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…

“Dancing with Program Officers” and 5 other nonprofit-themed reality TV shows we need

So many of the challenges the nonprofit sector faces exist because of our poor portrayal in the media. This is why I think we should lobby for more shows that highlight the exciting and complex work all of us in the field are doing. A while ago I wrote about “Nonprofit and Afraid,” a show where people who have little experience with nonprofits are put to work at a nonprofit for six weeks. Here are some other ideas I’ve thought of, and sneak previews of what they might look like:

Dancing with Program Officers:

dancing12 nonprofit staff are paired with 12 program officers of local foundations to learn various funding dances, including the “Should I call them first or should I just send in the LOI?” and “Who should pay for lunch?”

Emcee: On the floor now are Alan and Marjorie. Alan, the DD of Think of the Children, has been having trouble rehearsing for the Site Visit Dance, a nerve-wracking number with feints and swirls. Marjorie, his partner and program officer at the Swifter Foundation, has been supportive in her coaching. Let’s see how they fare tonight:

Alan: Thanks for coming down to see our program in action, Margaret. I’m sorry, I mean Marjorie…

Marjorie: No problem, people get that wrong all the time. I should just change it, ha ha.

Emcee: An understandable stumble, given his nerves, and a graceful recovery, but our panel of judges does not look happy.

Alan: This year, we served 390 kids, 85% free-and-reduced-lunch, through four programs…

Marjorie: That’s wonderful. What are some of the results you’ve seen?

Emcee: The Site Visit Dance is a tricky dance, since it combines both technicality and heart. Alan is relying too much on technique. He needs to bring more heart, more stories. Let’s hope he doesn’t flub this one like he did last week in the “Clarifying Questions on the Proposal Budget” dance. Continue Reading…

12 types of people who get on everyone’s nerves in nonprofit

dsc_00571Hi everyone, this Thursday (3/12) is my birthday, and I’m going to use it as an opportunity to shamelessly promote my organization, Rainier Valley Corps, which is trying to bring more leaders of color into the sector while supporting existing leaders. We are a nine-month-old start-up nonprofit that takes nothing for granted; we wept with joy upon finding a working dry-erase marker last week, and I’ve been sneaking into conferences to stock up on pens. If you like this blog, please consider investing in RVC’s work with a donation based on how old you think I am. That’s right, if you think I’m 45, give $45. If you think I’m 36 and a half, give $36.50. If you think I’m 86, why…you genius, that’s exactly how old I am! (And I won’t be offended if you think I’m 1,000 or 5,000 years old).

Also, because it’s my birthday this week, I am going to take a break from serious topics like equity or capacity building or performance reviews, and instead start an annual tradition of poorly-edited ranting about people in the sector who get on everyone’s nerves. Look, we have an awesome field full of smart, very good-looking, and extremely humble people. Still, there is room for improvement. If you are one of these people below, please change your ways before I form a shadow organization that will hunt you down and bring you to justice: Continue Reading…

Waiting for unicorns: The supply and demand of diversity and inclusion

unicorn memeThe question I am asked most frequently—after “Vu, have you tried using Proactiv?”—is “Vu, would you consider joining so-and-so board/committee? If not, can you connect me to other leaders of color who might be interested?” Apparently, everyone is having a hard time finding people of color for their board of directors and 80’s-karaoke-night planning team.

There are tons of reports and articles with depressing statistics about diversity in nonprofit leadership at all levels. Here’s an eye-opening article called “The Nonprofit Sector Has a Ferguson Problem,” which cites several stats that make me want to stay in bed streaming Netflix for the rest of the year:

  • only 8% of board members are people of color,
  • nearly a third of nonprofit boards don’t have a single board member of color
  • only 7% of CEO/EDs are people of color
  • only 18% of nonprofit staff are people of color
  • only 5% of philanthropic orgs are led by people of color

Continue Reading…