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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Funders, this is the rainy day you have been saving up for

[Image description: A cat, grey and orange with a patch of white on their chest, sitting staring wide-eyed out the window, which is covered with lots of water droplets, indicating rain. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. I hope you are doing OK amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s scary. Take care of yourself while socially distancing. Most of us have never faced anything like this before, and we cannot take any chances. Cancel everything and stay home. I am in Seattle. My kids’ schools are closed for the next six weeks, possibly longer. It is going to be rough, but we are far luckier than most, as my partner and I both have flexible schedules.

A lot of folks are hurting right now. Small business owners, people without sick leave, gig workers, folks without childcare, those who have no emergency savings, incarcerated people, people experiencing homelessness, disabled folks, kids who rely on school for food, those who are undocumented—all face daunting challenges with no foreseeable end date. Meanwhile, nonprofits face drastic reductions in revenues because of canceled events and other factors, which means we are less able to help during a time when we are most needed.

Amidst all this, I got a message from a colleague saying that a foundation just informed its grantees that due to its corpus being affected by the stock market, in part because of the Coronavirus, it may cut down on funding, possibly not even be able to disburse committed funds.

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Funders, fund sabbaticals. Nonprofits, have a sabbatical policy.

[Image description: Three adorable puppies, asleep with their heads resting on the edge of what looks like a rope basket. Awwwwww. Pixabay.com]

It’s been over two months now since I stepped down as an executive director. I wish I could say that, unchained from the shackles of leadership, I would be able to relax and recharge like I had planned. I haven’t been able to yet. I have to unlearn so many strategies that I adopted to be an effective ED: Constant vigilance, emotion suppression, functioning on reduced sleep, abandonment of personal hygiene, etc.

And then there’s the guilt. I feel like I have abandoned my friends in the trenches. This guilt manifests in my trying to buy colleagues lunches and coffees, leading to conversations like this:

Me: Let me buy you lunch.

Colleague: That’s sweet, but you don’t need to do that.

Me: No, I insist! It’s the least I can do! You are facing so much! Let me pay!

Colleague: You are unemployed…

Me: Oh. You’re right. Can…can you buy me lunch…?

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10 ways you or your organization may be an askhole

[Image description: Three yellow ducklings, two facing the camera, one with a slightly quizzical look, like “Did you just ask me to come up with an entire grant proposal for your organization as part of this job application?” Pixabay.com]

A while back, I wrote a post called “Are you or your nonprofit or foundation being an askhole?” An askhole, according to Urban Dictionary, is someone who asks for advice, but then completely ignores it or does the opposite, or someone who asks a lot of inane questions. However, I would say there are other ways to be askholes. Namely, asking people to do stuff for free or making unreasonable requests. Here are some ways you or your organization may be an askhole:

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Trust-Based Philanthropy: Imagining better, more effective partnerships between funders and nonprofits

[Image description: A black dog and an orange striped cat nuzzling one another. Or the cat just slammed into the dog, I’m not really sure. Let’s assume they’re friends, because that would make this image a lot more relevant for this post, because if dogs and cats can be friends, then maybe funders and nonprofits can be more effective partners. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. Happy Lunar New Year. If 2020 has sucked for you so far, you have a fresh new start. May the Year of the Rat bring you joy, love, good health, multi-year general operating funds, and Oxford Commas.

Last week, I wrote “It’s 2020. Be bold or get the hell out of the way.” Our sector’s addiction to intellectualizing, equivocating, risk-avoiding, and time-wasting is lethal, and there are few places where this is more present than within philanthropy. Because of power dynamics, these philosophies and practices get passed down to nonprofits, rendering us all less effective, leading to the continuation of injustice. We need philanthropy to be bold.

Which is why I am so grateful that the Headwaters Foundation, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, and The Whitman Institute just launched the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project, “a five-year, peer-to-peer funder initiative with the goal of bringing greater vulnerability, transparency, and humility to philanthropy.”

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