Around this time last year, the pandemic was getting into full swing, and all of us were terrified. I found out that some foundations were still requiring the printing-out and hand-delivery of grant proposals. These funders’ cluelessness was no longer just annoying, it was literally endangering people’s lives. I turned into a nonprofit Hulk and start smashing things around the house. But being vegan, I didn’t have the strength to do much damage. And so instead, the hashtag #CrappyFundingPractices was born on Twitter.
Over the course of the year, colleagues direct-messaged or emailed me the ridiculousness they endured—from funders refusing to pay for staffing, to others requiring quarterly or weekly reports, to one who waited 30 months to make a grant decision—and I would call these funders out by name using the hashtag. Colleagues would pile on, retweeting and commenting. Sometimes we hear nothing from the funders. Other times, they respond with committee-written malarkey, and on some occasions, they actually apologize and make corrections.
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.
It is not a secret that I am not a big fan of the way grantmaking has been done in our sector. Often, the foundations who claim to be aligned with equity continue to use truly crappy funding practices that perpetuate inequity. As a reminder, only 7% of philanthropic dollars are targeted toward Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and POC communities, and 3% go toward serving disabled people, according to this summary by Candid. Trans communities, meanwhile, receive only .015% “or a penny for every $100.”
If foundations are serious about moving funding to the communities that are most affected by systemic injustice, then their funding philosophies and practices must evolve. My previous organization RVC and I collaborated to develop this Equitable Grantmaking Continuum, based on our experience working with grassroots organizations led by and serving marginalized communities these past several years, and taking a few pointers from efforts such as Trust-Based Philanthropy and Grantadvisor.org. Here’s the full-version, and here’s the one-pager you can print out and hang on your wall. Use this tool to analyze how your foundation is doing and then start taking action. Here are things to keep in mind:
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:
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.