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The Baker’s Dilemma and the inequity of restricted funding

chefHi everyone, before we begin this week’s discussion, I just want to point out that this Thursday, 2/19, is the Lunar New Year, a very huge and important holiday in many Asian countries. There are some things you need to do—get a haircut, clean out your car—to ensure your year starts off right (See “Tet: What it is, and 10 things you need to do for it.”) I encourage you to take at least Thursday off if you can, since to work on that day is extremely culturally insensitive. Do you want to offend billions of people in the world? Of course not. Wear something red and take a day off.

Today, I want to talk about unrestricted funding. A couple of weeks ago, Paul Shoemaker published this piece speaking against what he calls “Quite Damaging Dollars” (QDD), funds that come with burdensome restrictions and are not just unhelpful, but actually detrimental to nonprofits’ work.

Paul and I once had a “Fireside chat” in front of an audience of 80 funders, and we drank and riffed on the merits of general operating funds and cultural competency. I don’t remember exactly what we said, because there was no vegan food there, but the wine was vegan, so that’s all I had for dinner. I think I said something along the lines of, “I love you funders—you’re so shiny!—but can you please stop restricting funds? Where am I? Shoemaker, ‘sat you?” (This may explain why I haven’t been invited to many of his org’s events lately). Continue reading