10 archaic and harmful funding practices we can no longer put up with

[Image description: A ring-tailed lemur, staring directly at the camera, looking very annoyed. Normally, these pictures have little to do with the content of the post, but in this case, this is how I look when I hear about inane, harmful funding practices, like the RFP that requires 20 paper copies to be hand-delivered, during a global quarantine…for $3500! No. Just no. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. I hope you are hanging in there. I’ve heard from so many colleagues of the devastating impact that COVID has had on organizations and people. Here are a few quotes from across the sector:

“My agency that serves people with disabilities is closed, except for essential staff. The other approximately 90 staff have been furloughed without pay or laid off.”

“I work at a food bank that serves people living with HIV and other serious illnesses, the majority of them are seniors. Demand is at an all-time high as clients are losing work or family/caregiving support. Our program is mostly run by volunteers, and we have lost hundreds of hours per week of volunteer support. We had to cancel three fundraising events and dozens of food drives, which would have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in food and cash. So basically demand is increasing sharply while funding and volunteer support is decreasing even more sharply. Many staff are immunocompromised and/or caring for children without childcare while trying to keep the place running.”

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It’s time to completely reimagine the role of foundation program officers

[Image description: A fluffy white puppy is hugged and kissed a fluffy white kitten with a graying tail and ears. They are both very fluffy and cute. The kitten has their arms around the puppy’s neck. While normally this image would have nothing to do with the content of the post, this time the kitten and puppy hugging is a great symbol for a closer partnership between nonprofit leaders and foundation program officers. Pixabay.com]

Over a decade—and a million white hairs—ago I ran an after-school program serving low-income kids. The program went well, until one day when two-third of the kids didn’t show up. This was demoralizing. The program had started gradually decreasing in attendance, but this was the worst it had been. I literally slid down a wall and sat on the floor after the day ended, feeling like a complete loser. Strangely enough, the first person I thought about calling was one of our funders. So I called her. “Muriel,” I said, “most of the kids didn’t show up today! We are terrible human beings! Maybe you should just take the money back and give it to a program that isn’t garbage!” 

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Funders, you want to help build organizational capacity? Then stop trying to build organizational capacity and just give Multi-Year General Operating Dollars (MYGOD!)

[Image description: A super ridiculously cute tiny white kitten in a big reed basket! They are sitting peacefully in the basket and looking upward with these giant round eyes! This is the fluffiest, most adorable baby kitten ever. This kitten has nothing to do with capacity building, but you’re welcome. Image from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, before we tackle today’s fun and exciting topic, a couple of announcements.

First, our administration is stepping up its concerted attacks on immigrants and refugees, preparing for further ICE raids to terrorize families and children. Here are few things you can do in response. Please take some time to do them.

Second, my organization continues to grow, so now we’re hiring an Organizational Learning Coordinator. This is an early-career position for those who love data and evaluation and learning and writing about all the cool stuff RVC and our partners are doing and the impact its having. Please check it out, and pass it along to your networks. Must love Oxford Commas.

Third, I will be going to Vietnam for the next three weeks. I wrote several blog posts in advance, so the blog schedule remains the same. However, since I had to write them quickly, the quality may have been affected. Apologies in advance.

I had written earlier about the Capacity Paradox, where foundations will not invest in an organization unless that organization has strong capacity, which it can’t build strong capacity unless foundations invest in it. It is a terrible Catch-22 that has screwed over many organizations, especially organizations led by marginalized communities. But now, there is another Capacity Paradox, where funders’ hyper focus on capacity building is precisely the thing that prevents capacity from being built.

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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.

***

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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NAF, GPA, and GrantAdvisor Team Up to Launch Fundr, a Tinder-like App to Match Nonprofits and Foundations

[image description: A white puppy and a greyish-white kitten are standing side-by-side on a bench with a black seat and a back made of two stained wooden planks. They look concerned but are super cute and fluffy. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, I have super exciting news. As some of you know, for the past year, I have been on the Leadership Panel of GrantAdvisor.org, which is basically a TripAdvisor-type site where nonprofits can anonymously provide feedback about funders. So far the site has had over 1700 reviews of nearly 600 foundations across the US. This is a great way for foundations to get honest feedback, and for nonprofits to be able to help one another out. It takes only five minutes or so to write a review, so please write one today.

Anyway, after analyzing reviews and talking to various sectors leaders, a common complaint we saw was that the grantmaking process is too cumbersome and time-consuming. So after talking to some tech folks, Nonprofit AF, GrantAdvisor, and Grant Professionals Association have been working on an app that will revolutionize the way we do things. There is a full press-release, but I know that only three of you would click on it, so I’m just going to copy and paste it below. It’ll take a few months for the app to “get out of beta,” but I am excited, and I hope you are too.

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