Is there such a thing as too much gratitude? Yes, and it’s been harmful to our work

[Image description: A closeup of a koala’s face. They look calm, with a serene half-smile, staring off to the right. Pixabay.com]

An executive director colleague told me he received $1,000 from a corporation for his organization’s emergency funds to help people pay for food and rent. Of course, he thanked the representative on the phone and sent a letter. A few days later, he got an email asking whether the nonprofit would mind publicly acknowledging the corporation and its $1K gift on some combination of social media, website, and newsletter. I could hear the weariness in his voice. He and his team had been working nonstop on the front line and barely had time to breathe. “I kind of wanted to be petty and just return the money. But I can’t, because people are starving.”

If there’s one thing that’s been beaten into all of us in the sector, it is the concept of gratitude. Donors and funders should definitely be thanked, preferably throughout the year and in multiple forms: Handwritten note, phone calls, recognition events, maybe a swag mug. It should be as personal as possible so as to not seem routine. “You can never thank someone too much,” a development director colleague told me.

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What are we willing to give up to end the Nonprofit Hunger Games?

[Image description: A squirrel, staring at the camera in surprise, their paws touching. So cute, with their little whiskers. Also, their ears are touching. Is that normal? I have no idea. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, a couple of notes. The Nonprofit AF Facebook page is still locked due to FB refusing to confirm my location (this happened, coincidentally, the week where I wrote a post talking about how our sector needs to be more political). I’m working on it, but sorry about that. I’m active on twitter (@nonprofitAF) in the meanwhile. And if you’re free tomorrow, 4/28, at 1pm PST, I’m on this live podcast recording with brilliant leaders Mary Morten, Jane Kimondo, and Michelle Morales to talk about philanthropy.

Also, I want to thank everyone who has been supporting NAF through Patreon. I left my job a few months ago, so this pooled source of income has been very helpful. However, my partner is securely employed and we have savings (in great part thanks to you) so we are in a much more stable financial situation than many families out there. Please don’t hesitate to lower your Patreon support, stop being a supporter, or shift your support to others. We’ll be fine, I promise. Thank you so much.

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I know the past few weeks I’ve been pushing hard and being very critical of our sector, especially of foundations. And also, not being very funny. The urgency of this moment means we and the people we serve can no longer afford for us to put up with ineffective or destructive philosophies and practices. Besides deaths from the virus itself, there will be significant increase in global poverty. Starvation threaten to kill millions more in the years ahead. Our sector must dispense with all the BS that has been keeping us down.

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Foundations, knock it off with the philanthropic Sophie’s Choices and increase your payout

[Image description: A very cute corgi, lying down, looking cute but exhausted. This corgi has nothing to do with this post. I just got worked up writing it and decided I need to look at pictures of of puppies to calm me down. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, I hope you are doing ok. I know things are rough everywhere. Last week I talked to an executive director of an international organization. His team faces funding cuts, potential furloughs and layoffs, and a pervasive sense of anxiety. “But we are fortunate,” he said, “transportation systems have been challenged, so there are workers in India walking for hundreds of miles to return to their villages from the city. They barely have money or food, and they’re just walking. Their villages don’t have jobs either, but they have nowhere else to go.”

Luckily, we have many funders stepping up. I want to give a hearty shout out to Open Society Foundations, who just committed $130M in funding for covid relief for many people both in the United States and across the globe. This is amazing! Thank you, OSF, for all the important work you do and the many critical missions that you support.

Unfortunately, I hear rumors that this additional $130M funding is not coming from OSF’s $18Billion in reserves, but from central leadership asking program officers to return up to half of their current 2020 grant budgets to be reallocated to this new fund. Meaning they would have to take back funds that are already committed or would be going to groups doing vital work, who are already facing so many difficulties. Those orgs would be devastated!

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10 archaic and harmful funding practices we can no longer put up with

[Image description: A ring-tailed lemur, staring directly at the camera, looking very annoyed. Normally, these pictures have little to do with the content of the post, but in this case, this is how I look when I hear about inane, harmful funding practices, like the RFP that requires 20 paper copies to be hand-delivered, during a global quarantine…for $3500! No. Just no. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. I hope you are hanging in there. I’ve heard from so many colleagues of the devastating impact that COVID has had on organizations and people. Here are a few quotes from across the sector:

“My agency that serves people with disabilities is closed, except for essential staff. The other approximately 90 staff have been furloughed without pay or laid off.”

“I work at a food bank that serves people living with HIV and other serious illnesses, the majority of them are seniors. Demand is at an all-time high as clients are losing work or family/caregiving support. Our program is mostly run by volunteers, and we have lost hundreds of hours per week of volunteer support. We had to cancel three fundraising events and dozens of food drives, which would have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in food and cash. So basically demand is increasing sharply while funding and volunteer support is decreasing even more sharply. Many staff are immunocompromised and/or caring for children without childcare while trying to keep the place running.”

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Funders, this is the rainy day you have been saving up for

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Hi everyone. I hope you are doing OK amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s scary. Take care of yourself while socially distancing. Most of us have never faced anything like this before, and we cannot take any chances. Cancel everything and stay home. I am in Seattle. My kids’ schools are closed for the next six weeks, possibly longer. It is going to be rough, but we are far luckier than most, as my partner and I both have flexible schedules.

A lot of folks are hurting right now. Small business owners, people without sick leave, gig workers, folks without childcare, those who have no emergency savings, incarcerated people, people experiencing homelessness, disabled folks, kids who rely on school for food, those who are undocumented—all face daunting challenges with no foreseeable end date. Meanwhile, nonprofits face drastic reductions in revenues because of canceled events and other factors, which means we are less able to help during a time when we are most needed.

Amidst all this, I got a message from a colleague saying that a foundation just informed its grantees that due to its corpus being affected by the stock market, in part because of the Coronavirus, it may cut down on funding, possibly not even be able to disburse committed funds.

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