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Asking for a Friend... I'm Confused by Philanthrospeak

Asking for a Friend


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Conundrum: I'm confused by philanthrospeak

Submitted Friday, June 2, 2023

Hi NCG, 

I am new to philanthropy coming from movement-building and nonprofit work. Feeling a little out of place, not knowing all the jargon, institutions, or resources out there. Where do I start? How can I stay connected to my roots with movement-building work in this field? What does building community mean in philanthropy? 


Confused by philanthrospeak 



Dear Confused,  

This was me just a little over a year ago. I, like you, came straight from the nonprofit world. I was a noob, a rookie in the mysterious field that is philanthropy. At times it can feel like you just walked into a secret society where none of the phrases being tossed around during meetings make sense.

What worked for me was being honest with my coworkers. Having one-on-one meetings where you ask them for resources, leadership opportunities (like NCG’s New Grantmakers Institute or Rising Leaders cohort), networking mixers, which mailing lists to get on, and what shared language is most important to understand. The glossaries from United Philanthropy Forum, Inside Philanthropy and Council on Foundations are a good place to learn all the lingo. Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy has a curriculum called Philanthroplology which has been crafted for new practitioners in the sector to understand its context, history, and challenges. Always listen, observe, and ask for clarification. Curiosity is key. Asking "What do you mean by that?" will get you far! 

It gets better, 


Semiyah Constantino, Digital Engagement Associate, Northern California Grantmakers

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