everyone, before we launch into today’s topic, please do me a huge favor and
fill out this Fundraising
Perception Survey. It’ll take you about ten minutes. The survey is designed
by a group of fundraisers, including me, to gauge how folks are feeling about
the way we do fundraising in the sector. The survey is by no means perfect; it
is simply a temperature check on how the sector is perceiving fundraising in
general. You do not need to be a fundraising professional, or live in the US,
to fill it out. The survey will remain open the rest of this month, then will
be analyzed and the findings reported this summer. Please help spread the word.
I always joke that the nonprofit sector is a lot like Game of Thrones, but with less frontal nudity. Nonprofits also have power struggles, scheming, manipulations, and an urgent need to unite everyone around the common threat of zombies. But what if it were the opposite, what if Game of Thrones were more like nonprofits? Here are some possible scenarios, in no particular order (and sorry, not all major characters are included). Caution: MILD SPOILERS AHEAD. Join in the fun on Twitter using #GameOfNonprofit
The Walking Dead is back on TV. After last season’s finale, and this season’s opener, I am not sure I will continue watching. But zombies do make me think of funding dynamics, so that’s why I am bringing it up. In The Walking Dead, the zombies are scary, but they are the least dangerous. Zombies eat brains; they don’t have brains; they don’t have hidden motives and plans; you know exactly what a zombie will do. It’s the humans who are terrifying. Pushed into survival mode, they calculate, lie, betray, and refuse to use the Oxford Comma (#OxfordCommaForever). No one trusts anyone, and it’s more often than not that groups of humans end up killing one another before a zombie actually gets to munch on anyone’s flesh.
What does this have to do with funding dynamics? Well, there seems to be a pervasive lack of starting with trust between funders and nonprofits, and it’s affecting all of us and our abilities to survive and do our work. The default starting relationship between funders and nonprofits is one of suspicion of the latter by the former, which leads to funders enacting policies and practices designed to make nonprofits more “accountable,” such as restricted funding, individualized applications, bespoke budget forms, customized reports, and other things that drive us nonprofits nuts. This in turns leads to nonprofits’ hiding of information, especially about challenges, from funders, which in turn reinforces the suspicion. All this perpetuates a depressing cycle of waste of time and energy and lots of complaining, usually at bars, and all that could have been used to deliver programs and services. Continue reading “Trust-based grantmaking: What it is, and why it’s critical to our sector”
Hi everyone, life with a newborn has been going well. The baby has all these cute and amusing facial expressions, and he smells really nice, like general operating funds. In my sleep-deprived state, however, my memory is terrible, and I’ve been having more vivid and terrifying dreams. For instance, the other day I dreamed I was attacked by this aggressive possum who kept biting my pant legs and I kept trying to kick at it in futility. I woke up in cold sweat and remembered it was time to plan our annual gala.
So anyway, there’s no deep analysis in today’s post. Instead, I want to continue my belated birthday tradition of poorly edited ranting about people who get on my nerves. Last year, I ranted about board members who don’t give, people who suck at designing forms, the reply-all people, volunteers who only want to do stuff around the holidays, people who don’t respond to Doodle polls, the chronically late, gossipers, whiners, people who don’t follow through and are sucky team players, automatic naysayers, people who should work for for-profits, and those who don’t wash their damn dishes.
A while ago I wrote “Collective Impact: Resistance is Futile,” detailing the frustrations of CI and comparing it to The Borg on Star Trek. “Controlled by a hive mind that neutralizes any sort of individualism, and comprising billions of annexed individuals, [The Borg is] strong and terrifying, like an army of zombie robots, each with one eye that has a laser beam.” That was my first impression of Collective Impact, at least the way it’s being playing out in Seattle.
Years later, Collective Impact continues to spread, with mixed results and reactions. I talked to a funder on the East Coast last week, and she said her state is getting sick of the constant mention of Collective Impact. Meanwhile, in a Seattle, a colleague of mine said, “Collective Impact is like The Governor in The Walking Dead—seems nice, until you’re locked in a room with it.”
Talking to other nonprofit leaders, I’ve started noticing some patterns. There is definitely a sense of frustration of how CI has been manifesting in Seattle, and among leaders of color, that sense of frustration is even more palpable. We need to have an open discussion about how Collective Impact has been affecting diverse communities, and work toward some concrete actions that would make it more effective.
Hi everyone, Halloween is coming up this week. It’s one of my favorite holidays, along with Wombat Day, which is October 22nd (mark that on your calendar), so thank you to readers who sent in an entry to NWB’s Second Annual Scary Nonprofit Story contest. I asked/threatened two colleagues (Rachel Schachter of Temple Beth Am and Liahann Bannerman of United Way of King County) to review them with me, and we all had a great time. We judged the stories based on three elements: Humor, Creativity, and Scariness. It was difficult selecting the three winners, since the judges all had different definitions of what is scary in the nonprofit sector. If you didn’t “win,” please don’t be discouraged; the rankings are arbitrary, and we may have chugged a lot of pumpkin-spice-flavored ale while reading entries (and by “we,” I may just mean “I.”)