Category Archives: Community Engagement

We need fewer theories of change and more community organizing

[Image description: Some type of monkey, maybe a tamarin? They are grey with pointy ears and has a light brown paw. They are staring at something off camera, looking like they’re deciding where to put their sticky dots. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, quick disclaimer. I am still bitter and annoyed over the Game of Thrones finale, which I am sure many of you can relate, so this blog post may be affected with occasional spoiler-free snarkiness that may not make any sense if you haven’t kept up with Game of Thrones. Also, a quick reminder: This is the last week for filling out the Fundraising Perception Survey, so please do so if you haven’t. It’ll take 10 minutes and the data will be valuable for our sector.

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A while ago I read Jan Masaoka’s thought-provoking article “Aspirin and Democracy,” where she discusses the effects of the professionalization of the nonprofit sector. One such effect, according to Jan, is that:

“new executive directors can write personnel policies and grant proposals while practicing self-care, but they don’t know how to get 5,000 people to a protest demonstration or 50 parents to a city council meeting.”

This article and sentence have stuck with me. Our sector, and progressives in general, has a problem with excessive intellectualization. We’ve become really good at it. There’s nothing we love more than summits, white papers, theories of change, data, coming up with new terminologies (*cough, solutions privilege), and voting with sticky dots. We’ve basically become more like Bran, less like Sansa or Arya.

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An awesome solution for diversifying the environmental movement

[Image description: An adorable little polar bear cub, resting on a tree trunk, black background. Image from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, an announcement before we get into today’s post: Joan Garry’s Nonprofit Leadership Lab is open for enrollment for the next four days (10/22 to 10/25). I was recently on Joan’s podcast, where we discussed how awesome nonprofit folks are, and how we can prevent ourselves from burning out. And something about Marshmallow Peeps. Or at least that’s what I think we talked about. I have a weird phobia about hearing my own voice, so I am not sure what I actually said, and I will never find out! But anyway, the Lab is awesome, providing so many resources and a wonderful supportive community. As I mentioned earlier, NAF gets a share of membership fees for helping to promote the lab, but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think it was worth your time. So check it out. 

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This week, we need to talk about diversifying environmental organizations. As you know, the environmental movement has a serious diversity issue. It is very white. According to the Green 2.0 report by Dr. Dorceta E. Taylor:

“The percentage of ethnic minorities on the boards or general staff of environmental organizations does not exceed 16%. Once hired in environmental organizations, ethnic minorities are concentrated in the lower ranks. As a result, ethnic minorities occupy less than 12% of the leadership positions in the environmental organizations. […] Yet ethnic minorities and people of multi-racial backgrounds comprise about 38% of the U.S. population.”

This lack of diversity is a critical issue, given that people of color are disproportionately affected by environmental injustice. And we’re getting tired of it! Continue reading

20 ways majority-white nonprofits can build authentic partnerships with organizations led by communities of color

[Image description: A tiny, very yellow, and extremely fluffy duckling sitting on the ground. It is seriously very fluffy, like it just went down one of those plastic slides and charged itself up into a little yellow ball of static electricity. What does this duckling have to do with this post? Nothing. I was searching for a more relevant picture but ended up distracted by pictures of ducklings. From pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, before we begin today’s topic, please take time to fill out this new survey, which seeks to identify ideas and practices for investing in intersectional racial equity in the nonprofit workforce. It’s part of a larger initiative from our friends at Fund the People. They’ve partnered with the Center for Urban and Racial Equity to help funders and nonprofits “lower barriers and increase support for diverse people to gain entry to nonprofit work, sustain ourselves and advance in nonprofit careers, and ascend to management and leadership.” In particular, they are currently seeking more responses from people of color.

Since they used the Oxford Comma, I think we should help them out. Thanks for taking the survey today. It’s due September 7th.

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Despite the pervasiveness of the Nonprofit Hunger Games, we nonprofits are way more effective when we work together. However, partnerships can be challenging when there are clearly differences in culture, resources, and power. As someone who works with a lot of leaders and communities of color, I often get asked by thoughtful colleagues who work at majority-white nonprofits how they can support and work with organizations that are led by communities of color without causing inconvenience, or annoyance, or actual harm to those communities.

So here is some general advice, divided into four categories. This list is not comprehensive; please feel free to add to it in the comments. Special thanks to my friend Allison Carney, who also gifted the sector with the term Bizsplaining, for pushing me to write about this and for adding her thoughts. (Also, although this post is focused on partnership with communities-of-color-led nonprofits, it also applies to partnerships with organizations led by marginalized communities, such as communities of disabilities, as our colleague Julie Reiskin points out in the comment section).  Continue reading

It’s OK to despair, but here are 7 hopeful things to remember

[Image description: Protesters at a rally, holding various signs. In the forefront is a pink sign that says “RISE UP.”]

Hi everyone. Many of us had a pretty rough week last week. I’ve been talking to colleagues, and it’s been like the day after the election: The exhaustion, anger, fear, the sinking realization that the US is becoming a dystopian reality. It reminds me of that old sci-fi show, Sliders, where they travel to different parallel universes and must find a way to get back home to their universe, the real one. OMG, we are now one of those terrifying side universes that the main characters must attempt to quickly escape from! Continue reading

#metoo and the nonprofit sector

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Hi everyone. I haven’t talked about the #metoo movement, even though it’s been on my mind. This is mainly because as I identify as a man, I should be listening and not mansplaining. Also, others have discussed this intersection of #metoo and nonprofit a lot more authoritatively, and I’m afraid to screw up in whatever I might have to say, if I had anything worth saying at all.

However, this movement is a discussion all of us need to have in the sector, and making mistakes and learning is a part of it, especially those of us who have positional authority due to our titles.

In the past few months, I’ve been reading up on others’ stories and thoughts. This blog post is a reflection on a few things our sector must do, prompted by various articles written by other professionals in the field. As such, it might not be very eloquent or comprehensive. But I hope one or more of these points might help to facilitate some discussions and actions. Continue reading