Tag Archives: grantwriting

Philanthropy and the Destructive Illusion of “Leveling the Playing Field”

[Image description: Closeup of a person kneeling on a race track, as if in preparation to run in a race. They are wearing shorts and holding a baton. Image from Pixabay.com]

A few months ago a program officer and I were talking about the lack of funding that goes to communities-of-color-led nonprofits (only about 10% of philanthropic dollars go to organizations of color). He shook his head in sympathy and frustration, sipping on his coffee. “There has to be a way to level the playing field,” he said. This was probably the third time that quarter I had heard that phrase uttered by a funder. 

This concept of “Leveling the Playing Field” is very present in our sector in our society, like cats or skinny jeans, and we don’t really question it at all. We assume that it is a good thing. If we just make it so that competitions are “fair,” then the people/groups with the most merit, the best ideas and proposals, will win. If we can just make the field more even, then everyone will be able to play the game and everything is good. 

This philosophy has led some thoughtful funders to accept applications in Spanish or other languages, accept handwritten applications, or accept non-written formats such as videos or photos (Although, how effective is this last one when my one-man show, The Agony and Ecstasy of Capacity Building, has never resulted in funding?). 

Those practices are great, but can they level the playing field? Can the funding field ever be “level”? Continue reading

Answers on grant proposals if nonprofits were brutally honest, part 2

[Image description: An adorable red panda, staring directly at the camera with its piercing, soulful eyes. It looks like a raccoon This red panda has nothing to do with the content of this post, but every post can be made better by inserting a picture of a red panda. Image by Marcel Langthim of Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. It’s been a rough few weeks, but I’m starting to feel hopeful again. Before we begin this week’s not-serious-at-all post, thank you to all the monthly patrons of this blog on Patreon. We are more than halfway to our goal of 250 patrons. Once we reach that, I’ll eliminate all the random ads from this blog (The ads on the side will remain). Also, I’m working on recording blog posts for patrons so you can listen to them while running or cooking or something, but it’s been rough, because hearing my own voice creeps me out. I’ll work on it.

Meanwhile, please go on Grantadvisor.org and write anonymous reviews of foundations you’ve interacted with, or if you are a funder, encourage your grantees to do so. It’s like a Yelp for foundations, and the more we use it, the better and more useful it becomes.

A few months ago, I wrote “Answers on grants proposals if nonprofits were brutally honest with funders.” Well, that was just Part 1. Here is Part 2. Thank you to nonprofit colleagues, who will remain nameless, for helping inspire these questions and responses.  Continue reading

Answers on grant proposals if nonprofits were brutally honest with funders

[Image description: Closeup of a raccoon, resting on a branch, its head on one arm, staring directly at the camera. Cute little creature. Not sure if this adorable raccoon has anything to do with the content of this post, but come on, look at those big eyes. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. Before we start, if you haven’t written a review of a foundation on GrantAdvisor.org, or asked your grantees to review you, please take a moment to do so. GrantAdvisor was launched a few months ago to address a pervasive problem in our sector. No, not the mice problem, although that too is pervasive (#NonprofitMiceProblem). I’m talking about the imbalance of power between funders and nonprofits, which leads to a lot of no-good, very bad things such as the lack of honest communication and feedback between funders and nonprofits.

One area where this shows up is on grant applications. It’s not that we nonprofits lie when writing proposals, it’s just that…we’ve been trained to tell funders exactly what we think y’all want to hear, sugarcoating everything in jargon and BS. 

A while ago, a colleague imagined what our answers would be like on grant proposals if we nonprofits were allowed to be completely and brutally honest. Here are some of these honest responses, with credit to colleagues across the field, most of whom understandably prefer to remain anonymous; anything in quotes is someone else’s direct words. Apologies in advance for the sarcastic, possibly biting tone; the entire sector has been on edge lately: Continue reading