20 simple things you can do to help end the Nonprofit Hunger Games

[Image description: Two tiny adorable little baby pigs. They are pink with black/gray splotches. One seems to be leaning their happy little head on the back of the other one. They are outside, standing on the ground with some hay strewn about. Aww. These piglets are so sweet. I want one for the office. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, a couple of things before we get started. First of all, April is National Poetry Month, and to celebrate, Unicorns Unite (a book I co-authored on funding dynamics) is having a #NonprofitHaiku contest on Twitter. Tweet out a haiku by 4/12, tag it with #NonprofitHaiku, and by 4/15 I and the Unicorns Unite team will select five winners based on random and arbitrary criteria that we’ll make up later. Feel free to write as many haikus as you like. The winners will get a copy of Unicorns Unite. Possibly chocolate. Maybe a piglet*

Second, we had a blast with last week’s April Fool’s joke about “Fundr,” a fake app to match foundations and nonprofits. GrantAdvisor.org, however, is real. It’s a website to provide foundations with anonymous, honest feedback. The more reviews you write, the more helpful the site is, so every time you apply to a foundation (whether you get the grant or not), please take five minutes to provide a review. It helps the entire sector.


Speaking of helping the entire sector, we need to end the Nonprofit Hunger Games and do a better job not just working on our individual organization’s survival, but on the effectiveness of our field as a whole. Our missions are interrelated, so it is silly to constantly be in cutthroat competition with one another. While we work on the systemic factors that perpetuate the Games, here are some other few simple things we can all do right away to help one another, which will better our entire sector and community:

  1. Highlight other organizations’ work in your newsletter: Your organization does great work, but it’s not possible without other orgs out there doing their work. Once a while, feature another organization in your newsletter.
  2. Share other orgs’ blog posts and social media posts: Writing thoughtful blog posts or social media posts can take forever and yet may not reach targeted audience. Hitting the share button is a quick and simple way to support our colleagues.
  3. Introduce your donors and funders to other organizations: A practice of Community-Centric Fundraising, genuine introductions between your existing or potential supporters and other orgs go a long way to increasing a spirit of camaraderie between nonprofits.
  4. Volunteer at other organizations’ events: You know how much work those galas and luncheons are. So when you are not in the midst of planning your own event, see if you can help other orgs that are.
  5. Share relevant data you discovered: When you find articles or research papers that have useful data, share it with organizations that could benefit. Let’s stop hoarding data in order to give ourselves competitive advantages, such as on grant proposals.  
  6. Share RFP and grant opportunities: I always really appreciate it when colleagues forward me RFPs, and I try to do the same. Even if they’re not a good fit, it’s nice to know that we’re looking out for one another in the best interest of our community.  
  7. Refrain from applying for certain grants: Especially if you are at a larger organization, be thoughtful about which grants you apply to, and sometimes DON’T apply for a grant if another organization has a mission that may be more urgent or could better benefit from the funds.
  8. Offer to provide feedback on grant proposals: If you know another organization is applying for a grant that you have experience with, offer to help read through their proposal and provide feedback and encouragement.
  9. Lend equipment: If you have a great button maker, photo-booth set-up, T-shirt cannons, fog machine, or other useful but not-regularly-used equipment, let other orgs know, and let’s be generous in sharing with one another.
  10. Share your space: All of us are always searching for space for meetings, workshops, private weeping sessions after site visits, etc. Some of us earn revenues from renting out space, which is great. But many of us also have space we don’t regularly rent out that other orgs could benefit from, such as our conference rooms and supply closets for weeping.
  11. Share templates and documents: At ED Happy Hour last month, a colleague who is planning a conference for the first time expressed how helpful it was to get the detailed budget template from another colleague who had lots of experience planning conferences. Let’s save one another time and energy by sharing helpful templates and documents.
  12. Say positive things about other orgs to donors and funders: There are so many organizations doing incredible work. Praising them when talking to our donors and funders helps to lift up their work and maybe make it slightly easier for them to get funding, which benefits us all.
  13. Give generous credit to partner organizations: If you are doing awesome collaborations, make sure to generously and publicly credit your partner organizations.
  14. Testify at other organizations’ advocacy efforts: We as a sector need to be louder and to do more advocacy work. Thankfully, many of our colleagues are out there organizing lobbying days and other advocacy events. Or sometimes an organization is being considered for city or state funds, and public testimonies might make a difference. Let’s help them. We are much more effective when we support one another.
  15. Refrain from participating in popularity-based grants: Popularity-Based Grants (PBGs) are grants that require online “likes” or votes. They are terrible and symptomatic of the Hunger Games. Let’s agree not to participate in them.   
  16. Ask people to donate to partner organizations on one-day giving events: I’ve been really inspired by a few nonprofits in Seattle that encourage donors to give to partner organizations. Let’s all think about doing that more often.
  17. Teach a relevant skill to colleagues at other orgs: Maybe it’s a new software/database a colleague is having issue with, or learning how to facilitate a meeting, moderate a panel, create a survey, or deal with a difficult board. If there’s something you’re experienced with, offer to help out.
  18. Look out for colleagues at other orgs: We should look out for co-workers at our own orgs, but let’s also be supportive of colleagues outside our organizations too. The work can be stressful. It’s nice to have someone to vent to and get advice from. If a colleague seems particularly stressed, offer to take them to lunch or coffee. Let’s be there for one another, whether we work at the same org or not.
  19. Stop bragging about overhead and admin-to-program ratios: Remove all instances of statements like “95 cents of every dollar go to our programs.” These types of stats do nothing but perpetuate ignorance about what it takes to do our work. They make donors and funders look unfavorably on orgs that do not have these unrealistic and nonsensical rates.
  20. Donate to other organizations: As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am not a big fan of asking staff to donate to the organizations they work for (it is inequitable and rife with inherent power dynamics issues). I do, however, think it’s great for us all to donate to other organizations doing great work when we can.

These are just a few things we can do. Write in the comment section other ideas you have, or inspiring stories of nonprofits helping one another. I know all of us are busy, and it often feels overwhelming trying to keep our own orgs afloat without having to help other organizations too. But if we are mutually supportive of one another, our sector will be more effective in the long run at making the world better. And that’s what our sector is about, right? Right.

*Apparently, the team vetoed my idea on the piglet. Take it up with them.

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