For decades, our sector has had this refrain: “Donors and funders deserve transparency. They have a right to know how nonprofits spend their donations and the outcomes they achieved.” Many of us agree with this, including me. Yes, nonprofits should be transparent. They need to report their revenues, expenses, program activities, and the results of their work. And most nonprofits do, as required by law. In the US nonprofits are legally required to file 990 tax forms each year. Most orgs release annual reports. Throughout the year they also let people know what they’ve been up to, using newsletters and other forms of communication.
The challenge is that for some reason the above level of transparency is not enough, and we’ve all convinced ourselves that not only do donors and funders deserve to know specifically how the dollars they contributed were spent and what outcomes could be personally attributed to them, but also that this somehow makes sense.
A while ago, a colleague mentioned a funder who required a whole-ass grant proposal from their current grantees to renew their grant every year. Requiring a full proposal for renewal is very annoying, but common enough, like the philanthropic equivalent of pinkeye.
This one funder, however, specified that grantees could not copy and paste information from previous year’s proposals. This forced grantees every year to spend time rewriting their mission statements, community needs, program descriptions, evaluation methodologies, budget narratives etc. using different words and phrases, even though most of that information remains the same.
If I ever wake up in the middle of the night recalling the name of this foundation (or if you know them), I will be sure to publicly bestow upon them the glorious title of “Crappy Funder of the Milky Way Galaxy.” They would get a plaque they can display for being a condescending, time-wasting fopdoodle. That’s right, I said fopdoodle, because only Old English can convey how archaic and vexing this funder is.
With AI-supported grantwriting platforms like Grantable increasingly being used in our sector, nonprofits can better deal with clueless funder malarkey and shenanigans like the above. Someone can paste answers from last year’s grant proposal into ChatGPT, for example, and ask it to paraphrase, saving them time and energy that can be used on much more important work, such as running programs or turning some milk crates into a makeshift filing system.
Hi everyone. Quick reminder: On August 30th at 11am Pacific Time, there is a FREE webinar on legislative reforms on Donor-Advised Funds. Get more details and register here. There will be live captioning.
Also, this week I’ll be speaking virtually at the Nonprofit Marketing Summit, which is free for everyone. My lecture, called “Burn It All Down: Achieving Radical Impact in Nonprofit and Philanthropy” will be on Thursday August 24 at 11am Pacific Time. Get details and register here. There will be auto-captions. And I might have a sexy, smokey voice from weeks of chronic coughing.
After doing this work a while, I realize there are a few words and phrases in our sector that absolute raise my hackles and cause me to go immediately into fight or fight mode (yes, I said “fight” twice). These words and phrases include “overhead,” “logic model,” “sustainability,” “donor love,” “strategic philanthropy,” “nonprofits should act more like for-profits,” and “can I give you some friendly feedback about your personal appearance on that virtual keynote?”
Hi everyone, this will be the last blog post until August 8th, as I’ll be on my annual summer break. By the time you’re reading this, I am on my way to Vietnam to see the relatives. It will be three weeks of getting criticized for my career choice, divorced single status, and disheveled general appearance. It’s OK; relentless criticism is one of the love languages in Vietnamese culture.
I hope that you’re also taking time for yourself. Our sector sucks at this. Even during a pandemic, I see so many colleagues lamenting/bragging about how little vacation they’ve been taking, how they haven’t taken a break in literally years. Cut it out. There is no honor in burnout. You deserve to rest and to recharge and watch all 10 episodes of The Bear season 2 in one sitting, or whatever brings you joy.
However, it’s easy to say that. We’ve internalized some philosophies and messages that make rest feel shameful. One of these is the concept of “laziness.” Our self-worth and even identity are tied to doing stuff constantly, and when we think we’re not, we feel awful and useless. It’s a risotto of capitalism that we’re expected to stir perpetually while adding more and more heated broth of productivity.
Hi everyone, you may have heard about MacKenzie Scott’s new funding initiative, Yield Giving, which will be giving out 250 million in $1M grants. The catch is that organizations are only eligible if they are between $1M to 5M in budget size for two or more of the past five years.
Scott has done some cool stuff, cutting through the BS and giving away billions of dollars with few hoops to many great orgs. So this eligibility criterion in her new grant is disappointing. As many colleagues have pointed out, the vast majority of nonprofits are less than a million in budget size, and organizations led by and serving marginalized communities are more likely to fall within this category. Having this budget threshold as an eligibility requirement ensures many vital organizations led by and serving people of color, rural communities, disabled people, etc., will be left out of accessing this fund.