Over the weekend, I am sure you are aware, another Black person was killed by the police. Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta. He was asleep when the police woke him up and murdered him, like the police murdered Breonna Taylor while she was asleep in her own home. The list of names of Black people being murdered by the police keeps growing, even while we’re marching. Over here in Seattle, there is a strong call to defund the police and decriminalize Seattle, with many people, including me, signing on to this petition asking to halve the police budget in Seattle and investing that money in mental health, housing, and other services.
This moment in history is a test for nonprofit and philanthropy, and unfortunately, I don’t think we are doing very well. Our sector has been frozen for so long by fear. Nonprofits fear not having enough resources to keep going. Foundations fear what will happen when they increase their payout rate beyond the pathetic minimum 5%. Fundraisers fear upsetting donors when they bring up difficult topics like white supremacy. Staff fear their boards. Boards fear giving staff too much power. The entire sector is fearful of political engagement. And most people, me included, fear losing their livelihoods and means of feeding their families if they rock the boat too much.
Hi everyone. Last week I was in Minneapolis for the GEO (Grantmakers for Effective Organizations) conference. I was there primarily to give a short talk called “Want to Help Communities of Color? Stop Trickle-Down Community Engagement” and avoid work. But I stuck around for most of the conference, mainly because funder conferences always have way better food and booze. I was trying to hoard appetizers, having developed this unconscious fear of being in places traditionally reserved for funders. If I was going to get found out as an unwashed nonprofit Wildling and asked to leave, by golly I was going to take as many grilled artichoke hearts with me as I could.
But then I realized that my organization, Rainier Valley Corps, is considered by many as a funder. Instead of giving financial support to organizations, though, we send resources in the form of full-time fellows of color, whom we train, to develop the capacity of host organizations led by communities of color. They apply to be a host org. No wonder these past two years everyone has been treating me nice, and no wonder I’ve suddenly become 27% more attractive to most people, despite being married and having two kids and basically having let myself go.Continue reading “7 hopeful trends in philanthropy”
A few weeks ago, I gave a keynote speech to a large group of youth involved in philanthropy, along with a few of their parents and mentors. My topic was “The Role of Equity in Philanthropy.” It was awesome that we had kids ages 8 to 24 engaged in grantmaking and other aspects of philanthropy. They were smart and hungry and full of hope and possibilities, bright minds not yet beaten down to a haggard shell haunted by endless grant rejections and complex community dynamics and the sudden dawning realization of the ephemerality of existence, cowering in the supply closet on a fold-out cot, cradling a stuffed unicorn while Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” plays softly from a phone.
(What, like your Friday nights are soooo much more exciting.)
“As budding philanthropists,” I said to the youth, “you have probably seen the illustration of the difference between Equality and Equity. You know, the drawing of those kids standing on those boxes looking over a fence at people playing baseball.”
As if on cue, two kids came up to the stage with a drawing they had done earlier of the iconic image on easel paper. I stuck it to the lectern. “Get used to this image,” I said, “Have it burned into your mind. Because you will not be able to avoid it. It will haunt your dreams.”Continue reading “Why Equality is actively harmful to Equity”