Funders, back up your equity statements with actual cash to BIPOC communities

[Image description: A rolled-up wad of US dollars, the outer one being a one-dollar bill, held together with a rubber band. The wad is resting on a spread of higher-level bills, including 20s and 100s. Image by pasja1000 on Pixabay]

Hi everyone, thank you to all of you who expressed concerns for my sister on her COVID recovery, which I mentioned last week. She’s getting well enough for us to resume our ongoing sibling bickering over inane things, so I think that’s good.

Before we get into today’s post, on December 10th at 11am PT, there is a free webinar on Transformational Capacity Building, led by my brilliant colleagues April Nishimura, Roshni Sampath, and Anbar Mahar Sheikh, based on this article I helped write. Fellow organizational development nerds, I hope to see you there so we can explore a more equitable model of doing capacity building. Or at least figure out how to explain what the hell it is to our families over virtual holiday dinners.

As I drove to my sister’s to deliver groceries and minestrone soup, I passed by a home improvement store and noticed the dozen folks standing out in the cold, waiting for construction or landscaping day jobs. As the pandemic progressed, day laborers have been hit hard. Gigs have been drying up, and many workers have families to support.

This year has been a nightmare, but I don’t think the majority of us really understand what is coming. Moratoriums on evictions are ending soon, and 40,000,000 people face being kicked out of their homes. As winter arrives, the levels of poverty, homelessness, pain, and trauma will reach levels we may not be able to grasp and our sector is not equipped to handle.

Continue reading “Funders, back up your equity statements with actual cash to BIPOC communities”

Why we need to drop the idea of 100% board giving

[Image description: A hand putting folded money into a ceramic piggy bank. The piggy is white with pink ears and decorated with painted flowers. Image by horstkoenemund on Pixabay]

A few years ago, I led a Vietnamese-community-focused nonprofit as a youthful executive director filled with equal parts optimism and adult acne. I remember though one time at a board meeting trying to get board members to donate. “Please,” I said, “just give something. Anything! Even $5! I just need us to be able to tell funders that we have 100% board giving!” The elders stared back blankly at me. I was desperate. “OK,” I said, “how about I give you each $10, then you donate $5 back, and you make a profit of $5!” I was joking, but also kind of not.

The idea of “100% board giving” is one of those concepts that somehow have become entrenched in our sector, an unwritten truth that we don’t question. To this day, I still see funders asking about it on grant applications. Fundraisers, meanwhile, whisper warnings to one another: “There was one organization that only achieved 50% board giving. Their donations eventually all dried up. If you walk by the office, you can hear faint ghostly echoes of weeping from the development team.”

Continue reading “Why we need to drop the idea of 100% board giving”

It’s time to expand our perspectives and conversations in fundraising

[Image description: Two hands, outstretched, holding a baseball-sized ball made of US money, including a $100-bill. This is the first image that came up when I typed in “fundraising.” Image by HeatherPague on Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, a couple of quick announcements. Thank you to the 1400+ colleagues who attended last week’s webinar “What’s Broken in the Foundation and Donor Landscape?” put on by CalNonprofits, Community-Centric Fundraising, Nonprofit AF, Institute for Policy Studies, and Inequality.org. We discussed wealth hoarding, tax avoidance, and the problems with Donor-Advised Funds. You can see the full video here.

Next week, 10/5 at 11am PT, we have the second part of the series, focused on solutions, including potential policy changes. Speakers include Farhad Ebrahimi, Founder and President of the Chorus Foundation; Ellen Dorsey, Executive Director of Wallace Global Fund; Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland). The legendary Jan Masaoka of CalNonprofits will be the moderator. It will be good! Register here.

***

Over the past few weeks, it’s been nice to see the Community-Centric Fundraising movement growing. The Slack channel has been increasing in numbers, along with the Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram (I am not sure what Tik Tok is, but I think we have that too).

What I am especially thankful for is the content Hub on the CCF website, which produces new thought-provoking articles, podcasts, and videos each week, curated by colleague Stacy Nguyen. Last week, I read “8 ways to make fundraising more accessible for people with disabilities” by Elizabeth Ralston. One of the tips was “Include a physical description when you first introduce yourself […] this can really help a person with low vision have an image of who is speaking and in turn make them feel included as part of the festivities.” This was something I had never considered before. Thanks to what I learned, I have started describing myself in virtual events: “Mid-age Asian man with short unkempt black hair, thick black glasses, wearing a blue button-down shirt, and surrounded by a pervasive aura of vegan sexiness.”

We need to be honest with ourselves (and no, not about the pervasive aura of vegan sexiness). The conversations we’ve been having in the field of fundraising need to change. They are dominated by topics along the lines of how to retain donors, show more gratitude, increase planned giving, write better grants, which CRM is the best, etc. Often these can be boiled down to the overarching topic of “Tactics to help you raise more money for your organization.”

Continue reading “It’s time to expand our perspectives and conversations in fundraising”

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.
Continue reading “Wealth hoarding, tax avoidance, and how nonprofits are complicit”

How philanthropy fails to support its greatest assets, BIPOC leaders, and what it should do about it

[Image description: A group of protesters, most are BIPOC, most wearing face masks. One person in the center appears to be talking on a bullhorn. Others are holding up signs. Image by Josh Hild of Unsplash.com]

Hi everyone, real quick before I get into today’s topic—since the launching of the Community-Centric-Fundraising movement a month ago, the team in Seattle has been excited but also overwhelmed by the incredible response from you all! Thank you for your patience as we sort out the logistics. More is coming, including a meeting to discuss the creation of local CCF chapters (it’ll likely be on 8/20 at 12pm PT, sign up for the mailing list if you haven’t so we can send you more details).

***

A few months ago, I left my job after being an ED for 13 consecutive years across two organizations. “How does it feel to be retired?” people would ask. “I’m not retired,” I would joke, “I’m Financially Untethered, aka FU!” (This was before the pandemic, when I still had a sense of humor). It was a needed sabbatical, and I was looking forward to recharging by re-watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, Battlestar Galactica, and The Golden Girls.

One day, I got an email from Angie Kim, President & CEO of the Center for Cultural Innovation. “I’m wondering if you have a soft landing? Can our work (www.ambitio-us.org) potentially fund you, give you a business card, and act as a platform so that you continue to be in the field in ways that might work for you?”

Through our conversations over the following months, I got to understand what Angie meant by “soft landing.” This is what conservatives do for their leaders. They provide them with support to ensure that their work continues. If a right-wing pundit gets fired or leaves their position, you can be sure the conservative movement will rally around them, help them get a new job, a slot on Fox News, a post at a research institute, a book deal, a litigation lawyer, a spot on Dancing with the Stars, or whatever. They understand that their most effective leaders are their greatest weapon, so they do everything they can to protect and invest in them and their ideas.

Continue reading “How philanthropy fails to support its greatest assets, BIPOC leaders, and what it should do about it”