Over the past several months, my kids have been obsessed with Greek Mythology, thanks to a podcast they listen to called “Greeking Out.” Greek myths are awesome, and there’s a lot they can teach us. Actually, many of the terms we use in this sector have Greek origins. For instance, the word “philanthropy” comes from the Greek “philos” which means “love of” and “anthropos” which means “burdensome and pointless grant applications.”
Anyway, while listening to Greeking Out with the kids, I couldn’t help but imagine these iconic stories being set in the nonprofit sector, so I wrote some of them out below. Enjoy. (And stop judging. Like your Saturday nights are so much more interesting.)
Hi everyone. It’s been a while since I’ve written about a TV show. I was scarred by Game of Thrones and its outlandish, horrifying ending (turns out Daenerys, Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, stole classified nuclear documents, kept them at her castle, and engaged in espionage for the White Walkers). But so many people (2) have asked for my opinion on the new show Loot, that I am compelled to dust off my TV analysis skills, which got a significant number (4) of endorsements on my LinkedIn profile.
For folks who have not seen it, there will be **SPOILERS** so please feel free to skip this post if needed. We will be back to regular rants and shenanigans next week.
Loot stars the amazing Maya Rudolph as Molly Wells, who lives a ridiculously lavish life—she gets a yacht on her birthday, and David Chang is her personal chef—with her billionaire tech tycoon husband John Novak (played by Adam Scott). She finds out Novak has been cheating on her, files for divorce, and keeps 87 Billion dollars. Hurt and untethered, she parties hard, embarrasses herself in public, which leads to a phone call from Sofia Salinas (played by Michaela Jaé Rodriguez), the ED of her foundation. Molly had no idea she even had foundation. The ten short episodes follow her as she learns about philanthropy and nonprofit, rediscovers love, and grows as an individual. Clearly this is at least partly inspired by MacKenzie Scott.
Hi everyone. I’m back after taking the month of July off from writing! During these past four weeks I took the kids on trips, attended a wedding (outdoor) for the first time in years, read some books in a hammock, removed the (probably sentient by now) leftovers from my fridge, and watched “The Bear” and “The Old Man,” which made me very glad I’m in nonprofit, a field that can be very intense but usually not deadly intense like international espionage, or, worse, the restaurant business.
I’ve missed you all and hope you’ve been finding time to relax and recharge as well. Apologies in advance for the roughness of this post. My brain is still on vacation mode, so it may take a few weeks before I am at 100%.
Hi everyone. Quick reminder: Please get flu shots for you and your family, if you are able to. Hospitals and healthcare workers are overwhelmed by COVID, so in addition to getting your COVID shots, get your flu shot. And then buy yourself a new house plant or some chocolate as a reward.
Every time I criticize foundations, someone steps in with “well, 80% of philanthropic dollars come from individual donors.” Usually it is a well-meaning statement, designed to give hope to those of us who are frustrated with foundations and their various archaic and ridiculous practices. And taken as a whole, it may be true. This report, for example, shows that in 2019, 69% of giving comes from individuals, 10% from bequests, 17% from foundations, and 5% from corporations.
If 17% of our revenues come from foundations and 5% from corporations, why should we spend so much time and energy bashing our heads against the walls, screaming in anguish at the foundations and corporations that require quarterly reports, make us use their own budget templates, or, worst of all, force us to remove Oxford Commas to stay within character limits? If they account for only a fraction of total philanthropic dollars, maybe we’re wasting time trying to get foundations and corporations to change and should focus more time rallying individual donors?
Hi everyone, with the collapse of the Afghanistan government, the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and the worsening pandemic, you might be thinking there are more important things to talk about than something as insignificant as character limits on grant proposals. I am writing about it because I need something concrete that I can focus on. But also, because minor things like character limits are symptomatic of some serious issues in philanthropy.
“Describe the program for which you are applying and how it helps to fight racial disparities in health care or food insecurity. Share whether this is a new or existing program. Provide specific data-driven information that shows a clear understanding of what the need in your community is. (700 characters).”
I wish I had made that up. But no, a colleague sent that to me just a couple of weeks ago, an excerpt from a grant application. 700 characters is fewer than 3 tweets. Here are some common problems around character limits: