We need to rethink the idea of diversified funding

[Image description: Five little ducklings with an adult duck. The ducklings are light yellow with grey stripes. Image by Alex Smith on Unsplash]

Hi everyone. Please grab your favorite beverage and sit down, because we need to discuss the idea of “diversified funding.” It is one of those concepts—like putting out campfires fully and not microwaving metal—that is just taken as gospel. Funders ask about it all the time. Development staff create plans around it. Fundraising gurus hold workshops about it. EDs look at what percentage of their revenues come from grants, and if it’s too high, start panicking.  

I don’t like it. I think the whole concept is problematic and it’s time we move away from it. Yes, I know the main argument for having diversified revenues. What if you rely too much on a foundation, and that foundation decides—like foundations often do—to shift priorities? Well, you and your nonprofit are screwed. Just like with buying stocks (whatever those are)—it’s bad to have all your eggs in one basket and whatnot.

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Answers on grant reports if nonprofits were brutally honest with funders

[Image description: A cute little raccoon, standing in the grass, one paw raised. They look serious. But so cute! Admit it, this is one of the cutest raccoons you’ve ever seen. Not sure this has anything to do with this post. Just go with it. Image by Gary Bendig of Unsplash]

Hi everyone, this Friday is my birthday. If you want to help me celebrate, please donate to Mujer Al Volante, an awesome organization with the mission of helping “immigrant women become independent and empowered through obtaining a driver’s license, financial sustainability, and community support.” Mujer Al Volante does amazing and important work; thanks for supporting it. Don’t worry about me; I got myself some dark chocolate and a 3-pound bucket of Maldon salt, so I’m good until next year.

Grant reports. We all love to hate them. A reason is that like most things related to grants, we’ve learned to tell funders what we think they want to hear. Imagine if we could be honest, though:

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White development colleagues, we need to talk about fundraiser fragility

[Image description: Two fluffy yellow baby chickens standing in the grass. So cute! So small! So fragile! Image by Lolame on Pixabay]

Hi everyone. This post today will likely ruffle some feathers. I only ask that you read it with an open mind, and maybe while eating a bar of dark chocolate (it reduces stress). If you’re a regular reader of my ramblings, you know that I frequently point out various flaws in our field. I do this because I love our sector and the people in it, and I believe in our potential to be truly transformative, to be able to help create the kind of inclusive, equitable world we know is possible. We cannot achieve that potential if we become complacent or self-satisfied with the way things are.

Most of my criticisms have been met with openness, even in disagreement. When I point out how evaluation is so white and problematic, (for examples here, here, and here), colleagues in data and evaluation engage in thoughtful and constructive dialogs. When I provide hard feedback about capacity building (here, here, and here), colleagues in capacity building welcome the discussions.

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Vaccines for major donors, and how our fundraising practices perpetuate unethical behaviors and inequity

[Image description: A syringe filled with a green liquid, labeled “vaccine,” its long needle with one droplet at the end, hovering over a spread of $500-bills. Damn, this is a great image for this post! In case you’re curious, it takes me 15 to 45 minutes to find the right picture and caption it for each post. This image is by geralt on Pixabay]

Hi everyone, quick announcement before we begin. BIPOC fundraisers, join Community-Centric Fundraising on Thursday, February 11 at 2pm PT for conversation and camaraderie. This is the second of a three-part monthly series. Register here. The series is for Black, Indigenous, and people of color, thanks white allies for understanding.

This post will likely upset many people, so please take a CBD gummy or make some calming tea or something before you proceed further. By now, you may have heard about the Overlake Hospital scandal where donors who gave $10,000 or more were offered appointments to get vaccinated. Unfortunately, this is happening across the country, including in Rhode Island, Kansas, New Jersey, Virginia, and Florida. These breaches of ethics are absolutely infuriating, especially considering the inequity. White people are immunized at greater rates, even though Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people have been dying at significantly higher rates.

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Why we need to drop the idea of 100% board giving

[Image description: A hand putting folded money into a ceramic piggy bank. The piggy is white with pink ears and decorated with painted flowers. Image by horstkoenemund on Pixabay]

A few years ago, I led a Vietnamese-community-focused nonprofit as a youthful executive director filled with equal parts optimism and adult acne. I remember though one time at a board meeting trying to get board members to donate. “Please,” I said, “just give something. Anything! Even $5! I just need us to be able to tell funders that we have 100% board giving!” The elders stared back blankly at me. I was desperate. “OK,” I said, “how about I give you each $10, then you donate $5 back, and you make a profit of $5!” I was joking, but also kind of not.

The idea of “100% board giving” is one of those concepts that somehow have become entrenched in our sector, an unwritten truth that we don’t question. To this day, I still see funders asking about it on grant applications. Fundraisers, meanwhile, whisper warnings to one another: “There was one organization that only achieved 50% board giving. Their donations eventually all dried up. If you walk by the office, you can hear faint ghostly echoes of weeping from the development team.”

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