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reading & terminology

Reading & Terminology


It seems like there is always something new to read about the philanthropy space. It is tough to keep up! We get asked all of the time about the latest book, blog or article. We typically provide links to articles on social media, but here are a few of our recent favorite books (some for kids too!) and blogs:


Generation Impact by Sharna Goldseker and Michael Moody. How next generation donors are revolutionizing giving.
Give Smart: Philanthropy That Gets Results by Thomas J. Tierney and Joel L. Fleishman. Despite tremendous innovation in the social sector, this book explores why philanthropy’s natural state is underperformance.
Giving 2.0 by Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen. Resources for navigating ways one can give.
Grassroots Philanthropy: Field Notes of a Maverick Grantmaker by Bill Somerville with Fred Setterberg. A guide to decisive, hands-on grantmaking, to energize and motivate individual donors, foundation grantmakers, and nonprofit leaders.
Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad. The intention is to teach those with white privilege how systemic racism works and how they can stop contributing to white supremacy in the world.
More Than Good Intentions by Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel. Combines behavioral economics with world-wide field research to reduce/remove the uncertainty of program effectiveness in the effort to alleviate global poverty.
The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan by Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon. A practical guide to gifting that helps the reader create a business plan for giving.
The Foundation: A Great American Secret by Joel L. Fleishman. An educational book on private foundations in America makes the case for greater accountability.
The Generosity Plan by Kathy LeMay. Walks the reader through a process to indentify your time, treasure and talent and apply it to causes you care about.
Wealth in Families by Charles W. Collier. Explores different perspectives on the deeper meaning and use of family wealth.


NonProfit Quarterly by various writers. Posts about a wide range of philanthropic themes. It also produces informative webinars as well as case studies.

Philanthropy 2173 by Lucy Bernholz. A clever, funny and always insightful blog about the future of philanthropy.
The National Center for Family Philanthropy by various writers. Nonprofit resource dedicated exclusively to families who give and those that work with them.

for kids

Raising Financially Fit Kids by Jolene Godfrey. Helps parents send their children into the world as financially savvy adults by identifying 10 specific skills that can be mastered by children ages 5 through 18.
The Giving Book: Open The Door To A Lifetime Of Giving by Ellen Sabin. Teaches and engages young readers ages 6 - 11 to give back to the world.


Here are some resources for researching nonprofits as part of the gifting process: The Better Business Bureau provides reports on national charities. These reports rate the charities against the BBB’s charity standards. Guidestar by Candid provides financial reports and Form 990s for many charities. The IRS online version of Publication 78 is a cumulative list of organizations that are eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. This simply allows you to confirm that an organization has been designated “tax exempt” by the IRS.

Disaster Grantmaking - When a disaster strikes, people ask themselves “what can I do?” Here are a couple of resources: The Center for Disaster Philanthropy -- The when, where, and how of informed disaster giving. Disaster Grantmaking: A Practical Guide for Foundations and Corporations by The Council on Foundations and the European Foundation Centre. This guide is a helpful resource in determining how to respond to disasters, whether they be natural or man-made.


If you are just starting to get acquainted with nonprofits and grantmaking, you may be overwhelmed by all of the jargon. Here are some common terms and definitions:

501 (c) (3)

Section of the Internal Revenue Code (“Code”) that designates an organization as charitable, tax-exempt and nonprofit.

509 (a) 

Section of the Code that defines public charities (as opposed to private foundations). A 501(c)(3) organization may also have a 509(a) designation to further define the agency as a public charity.

Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA)

A contract between a donor and a nonprofit. In exchange for a donation to the charity, the charity guarantees a specified life income payment to beneficiaries. The charity receives the remainder upon the death of the beneficiaries.

Charitable Gifting Vehicles

Charitable gifting vehicles fall into two categories: income-producing and direct. Income-producing gifting vehicles include charitable gift annuities, charitable lead trusts, charitable remainder trusts and pooled income funds. Direct gifting vehicles include donor advised funds and private foundations.

Charitable Lead Trust (CLT)

An irrevocable trust that generates a potential income stream for the charitable organization(s) of donor choice, with the remainder going to family members or other beneficiaries.

Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT)

An irrevocable trust that generates a potential income stream for the donor and beneficiaries, with the remainder going to one or more selected charitable organizations.

Donor-Advised Fund (DAF)

A public charity that allows the donor to make an irrevocable contribution to the charity and then recommend grants from the charity to be made to qualified nonprofit organizations. Donors recommend grants on their own timetable to eligible charities. Donors can also grant anonymously.


A bequest or gift that is intended to be kept permanently and invested to generate income for an organization or foundation.


The award of funds to an organization to undertake charitable or tax-exempt activities.


Individual or organization that receives a grant. Also called a donee.


Individual or organization that makes a grant. Also called a donor.

Independent Foundation

A private foundation that is no longer controlled by the original donor or donor’s family.

IRS Form 990

The return of the organizations exempt from tax. It is filed annually with the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) and often the state Attorney General or Secretary of State offices by tax-exempt organizations.

IRS Form 990-PF

The return of private foundations. It is filed annually with the IRS by all private foundations.


A term describing an organization whose income is not used for the benefit or private gain of stockholders, directors, or any other persons with an interest in the company. A nonprofit organization’s income must be used solely to support its operations and stated purpose.

Payout Requirement

Private foundations are required by law to pay out at least 5% of the fair market value of their assets each year in grants and administrative expenses.

Pooled Income Fund (PIF)

An income-producing charitable trust established and maintained by a qualified nonprofit organization, providing the donor or beneficiaries with a potential, lifetime income stream based on a prorated share of the income earned by the trust. Remaining assets are eventually distributed to the designated charitable beneficiaries.

Private Foundation (PF)

A nonprofit organization established by a donor, typically through a substantial initial gift, which can make grants to charities over time. It must distribute 5% of assets annually. Donor has full control over distributions to charities and can grant to public or private charities. A foundation that receives most of its income from, and is subject to control of, an individual or other single or limited source. Also, the technical IRS term for an organization which is tax-exempt under Code Section 501(c)(3) and classified as a private foundation.

Public Charity

Public charities are designated under Code Section 501(c)(3) and are defined in Section 509 (identified by the Code as “not a private foundation”). A public charity normally receives a substantial part of its income, directly or indirectly, from the public or from government sources. The public support must be broad, not limited to a few individuals or families.

Site Visits

An important part of the grantmaking process. As a donor, you’ll want to investigate four areas: the need, the organization, the project, and the future.


Question the issue at hand to give proper context to the discussion. You want to find out about the scope and breadth of the issue and who or what is affected.


Question the nonprofit about the organization as a whole - staff, leadership, partners, etc. It is also important to determine whether a strategic plan exists and whether there are contingency and succession plans in place.


Question the nonprofit about the goals and objectives of the project, how the money will be used, and the expected impact.


Question the nonprofit about their ideas, trends and different programs. You want to get their perspective on what’s working and who is also supporting the issue area.

Tax-Exempt Organization

A nonprofit organization that does not have to pay state or federal taxes. An organization must apply to both the IRS and its state Attorney General’s or other state regulator’s office to receive tax-exempt status.

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