Winter is coming, and the donor-centric fundraising model must evolve

nedHi everyone, this post is one of the toughest I have written. Mainly because I just watched the latest episode of Game of Thrones and now am feeling depressed and anxious about which character I like is next to die. Just kidding—kind of. This post is difficult to write because individual donor cultivation is complex, and I have been so focused on other areas of our sector that this seems like new territory for NWB. Today’s post, then, is more an invitation for discussion, and I hope fundraisers, and donors, will weigh in with thoughts and counterpoints.

Over the last few years, we have been sharpening our fundraising knives on the whetting stone of donor-centrism in order to carve into the gluten-free loaf of equity and social justice. (This may just be the worst metaphor I’ve written since the Vitamix of summits blending the margaritas of community engagement). Because of the constancy and complexity of fundraising, the brilliant development professionals in our field—Pamela Grow and Mary Cahalane being two that I learn from—have created a model where the donor is at the center. It is not about us and our organizations and programs, but about the donors and their relationships with our missions. I’ve been making sure donors are thanked quickly and in personalized ways and are constantly kept in the loop, for example. And I’ve been learning to say “you” way more often in all my communications, both at work, and even at home—e.g., “YOU do the dishes!” Continue Reading…

12 steps for writing a kick-ass blog post

monkey-blogHi everyone, and valar dohaeris to all the Game of Thrones fans. A few people have been asking me, “Vu, what’s your process for writing your blog posts each week?” So today, we’re going to take a break from normal nonprofit topics, and I’m going to meta-blog, which is to blog about blogging—which is nearly as fun as meta-drinking, which is drinking about drinking (It makes more sense if you have a few drinks).

But first, why should you blog? Blogging may seem archaic to younger people, with your “Snapchat” and your “Instagram” and your “Myspace,” but blogs are totally awesome when they don’t suck. If you or your organization aspire to be a “thought leader,” a consistently-updated blog is a must. With society’s short attention span and constant barrage of information, having a platform you control to deliver your opinions is critical, and social media are great for sharing content, not hosting it.

To have a killer blog, though, you need these three things: One, topics people actually care about and that you actually know enough stuff about to actually write. Two, consistency (I always post every single Monday, come rain or shine, or stomach flu, except holidays, and that’s mainly because people are off work so no one will be reading); for blogging, I would argue that quantity/consistency is more important than quality. And three, blood, sweat, tears, your soul, and the occasional anguished silent scream on your balcony at 2 or 3am. Continue Reading…

“Where the Sustainable Things Are” and other nonprofit children’s books

sendak1Trying to be a good father, I read to my two-year-old son every day. And also feed him daily. Since he turns two this Friday, I thought I would write him some more children’s stories. I want to give him a leg-up early just in case he wants to pursue a career in our field. Here are the texts for four new books. Of course, these are just drafts; they’ll be much better once I find an illustrator. Check them out and let me know what you think. I hope these books will become classics that parents who work in nonprofit will read to their kids each night.

The 990 Dance

Stomp your feet,cow
wring your hands,
everybody ready for the 990 dance.
Bow to the bookkeeper,
bow to your board.
Bow to the accounting firm just outsourced
With an “eek!” and a “yikes!” and a “sigh sigh sigh…”
Discover your overhead is way too “high.”
Analyze your revenues,
analyze your spending
Do whatever the accountant is recommending
Hide your frustration,
sharpen your senses
Allocate some admin as program expenses
With a “blegh” and an “argh” and an “ack ack ack”
The filing is done, but next year it’ll be back Continue Reading…

Are you guilty of Fakequity? If so, what to do about it.

 

onionAll right everyone, we need to talk about Equity. I know, I’ve talked a lot about it, including “Is Equity the new coconut water;” “The Equity of risk and failure,” “Which comes first, the Equity Egg, or the Accountability Chicken;” and “The inequitable distribution of hope.” (Yeah, you better hoard all the hope you can get right now!)

But, Equity is like exercise: It’s exhausting, sweaty, sometimes makes us feel bad about yourselves when we look in the mirror, but is good for us to do regularly, especially to 90’s Hip-Hop. The 90’s Hip-Hop part is optional.

Today, I want to talk about Fakequity, a term and concept coined by two of my colleagues, Heidi K. Schillinger of Equity Matters and Erin Okuno of the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (SESEC). They created this chart that shows the continuum from Fakequity to Equity Champion. These two have a good sense of humor, shown by the obsession with onions on their newly-launched Facebook page. Continue Reading…

Capacity Building 9.0: Fund people to do stuff, get out of their way

fishingSome people think capacity building is boring. Well, I think it’s sexy, and I’ve spent many hours writing romantic poems about it: “Can Love’s arrows seek truest rapture/Without the quiver of Infrastructure?/Can e’er Equity take flight and sing/Save with steadfast Capacity ‘neath her wings?” (What, like your hobbies are SOOO much more interesting).

Since most of my work is now focused on building capacity of communities-of-color-led nonprofits, I’m glad that there seems to be a new resurgence of people talking about capacity building. Here’s a great paper from Grantcraft with cool concrete recommendations for funders  including a brief discussion on the importance of general operating funds for capacity building. And here’s one from the TCC Group on what they call “Capacity Building 3.0.” According to this briefing paper, Capacity Building 1.0 is about individuals, Capacity Building 2.0 is about nonprofit institutions, and 3.0 is about the entire nonprofit ecosystem, which includes funders, businesses, even the government.

These white papers are all written by very intelligent people who have thought long and hard about the critical role that capacity building plays in our ability to do our work. After reading through them and other articles on the topic, I want to offer some reflections and recommendations. Continue Reading…