We need to rethink the idea of diversified funding

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Hi everyone. Please grab your favorite beverage and sit down, because we need to discuss the idea of “diversified funding.” It is one of those concepts—like putting out campfires fully and not microwaving metal—that is just taken as gospel. Funders ask about it all the time. Development staff create plans around it. Fundraising gurus hold workshops about it. EDs look at what percentage of their revenues come from grants, and if it’s too high, start panicking.  

I don’t like it. I think the whole concept is problematic and it’s time we move away from it. Yes, I know the main argument for having diversified revenues. What if you rely too much on a foundation, and that foundation decides—like foundations often do—to shift priorities? Well, you and your nonprofit are screwed. Just like with buying stocks (whatever those are)—it’s bad to have all your eggs in one basket and whatnot.

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White supremacy and the problem with centering donors’ interests and emotions

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Hi everyone. Please buckle up, because this may be a bumpy ride for many of you. One, because of the topic. But also because a racist misogynist murdered eight people, the majority being Asian women, in Atlanta last week because he had a “bad day,” so I am not in the mood to soften my messaging.

I am exhausted by the cycle of white supremacist violence and denial. I don’t have the energy to find something to say at the moment that others haven’t already said better. Here’s my friend My Tam Nguyen’s reflection, “Asian American Women Are Resilient—and We Are Not OK.” Please read that. And if your org hasn’t condemned the rise in violence against Asians, do that. Here’s an example, with lots of good resources.

But I do have the energy to discuss a related topic: The pervasive, deeply internalized philosophy that as fundraisers, our job is to connect donors to what they care about, make them feel relevant and appreciated, and by doing that we help them realize their goals of making the world better, and everybody wins. It sounds fine on the surface, even noble, and many fundraisers have internalized this message over decades. I find it one of the biggest contributors to the very inequities we’re trying to fight.

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Answers on grant reports if nonprofits were brutally honest with funders

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Hi everyone, this Friday is my birthday. If you want to help me celebrate, please donate to Mujer Al Volante, an awesome organization with the mission of helping “immigrant women become independent and empowered through obtaining a driver’s license, financial sustainability, and community support.” Mujer Al Volante does amazing and important work; thanks for supporting it. Don’t worry about me; I got myself some dark chocolate and a 3-pound bucket of Maldon salt, so I’m good until next year.

Grant reports. We all love to hate them. A reason is that like most things related to grants, we’ve learned to tell funders what we think they want to hear. Imagine if we could be honest, though:

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White development colleagues, we need to talk about fundraiser fragility

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Hi everyone. This post today will likely ruffle some feathers. I only ask that you read it with an open mind, and maybe while eating a bar of dark chocolate (it reduces stress). If you’re a regular reader of my ramblings, you know that I frequently point out various flaws in our field. I do this because I love our sector and the people in it, and I believe in our potential to be truly transformative, to be able to help create the kind of inclusive, equitable world we know is possible. We cannot achieve that potential if we become complacent or self-satisfied with the way things are.

Most of my criticisms have been met with openness, even in disagreement. When I point out how evaluation is so white and problematic, (for examples here, here, and here), colleagues in data and evaluation engage in thoughtful and constructive dialogs. When I provide hard feedback about capacity building (here, here, and here), colleagues in capacity building welcome the discussions.

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10 tips for spicing up your love life if you work in nonprofit and philanthropy

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Valentine’s Day is this coming Sunday. Even without an endless pandemic, it can be challenging for people in relationships to keep the spark alive. So here are some tips, written with nonprofit/philanthropy professionals in mind, and not just for Valentine’s Day, but every day. As usual, please use what you find helpful and ignore the rest. Add your own advice in the comment section.

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