Last week, I was on Clubhouse in a conversation called “If Nonprofits Were Brutally Honest with Funders” (with colleagues Dr. Rahsaan Harris, Kris Putnam-Walkerly, and Julie Morris). After my remarks about power dynamics, the injustices upon which much of philanthropy is based, and how so little funding goes to organizations led by marginalized communities, listeners were invited to join in. The first person said something about how people of color should learn to “pitch” better so that funders and donors could understand their ideas. (Another person said being nice and getting people to empathize and bringing them ice cream to eat and puppies to snuggle with would work better in soliciting funding than my “angry complaints,” but that’s for another post).
The idea of “pitching” is not new. We have been trained to do “elevator pitches” that are supposed to be pithy yet moving, sincere yet polished, inspiring yet grounded, all in 20 seconds. We pitch to donors, funders, politicians, partner orgs, volunteers. Grants, meanwhile, are basically just long pitches. We do a lot of pitching.
The most extreme manifestation of this idea of “pitching” are the “Shark Tank”-style funding opportunities where leaders go on stage to give short presentations about their organizations’ work to a live audience, after which, depending on how they do and how the “judges” and people watching their presentations react, they could walk away with one of several small grant prizes.
Hi everyone. Quick reminder: Please get flu shots for you and your family, if you are able to. Hospitals and healthcare workers are overwhelmed by COVID, so in addition to getting your COVID shots, get your flu shot. And then buy yourself a new house plant or some chocolate as a reward.
Every time I criticize foundations, someone steps in with “well, 80% of philanthropic dollars come from individual donors.” Usually it is a well-meaning statement, designed to give hope to those of us who are frustrated with foundations and their various archaic and ridiculous practices. And taken as a whole, it may be true. This report, for example, shows that in 2019, 69% of giving comes from individuals, 10% from bequests, 17% from foundations, and 5% from corporations.
If 17% of our revenues come from foundations and 5% from corporations, why should we spend so much time and energy bashing our heads against the walls, screaming in anguish at the foundations and corporations that require quarterly reports, make us use their own budget templates, or, worst of all, force us to remove Oxford Commas to stay within character limits? If they account for only a fraction of total philanthropic dollars, maybe we’re wasting time trying to get foundations and corporations to change and should focus more time rallying individual donors?
Hi everyone, with the collapse of the Afghanistan government, the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and the worsening pandemic, you might be thinking there are more important things to talk about than something as insignificant as character limits on grant proposals. I am writing about it because I need something concrete that I can focus on. But also, because minor things like character limits are symptomatic of some serious issues in philanthropy.
“Describe the program for which you are applying and how it helps to fight racial disparities in health care or food insecurity. Share whether this is a new or existing program. Provide specific data-driven information that shows a clear understanding of what the need in your community is. (700 characters).”
I wish I had made that up. But no, a colleague sent that to me just a couple of weeks ago, an excerpt from a grant application. 700 characters is fewer than 3 tweets. Here are some common problems around character limits:
Hi everyone. I just finished Collecting Courage: Joy, Pain, Freedom, Love, a collection of essays and poetry by Black fundraisers, reflecting on their experiences in our sector. It highlights the many instances of racism that Black colleagues face in fundraising, as well as the white savior complex and other issues with our sector, but there’s also lots of strength and joy. I highly recommend it, especially as August is Black Philanthropy Month, a good time for us to think about Black giving, support Black organizations and businesses, and elevate Black fundraisers’ experiences.
It has been a year since the Community-Centric Fundraising movement launched. I am grateful to see more fundraisers and non-fundraisers across the US and other countries embrace reexamining the problematic philosophies and practices we’ve been upholding, such as poverty tourism, tax avoidance, and the hoarding of wealth that’s been built on slavery, stolen Indigenous land, and other injustices. We have a celebration coming up on August 25th at 11am PT where we’ll reflect on what we learned this year and discuss our hopes for the future of the movement. It’s free; I hope to see you there. Register here.
As CCF grows, we’ve been encountering pushback from colleagues, including the occasional hate message. This is a good sign (although the hate messages might be little too much; come on, at least be more creative with your insults!). We should be having debates and discussions. This is how our sector improves and evolves. Here are some common arguments I and other proponents of CCF encounter repeatedly, both from people who dislike CCF with the intensity of a thousand board meetings, as well as from folks who are genuine in their desire to understand it. I want to summarize and respond to these arguments here so that we can discuss them, but also because some of them are terrible, and we need to reflect on them and then move on, because we have more important discussions to grapple with.
Hi everyone. This post may be shorter and more disjointed than usual. Like many of you, I have been affected by all the human rights violations in Palestine, including the murder of Palestinian children. Here are some ways you can help. If you need more information, Decolonize Palestine is a great resource.
I’ve also been thinking of the CDC’s recommendation that fully vaccinated people can go mask-free. While this seems like progress, it moves us out of a “we’re all in this together” mentality and back into an “individual choice” sort of deal, which will endanger more lives. It furthers the issue identified in this article, which highlights how the CDC switched its messaging from how wearing masks protects others, to one that emphasizes individual self-protection.