A couple of years ago, I stepped down from my position as executive director of RVC, a capacity building and leadership organization serving communities of color in Seattle. I helped found it after realizing that leaders of color are not being supported in our sector, organizations led by communities of color continue being screwed over by funding and other dynamics, and that even the stuff designed to help them—like capacity building—is often useless, if not harmful. RVC went from a budget of $180,000 to over 3M, Managing Director Ananda Valenzuela became Interim ED, and I left to tend to other things, stopping by the office occasionally to get free snacks and merch (a lifetime perk of being a founder).
After a couple of years of learning amidst the pandemic, RVC announced its new leadership structure. It is exciting and will probably blow some minds. Instead of the traditional path of finding someone to replace me as ED, and heck, instead of even a co-ED structure like Ananda and I were engaged in (with me being the external leader and Ananda the internal leader), RVC decided to have FOUR CO-EXECUTIVE-DIRECTORS–Chris Rhodes, Anbar Mahar Sheikh, JoJo Gaon, and Roshni Sampath! Each director will take charge of a specific area of executive leadership duties, while also engaged in the critical work they had been doing before.
If you shook your head in disbelief at such a structure, no one will blame you. A few years ago, I was talking to a colleague about co-directorships, and he winced a bit. “Co-directorships tend to fail,” he said, “there’s role confusion, interpersonal dynamics, weird board issues, and so on.” He was talking about co-directorships of two people. What he said may be true, especially in the past when the idea was novel, but we now have lots of examples and case studies of successful orgs embracing this model, including CompassPoint, Building Movement Project, and of course, RVC. The chance to explore even further, to shake things up even more, should be encouraged and supported. How else will our sector grow and evolve?
Hi everyone, this post may be less coherent and more serious than normal. I can’t stop thinking about the news regarding the remains of 215 Native children found at the site of a residential school in Kamloops, Canada. White Canadians – teachers, administrators, the church, the government – murdered them. It is deeply sad and horrifying. I can only imagine the pain and trauma these children endured, and what Indigenous families and communities have been going through.
Meanwhile, this week marks the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, where in the span of hours a mob of white people murdered hundreds of Black people, left thousands homeless, and burned Black Wall Street to the ground. It is profoundly horrendous, and something I don’t think our white-centric education system taught many of us.
Over the weekend I listened to this episode of The Ethical Rainmaker, where my friend (and fellow co-chair of Community-Centric Fundraising) Michelle Muri talks with journalist Teddy Schleifer about billionaires and what they’re doing with all that money. Apparently, during the pandemic, the number of billionaires increased by 30%, and 86% of them got even more wealthy than before the pandemic. According to Teddy, Silicon Valley billionaires will in the next couple of decades overshadow large established foundations in terms of assets and influence.
However, there is significant angst about what to do philanthropically with this newfound wealth. There are so many factors to consider: which issues to choose, how to deploy it effectively to bring about the most societal good, how to avoid current ineffective practices. This causes many billionaires to just set money aside in Donor-Advised Funds and other vehicles while they try to figure things out. Some of them literally send tweets asking for suggestions on what to do, what issues they should work on. And because so many of these billionaires are men, they often ask their wives or partner to handle the philanthropy.
Hi everyone, quick announcement before we dive into this week’s exciting topic about executive search. If you’re free this Wednesday, April 21st, at 10am PT, please join me in this discussion “Moving to Racial Equity: What’s Getting in the Way!?! | A Conversation with Nonprofit Leaders.” It is cosponsored by Castellano Family Foundation and Silicon Valley Community Foundation. I’ll be flipping over tables as usual, but I’m trying to cut back on swearing, gosh darn it. It’s free; register here. Captions will be provided.
Last week, I got this note from a colleague: “I work in philanthropy and was talking with a friend working at a non-profit, and we were sharing our frustrations about how opaque the search process was/is for new leaders at both our orgs, and how little staff and community involvement there was in the decision-making process. I’d love to see you tackle the way these searches happen and search firms and Board committees work currently, and suggest ways that we might work differently (even given the need for confidentiality about candidates to a point, etc).”
This has been on my list of stuff to rant about for a while, so I appreciate the nudge. Last August, Nonprofit Quarterly’s Editor-in-Chief Cyndi Suarez wrote this brilliant piece on the topic, “What Does an Equitable Executive Leadership Transition Look Like?” It points out the inequity of our current philosophies and practices and proposes some new ways of doing things. I highly recommend everyone reads it.
Over the past few days, I’ve been seeing public statements about the violent fascist coup attempt. Some are great, and some are awful. At this point, after the hundreds of statements that came out after George Floyd’s murder, many of us are exhausted with these statements against injustice, because so many of them are meaningless.
If you are going to write one about the violent white supremacist efforts to install Trump as an autocrat, here are some suggestions, in no particular order. Please keep in mind that I am not a communications expert or a PR person. But I do interact a lot with colleagues, and the below are some of the things I’ve been hearing. Take what’s useful to you, ignore the rest: