For decades, our sector has had this refrain: “Donors and funders deserve transparency. They have a right to know how nonprofits spend their donations and the outcomes they achieved.” Many of us agree with this, including me. Yes, nonprofits should be transparent. They need to report their revenues, expenses, program activities, and the results of their work. And most nonprofits do, as required by law. In the US nonprofits are legally required to file 990 tax forms each year. Most orgs release annual reports. Throughout the year they also let people know what they’ve been up to, using newsletters and other forms of communication.
The challenge is that for some reason the above level of transparency is not enough, and we’ve all convinced ourselves that not only do donors and funders deserve to know specifically how the dollars they contributed were spent and what outcomes could be personally attributed to them, but also that this somehow makes sense.
Hi everyone, last week was my kids’ first week of school. This always brings bittersweet emotions as I watch my little ones find their lines, reconnect with their friends, and increase a notch in their confidence and independence. I know the days of them holding my hands as we walk to their classes each morning are numbered, as are the moments when they turn around to wave to me before they disappear behind the walls and doors of their school. It’s beautiful. But also heart-wrenching, when I let myself ruminate about the unforgiving passage of time.
But this post is not about my kids. While dealing with the logistics of school starting, I was filled with appreciation for the nonprofits and nonprofit professionals in our sector. Kiet, my younger one, asked when his “art classes” will start up again. This is an after-school program run by a local organization here. Last year, I dropped by the program, and the wonderful staff were leading creative games and having the kids express themselves by drawing on little squares of paper.
A while ago, a colleague mentioned a funder who required a whole-ass grant proposal from their current grantees to renew their grant every year. Requiring a full proposal for renewal is very annoying, but common enough, like the philanthropic equivalent of pinkeye.
This one funder, however, specified that grantees could not copy and paste information from previous year’s proposals. This forced grantees every year to spend time rewriting their mission statements, community needs, program descriptions, evaluation methodologies, budget narratives etc. using different words and phrases, even though most of that information remains the same.
If I ever wake up in the middle of the night recalling the name of this foundation (or if you know them), I will be sure to publicly bestow upon them the glorious title of “Crappy Funder of the Milky Way Galaxy.” They would get a plaque they can display for being a condescending, time-wasting fopdoodle. That’s right, I said fopdoodle, because only Old English can convey how archaic and vexing this funder is.
With AI-supported grantwriting platforms like Grantable increasingly being used in our sector, nonprofits can better deal with clueless funder malarkey and shenanigans like the above. Someone can paste answers from last year’s grant proposal into ChatGPT, for example, and ask it to paraphrase, saving them time and energy that can be used on much more important work, such as running programs or turning some milk crates into a makeshift filing system.
Hi everyone, for the past two weeks I’ve been dealing with ongoing violent coughs, wheezing, and occasional migraines. Chest x-rays finally concluded I have pneumonia. (My ten-year-old: “So can you transform into different animals now?” “No, son, that’s Nimona.”). I am now on a delightful cocktail of antibiotics, inhalers, and various other medications. All that to say, I am not exactly the most coherent right now and might start hallucinating again at any moment, so thank you for your understanding. Yes, Ms. Scott, I would love for you to fund Nonprofit The Musical!
This summer, I went back to Vietnam for three weeks. There, among amazing food and beautiful scenery, as usual I strove to answer questions from various relatives on what it is I do. It doesn’t help that I left Vietnam when I was eight, so my Vietnamese vocabulary is limited, which is not helpful when trying to explain complicated things like equity, grantwriting, and hummus, the trademarks of our profession.
Hi everyone. Quick reminder: On August 30th at 11am Pacific Time, there is a FREE webinar on legislative reforms on Donor-Advised Funds. Get more details and register here. There will be live captioning.
Also, this week I’ll be speaking virtually at the Nonprofit Marketing Summit, which is free for everyone. My lecture, called “Burn It All Down: Achieving Radical Impact in Nonprofit and Philanthropy” will be on Thursday August 24 at 11am Pacific Time. Get details and register here. There will be auto-captions. And I might have a sexy, smokey voice from weeks of chronic coughing.
After doing this work a while, I realize there are a few words and phrases in our sector that absolute raise my hackles and cause me to go immediately into fight or fight mode (yes, I said “fight” twice). These words and phrases include “overhead,” “logic model,” “sustainability,” “donor love,” “strategic philanthropy,” “nonprofits should act more like for-profits,” and “can I give you some friendly feedback about your personal appearance on that virtual keynote?”