Tag Archives: overhead

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

Answers on grant proposals if nonprofits were brutally honest with funders

[Image description: Closeup of a raccoon, resting on a branch, its head on one arm, staring directly at the camera. Cute little creature. Not sure if this adorable raccoon has anything to do with the content of this post, but come on, look at those big eyes. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. Before we start, if you haven’t written a review of a foundation on GrantAdvisor.org, or asked your grantees to review you, please take a moment to do so. GrantAdvisor was launched a few months ago to address a pervasive problem in our sector. No, not the mice problem, although that too is pervasive (#NonprofitMiceProblem). I’m talking about the imbalance of power between funders and nonprofits, which leads to a lot of no-good, very bad things such as the lack of honest communication and feedback between funders and nonprofits.

One area where this shows up is on grant applications. It’s not that we nonprofits lie when writing proposals, it’s just that…we’ve been trained to tell funders exactly what we think y’all want to hear, sugarcoating everything in jargon and BS. 

A while ago, a colleague imagined what our answers would be like on grant proposals if we nonprofits were allowed to be completely and brutally honest. Here are some of these honest responses, with credit to colleagues across the field, most of whom understandably prefer to remain anonymous; anything in quotes is someone else’s direct words. Apologies in advance for the sarcastic, possibly biting tone; the entire sector has been on edge lately: Continue reading

37 brilliant nonprofit-inspired Halloween costumes

[Image description: Picture of nonprofit professional, Leah Sakala. Leah has her hair in a bun on top of her head. A small sign on a stick is planted in her hair. The sign says “NONPROFIT.” She is demonstrating the “Nonprofit Overhead” costume. Source: Leah Sakala]

Hi everyone. Quick reminders. Reminder 1: If you haven’t reviewed a foundation on GrantAdvisor.org, please do so; GrantAdvisor lets you anonymously review foundations. Reminder 2: Nonprofit Happy Hour Facebook group, which has over 34,000 members, is now back from hiatus and open every day; thank you to all the new moderators and volunteers who signed up to make this community even more awesome than it was. And if you’re an ED/CEO, there’s a support group for you, because it’s lonely at the top, eating protein bars and crying over payroll. Reminder 3: Make sure to floss each day.

Halloween is tomorrow, and if you’re like me, you’ve procrastinated on figuring out your costume. Well, procrastinate no further. I asked the Nonprofit AF Facebook community for suggestions of costumes that are inspired by nonprofit work, and the brilliant people there did not disappoint! Here, I am sure one of these ideas will make you the most popular person at whichever Halloween party you’re going to. 

Note, there are more than 37 ideas here. I just like the number 37.  Continue reading

How the focus on overhead disenfranchises communities of color and fans the flames of injustice

[Image description: A lone firefighter standing on a road spraying water at some raging flames on our left and up an embankment. It looks to be a wild forest fire. The firefighter’s hose is connected to a truck that is facing us with its headlights on. Smoke and orange flames are in the background, along with silhouettes of trees being consumed by the fire.]

Hi everyone, before we start on today’s post, a couple of announcements. First my org is hiring a Development Director and an Operations Associate. (Make sure you like unicorns and Oxford commas). Also, you can now buy a t-shirt, mug, or notebook that says “I am a pita wedge for the hummus of justice.” And, finally, I’m on Instagram (@nonprofitwithballs), mainly taking pictures of stuff I find pretty while doing nonprofit work. Like this event wagon, and this gala centerpiece, and this 9-year-old keyboard

***

In this political climate, when so many of us nonprofits are rallying to put out one fire after another, many of the things we have been used to and have been putting up with no longer make sense. Many of us in the sector have been making the argument against restricted funding and for general operating for years. Here’s a report from GEO. Here’s one from CEP. Here’s a piece from my colleague Paul Shoemaker. And I’ve made impassioned pleas here, here, and here. But despite countless arguments by dozens of leaders, we still have foundations who restrict funds, who set arbitrary numbers for “indirect expenses” and “overhead.”

But there has been one argument that we have not stressed enough to funders and donors, but now it is urgent that we do so: The focus on overhead is no longer just annoying, it’s perpetuating inequity and injustice. Continue reading

Bragging about program-to-admin ratios is a destructive practice that needs to die 

raccoon-1612593_1280

[Image description: A black and white photo of a raccoon standing behind a chain-link fence. The raccoon has one paw raised near its face resting on the fence, and its other paw lower, also resting on the fence. This is a cute but kind of sad-looking raccoon. This image may be evocative of restricted funding in the nonprofit sector]

Hi everyone. Just a quick reminder that my org is hiring a capacity building coach to work with our partner organizations. We are getting lots of amazing candidates, but we are keeping the position open until we find that magical unicorn to join the team. 

Thank you to those of you who supported the Kickstarter project I’m involved with, where I’m helping to write a book. Thanks to you, the project got fully funded within a few days! Sweet! (You can still donate if you missed out, because there are cool prizes).

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for awesome holiday gifts for the nonprofit people in your life, NWB merchandise is available. 

***

I know that many of us have sent out our year-end appeal letter, or are in the process of doing so. Some of us are pouring our blood, sweat, and tears into these letters, sometimes literally, with the paper cuts and the occasional weeping over the hundreds or thousands of letters that need to be stuffed. 

You know what makes me weep, though? Y’all who still use language in your letters like “94 cents of every dollar goes directly to programs!!!” Every time I see it or hear about it, it is like getting a barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat directly to the noggin. Continue reading