Hi everyone. Thank you so much to all of you who have filled out the Fundraising Perception Survey, which is a quick scan of how folks (fundraisers and non-fundraisers) are feeling about the way we do fundraising in general. This is critical information, so please take 10 minutes to fill it out if you haven’t, and ask your networks to do so as well. Thank you for helping advance our sector.
In the past few months, there have been some critical feedback for philanthropy. The criticisms are not new. Over the years have been many articles, often written by former program officers, with the same heavy criticisms pointed out by Edgar Villanueva’s Decolonizing Wealth and Anand Giridharadas’s Winners Take All. The difference this time is that it seems philanthropy, to its credit, is taking things more seriously. The issues are brought to plenary level at philanthropic summits, whereas in the past they may have been a poorly-attended workshop at best.
Hi everyone, I have super exciting news. As some of you know, for the past year, I have been on the Leadership Panel of GrantAdvisor.org, which is basically a TripAdvisor-type site where nonprofits can anonymously provide feedback about funders. So far the site has had over 1700 reviews of nearly 600 foundations across the US. This is a great way for foundations to get honest feedback, and for nonprofits to be able to help one another out. It takes only five minutes or so to write a review, so please write one today.
Anyway, after analyzing reviews and talking to various sectors leaders, a common complaint we saw was that the grantmaking process is too cumbersome and time-consuming. So after talking to some tech folks, Nonprofit AF, GrantAdvisor, and Grant Professionals Association have been working on an app that will revolutionize the way we do things. There is a full press-release, but I know that only three of you would click on it, so I’m just going to copy and paste it below. It’ll take a few months for the app to “get out of beta,” but I am excited, and I hope you are too.
Last week, SSIR published a case study I co-authored with David Bley of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation detailing Gates’s significant investment in my organization, Rainier Valley Corps (RVC). Our partnership started with 1.1 million over four years to launch RVC’s fellowship program to bring more leaders of color into the nonprofit sector. These brilliant leaders would run programs, fundraise, set up systems, mobilize community members, and do whatever else the organization needs to be effective. About half the fellows are hired full-time at their host organizations during or after their fellowship, a critical outcome when only 18% of nonprofit professionals are people of color.
After running our successful fellowship program for a year, RVC learned several significant lessons, including the fact that the philosophy that grounds organizational development does not work for organizations led by communities of color. This philosophy, as I’ve pointed out before, is basically to force all organizations to be generalists, so that even small grassroots organizations must scramble to do HR, finance, payroll, evaluation, communications, legal compliance, contract monitoring, etc. And the ones that cannot do all these highly complex tasks simultaneously and with a degree of quality are punished.
Recently I learned that a colleague of mine didn’t get a job leading a major organization. It was confusing, since all signs had seemed to indicate she was a good fit. After weeks wondering, she got a you-didn’t-hear-this-from-me from one of the hiring team members that the board had decided to go with someone with a corporate background. Someone who had no experience working in nonprofit was now going to lead a large and influential one, over my colleague who had years of relevant experience.
This happens frequently in our sector among the largest and most influential organizations. Foundations are especially guilty of this. According to this report from CEP that looks at the leadership of the largest 100 foundations in the US:
“Experience as a grantee, if you exclude colleges and universities …. isn’t much valued by foundation boards when they’re searching for a CEO. In 2012 we identified just 14 foundation CEOs with immediate previous experience at an operating nonprofit that wasn’t a college or university. Today, that number is even lower — just 10.”
everyone. This post will likely be controversial, so grab a bar of dark
chocolate, or, if you are in Seattle, a warm cup of hemp milk and some kale
chips. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about our philosophy on donor engagement,
and I think we need to have a serious discussion. Honestly, I am starting to
believe that the way we engage donors, and habits and patterns of thinking we
reinforce among ourselves and our donors, are possibly damaging to the work and
before we go further, I want to try something different. I often speak from the
nonprofit perspective, because I love nonprofit work and I love the people who
choose to be in this beautiful and frustrating sector. But I also donate to
several organizations; with two small kids, it’s not always as much as I would
like, but I still donate. In fact, I am willing to bet that everyone who works
in nonprofit also donates to other nonprofits. That means all of us are also
donors. So instead of speaking from the nonprofit perspective, for this post I
am going to speak from a donor’s perspective. It might be a little weird, but
bear with me (here’s a picture of a baby bear for being awesome).