Glossary

These terms may have distinct meanings outside the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.

501(c)(3) Organization: 501(c)(3) refers to a subsection of the IRS code that details tax law provisions granting exemption from federal income tax to nonprofit organizations that exist for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purposes, among others.

Tides has been a 501(c)(3) organization since our founding in 1976.


501(c)(4) Organization: 501(c)(4) also refers to a subsection of the IRS code. 501(c)(4) organizations differ from 501(c)(3)s mainly in that there is no limit on the amount of lobbying activity 501(c)(4)s may conduct or support; and, unlike donations to a 501(c)(3), donations to a 501(c)(4) are not tax deductible.


Civic Engagement: Individual or collective actions designed to identify and address issues of local, regional, national, or international political concern. The term is also used in reference to a commitment to improving public or social life in our communities.

Civic engagement—making every vote count; increasing voter turnout, particularly among young voters and people of color; and removing the barriers to the voting booth—has been a part of the Tides mission since our inception; it is the main focus of Tides' Voter Action Fund.


Collective Giving: The act of consolidating capital and other resources from a number of individuals and/or organizations in order to increase impact—and marshal additional commitment—when financing strategic initiatives.

Tides offers ready-made collective giving vehicles serving both donors and activists.


Controlled Entity: A corporation, partnership, or trust or estate in which donors, fund advisors, or their Relatives actually or constructively own more than thirty-five percent of the total combined voting power, profits interest, or beneficial interest, respectively.


Corporate Philanthropy: The act of corporations dedicating and/or donating some of their profits, or other resources (e.g., facilities, products) to nonprofit organizations.

Patagonia and Levi Strauss are just two of the socially minded companies that manage their corporate philanthropy via Tides.


Docket / Personalized Docket: Compiled funding recommendations with in-depth research on specific issue areas and organizations.

Personalized dockets are available to donors as part of Tides' philanthropic services.


Donor: An individual, corporation, or other organization that contributes cash, services, or other assets of value to a charitable initiative.

Donors come to Tides to direct resources where they are most needed for positive social change.


Donor Advised Funds / Donor Advised Grantmaking: A charitable giving vehicle administered by a third party and created for the purpose of managing charitable donations on behalf of an organization, family, or individual.

When you contribute through a Tides Donor Advised Fund, our experienced and well-connected staff help you in translating your ideals into effective philanthropy.


Environmental Justice: The interaction between the environment and communities, which implicates the inequitable distribution of environmental burdens and environmental benefits in our society. In particular, environmental injustice exists when members of disadvantaged, ethnic, minority, or other groups suffer disproportionately from environmental risks or hazards, and/or suffer environmental risks and hazards disproportionately from violations of fundamental human rights as a result of environmental factors.


Fiscal Sponsor: A charitable organization that gives legal home to unincorporated groups whose missions are aligned with its own.

Thousands of individuals, groups, and foundations choose fiscal sponsorship from Tides to start new programs and thus avoid investing in costly, duplicative infrastructure.


Foundation: A non-governmental entity that is established as a nonprofit corporation or a charitable trust, with a principal purpose of making grants to unrelated organizations, institutions, or individuals for scientific, educational, cultural, religious, or other charitable purposes.

Tides Foundation partners with donors to increase and organize resources for positive social change.


Fund Advisor: the person appointed to recommend grants out of a donor advised fund and by the donor who establishes the fund.


Global Support Fund: U.S.-based donors can make tax-deductible contributions that reach non-U.S.-based charitable organizations through global support funds. This type of funding also enables family and private foundations to make international grants without having to manage the grant.

Tides Global Support Funds facilitate international giving.


Grant: A sum of money given by a donor to support the work outlined in the mission statement or objective of a nonprofit organization.

Click here to download a PDF chart of Tides grants over time.


Green Nonprofit Centers: Environmentally and financially sustainable shared office spaces that bring nonprofits and communities together; shared workspaces that house multiple nonprofit tenant organizations.

Tides is a nationally recognized leader in the development and promotion of green nonprofit centers.


Infrastructure: Systems that serve organizations, foundations, and activists; structures that enable the work to happen; and networks to share ideas and information.

Tides provides sophisticated infrastructure services to the progressive social change movement.


Letter of Inquiry (LOI): The LOI provides Tides Center with basic information about a potential project’s mission, issue area, activities/services, stage of development, and proposed funding.


Letter of Intent (also abbreviated LOI): A written statement expressing the intention of the undersigned to enter into a formal agreement.


Momentum: Launched by Tides in 2005 to support progressive donors and activists in connecting on key issues, and developing a vibrant progressive community.

Momentum brings together some of the world's most innovative thinkers and dedicated activists to challenge, inspire, and energize one another.


National Network of Fiscal Sponsors: A network of fiscal sponsor organizations that aims to improve the practices, capabilities, and awareness of fiscal sponsorship in the nonprofit sector through education and advocacy.

Tides is a founding member of the National Network of Fiscal Sponsors.


The NonprofitCenters Network: A national membership program of multi-tenant nonprofit centers and a program of Tides.


Nonprofit (or Voluntary) Organization: An organization in which no owner, stockholder, or trustee shares in profits and losses, and which exists not to earn profits but rather to promote a mission that enhances the public welfare.


Philanthropic Advisor: The primary staff person responsible for the administration of a Tides fund.

Philanthropic Advisors at Tides help donors: clarify philanthropic interests; connect those interests and values with particular issue areas; develop a mission statement for giving; and connect with other donors.


Philanthropy: The act of donating money, goods, time, or the effort to promote human welfare.

Tides is the leader in philanthropy in service of positive social change.


Projects: Organizations, groups, or individuals that operate under a fiscal sponsor's federal income tax-exempt status.

Tides currently has over 200 fiscally sponsored projects, and has worked with well over 1,000 since our founding.


Public Charity: refers to a kind of non-profit organization that solicits and is able to accept donations or gifts from a broad base of individual and corporate donors.

Because Tides is a public charity, contributions are immediately tax-deductible. Tides does not operate out of an endowment; social progress is dependent on the hundreds of socially minded donors we serve.


Reproductive Justice: A concept that links reproductive health with social justice. Women’s reproductive health is connected to and affected by conditions in their lives that are shaped by their socioeconomic status, race, sexuality, and nationality. Advocates argue that women cannot have full control of their reproductive lives until all social injustices are addressed.

Tides provides critical support for the U.S. reproductive justice movement through our Reproductive Justice and Catalyst Funds.


Request for Proposal (RFP): An RFP is the mechanism by which funding organizations solicit proposals and open up grant cycles.

Subscribe here to receive RFP alerts from Tides.


Sustainability: a broad term that often refers to the process of increasing the longevity of human economic systems and reducing their impact on ecological systems.

All our work here at Tides is underpinned by a commitment to promoting change towards a healthy, just, and sustainable society.


Thoreau Centers for Sustainability: The facilities operated by Tides. Currently, these include Thoreau Center for Sustainability, San Francisco located in the Presidio and Thoreau Center for Sustainability, New York in lower Manhattan.


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