Terminology

We have developed some terminology to describe interactions and roles on Open Collective. Please use these terms when creating issues or support requests, instead of user —everyone is a user!

We are all individuals

People are individuals. They can form entities inside Open Collective, like Organizations and Collectives, which enable collaborative impact and define interactions between individuals.

Entities & structure

Individuals

Human beings with names. An individual signs up to Open Collective with their email address. An individual can take on different roles throughout the platform.

Organizations

An Organization represents a company or legal entity in the world, with a shared identity, bank account, credit card, and resources. This is often how Sponsors engage on the platform.

Organization Admins

Individual(s) who create and/or manage the Organization profile. They have rights to edit the settings of the Organization, set up financial contributions to Collectives, and set up gift cards, among other things.

Fiscal Hosts

A Fiscal Host is a type of Organization.

Fiscal hosting enables Collectives to transact financially without needing to legally incorporate. A fiscal host is a legal company or individual who holds a Collective’s funds in their bank account, and can generate invoices and receipts for Financial Contributors. You can think of a fiscal host as an umbrella organization for the Collectives in it.

Fiscal Host Admin

Individual(s) who create and/or manage the Fiscal Host. They are responsible for approving new Collectives who want to join the host and paying out expenses approved by Collective admins.

Fiscal Host admins want tools and workflows to easily manage their tasks (paying expenses and approving new Collectives). They need to charge their fees and keep a useful accounting system. They are often the first point of contact for the Core Contributors of Collectives they host, and many are super-users.

Collectives

The primary entity most representative of the basis of our platform. A Collective represents a project or group that has a mission or purpose in the world, which they raise and spend funds transparently to achieve.

Core Contributors

Individuals who are major contributors and represent the Collective with their face on the Collective page as part of the team.

Collective Admins

A type of Core Contributor with additional permissions, so they can edit the Collective, change settings, approve expenses, make financial contributions to other Collectives, and receive messages from people trying to contact the Collective.

Core Contributors want to make their communities sustainable financially, so receiving financial contributions is first on their priority list. They use tools like tiers, goals, and social media sharing. They are interested in managing and growing their communities by creating events and sending updates.

Event Attendee

Individuals who register to attend a Collective's event. They often arrive through a direct link provided by the event organizers. They want a smooth, hassle-free experience, clear information about the event, and ideally a pathway to stay in touch or become contributors.

User actions & relationships

Every action inside Open Collective is based on contribution.

The word we will use for "someone who contributes to a project" is "contributor". The buttons on tiers will say "contribute".

Financial Contributors

Organizational Financial Contributor

A company that supports a Collective financially, often at a higher tier. This is often called sponsorship in practice, but can go by other names depending on the Collective's context, such as base supporters, members, etc.

Sponsors often represent companies with accounting and reporting needs. They may want brand exposure, access to or goodwill from a community, tangible benefits like support, or help with their recruiting efforts.

Individual Financial Contributor

Supports a Collective financially, with a repeating or one-off contribution.

They arrive at a Collective many ways:

Expense submitter

An individual who requests payment from the Collective's budget using the expense function.

There are two different formats to contribute financially:

  • One-time financial contribution

  • Recurring financial contribution

Non-financial Contributors

Fiscal Hosts

Supporting Collectives by providing the legal and financial infrastructure needed to accept money and make payments.

Code Contributors

An individual can contribute with code (software) to an open source project with a Collective

Service Contributors

An individual who contributes time or skills to a Collective's mission.

Terminology usage guidelines

Because there are a lot of concepts and moving parts on the platform, we try to be careful with the words we use and how we use them, to avoid confusion.

Capitalization

Terms defined above that function as a proper noun (name) of a specific role or entity, as opposed to the everyday meaning and usage of that word. Please capitalize the following terms in documentation and in the app.

  • Collective

  • Organization

  • Fiscal Host

  • Admin (Collective Admin, Fiscal Host Admin)

  • Core Contributor

These words are used a lot in common language and don't need to be capitalized all the time, but when referring specifically to the feature on our platform it is like a proper name, so it can be capitalized to better communicate what you mean.

  • Update

  • Event

  • Expense

  • Transaction

Do not capitalize the above words when they do not refer to the name of a role or entity on the platform. For example:

You can think of Fiscal Hosts as umbrella organizations for Collectives.

'Fiscal Hosts' and 'Collectives' are capitalized because they refer to names of roles on the platform, but 'organization' is not because it's used here as part of the common phrase 'umbrella organization'.

Words to avoid

There are a lot of names and terms we have used in the past or that have common meanings close to roles and entities on the platform. It's important to use language that your intended audience will understand and identify with, so no words are banned, but be mindful of using the below terms as they can easily introduce confusion.

User

Everyone is a user, so it's not super helpful when trying to refer to something more specific.

This is a common word to describe when a company gives money to a project, but it's caused confusion because sometimes sponsorship is defined by the kind of entity making the financial contribution (company vs individual), and sometimes it's defined by how much they are contributing (e.g. some Collectives call everything over $1000 'sponsorship' regardless of who gives it). Collectives can each define these things for themselves, so it's safer to refer to "individual financial contributor" or "organizational financial contributor".

Backer

Similar to the above. If a company gives only $5 a month, are they a backer or a sponsor? That's undefined globally, so stick with "financial contributor".

Because different Collectives use different terms, the platform should not try to decide for them. Each community will have its own context. Therefore we have decided to stick with the words "contribute" and "contribution" and add the qualifier "financial" when it's through money.

Subscription

We used to call recurring financial contributions "subscriptions", but this proved problematic because most Collectives don't think of someone giving $5 a month as "subscribing" to them, and it's also easy to confuse with the concept of subscribing to Updates and getting emails. To emphasize our key action of "contribution" we call it "recurring financial contributions". We are aware this is too long, but we haven't come up with a better idea so far.

Chapter

Previously, we explored the idea of calling Open Collective branded fiscal hosts (Open Collective Europe, Open Collective UK, etc) "chapters". But this concept was not followed up and supported and using the word is confusing. These are simply Fiscal Hosts.