Category Archives: nonprofit field

Solutions Privilege: How privilege shapes the expectations of solutions, and why it’s bad for our work addressing systemic injustice

[Image description: A cute black-and-white baby goat. They are mostly black, with a large vertical white stripe down their face. This kid looks surprised, with wide-open big brown eyes and a slight smile. No, this image has nothing to do with this post. I watched Game of Thrones and then thought “You know what, let’s put a baby goat up on this blog post.” So I did. Image from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, quick disclaimers. Game of Thrones is back, and it runs on Sunday nights, when I’m usually doing my writing, so the next several blog posts will likely decrease in quality and coherence. The last few days also found my kids with food poisoning. I will spare you the gross details that involved multiple changes of bedsheets and 4am showers. Suffice to say, I’ve been behind on judging the #NonprofitHaiku contest and will post the winners sometime this week.

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A while ago I was giving a short talk to a group of donors (all with for-profit backgrounds) about the challenges we nonprofits faced, including the inane and harmful focus on “overhead,” the unrealistic and insulting expectations for nonprofits to be self-sustaining, the 5%-payout mentality that allows money to be hoarded away while society burns, and the pervasive inequity of the lack funding going to marginalized-communities-led organizations. Overall, a pretty standard speech, complete with metaphors involving baking.

Afterwards, a couple, I’m going to call them Bob and Sue, came up to me. “We really enjoyed your speech,” said Sue, “but I didn’t really hear any solutions.” “Yes,” added Bob, “I would love to hear what you think would solve these issues you brought up.” I took a nice long sip of my Albariño, a wine that I learned had a characteristic bitterness.

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20 simple things you can do to help end the Nonprofit Hunger Games

[Image description: Two tiny adorable little baby pigs. They are pink with black/gray splotches. One seems to be leaning their happy little head on the back of the other one. They are outside, standing on the ground with some hay strewn about. Aww. These piglets are so sweet. I want one for the office. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, a couple of things before we get started. First of all, April is National Poetry Month, and to celebrate, Unicorns Unite (a book I co-authored on funding dynamics) is having a #NonprofitHaiku contest on Twitter. Tweet out a haiku by 4/12, tag it with #NonprofitHaiku, and by 4/15 I and the Unicorns Unite team will select five winners based on random and arbitrary criteria that we’ll make up later. Feel free to write as many haikus as you like. The winners will get a copy of Unicorns Unite. Possibly chocolate. Maybe a piglet*

Second, we had a blast with last week’s April Fool’s joke about “Fundr,” a fake app to match foundations and nonprofits. GrantAdvisor.org, however, is real. It’s a website to provide foundations with anonymous, honest feedback. The more reviews you write, the more helpful the site is, so every time you apply to a foundation (whether you get the grant or not), please take five minutes to provide a review. It helps the entire sector.

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Speaking of helping the entire sector, we need to end the Nonprofit Hunger Games and do a better job not just working on our individual organization’s survival, but on the effectiveness of our field as a whole. Our missions are interrelated, so it is silly to constantly be in cutthroat competition with one another. While we work on the systemic factors that perpetuate the Games, here are some other few simple things we can all do right away to help one another, which will better our entire sector and community:

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So you don’t think race, equity, diversity, and inclusion are relevant to your mission

[Image description: An brown/gray owl with extra large orange eyes and black pupils, looking adorably surprised. Image from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, this post may be a little shorter than usual, due to a few few full-blown tantrums from my little ones over the course of the day. One involved a potty training accident that required a thorough hose-down in the bathtub. I am slightly frazzled and not very lucid.

A few months ago, I was talking at a conference about what race, equity, diversity, and inclusion look like in every day practices. “These concepts have been like coconut water,” I said, “everyone’s drinking them after hot yoga. But how are we actually changing our hiring, communications, board governance, evaluation, fundraising, and other areas?”

After my presentation, a colleague raised her hand. “My organization does not focus on social justice,” she said, “We address cancer, which does not discriminate; it affects every one of all races. How are these concepts applicable to my organization?”

I was glad she asked that question, because I am sure others feel the same way. Another time, a different colleague wrote, “while measures of injustice, inequity[,] and racial oppression might be appropriate outcomes for your nonprofit—ours is reduction in hunger. Which might lead to all those other things but really—we care about feeding kids.”

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“Does this board member spark joy?” How to tidy your organization using the KonMari method

[Image description: Two little white mice with grey ears peeking their heads out of a round hole carved in a brown log. The one on the left is cute with their wittle ears and pink nose and whiskers. The one on the right…probably has a great personality. Pixabay.com]

Have you noticed how we in this sector tend to hoard stuff? There are several reasons for this. First, we are trained to be thrappy, which is a combination of “thrifty” and “scrappy,” to keep our “overhead” low. Second, because we are empathetic, even to inanimate objects, and just the thought of these poor gala program booklets and rickety chairs being abandoned makes us sad. And third, because we’re busy making the world better and stuff, OK?  

Recently, my colleague April Nishimura, RVC’s awesome Director of Capacity Building, got hyped on Marie Kondo’s tidying method. She made me clean out my box of crap, which I had not done for four years. It was therapeutic. I found a forgotten bar of Theo-brand dark chocolate that had been gnawed on by what looked like rats (or possibly a volunteer with very small incisors).

Inspired by this experience, I decided to learn the KonMari method by watching Kondo’s show on Netflix. After four episodes, I was able to grasp the basics, which are grounded in the question of whether something “sparks joy.” If it doesn’t, thank it for its service, and then let it go. These methods can be applied to our organizations. So here are some lessons, directly taken from or inspired by Marie Kondo, in case you and your team are thinking of tidying up your org using the KonMari method:

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People of color, we need to address our own anti-Blackness and how we may be perpetuating injustice

[Image description: A fence on the beach with colorful posts in alternating blue, green, yellow, and red, connected by a single rope at the top of each post. The fence is overlooking a greyish-blue ocean. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, this post is going to be serious. I know that Black History was last month, but I am hoping that by running this in March, it serves as a small reminder that we need to have these conversations throughout the year. This post today will talk about how we people of color can consciously and unconsciously perpetuate the injustice we are hoping to address, and how we need to examine our privileges and biases, especially our anti-Blackness.

Honestly, I’ve been a little hesitant to write on this topic. Normally I talk about communities of color and the challenges we face navigating a white-dominant culture. I am hesitant to point out dynamics among communities of color, and I know other leaders of color are too, because oftentimes, people in power look at these types of conversations as a sign of weakness and use them to rationalize things like withholding funding: “If these people can’t even get along with one another, how can we invest in them?” (I’ll address this in a future post tentatively called “The Racism of Expecting Communities of Color to Just Get Along.”)

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