Hi everyone. Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs) is not the most riveting of topics, I will admit. Sometimes, when I have insomnia, I read about DAFs, and that usually does the trick, especially when combined with some melatonin. However, they are rapidly growing as a vehicle for charitable giving, have almost no regulations whatsoever, and are rife with inequity. So we all need to care about them.
It seems though that some colleagues are still confused by DAFs and what the problem is and so don’t want to tune in to this conversation. I’m going to explain it simply for those not familiar, so that you don’t fall asleep; apologies to colleagues who are more knowledgeable in this area than I am.
Imagine that you made millions of dollars selling naturally fermented pickle products. After buying yourself a yacht, you think “Huh, I should probably donate some money to charity. That will help people and also prevent me from paying so much in taxes, win-win.”
By now you’ve probably heard about the new show to debut on CBS called “The Activist,” in which six activists compete for funding and attention for their causes, success measured by social media engagement and the input of celebrity mentors Usher, Priyanka Chopra, and Julianne Hough.
Of course, everyone is rightly up in arms. There are so many things wrong with this concept. Forcing activists to compete against one another in a Hunger Games for the crumbs thrown out by the wealthy. Measuring success through social media engagement. Having celebrities who know little to nothing about these issues judging activists with years of experience. And doing it all as entertainment:
“Maria, your TikTok video about rising poverty and deaths in the Global South caused by climate change was informative, but garnered the lowest number of likes. One viewer commented: ‘The video made me sad. I wanted to see something more fun and hopeful, with maybe some dancing while gesturing at statistics.’ Unfortunately, we have to eliminate you from the competition. But you won’t leave empty-handed. One of our sponsors has generously decided to donate 500 pairs of shoes to your organization to give to villagers fleeing their flood-ravaged homes!”
#CancelTheActivist is the hashtag someone started. Let’s get mobilizing.
Back in June, as COVID numbers decreased, like many of you I was excited about the prospect of getting back to some semblance of life before the pandemic. Since then, the significantly more contagious Delta variant surged, making up over 80% of all COVID cases. Now, ICU units are filled up, people are dying at high numbers, more children are getting infected, oxygen is running low, and death rates for non-COVID reasons are increasing due to shortage of healthcare workers and hospital beds. As children get back into school, it’s likely the numbers will worsen even further. It will be a brutal fall and winter.
All of this is scary, and if you’re overwhelmed, you’re not alone. I watched as my kids, eight and five, masked, line up and walk into their classrooms behind their masked teachers. I try not to recall news stories of schools shutting down for quarantine their first week, and children fighting for their lives in ICUs.
When situations are serious and overwhelming, we need to figure out what we can control and take actions. This is what we in this sector do around myriad societal issues. One thing we can and must do now is implement vaccine mandates at our workplaces. And we need to do it immediately.
A couple of years ago, I stepped down from my position as executive director of RVC, a capacity building and leadership organization serving communities of color in Seattle. I helped found it after realizing that leaders of color are not being supported in our sector, organizations led by communities of color continue being screwed over by funding and other dynamics, and that even the stuff designed to help them—like capacity building—is often useless, if not harmful. RVC went from a budget of $180,000 to over 3M, Managing Director Ananda Valenzuela became Interim ED, and I left to tend to other things, stopping by the office occasionally to get free snacks and merch (a lifetime perk of being a founder).
After a couple of years of learning amidst the pandemic, RVC announced its new leadership structure. It is exciting and will probably blow some minds. Instead of the traditional path of finding someone to replace me as ED, and heck, instead of even a co-ED structure like Ananda and I were engaged in (with me being the external leader and Ananda the internal leader), RVC decided to have FOUR CO-EXECUTIVE-DIRECTORS–Chris Rhodes, Anbar Mahar Sheikh, JoJo Gaon, and Roshni Sampath! Each director will take charge of a specific area of executive leadership duties, while also engaged in the critical work they had been doing before.
If you shook your head in disbelief at such a structure, no one will blame you. A few years ago, I was talking to a colleague about co-directorships, and he winced a bit. “Co-directorships tend to fail,” he said, “there’s role confusion, interpersonal dynamics, weird board issues, and so on.” He was talking about co-directorships of two people. What he said may be true, especially in the past when the idea was novel, but we now have lots of examples and case studies of successful orgs embracing this model, including CompassPoint, Building Movement Project, and of course, RVC. The chance to explore even further, to shake things up even more, should be encouraged and supported. How else will our sector grow and evolve?
Hi everyone. Quick reminder before we get started. This Wednesday, August 25th, 11am PT, Community-Centric Fundraising is having a one-year celebration/reflection. I hope to see you there. Meanwhile, if you’ve benefited from the CCF movement or your org has made changes because of it, please share.
There are only a few things we all agree on in this work. One of those things is that mission creep is no good, very bad. Mission creep is like mixing trash and recycling together. It’s like not tipping a hairstylist or restaurant server. It’s like soaking a cast-iron pan in water overnight. It’s bad.
The term originated in 1993 and concerned the United Nations’s peacekeeping efforts during the Somali Civil War, and now it’s used a lot in our sector to talk about when organizations start doing things outside their stated mission, which causes organizations to waste resources on stuff they’re not good at, or that another org is already doing more effectively. When orgs don’t stick to their missions, it often leads to confused constituents, annoyed partner orgs, irritated funders, and a less effective field.