Hi everyone, before we get started, it’s Black History Month, so let’s all remind ourselves that only about 2% of philanthropic dollars go to Black-led organizations. Funders, release all the statements of support you want, but increase funding and donations to Black organizations, movements, and individual leaders. Have more grants like the Washington Women’s Foundation’s Rest and Repair Awards, which provides $100,000 grants each to individual Black women leaders. The rest of us, meanwhile, should be donating to Black-led orgs, supporting Black-owned businesses, and calling our representatives and writing op-eds to protest the banning of AP African American Studies, among other actions.
Handwritten thank-you notes (HWTYN) have been a contentious topic in our sector of late. Some people think they are an absolute necessity for proper etiquette and relationship-building, while others believe they are an outdated relic of ancient times, like denim jackets and fair elections. Even Dr. Glaucomflecken weighed in. I have written about the cultural and equity implications of thank-you notes, so I won’t rehash.
But given that society is changing rapidly, we need some new rules. So forget everything you’ve been taught about thank you-notes, and instead follow these guidelines, which are in no particular order because I am not that organized:
Hi everyone, before we get started, it’s been five years since Unicorns Unite: How Nonprofits and Foundations Can Build EPICPartnerships, a book I wrote with co-authors Jessamyn Shams-Lau and Jane Leu, was released. Here’s a free webinar taking place on February 14th at 10am PT to discuss what we’ve learned since then. Auto-captions will be enabled. Also, please use promo code UNI50 here to get 50% off your copy of the book.
Today, we talk about an issue that many of us probably had no idea existed, but one that is very annoying to those affected, and it perpetuates inequity. The concept of “tipping.” This is basically the idea that if a foundation gives a nonprofit “too much” funding, it would “tip” that nonprofit into becoming a foundation itself, which would then open a hole in the fabric of spacetime and an ancient evil would breach our dimension to rain chaos and destruction and there would be fire and brimstone and terrible wifi.
On a webinar about Donor-Advised Funds that took place on October 19th, 2022, with Susannah Morgan, Ray Madoff, and Chuck Collins, I used words that were deeply offensive and hurtful. Words that included “the rich,” “white,” “hoarding,” “equity,” “SkyMall catalog,” and, most egregious of all, “hobby.” I am here to apologize, take accountability for my thoughtlessness and insensitivity, and humbly ask for your forgiveness.
During this unfortunate presentation, I said something to the effect of, “Philanthropy has often become a hobby for the rich, and it should not be.” I also said that I considered a “family legacy of philanthropy” to be “gross.” I am truly sorry that I uttered such unconscionable words and brought trauma to you, your donors, as well as to anyone near you who may have accidentally caught glimpse of my uttering these vile invectives.
Over the past several months, my kids have been obsessed with Greek Mythology, thanks to a podcast they listen to called “Greeking Out.” Greek myths are awesome, and there’s a lot they can teach us. Actually, many of the terms we use in this sector have Greek origins. For instance, the word “philanthropy” comes from the Greek “philos” which means “love of” and “anthropos” which means “burdensome and pointless grant applications.”
Anyway, while listening to Greeking Out with the kids, I couldn’t help but imagine these iconic stories being set in the nonprofit sector, so I wrote some of them out below. Enjoy. (And stop judging. Like your Saturday nights are so much more interesting.)
When I was younger, one of my favorite things was the Skymall catalogue, which some of you may remember. It was a catalog that every airline had at every seat, and it was a glorious collection of some of the coolest stuff ever. I couldn’t afford the life-size gorilla lawn statue, or the fountain pen filled with tiny Swarovski crystals, or a lamp made out of pink salt that generated negative ions, or whatever. But it gave me a small measure of happiness to flip through the catalog and learn about the wacky products and what they did and how much they sold for.
Why am I bringing this up? I’ll get to that in a moment. A few weeks ago I was invited to give a keynote on the joy of fundraising. Now, I know at least a handful of people in the sector are rolling their eyes. That’s like inviting a teenager to deliver a lecture called “The Importance of Listening to Your Parents and Other Authority Figures.” Over the past few years, I have criticized many aspects of the way we do fundraising, and have been helping advance a movement to change it. So there may be this perception that I hate fundraising, fundraisers, and donors.