9 crappy paradoxes that shape nonprofit and philanthropy

[Image description: A golden retriever puppy, lying on the ground, their paws on the sides of their faces, looking sad and adorable. Image by birgl on pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, quick announcement: Please put August 10th at 12:00pm Pacific Time on your calendar for Community-Centric Fundraising’s first town hall meeting. Sign up here and we’ll send you the zoom link. Until then, the (CCF) Hub is designed to provide alternatives to our default white-centric fundraising narratives. It features about three new thought-provoking pieces of content each week, including “How prospect research can help nonprofits become less racist and more inclusive,” “What I Learned from Losing Two Jobs in the Fight for Racial Equity,” “‘You want a director of what now?!’ When orgs that are hiring are too lazy to know what they want,” and the first episode of the Ethical Rainmaker podcast, where CCF Co-Chair Michelle Muri and I talk about fundraising and equity. Check it out!

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I’ve been spending a lot of time flossing while thinking of how to categorize the challenges in our sector (What, like your quarantine activities are so much more interesting). Many of the stuff we deal with falls under the category of “well-meaning people inadvertently making nonprofits’ jobs harder.” Here are a nine. I’m going to call them paradoxes, though some of these are not paradoxes exactly, but are more like dilemmas, conundrums, or shenanigans. I’ve written about a few of them, but they keep coming up and remain a problem, so it’s good for us to review and have common language to push back. If we want our sector to succeed, we need to be aware of these paradoxes and control for them.

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Why Impact-Per-Dollar is a terrible, harmful way to measure nonprofit effectiveness

[Image description: A fluffy brown baby highland cow, with shaggy fur over their eyes. They are adorable and have nothing to do with this post. Someone just told me to look up baby highland cows and I did and found them to be so cute! This picture is from Pixabay.com, but look up “baby highland cow” on Google Images for more cuteness.”

Hi everyone. I hope you had a relaxing Thanksgiving break (if you’re in the US). I know it’s hard to get back to work after a long weekend, which is why I am here in bed eating leftover mashed potatoes and listening to early-90s Hip Hop. Just remember, though, that your work makes a difference (Read “Welcome back to work, you sexy Jedi unicorn,” if you need a quick pick-me-up)

Unfortunately, however, the difference you are making is complex, which means it is challenging to measure. And this explains the crappy metrics of effectiveness our sector has been subjected to. Chief among them, of course, is overhead rate, one of the most insipid and destructive zombie concepts ever unleashed on nonprofits, as I and others have written about repeatedly (See: “How to deal with uninformed nonprofit watchdogs around the holidays.”)

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If progressives want change, we must play the game differently. Here are five things we must do.

[Image description: A young person holding up a large lantern, getting ready to release it into the sky. In the background are four other lanterns that have been released and are floating upward. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, apologies in advance, this post will be more serious and political than usual and I am sure will be polarizing. The Virginia Beach mass shooting has been on my mind. I am thinking of how New Zealand was able to pass gun-control bills within a matter of days after the horrific Christchurch shooting, while we Americans remain the laughingstock of the entire world. Mass shootings have become so common and taken for granted that The Onion publishes the same satirical but damning article each time more innocent people are murdered (“‘No way to prevent this,’ says only nation where this regularly happens”).

Last week’s post (“We need fewer Theories of Change and more community organizing”) resonated with a lot of people. However, there were a few colleagues, especially researchers and evaluators, who bristled at my call for us to intellectualize less and organize more. As I mentioned several times in the post, strategies and actions are both important, but the BALANCE has been off. Just like food and air are both necessary for survival, but if all we do is breathe, we won’t last. I hope we can come to that agreement, because we have other important things to discuss.

Continue reading “If progressives want change, we must play the game differently. Here are five things we must do.”

Brett Kavanaugh, and why we must stop intellectualizing and take more actions

[Image description: Brown-tinted picture of about a dozen round light bulbs lying on a flat surface. One bulb in the center is light up, others are dark. Image from Pixabay.com]
Hi everyone. A quick announcement before this week’s post. My colleague and occasional drinking buddy Joan Garry has a free workshop being released starting next week that I strongly encourage you to check out. This series of videos covers strategies for running a successful nonprofit – stuff like how to build a great board, how to increase donations, how to inspire volunteers, etc. The workshop is helpful for new as well as experienced leaders. At the end of the workshop, Joan will introduce the Nonprofit Leadership Lab. I’ve been lurking in the Lab for a while and can vouch that it’s a great resource and support community at an affordable monthly rate. I never promote things like this, and in full disclosure, Joan is giving me a cut for any new members I end up sending her way, which will help defray the costs of running NonprofitAF. But I would not endorse anything that I don’t believe in. I have seen how useful the Lab is for its members. So sign up to check out the videos. They’re free and helpful even if you decide not to join the Lab.

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I am in a crappy mood, so my apologies in advance for the tone of this post. I am distraught and disheartened over the Supreme Court, and I know many of you are too. I want to provide some encouraging words, but I don’t really have any at the moment. This is horrible, and no amount of “we-are-in-this-together-and-remember-that-the-arc-bends-towards-justice-and-rainbows-and-unicorns” bromides is going to be enough this time. Continue reading “Brett Kavanaugh, and why we must stop intellectualizing and take more actions”

These 12 adorable baby animals are very worried about the US Census and you should be too

[These two baby javelinas are worried about the US Census and its potential to negatively affect funding for many vulnerable communities]
Hi everyone. I wrote a post about the grave consequences of undercounting in the US Census that’s coming up. And it was read by approximately 8 people. So I am re-posting it now with a new title and pictures of baby animals. This is important, and if pictures of baby animals will help us all to pay more attention and to share the message, then I will gladly spend three or four hours during work researching to find the cutest, cuddliest baby animals to display here. Please share this post widely.  Continue reading “These 12 adorable baby animals are very worried about the US Census and you should be too”