10 Years of nonprofit buzzwords

Every field needs its big thinker that summarize mounds of data and helps us identity trends. Lucy Bernholz is that big thinker for the social sector. Recently she produced a list of the top 10 buzzwords from the social sector over the last 10 years. From Lucy: Buzzwords are fleeting things. They come in and go out, are first hot and then not. However, looked at over time, buzzwords also provide a useful rear-view roadmap of how we got here.

Taken together, the 10 phrases I have chosen to show the long steady rise in market-based solutions for social problem solving, technology’s infiltration of all things fund raising, and a shift in attention from local to global.

Following, in descending order of importance, are the 10 philanthropy buzzwords that define the decade.

Number 10: Donate-now buttons

Remember writing checks, stamping envelopes, and mailing off your donations? Way back in the 1990s that’s how we gave money. Filling in credit card numbers on a direct-mail appeal reply card was high-tech, just a notch above throwing your coins into the swinging red kettle.

Donate-now buttons on Web sites got their start in 1999 and really took off in 2001 when AOL, Cisco, and Yahoo started Network for Good.

Number 9: Prize philanthropy

It used to be the biggest philanthropic honors were those you couldn’t apply for - like the Nobel Prize or the MacArthur “genius” award. That all changed in 2004 when SpaceShipOne, a privately built and piloted craft, completed its second orbit of the earth and won the $10-million X Prize. Since then foundations and corporations have fallen over themselves offering cash prizes for social change. There are challenges for wireless news tools, clean-water carriers, digital learning games, and much more. Philanthropists love prizes because they don’t pay out until you solve the problem.

Number 8: Celebvocates

Nonprofits have always loved celebrity backers. Nowadays, star status requires that every movie actor, utility infielder, and aspiring politician find a charitable cause to love. Ceaseless, blatant self- promotion in the name of hungry children, sad diseases, and cute animals is ceaseless, blatant self-promotion we can all stand behind.

In fact, here-let me wear your T-shirt, carry your tote bag, and tweet a gift to your organization so you can take credit for my generosity.

Number 7: Microvolunteering

Mom used to bake cookies for the PTA and serve on committees for the church. Now she edits marketing copy for the local animal shelter while waiting for the bus and helps NASA identify craters on the moon during boring department meetings. Microvolunteering, the art of donating time in 20-minute increments, comes to us via our smart phones-which we also rely on to organize protests and tweet our bikeathon fund-raising totals.

Number 6: Philanthrocapitalism

Nonprofits should be more like businesses. Giving should be more like investing. And capitalism should be more creative just so long as it continues to let some people get crazy wealthy so they can give some of it back to others.

Philanthrocapitalism, a term coined by Mathew Bishop and Michael Green and used as the name of their 2008 book, celebrates the coming together of business skills and structures with a focus on solving the world’s shared social problems.

Read the top 5 terms at the Chronicle of Philanthropy