Funders, your grant application process may be perpetuating inequity

minibarA few weeks ago, a fellow Executive Director of color and a friend of mine, “Maria,” was nearly in tears after failing for a second time to get a small grant. She doesn’t drink, or else I would have offered access to the personal minibar that I keep in my office. A shot of Wild Turkey and a brisk walk always cheer me up after a grant rejection.

“I’m so tired,” Maria said over the phone, “I can’t continue putting in my own money to keep this afloat. Maybe nonprofit is just not for me. It’s too hard.” She had spent over 40 hours on these two grants, and I had spent over 12 hours facilitating part of a board retreat, helping develop the logic model, revising the budgets, editing the narratives, and providing moral support.

The grant was a one-time award for less than 10K, and she had been told repeatedly, by different people at this foundation, that her work was important and much needed.

The purpose of this story is not to call out a particular foundation, but to highlight the fact that the standard grant application process needs a deep overhaul because it is leaving behind too many communities. Continue Reading…

Funders, thank you for doing these 12 awesome things

Hi everyone, after talking to an ED of color who was on the verge of quitting the field after a horrible and demoralizing experience with a small grant that left her almost in tears, I started writing a post called “Funders, you are still very good looking, but your grant application process may be perpetuating inequity.” (It’s a working title).

That post will be published next Monday. I am trying to have a more balanced approach this year of not just pointing out weaknesses in our sector, but also highlighting awesome stuff that is going right. So while next week’s post will be critical of ineffective funding practices that disproportionately affect marginalized communities, this week’s post—written with help from the NWB Facebook community—will focus on examples of helpful things funders are doing.

Foundations, thank you for doing these things below. Or if you don’t do them, please start. We really appreciate it, because these things, as simple as some of them are, make it easier for us all to make the world better. Continue Reading…

21 time-saving tips for busy nonprofit professionals

One of the most common questions that I am asked is, “Dude, how do you manage to find time to write a regular blog post each week, while being a full-time ED, while also maintaining a family that includes a two-year-old, while also coordinating the underground Nonprofit Fight Club?”

Oh wait…uh, forget the last part. There is no underground Nonprofit Fight Club. Not at all.

As nonprofit warriors, most of us are strapped for time. Many of us have work that does not end when the day ends. Like artists working on a painting, there is always something else that we can improve, another donor to call, another report to read, another board member to email, another grant rejection notice to weep softly over as Boys II Men plays gently in the background (“Let’s don’t wait till the water runs dry…” It’s like they know me and my pain.)

Sometimes, when I hear my business friends complain about their 9-to-5, I just want to grab them by the collars of their shirts and yell, “You exquisite fool! I would trade my soul for a 9-to-5! Look at these empty, haunted eyes! These are the eyes of an exempt nonprofit staff! Is this what you want?!” Then I would slap them once or twice to drive the point home.

Anyway, since time is of the essence, I asked the Nonprofit With Balls Facebook Community for creative tips on how to save time during our day so that we can use even more minutes to make the world better. Or else go home before our partners break up with us and our children forget our faces. Here are the tips, in no order of importance or coherence; the ones in quotations are contributed by NWB readers. I hope that these suggestions are helpful. Please add yours to the comment section. Continue Reading…

The Nonprofit Hunger Games, and what we must do to end them

Katniss-Violence-Mockingjay-2A while ago, at a leadership seminar I was a participant in, I sat down at a random table and met a really nice older couple, along with another participant in the program, “Jane.” We all got to talking, and it turned out the two seniors were major donors to Jane’s organization who also happened to like Vietnamese food. I said, “Hey, I know a great Vietnamese restaurant! I’d love to take you sometime. Maybe the four of us could get lunch together.”

There was a 20-second stare down between Jane and me. The breeze died. Tumbleweeds rolled in the background, and a horse snorted nervously. Vultures circled overhead. “Yes…” said Jane, “I’ll connect all of us.” She never did. I ran into her at another event, and she introduced me to others as “The guy who tried to poach my donors.”

Why am I telling this story? One, to warn Jane that I will not rest until I find those donors, and I will have lunch with them, and I will persuade them to donate to my organization, and she won’t be able to stop me, because I will not sleep or eat until I share spring rolls with peanut sauce with them and a check is in my hands, muwahahahahahahah! MUWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Two, to illustrate the fact that the Nonprofit Hunger Games are going too far and are destructive to our sector’s collective mission of making the world better. Continue Reading…

20 quotes by famous people if they had worked in nonprofit

LVJ-67905-00003-4Hi everyone, I am back in the US after a rough 24-hour trip with a two-year-old that ended with us at US Customs declaring that we had brought back several packages of vegan deer jerky made from soy protein. “I have never heard anyone declaring that before,” said the officer, “did you try it before you bought it?” Of course we did, I said, disheveled and slightly offended. Everyone knows that only a fool would buy twenty bags of vegan deer jerky without trying some samples!

We are now all completely jetlagged, thanks to the baby, who does not care to get back to regular schedule. He wakes up at 3am with this soft, almost creepy whisper of “I’m hungry?” I’ve had about eight hours of sleep total over the last three days and have started hallucinating a little (“Yes, Your Holiness, I would love some easel paper…”)

All of that is to say I have no mental capacity to do a serious post today. Instead, here are some quotes I imagined from famous people if they worked in nonprofit. Add your suggestions to the comment section:

20 quotes from famous people if they had worked in nonprofit

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy attending meetings.” John Lennon

“You miss 100% of the grants you don’t write.” Wayne Gretzky 

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you still have to file your 990 each year.” Henry Ford Continue Reading…