Essay Archives

I’m an executive director who has worked for free for nearly 10 years. Is it still even worth it?

Eight years ago, I had an idea. The idea was inspired by what I had seen at other organizations around the country, but for where I resided, in Central Virginia, it was a new thing. After about a year of testing this idea out and playing with it in a real-world sense, I decided to commit to seeing it come to fruition. I would end up spending so much of my time — without compensation, mind you — working relentlessly, because I believed in it.

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The fact-based fallacy of accountability to donors

There are so many reasons the notion of accountability to donors is not only misplaced but factually illogical. I’m not talking about the significant ethical reasons that have been covered so well in racial equity and social justice forums. I’m talking about logic-based, fact-based arguments. Because once we begin down the logic trail, the entire donor-centric model of accountability begins to crumble on its own.

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Focusing on fundraising goals is harmful — let’s measure love instead

In the beginning of 2020, before the pandemic, Oregon Food Bank (OFB) said goodbye to financial goals. (Not entirely, of course — resource development is still an important strategy for ending hunger and its root causes, after all.) To be more accurate, what we said goodbye to were financial goals as a driver of decision-making and as a measurement of staff performance.

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Are universities REALLY ready to take on antiracism? An Open Letter to UT Austin

Focusing on social justice and equity in philanthropy sounds like it should not be a new concept. Most people have dropped money into their church’s collection plate or bought a box (or three) of Girl Scout cookies. Philanthropy is all about charity and compassion, right?

In reality though, charity and compassion are actually contrary to the way many powerful institutions operate.

Take the recent example of The University of Texas at Austin’s response to open records requests on donor responses to changing the Eyes of Texas school song, a tradition that perpetuates racist origins.

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So you think you’re a philanthropist, huh? Or maybe you’re a power hoarder? Let’s find out!

Hi! This is a message from your friendly, eager-to-please nonprofit fundraiser. All of us got together, and I drew the short straw … and I now have the task of telling you the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I have been summoned to pull back the curtain and reveal everything. Everything we want you to know — but are afraid to say — about philanthropy.

First and foremost, if you are currently giving money to a nonprofit organization, we want to genuinely thank you. Without funding, it is difficult, and — in most cases — impossible to do the work that needs doing. We understand that donors like you give for all kinds of reasons, and the choice to share your money is admirable. You could be spending all of your money on the latest iPhone, saving it all for your offspring, or buying a yacht. (I imagine that most of us fall within the first or second scenario, but still – we are all making a choice.)

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It’s pronounced ‘zeen’! (How the world of zines inadvertently prepared me for a career in nonprofit fundraising)

Zines are usually categorized as ephemera, something that exists only briefly or for a short period of time.

Zines are pronounced zeen, short for magazine, and are self-published, not widely distributed, and cost very little. As small and temporary as they initially seem, zines have actually been around for decades and can have the power to provide a voice to those who are not normally heard.

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Fundraising should be like a polyamorous relationship

I want you to know me a little more. While you can read a little bit about me in my bio below or from my byline above, get a sense of me on social media, and get a glimpse of who I am by what I post — and while all of these things will give you a fair amount of information that you can use to build assumptions about me — I want you to hear it from me:

I don’t like monogamy. In other words, I am polyamorous.

Polyamory is the simple notion that one can love multiple individuals at the same time.

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CCF is gonna go global

Earlier this month at CCF’s latest BIPOC Town Hall, CCF Seattle organizers announced that we are working to transition leadership to a global council, which will continue to guide the Community-Centric Fundraising movement.

We want to take this space to explain key decisions we’ve made and how we are envisioning what this rapidly-evolving movement might look like moving forward.

It’s been about nine months since Community-Centric Fundraising launched, (though the seed of CCF was planted several years before that, from conversations that many of us in the sector were having about our frustrations with the way that we fundraise.) We’ve been thrilled beyond our wildest dreams by all y’all’s responses to CCF. It’s been so resonant and incredible to connect with and learn from so many others who have experienced the same frustrations and challenges we were personally experiencing, and to see, hear, and feel how many people across the globe are committed to changing the sector for the better.

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(Mis)Adventures in fundraising: What you can learn from my first failures in community-centric fundraising

On the first episode of Brené Brown’s Unlocking Us podcast, Brené Brown shares her concept of “Effing First Times”or “FFTs” as she calls them. FFTs are a recognition of the difficulty at being new, let alone good, at just about anything.

“When we have no relevant experiences or expertise, the vulnerability, uncertainty and fear of these firsts can be overwhelming,” she said. “Yet, showing up and pushing ourselves past the awkward learner stage is how we get braver.”

I long for 2018-me to have had access to this framing. I had just begun (intentionally) integrating justice, equity, and belonging into my development practice. As the founder of a boutique consultancy, I committed myself to the trials of novelty, knowing that more than once, I would — inevitably — fall on my face. But, I hoped (maybe knew?) the reward would outweigh the risk. I was open to experiencing and learning from failure.

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How are we supposed to get a leg up on the job hunt if all job interview #hottips are for white people?

Whether you are an emerging professional or a seasoned one in the field, job interviews can take you through a series of emotions. A job interview can often feel extremely judgemental, which can lead to an incredible amount of pressure for some.

When alerted of an incoming job interview, while some folx may feel instant excitement over being one step closer to the job, others can feel anxious.

To ease these feelings of anxiety, many of us rely on research. Cue the endless Google searches on “how to prepare for an interview” and “how to make a good first impression at an interview.” The more detailed of these searches can go as far as including industry-related keywords, which will generate listicles, articles, and so much more to support folx on their journey through the hiring process.

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