What nonprofit and philanthropy must do now to help ensure this nightmare won’t happen again

[Image description: Black and brown protesters, all wearing covid masks, holding up signs, including a large one that says “We who believe in freedom cannot rest. Ella Baker.” Others hold up signs that say “prosecute killer cops,” “end police brutality,” and “Black lives matter, Black trans lives matter.” Image by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash.]

Happy Monday, everyone! The happiest I can recall in a while! I was able to sleep soundly for the first time in a long time, and my stress acne magically cleared up and has been replaced by hope acne. (Look, even my sense of humor is returning!) Before I forget, Crystal Hayling, ED of the Libra Foundation, and I will be having an informal conversation this week, November 10th at 1pm PT, to debrief philanthropy and anything else that we want to discuss. We didn’t plan any talking points, so half of the conversation may just be about our favorite shows, who knows, join us.

I know that most of us are taking some time to celebrate this political and moral victory. Some of us are still in disbelief, and like a large multi-year pledged donation that hasn’t been paid, we can’t really believe that this is real until our new president and vice president are sworn in on inauguration day. I too am a jumble of emotions: hope, catharsis, joy, but also hypervigilance and fear at the backlash that may be coming.

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Privilege, power, and personal conflicts: The forces preventing change in nonprofit and philanthropy

[Image description: A crowed of protesters, most wearing masks covering their noses and mouths. They are holding signs, with prominent ones saying “Black trans lives matter,” “racism is the real virus,” “silence is violence,” “and enough is enough.” Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. Apologies, this post will likely be long, poorly edited, and not have as many links to sources and I would like. I haven’t slept much, and even with a partner who is an experienced educator, parenting and crisis-schooling two small children have been fun but challenging.

As the protests against our deeply anti-Black, extremely racist systems continue, I am glad to see that foundations and nonprofits are getting more engaged in the conversations about how our sector must change. Invest more in Black-led organizations. Support grassroots orgs working to enable marginalized communities to vote and elect more women of color into office. Analyze the diversity at our own organizations and DO SOMETHING about the pervasiveness of senior leaders being white and front-line staff being BIPOC. Change the way fundraising is done to be less white-donor-centered. Increase payout rates beyond the minimum 5% and give Multi-Year General Operating Funds (MYGOD)!

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Foundations, knock it off with the philanthropic Sophie’s Choices and increase your payout

[Image description: A very cute corgi, lying down, looking cute but exhausted. This corgi has nothing to do with this post. I just got worked up writing it and decided I need to look at pictures of of puppies to calm me down. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, I hope you are doing ok. I know things are rough everywhere. Last week I talked to an executive director of an international organization. His team faces funding cuts, potential furloughs and layoffs, and a pervasive sense of anxiety. “But we are fortunate,” he said, “transportation systems have been challenged, so there are workers in India walking for hundreds of miles to return to their villages from the city. They barely have money or food, and they’re just walking. Their villages don’t have jobs either, but they have nowhere else to go.”

Luckily, we have many funders stepping up. I want to give a hearty shout out to Open Society Foundations, who just committed $130M in funding for covid relief for many people both in the United States and across the globe. This is amazing! Thank you, OSF, for all the important work you do and the many critical missions that you support.

Unfortunately, I hear rumors that this additional $130M funding is not coming from OSF’s $18Billion in reserves, but from central leadership asking program officers to return up to half of their current 2020 grant budgets to be reallocated to this new fund. Meaning they would have to take back funds that are already committed or would be going to groups doing vital work, who are already facing so many difficulties. Those orgs would be devastated!

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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 funders take nonprofit leadership turnover seriously

[Image description: A blue frog with black spots all over, looking to the left, while standing on some sort of mossy branch or something. They look serious. Very serious. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. I have almost exactly one month left before the sun sets on my time as an executive director. (If you want to sound majestic and full of gravitas, just add “the sun sets on [someone]’s time” to anything; for instance, “We have ten minutes before the sun sets on our time together at this dive bar.” Thanks, Lion King.) I explained why I and a whole lot of other leaders, especially leaders of color, are leaving here.

Last week, I got an email from a colleague, a woman of color ED, asking me to call her back. There was no context. I knew what this meant. It meant she was leaving her position and wanted to give me a courtesy notice before the announcement came out. I was right. “I’m tired,” she said; I could hear the weariness in her voice. We were silent for a moment. I didn’t know what to say that didn’t seem trite or patronizing. “I’m sorry,” I said.  

Quietly, nonprofit leaders are leaving their posts. And most of us ED/CEOs swear off ever doing it again. And younger folks, it seems, are increasingly reluctant to take up the mantle. Who the hell can blame them? The ED’s job has always been like Sisyphus pushing the fundraising boulder up a hill, but while the eagle of program impact is pecking out his liver; the Cerberus of board, staff, and community expectations is chasing after him; and he’s trying to avoid looking at the Medusa of cash flow projections.

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