World Dance Party, what it is, and why our society needs more of it

WDPHi everyone, I am battling a cold right now. I just swallowed two whole cloves of garlic and a shot of fermented pickle brine and some bourbon. (What, like your natural cold remedy is sooo much better!) All that is to say I am feeling woozy and have no clue how coherent this post will be.

Today, I want to delve into the need for us as a sector to create opportunities for organic community connections. Since I am going to have another baby arriving in March, I have been thinking of what sort of community I want my kids to grow up in, besides obviously one where hover boards are invented and butternut squash is not on every menu. In many ways, my wife and I are incredibly lucky to be surrounded by a really awesome community. When Viet was born two years ago, our friends formed a meal train, delivering food each week so that we didn’t have to cook for a month. Others handed us bags of used baby clothing, books, and toys. With both sets of our parents being so far away, this community of friends and colleagues helped kept us sane through the difficult first few months, when sleeping for more than three consecutive hours was a luxurious and distant memory.

And yet, it seems in general that our society’s sense of community is waning. Neighbors who live next door to one another may barely interact. Heck, I once lived five years sharing an apartment wall with another family and never learned their names. Ironically, the rise of technology has fueled the distancing between people. Why run next door to your neighbors’ to borrow some sugar, when you can turn to an app to get organic gluten-free evaporated cane juice delivered to your place in under two hours? Why bother with small talk with real people when there are endless amusing videos on youtube, like this one, on how to make a unicorn hoodie? Continue Reading…

Is your organization or foundation unknowingly setting Capacity Traps?

butternut-squash-399415_640Happy Fall, everyone. Time for pumpkin spice in everything. And butternut squash, which I have never gained a liking for. It’s in or on all sorts of stuff: ravioli, pizza, bread, ice cream. I just don’t get butternut squash!

Anyway, today’s topic. My organization, Rainier Valley Corps, develops the capacity of communities-of-color-led nonprofits by sending in leaders of color whom we train to work full-time at these organizations. Through our work so far, we have been learning some important lessons, many through failures, which I want to share on NWB from time to time.

A huge lesson we have learned, for example, is the importance of providing fair compensation for organizations of color to be involved in research and planning. For some wacky reason, many of us in the field are OK with budgeting for consultants, and then kind of expecting organizations of color to do work for free or little funding, a serious problem I wrote about in “Are you or your org guilty of Trickle-Down Community Engagement? Continue Reading…

Why individual donations strategies often do not work for communities of color

easter-eggs-684450_640Hi everyone, this week is my organization’s first annual fundraising reception, where we formally introduce our Fellows to the community. Doing special events, to be honest, freaks me out, and I have been banned by planning committees in the past from attending meetings. Sheesh, and all because I get stressed out and occasionally go into catatonic states and murmur things like, “Beware…the storm is gathering…registration lines will fill up…time will stop…guests will beat their chests in anguish and despair as volunteers weep in the darkness…beware…”

Anyway, today I want to talk about cultivating individual donors and how it relates to communities of color. Every time that I talk about how arduous grantwriting is, either on this blog or in person, inevitably someone will say something like, “That’s why you should focus on individual donors! Statistically, individual donors provide 72% of the funds for nonprofits! Why, I knew this one org that was struggling, and they decided focus on individual donors, and they were able to save the family farm, and not only that but the ED was asked to pose for the Men of Nonprofit calendar because his stress melted away and he regained his youthful, radiant complexion!” Continue Reading…

Letter to RVC’s first cohort of nonprofit leaders of color

IMG_2905Hi everyone, RVC’s first ever cohort of ten leaders of color start their work today after spending most of last week in an intense orientation retreat designed to introduce them to the nonprofit sector: “And this, you may know, is hummus. It is present at 90% of nonprofit meetings in Seattle. Traditionally it is eaten with pita wedges, but recently we’ve been seeing an increase in raw broccoli and baby carrots, especially at community forums.”

I’ve spent most of last week with the Fellows, and since today is such a historic moment for my organization and for our first cohort of leaders, I want to spend this post writing a letter to them. It will likely be long and sappy and sentimental, much like this letter I wrote my son just in case I died early. If you feel like skipping this week’s post, I’ll understand. Next week we will get back to a normal, less sentimental post. Continue Reading…

I’m a duck, you’re a duck, we are all ducks

duck-715568_640Hi everyone, this week my organization, Rainier Valley Corps (RVC), launches its first cohort of nonprofit leaders of color with a 4-day orientation retreat. The ten leaders in our first cohort are brilliant; they represent the future of our sector. I’ll discuss this project and the lessons we are learning in future posts, but for this week, let’s talk about ducks. By the way, we have been working all year to get to this point, and I am excited and terrified and happy and apprehensive and thrilled and nervous, which is to say I’m not sure how coherent today’s post is going to be. It may be ramblier than normal.  

If you’ve been a follower of this blog for a while, you may be thinking, “Ducks? What are you talking about? I thought we’re all unicorns.” Yes, yes we are all unicorns. We are magical unicorns who make the world better by using our horns of equity to stab injustice in the face. But we’re also ducks. Just bear with me. Continue Reading…