Category Archives: Race, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion

Why Impact-Per-Dollar is a terrible, harmful way to measure nonprofit effectiveness

[Image description: A fluffy brown baby highland cow, with shaggy fur over their eyes. They are adorable and have nothing to do with this post. Someone just told me to look up baby highland cows and I did and found them to be so cute! This picture is from Pixabay.com, but look up “baby highland cow” on Google Images for more cuteness.”

Hi everyone. I hope you had a relaxing Thanksgiving break (if you’re in the US). I know it’s hard to get back to work after a long weekend, which is why I am here in bed eating leftover mashed potatoes and listening to early-90s Hip Hop. Just remember, though, that your work makes a difference (Read “Welcome back to work, you sexy Jedi unicorn,” if you need a quick pick-me-up)

Unfortunately, however, the difference you are making is complex, which means it is challenging to measure. And this explains the crappy metrics of effectiveness our sector has been subjected to. Chief among them, of course, is overhead rate, one of the most insipid and destructive zombie concepts ever unleashed on nonprofits, as I and others have written about repeatedly (See: “How to deal with uninformed nonprofit watchdogs around the holidays.”)

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Are You Guilty of Equity Offset?

[Image description: Two lemurs, an adult lemur with a little baby lemur riding on their back. They both are facing the camera. I am not sure what kind of lemurs these are, maybe ring tailed? The adult has white and grey fur, while the baby seems to have white and light brown fur. Pixabay.com]

This week I got a text message from a foundation program officer colleague talking about “when philanthropy takes equity seriously but not really because they ask the POC to be THE equity person when they are already doing four jobs.” This reminds me of “Equity Offset,” a term my friend James Lovell may have invented when he and some colleagues were discussing the phenomenon of nonprofits or foundations bringing in well-regarded speakers or equity consultants to signal that the organizations are “woke,” and this then allows them to continue being inequitable.

Equity Offset is like carbon offset. Carbon offset, in simplistic terms, works like this: Companies or individuals pay for trees to be planted, or parks to be cleaned up, or other things that reduce carbon or other greenhouse gas emissions, in order to offset their own negative environmental impact. This allows them to basically continue polluting while feeling less guilty.

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We need to stop joking about the sad state of retirement security in nonprofit. It’s no longer funny.

[Image description: An exhausted cat sleeping with their head on a wooden platform. They are white with some gray hair on their head, and pink ears. Their eyes are closed. I wonder if they’re dreaming. Do cats dream? Excuse me while I spend the next hour googling whether research has been done regarding whether and which animals dream. Pixabay.com]

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the NAF Facebook community, “What are creative ways you are thinking of in terms of retirement? Me, collecting kitchen gadgets in hope that these cherry pitter and pickle grabber etc., will appreciate in value!” The comments that came back were hilarious, because this is a group of brilliant, witty, and extremely good-looking folks. Here are a few:

  • “I intend to die in whatever museum I’m working in, and have my corpse be mistaken for part of the exhibit program. Until a century later, when an intern is cleaning they figure out that I’m that curator who disappeared. It’s the price of fame.”
  • “Dumpster dive former board members homes.”
  • “Relying on my love of the outdoors, because I’ll be living in a tent. When I’m ready to die, it’ll be with honor- just wandering into the forest and letting the coyotes eat me.”
  • “I plan on selling black market pies at the train station. Not kidding. I make excellent pie.”
  • “Work until I die – in debt”
  • “Commune / small house community with all of the other women I know who gave their best years to the cause and never got enough in salary or retirement benefits to be able to “plan” for retirement.”
  • “I feel like Pokémon will still being a thing in like 40 years, so hopefully I can sell the cards that I hoarded in 1999 to help make the student loan payments I’ll have until I die.”
  • “I’ve thought about dying at my desk”
  • “Counting on society to totally collapse before then, so currency and debt will be meaningless.”
  • “I plan on dying on the phone line, most likely in the middle of an ask.”
  • “My retirement plan is climate change and/or the total collapse of late stage capitalism.”
  • “I will die in my broken office chair.”
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More Nonprofit Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

[Image description: Three dogs, draped in white sheets, dressed like ghosts. There is a jack-o-lantern between two of the pups. They are outside in what looks like a forest, all look adorable. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, Halloween, my favorite holiday, is this week. So here are some scary stories that are guaranteed to send tingles up your spine. Make sure you don’t read these alone. Also, if you’re looking for nonprofit-themed Halloween costumes, check out #NonprofitHalloweenCostumes on Twitter (“Dress in yellow clothing. Wear a brown hat. Say things like ‘We will triple the number of people served.’ You are a Strategic Flan.”)

The Chair

There was clearly something wrong with the chair. The team had received it from an anonymous donor. It showed up in the office one day, a shiny black executive swivel, ergonomic, with a headrest. Right away, it gave off a strange vibe that the team had never felt before. Staff who sat on it complained that it made them feel uneasy. Someone suggested they bring in a local medium who was known to be able to purify negative energy in objects and rooms.  

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Gatekeeper Fragility, aka Meta-Fragility, the Fragility Around Others Being Too Fragile

[Image description: Two super cute wombats, eating vegetables from a silver feeding bowl. It looks like there’s a corn on the cob, and some sliced radishes. The wombats have their eyes nearly closed, as if in blissful contentment. They want you to get your flu shot if you can but haven’t already. Image by David Clode on Unsplash.com]

Hi everyone, just a quick reminder that I’m having a Facebook Live update/AMA at 12:30pm PST on 10/22, so join if you’re free. Also, October 22nd is World Wombat Day, which I am proposing we turn into World Wombat and Flu Shot Day, a magical holiday where we send our friends pictures of wombats to remind them to get their yearly flu shots (Mark my words, this tradition WILL catch on). The flu killed 80,000 people in the US last season; please get flu shots for yourself and your family if you can.

A couple of years ago, I was discussing potential keynote topics with a group of conference planners. “How about fundraisers’ role in addressing systemic injustice,” I said, “including the need to have courageous conversations with donors about difficult topics like slavery, colonization, wealth disparity, and reparation? I’ll start with some light humor, maybe a few pictures of adorable kittens, and then BAM—racism!”

“Uh,” said the planners, “I’m not sure our members are ready for…that…” There was an awkward silence. I ate some BBQ chips. In the foreground, some tumbleweeds rolled by. A horse snorted nervously.

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