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

20 ways majority-white nonprofits can build authentic partnerships with organizations led by communities of color

[Image description: A tiny, very yellow, and extremely fluffy duckling sitting on the ground. It is seriously very fluffy, like it just went down one of those plastic slides and charged itself up into a little yellow ball of static electricity. What does this duckling have to do with this post? Nothing. I was searching for a more relevant picture but ended up distracted by pictures of ducklings. From pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, before we begin today’s topic, please take time to fill out this new survey, which seeks to identify ideas and practices for investing in intersectional racial equity in the nonprofit workforce. It’s part of a larger initiative from our friends at Fund the People. They’ve partnered with the Center for Urban and Racial Equity to help funders and nonprofits “lower barriers and increase support for diverse people to gain entry to nonprofit work, sustain ourselves and advance in nonprofit careers, and ascend to management and leadership.” In particular, they are currently seeking more responses from people of color.

Since they used the Oxford Comma, I think we should help them out. Thanks for taking the survey today. It’s due September 7th.

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Despite the pervasiveness of the Nonprofit Hunger Games, we nonprofits are way more effective when we work together. However, partnerships can be challenging when there are clearly differences in culture, resources, and power. As someone who works with a lot of leaders and communities of color, I often get asked by thoughtful colleagues who work at majority-white nonprofits how they can support and work with organizations that are led by communities of color without causing inconvenience, or annoyance, or actual harm to those communities.

So here is some general advice, divided into four categories. This list is not comprehensive; please feel free to add to it in the comments. Special thanks to my friend Allison Carney, who also gifted the sector with the term Bizsplaining, for pushing me to write about this and for adding her thoughts. (Also, although this post is focused on partnership with communities-of-color-led nonprofits, it also applies to partnerships with organizations led by marginalized communities, such as communities of disabilities, as our colleague Julie Reiskin points out in the comment section).  Continue reading

Philanthropy and the Destructive Illusion of “Leveling the Playing Field”

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A few months ago a program officer and I were talking about the lack of funding that goes to communities-of-color-led nonprofits (only about 10% of philanthropic dollars go to organizations of color). He shook his head in sympathy and frustration, sipping on his coffee. “There has to be a way to level the playing field,” he said. This was probably the third time that quarter I had heard that phrase uttered by a funder. 

This concept of “Leveling the Playing Field” is very present in our sector in our society, like cats or skinny jeans, and we don’t really question it at all. We assume that it is a good thing. If we just make it so that competitions are “fair,” then the people/groups with the most merit, the best ideas and proposals, will win. If we can just make the field more even, then everyone will be able to play the game and everything is good. 

This philosophy has led some thoughtful funders to accept applications in Spanish or other languages, accept handwritten applications, or accept non-written formats such as videos or photos (Although, how effective is this last one when my one-man show, The Agony and Ecstasy of Capacity Building, has never resulted in funding?). 

Those practices are great, but can they level the playing field? Can the funding field ever be “level”? Continue reading

When you host an unpaid internship, a unicorn is very, very sad*

[Image description: Two hands resting on a laptop keyboard, as if they’re typing. The laptop is on a wooden table. The laptop screen displays a list of file and what looks like an open chat screen. There is a phone on the left of the laptop and a black to-go coffee cup on the right. Around the table are blurred torsos and hands of other people. Gosh, this is so much less interesting than trying to describe a baby animal. I miss baby animals. Image from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. There has been a lot of conversation lately about unpaid internships, and colleagues have asked me to weigh in. OK, I guess I will have to save “10 Summery Cocktails Inspired by Nonprofit Work” for another week, because this is an important topic.

While our sector works to end inequity, we still adopt many practices, often from the for-profit sector, that perpetuate the very injustice we are fighting. Whenever we engage in these things that run counter to our values, it makes unicorns, the symbol of our sector, sad, and bad things happen to them. When we don’t disclose salary range on a job posting, for example, they lose their wings. And when we use the horrible and unethical practice of basing pay on salary history, they lose their horn. Continue reading

9 examples of funders being awesome partners to nonprofits

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Hi everyone. I have been on vacation for the past couple of weeks and have reached “peak lazing.” This means I may or may not have not showered in three days and that this post may be pourly edited. Before we begin though, a couple of quick announcements. There’s a crew of fundraisers of color in Seattle who has been working on developing the concept of Community-Centric Fundraising, which I wrote about here and here, with more posts coming out in the next few months. We have an all-day summit that’s open to all fundraisers on September 27th. We are still figuring out the location and other logistics; please fill out this quick interest form if you want to get updated as we plan this event.

There is also a pre-summit specifically for fundraisers of color on August 23rd from 1pm to 5pm in Seattle. Please sign-up here (space is limited). Right now we are mainly focused on local fundraisers of color (anyone who raises money and is of color, regardless of their title), but I plan to write about what comes out of these summits in case you would like to host your own gatherings in your cities. Continue reading