Join the movement to end Crappy Funding Practices!

[Image description: Three adorable piglets sleeping, snuggled up in a row. Two are orange with dark patches, and one is gray with dark patches. Image by ChiemSeherin on Pixabay]

Hi everyone, before we get started, next week, May 23rd, at 10:30am Pacific Time, Edgar Villanueva (my brother from another mother and also another father) and I will once again be having a session of “Decolonizing AF.” It’s an informal Instagram Live conversation where we talk about nonprofit, philanthropy, and whatever else is on our minds, with much cussing. Captions auto-generated by Instagram. See you there.

Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been using the hashtag #CrappyFundingPractices to publicly call out funders who were doing ridiculous and/or harmful things. Well, several years have passed, and it seems some funders are still doing crappy things. In fact, there are several innovative new shenanigans! Thank you to all the funders who are awesome. However, we still have many funders whose unreasonable and clueless requirements are jeopardizing nonprofits’ work and thus harming people.

Here is a list of #CrappyFundingPractices that have been called out under the hashtag. If you are at a foundation, please check that you’re not doing these things below, because your foundation may be called out by name:  

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14 ways to make fundraising events more community-centric

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Hey everyone, before we begin, here’s a cute and short video about foundations and their investments, which is a topic I’ll likely rant about later (after “Ask Vu: Love, Dating, Romance, and Relationship Advice for Nonprofit Professionals, Part 2,” which tens of people have been asking for. Here’s part 1).

I usually don’t write much about fundraising events. There’s been a general agreement that auctions, luncheons, golf tournaments, and their ilk are soul-crushingly awful and would make good deterrents for crimes: “You have been found guilty of armed robbery. I sentence you to be the event planner of four consecutive fundraising galas!”

As our colleague Paul Nazareth commented on Twitter: “The dislike I have for what was just weak fundraising strategy of charity galas; the garish glee of dress up, worshipping of wealth and culture of white supremacy, is evolving into disgust.”  

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No, social enterprise and earned revenues will not solve nonprofits’ funding problems

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Hi everyone, for those who missed the Unicorns Unite’s 5-year virtual reunion event on Valentine’s Day, the other co-authors and I are doing an encore for folks in other countries on April 18th to discuss what we’ve learned since we published the book five years ago. It’ll be midnight for me, but that’s also when I do my best work! Register here and see you then! (Folks in the US who don’t mind staying up at midnight or 3am, feel free to join too!)

A couple of weeks back, I met a great new colleague. I knew we would get along because we wore the same brand of outdoor gear, which I will not mention here until the multi-million-dollar sponsorship deal goes through. We were having a sparkling conversation when my new friend started an impassionate speech about how nonprofits should focus more on earned revenues. I watched in horror, mouth stuffed with a blue-raspberry-flavored Jolly Rancher, as my colleague, a funder, continued on about how earned income would allow orgs to have more control and not be as beholden to the whims of funders and donors.

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10 Signs You Might Have Fundraiser Stockholm Syndrome

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Hi everyone, before we get started, here’s a conversation on Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs) taking place on April 21 at 10am PT. It’s free, and auto-captions will be enabled.

Some of you may remember #DAFHobbyGate, where many, many fundraising colleagues got very upset because on an earlier webinar I mentioned that “philanthropy has often become a hobby for the rich and it really shouldn’t be.” Dozens of indignant people told stories of the wonderful donors they encountered who would die before they thought of their charitable work as a hobby. Others called me pretentious, self-righteous, and ignorant. A few demanded I apologize for my thoughtless and insensitive words (which I did, very sincerely).

Here’s the thing, though: Not a single donor indicated they were offended. Or certainly no one expressed they got offended in their role as a donor, as I suspect all of us in the sector are also donors. The folks who were bothered expressed their rage as fundraisers, wealth advisors, and fundraising thought-leaders.

In an earlier post (“White development colleagues, we need to talk about fundraiser fragility”) I mentioned Fundraiser Stockholm Syndrome, this primal urge among fundraisers to protect donors from any and all criticisms and discomfort, as if donors were perfect beings immune to committing any wrongdoings, or fragile baby birds who cannot fend for themselves. It is preventing us from having deep, necessary conversations that would advance our field.

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We need to talk about the relentless machine that is higher-education fundraising

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Every month or so, I get an appeal letter from my alma mater, Washington University in St. Louis (Go Bears!), usually with a promise of some socks or a keychain if I contribute any amount. I love Wash U. It was some of the best and most formative years of my life. It was there that I discovered the power of activism. I was vegan, and the campus had little more than salads, so I started mobilizing the other plant-eaters. We marched on the administration. Many of us fainted on the way because we didn’t have much energy, and our fake-leather shoes disintegrated. It was the longest 50 yard of our lives. But at the end, we were triumphant, and we feasted upon soy nuggets and quinoa bowls with pride. I will always be grateful for what I learned at Wash U, the friends I made, the experiences I had, and the doors that being an alum has opened for me.

But I’m not donating. Wash U is one of the most well-endowed higher education institutions in the US, with over 15 billions in reserve.

In general, the sheer scope and scale of higher education fundraising departments would make the vast majority of nonprofits’ development work pale in comparison. At a large university, we could be talking about a team of hundreds of people raising hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

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