White development colleagues, we need to talk about fundraiser fragility

[Image description: Two fluffy yellow baby chickens standing in the grass. So cute! So small! So fragile! Image by Lolame on Pixabay]

Hi everyone. This post today will likely ruffle some feathers. I only ask that you read it with an open mind, and maybe while eating a bar of dark chocolate (it reduces stress). If you’re a regular reader of my ramblings, you know that I frequently point out various flaws in our field. I do this because I love our sector and the people in it, and I believe in our potential to be truly transformative, to be able to help create the kind of inclusive, equitable world we know is possible. We cannot achieve that potential if we become complacent or self-satisfied with the way things are.

Most of my criticisms have been met with openness, even in disagreement. When I point out how evaluation is so white and problematic, (for examples here, here, and here), colleagues in data and evaluation engage in thoughtful and constructive dialogs. When I provide hard feedback about capacity building (here, here, and here), colleagues in capacity building welcome the discussions.

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Vaccines for major donors, and how our fundraising practices perpetuate unethical behaviors and inequity

[Image description: A syringe filled with a green liquid, labeled “vaccine,” its long needle with one droplet at the end, hovering over a spread of $500-bills. Damn, this is a great image for this post! In case you’re curious, it takes me 15 to 45 minutes to find the right picture and caption it for each post. This image is by geralt on Pixabay]

Hi everyone, quick announcement before we begin. BIPOC fundraisers, join Community-Centric Fundraising on Thursday, February 11 at 2pm PT for conversation and camaraderie. This is the second of a three-part monthly series. Register here. The series is for Black, Indigenous, and people of color, thanks white allies for understanding.

This post will likely upset many people, so please take a CBD gummy or make some calming tea or something before you proceed further. By now, you may have heard about the Overlake Hospital scandal where donors who gave $10,000 or more were offered appointments to get vaccinated. Unfortunately, this is happening across the country, including in Rhode Island, Kansas, New Jersey, Virginia, and Florida. These breaches of ethics are absolutely infuriating, especially considering the inequity. White people are immunized at greater rates, even though Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people have been dying at significantly higher rates.

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Wealth hoarding, tax avoidance, and how nonprofits are complicit

[Image description: A squirrel, looking alert, standing among green blades of some type of plant. I think they’re a squirrel, but I can’t see their tail so can’t really be sure. Either way, this image has nothing to do with the content of this post. It is there to help calm you down while we discuss a serious topic. Image by JoeBreuer of Pixabay.com]

Happy September, everyone. Holy hummus, it’s September! Fellow parents with school-age children, I hope you are doing ok. Hang in there. We’ll make it through this together. When things get tough with virtual schooling, just remember the old adage: “The days are long, but the years are—You better not be playing Minecraft again! Get back to your Zoom class this instant or no media the rest of the day! And you! Those loose fruit snacks you found under the couch are covered with dust! Throw them away, or at least rinse with water before eating!”

I know we all have a lot on our minds, and unfortunately I must add one more thing for us to think about. Three months ago, I wrote “Have nonprofit and philanthropy become and white moderate that Dr. King warned us about?” Since then, I have been grappling with the question of how effective our work is as a sector. Are we actually doing good in the world, or have we tricked ourselves into believing that we are while in reality we’re allowing inequity and injustice to proliferate? The reality is that we’re doing both, and it’s important for us to untangle these dynamics.

Recently, I read the Gilded Giving report by the Institute for Policy Studies. It examines the trends in giving in our sector and what it means. It paints a picture that is not pretty. Here are several points we should pay attention to:

  • Starting in 2010, a bunch of billionaires signed a pledge to give away half their wealth. Since then, their combined wealth has actually doubled. From $376 billion in 2010 to $734 billion as of July 18, 2020.
  • Over the first four months of the pandemic, when everyone has been struggling, the 100 living Pledgers who were billionaires in March actually INCREASED their wealth by $213.6 billion, or 28%, from 758B in March to 972B in July.
  • Small individual giving has been in decline over the past two decades. Between 2000 and 2016, the percentage of households giving to charity has dropped from 66 percent to 53 percent.
  • Large gifts, however, have been increasing. Households making over $1M claimed 33% of all charitable deductions in 2017, up from 12% in 1995.
  • The number of foundations in existence increased by 68% between 2005 and 2019, from 71, 097 to 119,791. During this period, their assets more than doubled, from $551 billion to $1.2 trillion
  • Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs) have grown even more rapidly in number and assets. DAFs have no legal mandate to pay out anything each year. Donors take tax breaks immediately when they transfer their wealth to DAFs, but they are not legally required to actually distribute those funds to nonprofits.
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Why we need to move away from empathy in our fundraising approach

[Image description: Black-and-white image of two people, likely children, walking down a dirt path, facing away from the camera, the taller person having their arm across the shoulders of the shorter person. Image by Annie Spratt of Unsplash.]

Happy Monday, everyone. I hope to see you at the Community Centric Fundraising’s launch event today at 11a PDT (you can still register to join). If you can’t be there, please sign up to get more information on future events. Our next one, on 7/24, will be about the data we collected from the Fundraising Perception Survey. (Spoiler: A majority of the 2300 people who responded to the survey, both BIPOC and white, are not happy with the way our sector has been doing fundraising.) 

I am also thrilled to announce that the Community-Centric Fundraising Website is up! Check out communitycentricfundraising.org! The CCF Hub will serve as a central area for reflection and learning. Already there are several pieces on there, including 

There is also a list of some CCF-aligned actions you can take at your organization. Please keep in mind that these actions, crowdsourced over the years, are not comprehensive, and this list will change and evolve. The exciting and necessary work of this movement is for all of us to reexamine the philosophies that ground so many of our practices in the sector.

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The general public is completely clueless about nonprofit and philanthropy, and that’s a problem

[Image description: Two meerkat, standing upright outside in the sun. They are facing the camera but seem to be looking at something beyond the camera. Image by peterstuartmill on Pixabay and has nothing to do with this post.]

Hi everyone. Quick announcement: Edgar Villanueva—the author of Decolonizing Wealth—and I are having an Instagram Live chat today, 6/22, at 4pm EST where we talk spontaneously about whatever is on our minds. Follow @nonprofitaf and @villanuevaedgar. See you soon; ignore my stress-related acne.

A few months ago, I had just left my position as an executive director and was starting to work on a cool project: A sketch comedy show about nonprofit work! It would be so sweet; each episode would feature several short and hilarious skits that bring to life the complexity of our work, sometimes involving hummus (which is present in 80% of nonprofit meetings and events). No one outside the sector really understands what we do, and I thought it would be fun to let people get a glimpse. I was starting to write scripts when the pandemic hit and everything had to be put on hold and who the hell knows if I’ll ever get to it at this point.

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