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:
Hi everyone, real quick before I get into today’s topic—since the launching of the Community-Centric-Fundraising movement a month ago, the team in Seattle has been excited but also overwhelmed by the incredible response from you all! Thank you for your patience as we sort out the logistics. More is coming, including a meeting to discuss the creation of local CCF chapters (it’ll likely be on 8/20 at 12pm PT, sign up for the mailing list if you haven’t so we can send you more details).
A few months ago, I left my job after being an ED for 13 consecutive years across two organizations. “How does it feel to be retired?” people would ask. “I’m not retired,” I would joke, “I’m Financially Untethered, aka FU!” (This was before the pandemic, when I still had a sense of humor). It was a needed sabbatical, and I was looking forward to recharging by re-watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, Battlestar Galactica, and The Golden Girls.
One day, I got an email from Angie Kim, President & CEO of the Center for Cultural Innovation. “I’m wondering if you have a soft landing? Can our work (www.ambitio-us.org) potentially fund you, give you a business card, and act as a platform so that you continue to be in the field in ways that might work for you?”
Through our conversations over the following months, I got to understand what Angie meant by “soft landing.” This is what conservatives do for their leaders. They provide them with support to ensure that their work continues. If a right-wing pundit gets fired or leaves their position, you can be sure the conservative movement will rally around them, help them get a new job, a slot on Fox News, a post at a research institute, a book deal, a litigation lawyer, a spot on Dancing with the Stars, or whatever. They understand that their most effective leaders are their greatest weapon, so they do everything they can to protect and invest in them and their ideas.
Hi everyone. Apologies, this post will likely be long, poorly edited, and not have as many links to sources and I would like. I haven’t slept much, and even with a partner who is an experienced educator, parenting and crisis-schooling two small children have been fun but challenging.
As the protests against our deeply anti-Black, extremely racist systems continue, I am glad to see that foundations and nonprofits are getting more engaged in the conversations about how our sector must change. Invest more in Black-led organizations. Support grassroots orgs working to enable marginalized communities to vote and elect more women of color into office. Analyze the diversity at our own organizations and DO SOMETHING about the pervasiveness of senior leaders being white and front-line staff being BIPOC. Change the way fundraising is done to be less white-donor-centered. Increase payout rates beyond the minimum 5% and give Multi-Year General Operating Funds (MYGOD)!
Over the past few days, I have been thinking of George Floyd’s brutal murder by the police and of the protests happening in Minneapolis, nationwide, and globally, as I know many of you are. I am at a loss on what to do and how to support our Black friends and colleagues and family members who have constantly suffered under the pervasive violence of white supremacy and racism. I don’t know what to say. I don’t have any encouraging words for you at this moment. I am just angry and sad.
And to be honest, I am also frustrated by our sector. I love our field and the people in it. There is so much good that comes from our work. In the most challenging of times, we have often been a beacon of light. There are many amazing organizations and leaders organizing protests, working tirelessly to change unjust laws, lifting up people in need, providing food and shelter and hope. Thank you for all that you do, and for doing it in a time when there is so much community need even as your resources drastically dwindle.
But as I watch the news and hear of police running over protesters, white nationalists creating chaos and confusion so they can blame peaceful demonstrators, and our racist president stoking the fires of hatred and violence again and again—it makes we wonder if our sector is equipped to help bend the arc toward justice, or if we have collectively become the “white moderate” that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. calls the biggest barrier for equity and justice for Black people and thus for us all.