A past issue of "Leadership Matters," published by Bridgestar, addresses this topic. The featured article, “Lost in Translation: Common Language Pitfalls for Bridgers” is based on discussions with 11 senior executives at nonprofit organizations, some of whom themselves were executives who moved from for-profit to nonprofit.
These executives shared five insights for job seekers who are looking to follow that same path:
- Avoid referring to the organization as “the company” or similar words such as “corporation.”
- Don’t use business jargon, such as “ROI” (return on investment), “EBITDA” (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortization), “CAGR” (compounded annual growth rate), or “net profits.” Instead of “income statement” or “profit and loss statement,” say “statement of activities.”
- Be familiar with nonprofit buzzwords, including, “outputs,” “outcomes,” “major donors,” and “development.”
- Don’t assume that those in the nonprofit sector don’t know business terms. That can be just as bad (and totally condescending) as using jargon blindly without stopping to see if it’s registering with anyone.
- Research the organization’s website and print materials to see what words they use. Some words that started out in the business world have been embraced by the nonprofit sector.