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25 terms every new fundraiser should know

Posted July 7, 2021 by Virginia Davidson

25 fundraising terms to know

One of the most challenging aspects of being a new fundraiser is getting familiar with the vocabulary that goes along with the job. To help make things easier for you, we’ve put together 25 terms that you’ll likely encounter sooner rather than later.

25 fundraising terms to learn

Term #1: Acknowledgment

Written communication to a donor, expressing gratitude for a gift, and including language regarding the tax-deductible nature of the gift, as appropriate. Learn more about various acknowledgments here.

Term #2: Annual giving

Seeking funds on an annual basis, which are typically used for general operating expenses.

Term #3: Appeal

The way in which your organization asks for financial support. An appeal answers the question, “How did we raise this money?”

Term #4: Bequest

A transfer by will of personal property such as cash or goods. A bequest is a common type of planned gift.

Term #5: Campaign

A broad, overarching fundraising effort. Each campaign represents a coordinated set of activities with a specific objective.

Term #6: Capital campaign

A well-planned fundraising effort to raise a certain amount of money over a defined period of time, to be used for a specific purpose.

Term #7: Direct mail

Solicitation of gifts or sharing of information about your organization through postal mail.

Term #8: Donor

An individual, foundation, or other entity that makes a gift to your organization.

Term #9: Donor-advised fund

A philanthropic vehicle established by institutions like investment firms or community foundations. A donor makes a charitable contribution to their donor-advised fund (DAF) and receives an immediate tax benefit. While the donor no longer has legal control over the money in their donor-advised fund, they can recommend that grants be distributed from their fund to charity. Learn more here.

Term #10: Donor retention

The measurement of donors who continue to make gifts to your organization beyond their first gift.

Term #11: Fiscal year

A one-year period of time that your organization uses for accounting purposes and financial records. A common fiscal year among nonprofits begins on July 1 and ends on June 30, though some organizations have a fiscal year start date of January 1 to match the calendar year

Term #12: Form 990

An annual tax return, which most federally tax-exempt organizations are required to file with the IRS. There are different versions of the 990, and the version your organization needs to complete is determined by its financial activity. Learn more here.

Term #13: Fund

A fund indicates whether a gift is earmarked for a specific program or if it is unrestricted. Some organizations keep funds corresponding to classes in their accounting software.

Term #14: Lapsed donor

A donor who has contributed to your organization but not in a defined recent period, such as the last 18 months.

Term #15: Letter of inquiry

A letter sent by a nonprofit to a foundation or other entity that introduces a funding need and asks if the foundation is willing to receive a full proposal. You may also see or hear it referred to as a LOI.

Term #16: LYBUNT

Donors who made a gift Last Year But Unfortunately Not This (year).

Term #17: Major donor

A donor who makes a gift of a significant size to your organization; what constitutes “significant” varies widely among organizations.

Term #18: Other Income

Funds received by your organization that are nonphilanthropic in nature and are not tax deductible, such as ticket or merchandise purchases.

Term #19: Planned giving

A gift made legally during a donor’s lifetime, though the charitable distribution of assets will occur in the future, usually at the time of the donor’s death. Learn more here.

Term #20: Pledge

A promise to donate a specific sum to an organization over a set period of time. The donor fulfills the pledge at a later date, either with one payment or with multiple payments. Learn more here.

Term #21: Prospective donor, or prospect

A person who hasn’t yet contributed to your organization but is likely to make a gift based on their interest and ability to give.

Term #22: Recurring gift

A repeated gift in the same amount made to your organization on a regular basis, such as monthly. Learn more here.

Term #23: Soft credit

Soft credits allow you to appropriately track, acknowledge, and steward constituents who may not make a gift directly to your organization but who have considerable influence over the decision to make a gift.

Term #24: Solicitation

The act of asking a constituent to make a gift to your organization, either in writing or verbally.

Term #25: SYBUNT

Donors who made a gift Some Year But Unfortunately Not This (year).

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