At the beginning of the pandemic, I texted a friend, an executive director, to see how he was doing. “I share this in confidence,” he texted back, “current sitch, watching Frozen 2 in bed with [my daughter].” He sent over a picture of his TV, on which Anna was huddled against a rock, despondent, about to launch into a song about doing the next right thing. When everything was chaotic and stressful, it was nice to imagine my friend spending time with his little one.
It’s been more than a year since the pandemic started. All of us are overwhelmed and traumatized. And unfortunately, I still see many of us falling into the same terrible habits we had during the Before Times, when we met for lunch and dinner, orchestra music swelling as we embraced one another in slow-motion, golden sunlight burnishing our eyes into twinkling coins. (At least, that’s how I remember it).
It is not a secret that I am not a big fan of the way grantmaking has been done in our sector. Often, the foundations who claim to be aligned with equity continue to use truly crappy funding practices that perpetuate inequity. As a reminder, only 7% of philanthropic dollars are targeted toward Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and POC communities, and 3% go toward serving disabled people, according to this summary by Candid. Trans communities, meanwhile, receive only .015% “or a penny for every $100.”
If foundations are serious about moving funding to the communities that are most affected by systemic injustice, then their funding philosophies and practices must evolve. My previous organization RVC and I collaborated to develop this Equitable Grantmaking Continuum, based on our experience working with grassroots organizations led by and serving marginalized communities these past several years, and taking a few pointers from efforts such as Trust-Based Philanthropy and Grantadvisor.org. Here’s the full-version, and here’s the one-pager you can print out and hang on your wall. Use this tool to analyze how your foundation is doing and then start taking action. Here are things to keep in mind:
Hi everyone. A couple of things before we start. If you can spare it, here are some places to donate to help people in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana who are severely affected by winter storms. Colleagues in these states, I’m thinking of you.
If you are free this Wednesday, February 24th, from 10am to 11am PT, attend this important conversation on the California Black Freedom Fund, a $100M, 5-year initiative “to ensure that Black power-building and movement-based organizations have the sustained investments and resources they need to eradicate systemic and institutional racism.” I’m glad to see this, and I hope this sparks other funders to invest significantly in Black organizing and power-building.
A concept in philanthropy that I find interesting is “sunsetting,” when a foundation expends its endowment at a rate that will eventually deplete its funds, leading to the foundation closing down. I always appreciate when funders have the courage to do this. So many societal problems could be resolved more effectively if more foundations would spend more now to solve these problems instead of hoarding resources, which allows entrenched issues to persist.
Valentine’s Day is this coming Sunday. Even without an endless pandemic, it can be challenging for people in relationships to keep the spark alive. So here are some tips, written with nonprofit/philanthropy professionals in mind, and not just for Valentine’s Day, but every day. As usual, please use what you find helpful and ignore the rest. Add your own advice in the comment section.
A few years ago, I discovered a personal pattern: Anytime that I had five or more consecutive days off, I would immediately get sick the first three days. Talking to other nonprofit leaders, I found out it was not unusual. It’s as if our bodies were so busy dealing with one crisis after another at our jobs that we just didn’t have time to get sick, and it catches up to us all at once when we have a moment to breathe.
Last week was the inauguration of US President Biden and Vice President Harris. I don’t think any of us believe that having a new US president will instantly solve everything. White supremacy and injustice will not end just because there’s a new administration. But this change at least allows us a moment to catch our breath, to take a break, and maybe get out of survival mindset long enough to assess how to best move forward.