Hi everyone. This post will be longer than normal, so to keep your attention, I’ve added pictures of pandas. The pandas have nothing to do with the content of this post. They are just pandas.
Some of you may know, if you are on our mailing list, that I am stepping down as Executive Director of my organization Rainier Valley Corps by this December. RVC is in a great place, thanks to our team, board, partners, and supporters, so it is a good time for me to take a break from being an ED. It’s been 12 consecutive years of that; I need to rest and recharge and spend more time with my family and Netflix.
I am not sure what I’ll be doing exactly when I am no longer an ED. This blog will continue as scheduled (heck, with more time on my hand, the spelling and grammar might even improve!). Likely I’ll focus on writing and speaking, maybe work on another book. Possibly develop Nonprofit The Musical in earnest instead of just joking about it. Or maybe I will found a business or apply for to be CEO of a major corporation. I mean, if colleagues from the for-profit sector naturally assume they can run nonprofits, I don’t know why I shouldn’t be hired to run a Fortune 500 company.
Thank you to all of you who participated in Unicorns Unite’s first-ever #NonprofitHaiku contest on Twitter. Apologies for being late in judging the winners. Here they are below. Co-authors Jessamyn Shams-Lau, Jane Leu, and I each picked our favorites. They varied a lot. I put those in a conference tote bag that has some weird sauce dried out at the bottom because I had been using it for grocery shopping. I pulled out five random haiku (which is also the plural), and they are the winners below; we’ll send a copy of our book, along with a bar of chocolate. Below are also some honorable mentions. Please do not be discouraged if you did not win or get mentioned. It was a random and arbitrary process. You are still a beautiful unicorn with the soul of a poet and worthy of love, respect, and chocolate.
Apologies for the formatting of this post (Thanks a lot, WordPress!). By the way, there are a lot of misconceptions about the haiku, including the myth that it must strictly be 5-7-5 in syllables. Read more here.
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.”