Category Archives: Uncategorized

10 things progressive funders must learn from conservative ones, or we are all screwed

[Image description: A black-and-white close-up shot of the head of the Statue of Liberty and part of her arm. Image by Fabian Fauth on Unsplash.com]

Hi everyone, this post is going to be very serious. Before we begin, though, RVC is hiring a Director for our Operations Support program; if you love the intersection of equity and operations and want to work with an incredible team, this job may be for you. Please forward it widely. 

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The last few weeks have been difficult. The images of women and kids being tear-gassed at the border haunt me. It makes me think about how effective we nonprofits and foundations are, and what’s keeping us from being able to stop these horrible things from happening.  

I know many of us are having similar thoughts. Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Edgar Villanueva, the brilliant author of Decolonizing Wealth, a critical book that highlights something we actively avoid talking about: the history of philanthropic dollars, which is rooted in the genocide of Native peoples, slavery, and other abuse of and extraction from marginalized communities. I highly recommend the book. And it is an encouraging sign that foundations have been at least willing to engage with the topics that Decolonizing Wealth, along with Anand Giridharada’s Winners Take All, have been courageously bringing up.

But there is a potential challenge that I can see: The public embrace by foundations of these two books—and other forms of criticisms—is at danger of being another form of intellectualizing, with the reflection generated by these important books serving as a self-congratulatory proxy for actions, as has happened over and over. How many more books need to be written? When will we see fundamental changes to how philanthropy operates? Continue reading

Meat Me Halfway: Veganism and the Nonprofit Sector (aka, Worst. NAF Post. Ever)

[Image description: An adorable little baby pig. They are pink with black/gray patches. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. I’ve been bringing up a whole bunch of controversial things on this blog, but this may be the one that makes people rush to my office and kick down my unicorn shrine. Yes, there is a unicorn shrine at my office; let’s not criticize one another’s Feng-Shui-based fundraising strategies, OK?

But put on some calming Kenny Loggins music and hear me out for a second. This post is not going to shame you for eating meat, and it’s not trying to get you to become vegan. It will, however, attempt to get us all to recognize the challenges and dissonance posed by meat in our work fighting for a better world, and maybe persuade you to cut down a little bit on that delicious meat and scrumptious cheese as you are able. That’s all. Please put down the broken bottles of gala wine. Continue reading

Popularity-based grants are irritating, harmful, and need to end

[Image description: It’s a little pug, starting directly into the camera, with its big eyes and wrinkled face, so cute! This pug wants all corporate partners to stop having popularity-based funding opportunities. Image from Pixabay.com]

Popularity-based grants (PBG) are funding opportunities where nonprofits compete to get the most votes or “likes” in order to win some money or services from a corporate partner. They have been popping up a lot lately, with the increase in social media engagement. If you are with a company that conducts these types of grants, I am begging you, please shut them down and never have another one again. I know intentions are good; you may be thinking that nonprofits get some resources, and the companies get some exposure, so it’s a “win-win.” In actuality, popularity-based grants are awful, irritating, insulting, inequitable, and hurt nonprofits and the people we serve. Here are several reasons why: Continue reading

Hey progressives, can we stop using the tools of social justice to tear one another down?

[Image description: Two cute little baby chickens who look like they just hatched. They are dark yellow with a patch of black on their heads. They’re in a wooden box or drawer, surrounded by some white eggs and some brown eggs. Image from Pixabay.com.]

Hi everyone. This might be another one of those serious posts, so please take a few deep breaths and eat some dark chocolate. While perusing an online group, I witnessed a conversation between several colleagues, and it was disheartening. A difference of perspectives led to assumptions, which led to attacks, which led to accusations of privilege and power, which led to defensive stances regarding oppressed identities, and then there were terse sign-offs and sarcastic hashtags. It was so demoralizing to see nonprofit colleagues talking to one another in this way that I had to take a pause and read the news to cheer myself up.

A while ago, activist Frances Lee wrote “Excommunicate Me from the Church of Social Justice,” a thought-provoking article that led to a lot of needed discussions. Lee wrote:

“Activists are some of the judgiest people I’ve ever met, myself included. We work hard to expose injustice and oppression in the world. But among us, grace and forgiveness are hard to come by. It is a terrible thing to fear my own community members, and know they’re probably just as afraid of me.” Continue reading

19 irritating jargon phrases, and awesome new sayings you should use instead

[Image description: A little reddish-brown squirrel, hovering behind a mossy tree stump, looking to the right. It seems attentive and thoughtful, both ears perking up. This is clearly a reference to Number 16 in this post, where a proposed suggestion is “there’s no squirrel in the scuttle.” In this image, there is a squirrel, but no scuttle. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. Before we get into this week’s post, a quick announcement. Remember back in grade school when we would have field days at the end of the school year, a day when we had a bunch of games outdoors? We need more fun in the nonprofit sector, considering how serious the work is. So I am declaring July 18th to be the first annual Nonprofit Field Day! This is inspired by Ahead of the Curve, a consortium of capacity builders in New York, who plans to go big this year, possibly involving a potato sack race. If capacity builders can have fun, then so can everyone!

You have plenty of stuff to worry about already, so use Nonprofit Field Day as an excuse to invite other nonprofits on a picnic, canoe outing, outdoor karaoke, ice cream social at the beach, whatever. We need more activities that bring different nonprofits together. Let me know how it goes.

Last week’s blog post was a bit serious, so to lighten things up, here is part 4 of the Jargon series, where we examine clichés and irritating jargon and propose alternatives. Here are parts 1, 2, and 3 (#OxfordCommaForever!) Continue reading