Hi everyone, before we get into today’s post, I’ll be having a conversation with the amazing Crystal Hayling, executive director of the Libra Foundation, next week November 10th at 1pm Pacific. We’re calling it “2020 Philanthropy Debrief AF” and will be discussing the good, bad, and ugly of foundations’ response to the pandemic, protests, elections, etc., as well as what we hope to see in 2021. It’s FREE and it’ll be fun and informal. Register here. [Updated from earlier link]
The elections culminate this week, and if you’re in the US and care about democracy, chances are you are as anxious as I am. I’ve been unable to sleep. I’ve been eating way too much chocolate while doomscrolling on Twitter. I’ve been picking at my face! There is just so much at stake. If you’re feeling the same way, you’re not alone. So here are a few tips to endure the next few days, combined with pictures of baby animals. This is not to make light of what’s in front of us. I just can’t focus enough to write something more hard-hitting, and I’m not sure anyone wants a serious post.
Hi everyone, before we get to today’s less-serious post, please have your organization sign this letter urging Congress to enact legislation requiring foundations and Donor-Advised Funds to increase the amount of they are giving out to nonprofits, from a minimum of 5% of their endowments to 10%. This would free up $200 billion USD over the next three years, money that is desperately needed as our communities face this pandemic.
Halloween is this coming Saturday, which means it is time for Scary Nonprofit Stories. Here are several terrifying stories set in our sector. Make sure you are not reading them at night. If you are in the mood to share your own stories, use #NonprofitScaryStories on Twitter. And of course, if you’re looking for nonprofit-themed costumes for that virtual party, check out #NonprofitHalloweenCostumes.
Hi everyone. The past few months have been ridiculous. If you’ve emailed me, you literally got this auto-response back:
“Hi. This is an automatic reply. Due to parenting and homeschooling two small children, I will be slow to respond to emails. And I’ll be honest, I may forget to respond completely. If something is urgent, please call or text me. Thank you. Vu.”
This has actually been extremely helpful to have in place, as folks have been a lot more understanding when they hear from me three months after they email. Things are not normal. We all need to be a little more honest with one another in our communications. With that in mind, here are some auto-responses I drafted to serve as inspiration for you all. Feel free to adapt them to suit your needs:
Meanwhile, we should all remember that less than one half of one percent of total philanthropic funding in the US goes to Native communities, according to Native Americans in Philanthropy. Foundations, you can do better. The rest of us who are non-Native, donate to Native/Indigenous organizations, pay rent for the land we’re on (such as through here if you’re on Duwamish land), and support local Native/Indigenous artists and businesses, such as Eighth Generation. And let’s not allow this day to be the only time we learn about, make reparations toward, and support Native communities.
Last week I was asked to present at the Alliance for Nonprofit Management’s conference about the future of capacity building, and what capacity builders can learn from Star Trek. The team at RVC, meanwhile, wrote a really important article on Transformational Capacity Building, exploring the ways that traditional capacity building tactics have often actually been harmful to organizations led by and serving Black, Indigenous, POC, and other marginalized communities, and presenting a new framework. And here’s the article I wrote on the Mycelium Model of Capacity Building, where I lay out what mushrooms can teach us about capacity building.
It is really exciting to see that we are starting to look at this area with a more critical lens and evolve it to work better for the organizations and movements led by communities most affected by systemic injustice. Given the events of this year, including the pandemic, the protests against racism, and our last-ditch effort to prevent the US from sliding deeper into fascism, our sector really needs to further reexamine our perspectives on capacity building.
Hi everyone. Quick reminder: The second part of the Philanthropic Reforms town halls is today, 10/5, at 11am PT, where several prominent sector leaders will be exploring policies and strategies on foundations and Donor-Advised Funds to prevent wealth hoarding and tax evasion. This is the follow-up from the first town hall, which I moderated. Here’s the recording.
Durfee Foundation President Carrie Avery and I were discussing over email the power dynamics between funders and nonprofits. While there is much to talk about, Carrie brought up a really good point that I had not considered before—the term “Foundation Program Officer” is weird:
“Why an officer? An officer makes me think of a police officer, a probation officer, someone in a position of power whose judgment can have a devastating and decisive effect. If foundations want to work with their ‘nonprofit partners’ then why is the person on the foundation side of that relationship called an officer? Language matters. Let’s start a movement to rename this role!”
I agree, and while we’re thinking about new titles, let’s completely reimagine what the role entails. It should be less micromanagey—like a boss who constantly watches over you to make sure you don’t steal office supplies—and more expansive, like a favorite colleague that you can commiserate with and occasionally play pranks on.