I’ve been spending a lot of time flossing while thinking of how to categorize the challenges in our sector (What, like your quarantine activities are so much more interesting). Many of the stuff we deal with falls under the category of “well-meaning people inadvertently making nonprofits’ jobs harder.” Here are a nine. I’m going to call them paradoxes, though some of these are not paradoxes exactly, but are more like dilemmas, conundrums, or shenanigans. I’ve written about a few of them, but they keep coming up and remain a problem, so it’s good for us to review and have common language to push back. If we want our sector to succeed, we need to be aware of these paradoxes and control for them.
An executive director colleague told me he received $1,000 from a corporation for his organization’s emergency funds to help people pay for food and rent. Of course, he thanked the representative on the phone and sent a letter. A few days later, he got an email asking whether the nonprofit would mind publicly acknowledging the corporation and its $1K gift on some combination of social media, website, and newsletter. I could hear the weariness in his voice. He and his team had been working nonstop on the front line and barely had time to breathe. “I kind of wanted to be petty and just return the money. But I can’t, because people are starving.”
If there’s one thing that’s been beaten into all of us in the sector, it is the concept of gratitude. Donors and funders should definitely be thanked, preferably throughout the year and in multiple forms: Handwritten note, phone calls, recognition events, maybe a swag mug. It should be as personal as possible so as to not seem routine. “You can never thank someone too much,” a development director colleague told me.
Hi everyone, a couple of notes. The Nonprofit AF Facebook page is still locked due to FB refusing to confirm my location (this happened, coincidentally, the week where I wrote a post talking about how our sector needs to be more political). I’m working on it, but sorry about that. I’m active on twitter (@nonprofitAF) in the meanwhile. And if you’re free tomorrow, 4/28, at 1pm PST, I’m on this live podcast recording with brilliant leaders Mary Morten, Jane Kimondo, and Michelle Morales to talk about philanthropy.
Also, I want to thank everyone who has been supporting NAF through Patreon. I left my job a few months ago, so this pooled source of income has been very helpful. However, my partner is securely employed and we have savings (in great part thanks to you) so we are in a much more stable financial situation than many families out there. Please don’t hesitate to lower your Patreon support, stop being a supporter, or shift your support to others. We’ll be fine, I promise. Thank you so much.
I know the past few weeks I’ve been pushing hard and being very critical of our sector, especially of foundations. And also, not being very funny. The urgency of this moment means we and the people we serve can no longer afford for us to put up with ineffective or destructive philosophies and practices. Besides deaths from the virus itself, there will be significant increase in global poverty. Starvation threaten to kill millions more in the years ahead. Our sector must dispense with all the BS that has been keeping us down.
everyone. I hope you are hanging in there. I’ve heard from so many colleagues
of the devastating impact that COVID has had on organizations and people. Here
are a few quotes from across the sector:
“My agency that serves people with
disabilities is closed, except for essential staff. The other approximately 90
staff have been furloughed without pay or laid off.”
“I work at a food bank that serves people
living with HIV and other serious illnesses, the majority of them are seniors.
Demand is at an all-time high as clients are losing work or family/caregiving
support. Our program is mostly run by volunteers, and we have lost hundreds of
hours per week of volunteer support. We had to cancel three fundraising events
and dozens of food drives, which would have raised hundreds of thousands of
dollars in food and cash. So basically demand is increasing sharply while
funding and volunteer support is decreasing even more sharply. Many staff are
immunocompromised and/or caring for children without childcare while trying to
keep the place running.”
Hi everyone. I hope you are doing OK amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s scary. Take care of yourself while socially distancing. Most of us have never faced anything like this before, and we cannot take any chances. Cancel everything and stay home. I am in Seattle. My kids’ schools are closed for the next six weeks, possibly longer. It is going to be rough, but we are far luckier than most, as my partner and I both have flexible schedules.
A lot of folks are hurting right now. Small business
owners, people without sick leave, gig workers, folks without childcare, those
who have no emergency savings, incarcerated people, people experiencing
homelessness, disabled folks, kids who rely on school for food, those who are
undocumented—all face daunting challenges with no foreseeable end date. Meanwhile,
nonprofits face drastic reductions in revenues because of canceled events and
other factors, which means we are less able to help during a time when we are
Amidst all this, I got a message from a colleague saying
that a foundation just informed its grantees that due to its corpus being affected by the stock market, in part because
of the Coronavirus, it may cut down on funding, possibly not even be able to
disburse committed funds.