Hi everyone. Thank you for your patience last week, as I had to skip out on a blog post for health reason. I’m feeling better, though I wish I could skip writing this post too. This is going to be a serious piece that may piss off a lot of people.
Last week, we were reeling from the Supreme Court’s leaked decision to overturn Roe vs Wade. People will die, especially Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asians and NH/PI, and low-income people, because safe abortions will still remain accessible to higher-income mostly white people.
This week, a white man drove 200 miles to Buffalo and murdered 10 people, most of whom were Black, citing the “Great replacement theory” espoused by many right-wing white supremacists. It is horrifying, and my heart breaks for the families of those who were murdered by this racist terrorist.
Hi everyone, this morning I woke up with a kidney stone flare up and spent almost the entire day doubled over in pain on the couch, and nearly went to urgent care. I was trying to power through to write this week’s blog post, considering how important it is to rally our sector in light of the Supreme Court’s leaked draft decision to overturn Roe vs Wade, and the horrifying floodgates it would open.
But a friend, Mari Kim, reminded me that “you taking a break will give others permission to take a break when they are in DEBILITATING PAIN!” She’s right. So, no blog post this week. Here’s picture of a kitten for reading this notice. We need to rest up and take care of ourselves and gather our energy. We are in for the fight of our lives.
Last week, a colleague told me they wrote a grant proposal that totaled 72 pages, for a $5,000 grant. I really hoped that this was a piece of performance art, titled something like “The Ontology of Philanthropy and the Meta-Futility of Existence.” But no, it was real.
Power imbalance is pervasive in our sector, as ubiquitous as hummus, though not nearly as delicious. There is always asymmetry in power when one party holds resources that another party needs. This imbalance leads to all sorts of awfulness. There are endless horror stories like the above. Power differentials warp people’s minds, allowing for the internalization of toxic philosophies like strategic philanthropy, which leads to the perpetuation of crappy funding practices.
Unfortunately, people often think it’s something that only other people are guilty of, that they themselves don’t perpetuate it. There are lots of great program officers, and they are probably just as horrified by a 72-page grant proposal as the rest of us. But power dynamics can often be more subtle, to the point that we don’t recognize it, and even nice program officers are caught up in it. Here are some examples:
Hi everyone. We are rapidly approaching the summer, which means it’s time for the annual Party to Enhance Equity in Philanthropy (PEEP), a series of events across the sector where funders and nonprofit folks get together, virtually or in-person (ideally outdoors), to break down the weird power dynamics we have, and just learn to see one another as human beings. It should be fun and informal, and usually taking place on the week of Summer Solstice (June 21st this year). If you are planning to host an event, please fill out this form by June 10th so I can help spread the word.
Hi everyone. Kidney stones, along with filing taxes, have been giving me some trouble. At this point, the tax filing process has been much more painful. All that to say, I don’t feel like writing a Serious Post. Hence, today’s piece, what you are reading right now, will be nonsensical and poorly edited and possibly offensive. You have been warmed.
One of the questions people always ask me (besides “Vu, have you considered changing your hair and clothing and just…general style?”) is “How do I get my board to change? The staff are in sync with [disclosing salary range on job postings, three months of paid family leave, an office ball pit filled with 5,000 plastic balls, etc.], but the board keeps holding back progress.”
This is a very common problem in the sector, as common as the lack of retirement savings matching. We can talk about all sorts of solutions—including sending problematic board members a severed stuffed unicorn head, Godfather-style: “Henry, wake up. What’s that on your pillow? It’s dripping…ketchup?…TWILIGHT SPARKLE, NOOOOO!!!”—but the reality is that because of what I call the Outsider Efficacy Bias, internal staff will not be listened to. So one thing you can do is get a consultant to come in.