Category Archives: Cultural Competency

We need to talk about the handwritten thank-you note

[Image description: A note with the words “Thank You,” on top of a beige envelope. On the top right corner there’s a hand holding a pencil. This makes no sense. The note is clearly in ink, so why is this hand holding a pencil? Unless, the Thank You part is already printed on this stationary, so this person didn’t actually write that. But still, who would write a thank-you note in pencil? Unless, they’re planning to draw their gratitude. Maybe I should have stuck to the usual picture of a baby animal. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. Before we delve into today’s super exciting topic, in the spirit of ending the Nonprofit Hunger Games I am declaring this week to be Wear Another Nonprofit’s T-shirt Week. Let’s help promote one another’s organizations like the awesome unicorns of Equity that we are. Show love to orgs that you don’t work for and are not on the board of. Swap T-shirts the way that some professional sports players swap jerseys. Take pictures and tweet with the hashtag #NonprofitsSupportingNonprofits. At the end of the week, 10 winners will be randomly chosen to receive…the satisfaction of making the sector better.

OK, let’s talk about the handwritten thank-you note (HWTYN). First of all, I love them. I know many of you do as well, especially the fundraisers in the sector, who have turned the HWTYN into an art form. Some of the leaders I look up to the most have gotten so skilled at this that it seems they spend considerable time writing thoughtful and highly personalized notes—“Dear Vu, it was so lovely to have lunch with you today at Piroshky on 3rd! I am glad I took your recommendation and tried the borscht. You changed my mind on beets, and thus, you changed my entire life trajectory”—and YET are able to warp time and space so that their HWTYN arrives mere hours after I meet with them.

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Sometimes the best thing we donors can do to advance social justice is to just write the check and get out of the way

[Image description: A super adorable little fluffy brown baby bear cub clinging to a tree and looking directly at the camera! Awwww, what a sweet little baby bear! Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. This post will likely be controversial, so grab a bar of dark chocolate, or, if you are in Seattle, a warm cup of hemp milk and some kale chips. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about our philosophy on donor engagement, and I think we need to have a serious discussion. Honestly, I am starting to believe that the way we engage donors, and habits and patterns of thinking we reinforce among ourselves and our donors, are possibly damaging to the work and to communities.

But before we go further, I want to try something different. I often speak from the nonprofit perspective, because I love nonprofit work and I love the people who choose to be in this beautiful and frustrating sector. But I also donate to several organizations; with two small kids, it’s not always as much as I would like, but I still donate. In fact, I am willing to bet that everyone who works in nonprofit also donates to other nonprofits. That means all of us are also donors. So instead of speaking from the nonprofit perspective, for this post I am going to speak from a donor’s perspective. It might be a little weird, but bear with me (here’s a picture of a baby bear for being awesome).

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Happy Lunar New Year! Here’s your organization’s fortune for the Year of the Pig

[Image description: Two very cute and happy-looking piglets playing outside. They are pink with splotches of grey and black. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. I was going to write a Very Serious Post about something Very Serious, but then realized that this week (beginning February 5th) is the start of the Lunar New Year, an important celebration in many cultures. This is a time for new beginnings, joy, celebration, and, for some mid-age men, getting drunk on rice wine and passing out onto a plate of sticky rice cake (However, I did apologize and would appreciate it if we all moved on).

Our friends at Fakequity.com wrote an informative article on the Lunar New Year, so this post here delves into your organization’s fortune, as fortunetelling is a custom in some parts of the world for around this time. I did some “thorough research” on the Chinese Zodiac and came up with these “fortunes” for your “organization.” To find out which animal your organization is, go here and enter the date your organization was officially incorporated or signed the MOU with your (first) fiscal sponsor. Then find your org’s fortune below:

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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

A Call to Inaction: Nonprofits, Give Your Staff a Break

[Image description: A pair of feet in grey plaid slippers, next to a mug of probably hot chocolate with steam rising out of it, a remote control, a pad of white paper, and a phone that’s on. In the background, a fire is active in a red brick fireplace. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. Once a while, I do a call to action. For example, if you haven’t written a review of a foundation on Grant Advisor lately, or encourage your grantees to do so, please do it! Grant Advisor is like a Yelp for foundations, and everyone who writes a review gets a basket of gluten-free mini muffins*! (*By gluten-free mini muffins, I mean the joy of advancing our sector by increasing transparency and decreasing power imbalance).

This time, though, I am making a call to inaction. I am giving my team and myself the entire week of Christmas off. If your organization can do it, I strongly recommend you to do that as well (or some alternatives to that, as discussed below). Here are several reasons why: Continue reading