The Vocabulary of Foundations

9, 10, 11, 12

Students learn about the different types of foundations and how they differ from other nonprofits. They collaborate to explore what needs their own foundation will address.

Print50 minutes

The Learners will

  • define foundation and other related terms.
  • collaborate to narrow the focus of their foundation.
  • practice sharing their ideas to a group.
Teacher Preparation 

Prepare the vocabulary words below for student use.

  • 990 form: the IRS form that informs the public about the finances of a nonprofit organization
  • annual report: voluntary report issued by a foundation, nonprofit organization, or corporate grantmaking program that provides financial data describing their grantmaking activities
  • assets: the amount of capital or principal –money, stocks, bonds, real estate, or other resources – controlled by a foundation or corporate giving program
  • beneficiary: the grantee receiving funds from a foundation or corporate giving program is the beneficiary
  • board of directors/trustees: individuals who are elected to serve on the managerial board of an organization, such as a foundation
  • budget: the total amount of money allocated for a certain purpose including both income and expenditures 
  • charity: money or help given to aid the needy; an organization, fund, or institution whose purpose is to aid those in need 
  • community foundation: an organization that makes grants for charitable purposes in a specific community or region
  • corporate or company-sponsored foundation: a private foundation whose grant funds are derived primarily from the contributions of a profit-making business organization. Examples include Dow Chemical Foundation and the Ford Motor Company Fund
  • family foundation: an independent private foundation whose funds are derived from members of a single family
  • foundation: an organization created from designated funds from which the income is distributed as grants to not-for-profit organizations or to people
  • fundraising: soliciting money to benefit a cause or organization
  • grant: a financial donation given to support a person, organization, project or program. Most grants are awarded to not-for-profit organizations.
  • nonprofit organization: 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
  • request for proposal (RFP): When the government or a foundation issues a new contract or grant program, it sends out RFPs to agencies that might be qualified to participate
Home Connection 

Send home the vocabulary in preparation of a vocabulary quiz the following day.


What is the benefit of working together to accomplish something?


  1. Ask the students if they know of any foundations. They may be familiar with their community foundation, their school's education foundation, or a local corporate or family foundation. Discuss how a foundation differs from other nonprofits in that they grant funds to nonprofits or individuals who will help them address the needs they care about. Ask, "Where do you think foundations get the money they grant?"

  2. Tell the students that different foundations get their money in different ways. A corporate foundation may get money from the profits of a business. A community foundation may raise money through a fundraiser from people who want the foundation to address community needs. 

  3. In this unit, the students are going to start their own foundation. Tell them to work as teams to learn their vocabulary words, particularly comparing different foundations. After they learn their vocabulary, they will start discussing what needs their own foundation can focus on.

  4. Ask the students what they like about their community and what they think needs improvement. Through discussion, brainstorm different areas of need, such as the environment, clean water, poverty, animal welfare, better schools, and literacy.

  5. Group students according to the area of need they are interested in. Have each group write a paragraph about what their original foundation could do to address the need they care about. Have them use at least three of the new vocabulary words in their paragraphs. The groups may be from two to six people, and more than one group may write about the same issue or need. 

  6. Groups share their paragraphs with the whole class and get feedback through discussion:

    • What ideas interest you?
    • What could a student-run foundation be called?
    • What other subjects have special vocabularies?
    • In what ways does working together strengthen ideas?