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The newbie's guide to fundraising lingo

Newcomers to fundraising would be forgiven for feeling confused by the lingo. If you’re new to the sector, here’s the inside track on ‘fundraising speak’. By Marisol Gutierrez. 

Almost every profession has an ‘insider’ language – and fundraising is no different. For all the new kids on the fundraising block, here’s a list of the more commonly used acronyms and terms you’ll hear:  

Usually ‘donor acquisition’: the process of attracting new donors to a non-profit organisation (NPO) through a concerted campaign or effort, usually requiring investment.


Inyathelo, the South African Institute for Advancement, defines advancement as a systematic and integrated approach to building and managing external relationships with key constituencies and stakeholders in order to attract support.


An NPO’s (usually emotive) request for donations from individuals, whether through the post, social media or e-mail (e-appeal).


A gift, made through an individual’s will, of cash, property or other asset.

Bequest society

Usually a formal programme initiated and managed by a non-profit organisation (NPO), a bequest society consists exclusively of supporters who have left a gift to the NPO in their wills.

Capital campaign

A carefully organised, highly structured fundraising programme to raise funds for a specific need within a specific time, with a specific monetary goal.

Community-based organisation.

Corporate social investment.

Corporate social responsibility.


Cause-related marketing (also an acronym for customer relationship management in the commercial sector).
Direct mail

A (usually emotive) appeal for funds that is sent to individuals through the post; usually consists of an appeal letter, donation form and reply envelope.

An individual, business or institution that has given money to an NPO in support of their work.


A form of a donation consisting of investment funds or other property that is designed to keep the principal amount intact while using the investment income from dividends for charitable efforts.

Gift in kind
A donation of goods, instead of cash.

Gift in lieu

Most commonly a cash donation to an NPO instead of another act (such as buying flowers for a funeral, for instance).


Sometimes used instead of the term ‘bequest’, to describe a gift, made through an individual’s will, of cash, property or other asset.

Non-governmental organisation.


Non-profit company (formerly known as a Section 21 company).

Non-profit organisation.


Protection of Personal Information Act, legislation that regulates the collecting, processing, storing and sharing of personal information.

Public benefit organisation.


Usually ‘donor renewal’: the second or subsequent request for funds from donors who have previously donated to the NPO.

Return on investment (ROI)
A measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment by analysing the amount of return on an investment relative to the investment’s cost. Often used to measure the value of a fundraising donor acquisition method.

Southern Africa Institute of Fundraising.

This list is by no means exhaustive and your NPO may well use different terms to refer to some of these processes. What is important, however, is to keep jargon out of your communications with supporters.

Marisol Gutierrez is Communication and Partnerships Manager at Downes Murray International.

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