Essay Archives

Ho ho holy silent dark night of the soul: On Christian foundations and how they maintain power through wealth distribution

I might as well start this essay about Christian foundations with a confession: I am pretty darn uncomfortable working as a fundraiser at religiously-affiliated nonprofit.

For most of my 20+-year career in nonprofits, I have been a violence-prevention educator, mostly for a private, rural, feminist organization. I spent years facilitating groups and trainings about the dynamics of domestic violence and intersectional oppression in order to prevent interpersonal harm and public bullying.


5 data-driven ways to bridge the culture gap between staff and board

Have you ever felt disconnected from your board? Maybe over that fall campaign planning? Or the end of year appeals? Or general COVID fundraising practices?

I think we all know the answer already. Yet, as a consultant, sometimes I eagerly await to work for those Nonprofits that have a balanced alignment with their Board. For most of my clients this year, there’s been such a need to deliberately use available research tools to bridge the gap between staff and the board.


If we’re fighting for our futures, then why do I feel so tired and judged right now?

By letting go of the belief that I am not valuable to my communities unless I extract every ounce of myself for others’ benefit, I have let go of the compulsion to push myself to the point of physical and psychological collapse. This month, I’ve been watching the sunrise. From my east-facing window, I’ve observed vibrant red and orange fan out from the horizon, lighting clouds from below. I’ve never been an early riser. But something has shifted in me in the past few years.


Can anybody hear me? How white nonprofit writing standards erase BIPOC voices — and why that is definitely not OK

Writing has always been my saving grace. I grew up an introverted only child, and sometimes, I could only communicate through my writing.

My love of writing grew over the years, especially when I went full-force into zine creation in highschool. I loved the fact that I could create, print and distribute my own words, without dilution, to the masses. It became my form of therapy, to salve the scars left behind from very real pre-existing generational trauma to also new trauma.


White people: We need to do more than just ‘leverage whiteness’ to dismantle white supremacy!

I have been working to raise funds for nonprofits for almost twelve years. The majority of that time has been spent raising money for public schools in New Orleans, Louisiana. I’ve bounced around to several organizations over the years, never spending more than three years at any one place because I couldn’t put up with staying longer than that.


“What are you again?” (Not your token Brown friend, that’s for sure!)

My parents immigrated to the United States from India in the 1970s and chose to purchase their first home in a suburban municipality west of St. Louis, Missouri. To both the south and west of our subdivision were mostly white communities — to the north and east, mostly Black and immigrant Asian and Pacific Islander communities. If you’ve learned anything about St. Louis in the six years since Mike Brown’s murder, you are familiar with the deep segregation of our region and its toxic, implicit commitment to the Black-white binary.


Nonprofits can’t engage in political advocacy at all, you say? Wrong. We can and we must.

When Trump was elected in 2016, I was a director of development in New York City. The day after the election, as I sat on my couch at home in a shroud of depression, I sent a communique out to my organization’s full email list, calling for cohesion, mutual support, and compassionate attention to the Black, Brown, and immigrant youth that the organization worked to support.


We’re breaking up: And it’s not me, Philanthropy — it’s you.

Hi, Philanthropy! You don’t recognize me, because you never see me, but I write a lot of the proposals you read. I don’t normally call attention to myself, but I’m here, and I need to tell you that I’m exhausted. In truth, I’ve been burnt out for years. While I find satisfaction in working for great causes, organizations, and communities, working with you wears me down bit by bit.


Looking behind the curtain: How anonymous giving can uphold white supremacy

In annual reports and donor lists around the country, there’s always a section for anonymous giving. It’s accepted as a norm in the fundraising world that some donors elect to be anonymous for one reason or another. The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) outlines confidentiality as a right in The Donor Bill of Rights. However, recent scandals in the past year surrounding anonymous gifts raises the question whether anonymous giving helps or hurts the work of philanthropy to create a more equitable and just world.


Curb cuts and universal design: How I use my invisible disability to advocate for arts accessibility

My journey to accessibility in the arts started more than 20 years ago, when I first moved to Seattle from the East Coast. While in Los Angeles on vacation, I went to see “Titanic,” which had just come out in movie theaters. For the first time, I used a captioning device that fit into the cup holder of my seat, allowing me to read the words being spoken onscreen. It was exhilarating: I was finally able to fully understand the dialogue on the big screen.