We Call Ourselves Something We’re Not – Ten New Names

We Call Ourselves Something We’re Not – Ten New Names

The name “Nonprofit” has nothing really relevant to what our organizations really do. Clearly, we do not dispense profits to shareholders, but is that the real distinction we wish to make to distinguish ourselves from business?
A side excursion to Roget’s under “nonprofit” yields, among others, “worthless” and “unsuccessful.”

(Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.)

Or, more important, is this the name by which we really want to be known? If so, we can go back to the debates as to whether there should be a hyphen somewhere in the name.

However, I think it’s time to chuck that name. We need some creativity in getting a new name. And we’re serious: our sector really needs a new name or, sooner rather than later, we’ll get lumped into the NGO crowd, another of the “something we’re not” category.

Suggestion Number One

The feds give us a name: “Not a Private Foundation.”

Another negative, not really attractive, not really what we do.

Suggestion Number Two

Toqueville and others might suggest, “The Volunteer Sector.” At one time this may have worked, but not now.

We still have volunteers, but we also have professionals, personnel,  donors, all sorts of constituency. And it doesn’t tell what we do.

Suggestion Number Three

Diane Aviv and her crowd might like “The Independent Sector,” but it’s a bit haughty, not very descriptive, and wrong. We are connected, collaborative, not apart, independent, self-contained. Sorry Diane.

Suggestion Number Four

Some think the “Charity Sector” would be very descriptive, and it does partially describe some of the input, but not much else. We’re more.

Suggestion Number Five

Looking at the product of our labors probably makes more sense. We improve society in many, many ways. At least we sustain certain aspects. Perhaps, we’re  “Community Betterment Organizations.”  Again, incomplete.

 Suggestion Number Six

Then there are those, thinking back to pre-revolutionary France, who wish to call ourselves “The Third Sector.”

Too abstract, too “in.” Doesn’t tell us much. And, maybe another group has a stronger claim.

Suggestion Number Seven

I’ve been known to call us  “The Value Sector” based on the idea that we represent some of the highest aspirations and values in our society. Perhaps, however, it takes a bit more explaining and still doesn’t say what we do, or what are our results.

Suggestion Number Eight

What about “The Philanthropic Sector?” It certainly tells our motives, but does it say enough about what we really do in comparison to our companion Foundation partners?

Or should we include those folks in our definition? Or should that name refer to them alone? Probably “no” to all of the above.

Suggestion Number Nine

A number of highly thoughtful folks have suggested that we call ourselves the “Civil Society Sector,” defining Civil Society as all the non-government, non-business aspects of our society. This is a thoughtful contender, although it does take some explanation and may not satisfy explaining what we do and what our impact is.

Suggestion Number Ten

A final one, “Societal Benefit Organization” goes a long way to tell what we do and points to our outcomes, at least our intended outcomes.

So Where Are We?

You tell us. Any suggested name appeal to you? How about your suggested name? “Eleemosynary,” for example, hasn’t been used in a while.

This is a big thing if we can come up with a winner. We can change the face, and the name, of our sector. And be a hero.

Do send your suggested names to us. Soon. We’ll report on results.

  1. […] wrote recently about the nonprofit sector’s name as something we’re not, as something that doesn’t say what we do, how we do it or what comes of it. So we concluded that […]

  2. Richard Hunt Says: June 26, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    I am an older, retired academic, and philanthropist. For years I have been promoting a different term for the work of so-called “non profits” . I did not see it among the ten substitute terms your article suggests. My idea is “social profit. ” Positive simple short descriptive.
    Social profit conveys the work of organizations engaged in serious work, producing good for society, taking risks, trying to avoid losses, all measurable by the standards of “for profit” metrics.
    The closest your list comes to “social profit” is “societal benefit organization.” But that is quite a mouthful!!

  3. Audrey J. Says: June 25, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    I like the idea of renaming nonprofits to “aid to sustainability sectors.” Although a mouthful, I associate ‘aid’ with volunteerism. Instead of putting the pressure on those who seek help, volunteering effort and support to those of low-income or poor circumstances can be uplifting and empowering to individuals and families. I also use ‘sustainability’ because in my experience, nonprofits aim to build confidence and self-esteem, and by giving a helpful hand to put people back on their feet, ultimately, they aren’t trying to set them in any particular path, they just want them to succeed and grow on their own. To reiterate, volunteering support to those in need and giving them the tools to rebuild and grow from experience is the most fundamental way to describe the goals all nonprofits aim for.

  4. kyndrid boxberger Says: September 1, 2019 at 1:16 am

    “The Inclusive Team”

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