Tag Archives: general operating funds

The Ethical Argument for General Operating Funds

[Image description: An adorable little kitten, inside a pink play tube thing. It’s staring off into the upper left corner. It wants funders to provide general operating funds. Unrestricted funds will make this kitten very happy, and you want this kitten to be happy, don’t you? I thought so. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. Before we begin, thank you to all the colleagues who donated to my organization on my birthday last week. It helps our mission of developing more leaders of color and strengthening organizations led by communities of color. If you haven’t donated, it’s not too late

This blog post is going to be a little more serious than usual. I’m going to say things that may be very difficult for many people to hear. Especially if you work for a foundation that provides restricted funding, please take a deep breath. I don’t expect everyone to agree, but we need to have this conversation. Next week’s post will be lighter. Unless something else comes up.

An exasperated colleague in an ED group I belong to quoted a rejection letter she got from a foundation: Continue reading

9 awesome nonprofit trends we should all celebrate with unicorn cookies!

MangosteenHi everyone, I am in Saigon right now, where it is a 95 degrees and the humidity is so thick, you can use a knife to whittle out some humidity sculptures for your next silent auction. But, things have been great. Food is cheap and ubiquitous and good, so I’ve been loading up, especially on cold young coconuts and mangosteens, a purplish tropical fruit that tastes like general operating funds (You need to add “Eat five pounds of mangosteens in Southeast Asia” to your bucket list right now!).

The relatives, meanwhile, still have no idea what I do, and while my Vietnamese is pretty good, it is not when it comes to advanced topics. I have the vocabulary of a ten-year-old, so it leads to awkward conversations like this:

Aunt: We heard that you got a new job? Tell us about it

Me: Yes, I work for a…location…that grows people who…drag others…to do good things…

Aunt: Drag others to do good things? You mean, leaders?

Me: Yes! Yes! Leaders! Leaders from groups of people who have …the darker…skins…

Aunt: People of color?

Me: Yes, people of color! We send these leaders into…businesses that don’t make money, but they help make the world better…

Aunt: NGO’s?

Me: Yes, yes!

I won’t recap the next part, where I try to explain capacity building and community organizing. Just be glad your elevator speech doesn’t last thirty minutes and involve a lot of wild gesturing, followed by your relatives looking disappointed at your career choice. Continue reading

General operating funds, admin expenses, and why we nonprofits are our own worst enemies

sophia 2This week I was on an NDOA panel to discuss the importance of unrestricted funds. I was there with another nonprofit leader as well as two funders, and all of us, everyone in the room, agreed that general operating funds are awesome. General operating funds are like Tyrion Lannister of Game of Thrones, or Darryl Dixon of The Walking Dead, or, you know, Sophia from The Golden Girls: It is flexible, it is adaptable, and that’s why it gets stuff done.

For years I have been railing against restricted funding to anyone who would listen. I wrote a piece imagining what it would be like if a bakery ran with the same funding restrictions as a nonprofit: “I need a cake for some gluten-free veterans. I can pay you only 20% of the cost of the cake, and you can only spend my money on eggs, but not butter, and certainly not for the electricity; you have to find someone else to pay for the oven’s electricity. Also, you need to get an accounting firm to figure out where you’re spending my money, but you can’t use my money to pay for that service.” (Read the full post: “Nonprofit funding: Ordering a cake and restricting it too“). Continue reading