Category Archives: Fundraising

Walk through this spooky nonprofit-themed haunted house…if you dare

[Image description: A silhouette of a hand, directly facing the camera. In the background is a blurry figure. It’s like someone is holding up a hand. It is so spooky. Just looking at this picture so I can write the image description is giving me the creeps. Why do I write blogs at 1am? Oh man, I am getting creeped out. Pixabay.com

Hi everyone. Quick announcement: This Wednesday, 9/18, from 1pm to 2:30pm EST, the co-authors of Unicorns Unite and I are having a conversation about how all of us can work together more effectively as a sector. Join virtually (or in person in San Francisco). It’s free.

It may seem too early to write a Halloween-inspired post, but Halloween is awesome, so it’s never too early to get into the spirit. Also, next week’s post will likely be extremely serious and possibly get a whole bunch of you mad at me, so might as well butter you up with a lighter piece this week.

A few years ago, my partner took me to a haunted house. It was dark and spooky, with grisly lights and decorations and there was fog everywhere and people dressed up like zombies and serial killers and sometimes they would chase you while holding chainsaws and screaming. So basically very much like our sector!

This gave me an idea. We need a nonprofit-themed haunted house! Here is what one might look like. Thanks to everyone on the NAF Facebook page who contributed ideas; and apologies that not all were incorporated and that individuals couldn’t be credited. Make sure you don’t read this by yourself at night, because it is terrifying. Add your thoughts in the comment section, and on Twitter with #NonprofitHauntedHouse

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Foundations, it’s time to stop using grant applications to distribute funding

[image description: a happy and very tiny little brown mouse, being held in someone’s thumb and maybe two other fingers. Their head is scarcely bigger than the person’s thumb. Their eyes are closed, and they seem to be smiling contentedly. Aw, what a cute little mouse. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. Today’s post will be long and serious. But before we get into it, here are ways you can help victims of Hurricane Dorian. Also, my org RVC is growing and hiring a Capacity Building Lead. It’s an amazing position that combines capacity building and equity. Don’t take my word for it, here is a quick video from the team.

Our sector talks a lot about grants. Out of 380 posts on this blog, the most popular post of all time is “Answers on grant proposals if nonprofits were brutally honest with funders.” On GrantAdvisor (a Yelp-like website where you can provide anonymous review of foundations) the top complaints are about grant processes. I came up with the FLAIL Scale a while ago, a 61-point checklist for funders to measure how aggravating their grants are, followed up with the GRAVE Gauge, to determine the level of annoyingness of grantseekers. There are endless articles and workshops on how to increase your chances to get grants. And many foundations, to their credit, have been working to streamline their grant applications.

But maybe we are not having the right conversations. Maybe the question is not “how do we improve grant applications” but rather “are grant applications the best way for funders to determine who should be funded? Have they ever been? Is this tool broken or even harmful, and if so, can we afford to keep using it?”

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The ethical argument for foundations to increase their annual payout rate beyond 5%

[Image description: A lit candle in the darkness, being shielded by the wind by a hand. Image by Ai Nhan on Unsplash.com]

I know many of you are reeling from the domestic terrorism that happened over the weekend, committed by white supremacists, spurred on by the racist president of the United States, aided by coward Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who stopped two gun control bills passed by the House this year (HR 8 ad HR 112) from even being voted on in the Senate.

I wish I had words of comfort, maybe some inspirational quote by MLK Jr. or Gandhi about how Good Always Wins in the End, or something, but I don’t. I am just as sad and angry and heartbroken for all those lives lost as you are. My oldest child is about the same age now as the kids who were killed at Sandy Hook, and all I can do is send him off to his school each day hoping that some white supremacist won’t gun his class down. Same with the preschooler. I start having ridiculous thoughts about buying bulletproof backpacks for them, as if that would actually protect them.

This is where we are as a nation. The last few years have been hellish on all fronts, and things do not seem to be getting better, despite my best attempts at optimism. We nonprofits have been dealing with the increased challenges our communities, especially marginalized communities, have been facing.

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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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How corporate foundations and CSR need to evolve to be more effective partners with nonprofits

[Image description: An orange cat, resting their head on the keyboard of an open laptop, looking bored or sleepy. On the laptop screen, there’s a person wearing a lab coat gesturing at a chalkboard or something. Not sure what this has to do with CSR. But the cat’s cute, so that’s something, right? Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, I am back from vacation in Vietnam (and now am on jury duty). It was not exactly a vacation. Keeping vigilance on two fussy small children was exhausting. Also, it is an ancient Vietnamese custom for the relatives you visit to be blunt and loudly assess your appearance whenever they see you. “You got really old since you last visited,” said one, “Sheesh, what happened? Have people told you how tired and haggard you look? Seriously, your face is like a bag of lychee shells that’s been left to rot in the sun.” I know, Dad! You don’t need to tell me! (This is why I only go back every three years.)

Anyway, I am back in the US, and only slightly jetlagged and delirious, so it’s the perfect time to talk about corporate foundations and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). I realize that I don’t talk much about this. It may be because larger foundations tend to give bigger grants and so they get most of the spotlight and also more of the criticisms.

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