Why I’m no longer donating to your no-good, very bad nonprofit

[Image description: Two human hands with gold rings and a gold watch, holding a dozen or so US dollar bills, most of them in denominations of $20, with at least one $100. Image by Brock Wegner on Unsplash]

I am a generous and humble man who wants to help sad poor people. This is why I give money to charity. If you help sad poor people, I might also give your organization money. But I have high standards, so I usually give initial donations to test organizations’ responses. Sure, $100 may not be much, though I believe one should be able to purchase at least 10 bananas with that amount. After making the initial donation, I wait in the shadows like a philanthropic hawk to see how charities treat me, which will determine whether I will give them more in the future.

I have been very disappointed to say the least. Some nonprofits don’t respond at all. Some wait excessively long periods of time before getting back to me. One time I had to wait a whole month like an animal for a handwritten thank-you note. Another organization received a huge grant from another donor, and I expected them to know immediately how that money would affect their operations, and more importantly, how it would affect me. My various attempts demanding answers were met with silence. In fact, across multiple charities I donate to, all seem to be avoiding communicating with me, which can only mean they are all no-good, very bad.

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An apology to everyone I harmed with my insensitive words regarding donors and philanthropy

[Image description: A light brown dog, lying on the floor, look remorseful, as if they too had said some offensive things on a webinar on systemic inequity. Image by Pexels on Pixabay]

To my esteemed colleagues,

On a webinar about Donor-Advised Funds that took place on October 19th, 2022, with Susannah Morgan, Ray Madoff, and Chuck Collins, I used words that were deeply offensive and hurtful. Words that included “the rich,” “white,” “hoarding,” “equity,” “SkyMall catalog,” and, most egregious of all, “hobby.” I am here to apologize, take accountability for my thoughtlessness and insensitivity, and humbly ask for your forgiveness.

During this unfortunate presentation, I said something to the effect of, “Philanthropy has often become a hobby for the rich, and it should not be.” I also said that I considered a “family legacy of philanthropy” to be “gross.” I am truly sorry that I uttered such unconscionable words and brought trauma to you, your donors, as well as to anyone near you who may have accidentally caught glimpse of my uttering these vile invectives.

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We need to have a serious conversation about “Donor Love.”

[Image description: An adorable brown puppy, staring at the camera with soulful eyes. Image by Farzan Lelinwalla on Unsplash]

Hi everyone, this post will likely generate some vigorous discussions, but before we launch into it, I have an exciting announcement. Community-Centric Fundraising (CCF) is seeking to form a Global Council to lead the movement. I and other founding council members will step aside and play a supporting role, because it’s important for the movement to have leadership that is diverse in geography and lived experience. Details and application here. Don’t worry, the founding council members are not going anywhere; we will each get a cloak to mark us as elders, and we’ll be around, providing moral support and, when appropriate, snacks.

As today is Valentine’s Day, a lot of us will be pondering the age-old question famously asked by philosopher Haddaway: “What is love?” to which he added as a corollary, “Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more.”

I bring this up because we have a concept in our sector called “#DonorLove.” Going down the hashtag rabbit hole, I encountered many articles about showing donors “love.” Treat them like literal heroes. Cater to their emotional needs. Have an “attitude of gratitude.” Write thank-you notes within 48 hours, and not within weeks as if your donors were common peasants. And stop talking about your organization’s accomplishments, but about what your donors accomplished through your organization, for remember, you and your org are vessels whose only point for existence is carry your donors’ hopes and wishes and well-informed strategies for a better world.

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12 ways “all lives matter” manifests in nonprofit and philanthropy

[Image description: A black-and-white image of protesters. They are facing away from the camera. One person, wearing a face covering and baseball cap, raises a sign that says “with privilege comes responsibility.” Image by Lan Nguyen on Unsplash]

Hi everyone, before we get to this week’s topic, thank you to those of you who voted on the new name of our annual sector-wide event where nonprofit and philanthropy leaders get together to get snacks and hang out to help break down some of the pervasive power dynamics between us. (We’re changing the original name—BEER, Beverage to Enhance Equity in Relationships—to be more inclusive of colleagues in recovery). We got over 1500 votes! The clear winner, with nearly 40% of the votes, is PEEP—Party to Enhance Equity in Philanthropy. So there you have it. Some of you are hilarious, providing suggestions like Party to Enhance Equity, and Party to Open Others to Philanthropy.

Anyway, I hope you’ll host a PEEP event sometime around mid-June. If you plan to have one, please fill out this form, so that I can help promote your event. And so help me MYGOD (Multi-Year General Operating Dollars), if you call it a “PEEP Party” (like “ATM Machine” or “PIN Number”), I will rain hellfire on you and your communications team.

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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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