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I just had someone insist that a donation can only be to a charitable cause or organization; otherwise, the word contribution should be used. When I objected to "contribution" on the grounds that it sounds like what you send to your favorite politician, he suggested offering. But that's not any better - I've only really seen it used in church.

Is he right that donation implies charity? If yes, what's a good alternative?

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I donate myself to Stack Exchange. Yet I doubt it is a charity - not enough giving: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/12/stack-overflow-gives-back-2010 ;) –  malach Dec 28 '10 at 15:46

2 Answers 2

up vote 13 down vote accepted

A donation is a voluntary gift or contribution for a specific cause.

That cause does not have to be a charity, a political donation is still a donation, it is a gift for a fund of some description. There may be restriction on the use from an accountancy perspective in certain parts of the world, but not from a linguistic perspective.

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Donation comes from latin, dono, -are. to give, or donum, doni, n., gift (in general). Thus, I doubt it's restricted to charities.

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Careful: the etymology of a word sometimes has nothing to do with its current definition, nevermind connotation. –  Marthaª Dec 29 '10 at 14:54
    
good point. I defer to Orbling's comment above. thanks:-) –  kalaracey Dec 29 '10 at 17:28

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