achieve a specific Purpose that benefits society. All net profits of the NPO must be used to achieve the NPO's purpose. The NPO cannot benefit the private interests of any officer or director of the organization.
FBO: Faith-Based Organization. This is a non-profit organization (ie. churches, temples, mosques) that provides programs or services and operates within religious ideology
If you have any other terms that you'd like me to define, please post them in the comments section below.