Thurston County's Hidden Sector

A word most nonprofits want banished


Happy Holidays. I hope you are safe and warm.

I know the snow is not pleasant for everyone, but I have to say I was delighted to have a real white Christmas. I have only experienced this once before. We were walking out of midnight Mass in Dallas, and we had snow flurries which, of course, did not last. Snow is not unheard of in Dallas but usually it comes in the form of ice around New Year’s Day or Valentines Day.

End of the year

Speaking of New Year’s Day, I’m sure you are reading many end-of-the-year articles; famous people who have passed, the biggest entertainment hits of the year, etc. One of my favorite end-of-the-year articles is about words that were indicative of the year.

Banished words

Recently, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, #SistersinLaw, hosted by four “brilliant political and legal masterminds”. This week they mentioned a list of all the missed-used or overused words of the year that should now be retired or “banished.” 

According to the article, some of the words they suggest banishing include: COVID-19 (really that was #1), social distancing, pivot, unprecedented (often used incorrectly) and Karen (having some dear friend’s named Karen, I agree).

I would like to suggest one other word not included on their list: charity.


While it is true that 501c3 nonprofits are referred to as charitable organizations by the IRS, most nonprofits do not like the term ‘charity’. 

“Charity” creates images of Oliver Twist (please sir, may I have some more) as well as gives the impression that one should give to nonprofits from their excess. Previously, many of the functions performed by nonprofits were undertaken by the government. As more of these functions shift from to the nonprofit sector, we must shift our giving tendencies.

According to my Google search, a charity is “an organization set up to provide help and raise money for those in need,” and yes, that’s what nonprofits are (though not all). But this definition also suggests that giving is a one-way street. The insinuation of the word “charity” is that the giver is making a sacrifice and expects nothing in return except an IRS donation letter and recognition in the annual report. This is a power division we in the nonprofit sector do not accept; it isn’t a true representation of how nonprofits work.

By donating to a nonprofit, you are playing an important part in this ecosystem of creating a better world. Your donation should not be crumbs left on the table but rather, like your taxes, a contribution to ensuring the safety and well-being for everyone as well as future generations.

What you should do

Some religions require that you tithe (give 10% of your earnings) to the church. While most of us do not have this same requirement, it is a good standard to consider.

Nonprofits can no longer rely on our giving from whatever extra we have in our pockets. Giving to nonprofits should be part of our personal budgeting process. Our nonprofit community does far too much to ensure the safety and well-being of our citizens, wildlife, and environment to try to get by on thirty cents on the dollar as many statistics suggest. They deserve more; they deserve our full support.

So, as we close this year, you still have time to make a final donation to the nonprofits whose mission you support. Many are eligible for matching grants which will allow your donation to go even farther and yes, by donating at the end of the year, you are eligible to take the donations off on your 2021 taxes. Trust me, you will be glad you did in April.

Soliciting your ideas

If you know of a nonprofit that is doing something great, celebrating a success, needs some outstanding volunteers or hosting an event, let me know! This column (aside from a little education) celebrates nonprofits! 

Mary Beth Harrington, CVA (Certified Volunteer Administrator) lives in Tumwater. She travels the country speaking at conferences and to individual organizations articulating issues facing nonprofits. Send your ideas to her at

[Editor’s note: The JOLT News Organization, publisher of The JOLT, is a nonprofit organization and also doesn't consider itself to be a charity.  If you appreciate our work and want to see more of it, we hope you'll consider contributing to our year-end campaign.  Every dollar (up to $1,000 per contributor) is matched dollar-to-dollar by NewsMatch. And your contribution is tax-deductible if made through this website.  Thank you. ]


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