Category Archives: Grantwriting

Foundations, how aggravating is your grantmaking process? Use this checklist to find out!

[Image description: A from-the-waist-up image of a red plastic robot-looking toy. Update: It may be a Blockhead from Gumby. It has a square head, two googly round eyes that are looking down, a round yellow nose, and a yellow line shaped into a frown. The robot has two arms raised up to the sides of its head. The background is grayish blue.]

As we roll into 2017, there have been lots of articles about how philanthropy must adapt, including my post urging funders to increase payout and fund advocacy efforts, as well as this piece on moving away from “charity” toward “justice.” These conversations are critical and we must keep having them. While we figure that stuff out, though, let’s take care of a few logistical things foundations do that make us nonprofits want to roll up a printed-out copy of our tax filings and beat ourselves unconscious.

So, I asked the NWB Facebook community to name the things funders do that get on people’s nerves. I got over 350 comments. I’ve condensed them into the Funding Logistics Aggravation, Incomprehensibility, and Laughability (FLAIL) Index. Here is a list of things that make us want to punch a wall, scratch our heads in bewilderment, or crack up laughing. Or drink. [Update: The FLAIL Index is now called the FLAIL Scale, and was revised on 1-21-17] Continue reading

25 simple ways we can all be more disability-inclusive

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[Image description: Two hands with fingers close together on a book, opened to a white page filled with text in Braille.]

Hi everyone, before I launch into today’s topic, two announcements. First, I’m co-authoring a book about how we can reset the funder/grantee relationship to minimize power dynamics and allow us all to be more effective at our work and less likely to curl into the fetal position under our desks, rocking and weeping to 80s rock ballads. I’m writing it with Jane Leu and Jessamyn Shams-Lau, and we’re trying to raise $9,600 on Kickstarter by the end of this month. Please pitch in $5, $20, $50, or…$9,600. You’ll get cool prizes such as getting your name in the book for a donation of $5. For $50, you get a t-shirt and the book. For $200, you’ll also get a hand-made unicorn. For $9,600, I will personally fly to your office anywhere in the US and put on a puppet show about the horrors of restricted funding.

Second, last month I issued the #OpEdChallenge, which is simple: Write an op-ed related to your mission and get it published before the end of 2016. We nonprofits must be more vocal, especially in light of the political climate. Some colleagues are actually taking on this challenge! Look: “Seattle must address root causes of racial disparities.” And “Stand with your Muslim neighbors and fight bigotry.” You are awesome. If you’ve successfully taken this challenge, please let me know. Your op-ed may get mentioned here.

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I have not written much on NWB about disability. Mainly because I am not an expert on it, and I’m afraid that I’ll make serious mistakes and cause offense. The world is complex, and there are so many ways for us to screw up. I’ve done it at least once already while researching for this post. I asked the NWB Facebook community for tips, writing “Please send in things we should all be aware of, and any pet peeves you have, especially if you work with individuals with disabilities or have a disability.” Continue reading

25 quotes by famous people if they had worked in nonprofit

buddha-1281049_1280Hi everyone. I’ve been stressed by the elections, so couldn’t focus on a serious post.  So here are some #awesomenonprofitquotes by famous people if they had worked in nonprofit.  Happy Monday!

I think a lot of these people missed their calling.

 

  1. “When they go low, we go why the heck do we keep having silent auctions?” Michelle Obama.
  1. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only bylaws with term limits can do that.” MLK Jr.

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Trust-based grantmaking: What it is, and why it’s critical to our sector

ducklingThe Walking Dead is back on TV. After last season’s finale, and this season’s opener, I am not sure I will continue watching. But zombies do make me think of funding dynamics, so that’s why I am bringing it up. In The Walking Dead, the zombies are scary, but they are the least dangerous. Zombies eat brains; they don’t have brains; they don’t have hidden motives and plans; you know exactly what a zombie will do. It’s the humans who are terrifying. Pushed into survival mode, they calculate, lie, betray, and refuse to use the Oxford Comma (#OxfordCommaForever). No one trusts anyone, and it’s more often than not that groups of humans end up killing one another before a zombie actually gets to munch on anyone’s flesh.

What does this have to do with funding dynamics? Well, there seems to be a pervasive lack of starting with trust between funders and nonprofits, and it’s affecting all of us and our abilities to survive and do our work. The default starting relationship between funders and nonprofits is one of suspicion of the latter by the former, which leads to funders enacting policies and practices designed to make nonprofits more “accountable,” such as restricted funding, individualized applications, bespoke budget forms, customized reports, and other things that drive us nonprofits nuts. This in turns leads to nonprofits’ hiding of information, especially about challenges, from funders, which in turn reinforces the suspicion. All this perpetuates a depressing cycle of waste of time and energy and lots of complaining, usually at bars, and all that could have been used to deliver programs and services.
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Some positive feedback and appreciation for funders

heart-1450300_960_720A few months ago, our grantwriter and I dealt with a grant for $4,000 that comprised a five-page narrative and about 10 attachments. Luckily, of course, we have most of those documents ready in our Master Grant folder. The kicker, though, was the unusual requirement for us to print out a document with ten labels, each corresponding to one of the attachments, and literally cut out each of the tabs and paste it on to the attachments. So there I was, handling a glue stick for the first time in years, carefully pasting each tab. I was getting more and more irritated, gritting my teeth and wishing I had listened to that one palm reader in Saigon who told me to go into medicine or maybe law (I think my parents paid her).

I was gluing and fuming and writing a bitter, ranting blog post in my head. But then I realized that I tend to focus on all the irritating things some funders do, that I sometimes neglect all the great things that many funders do. Yeah, there are a lot of sucky, inequitable funding practices. But for the most part, there are lots of great things foundations are doing, and there many amazing program officers who make our work easier. It’s been a while since we provided our funding partners with some positive feedback and encouragement (see “Funders, thanks for doing these 12 awesome things.”) This post is to bring some balance by highlighting some specific things, big and small, funders do that we nonprofits really appreciate. Thanks to the NWB Facebook community, as well as my colleagues in Seattle, for providing input, which I’m quoting below. Continue reading