Rants

An Objective Analysis of Why This Will All Probably, Maybe be Kinda Fine for Nonprofits, Based on Science and Facts

Nonprofiteers… we have nothing to worry about. Trust me, I am a thought leader. I have looked at the numbers, and the situation is looking incredibly rosy. In particular, the Dow index on February 13 was well over 29,000. Any reporting on the numbers since then is false news. You can see for yourself, here:

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Why is this important? Well of course, the economy is booming. Companies are all roaring and open for business! With more Americans currently at work than ever before, that means they are bringing home significant financial resources, which means they are donating more money to nonprofits. We know this is true, because science. Come 2021, GivingUSA will show this as the most successful philanthropic year in history, period.

I have heard a number of my colleagues in the nonprofit sector arguing signs of caution. Literally there are dozens of hyper-liberal opinion pieces out there trying to instill fear and organizational rioting in our industry. They are all “turning on the news” and “talking to donors” and “seeing the impact of a catastrophic global health crisis” and are, in my opinion, being a bit dramatic. Even if things were rough right now — and I am not saying they are — that’s no reason to start panicking. We need to let the next five to 10 years play out before we make any rash decisions about spending, hiring, strategic planning, programmatic expansion, capital campaigns, etc.

As a point of grace, we should look to the periods of time in our great American history when our economy was strongest, like the late-1920s, 1940s, early 1980s and the late 2000s. What happened during these times? Did we retrench? Did we pause? No. We were America, and we are America. So hear me when I say, we have nothing to worry about, because facts.

UpdateEvidently there is a pretty massive pandemic wreaking havoc on the entirety of the world right now, so please disregard.

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Thoughts

We Don’t Need Thought Leaders Right Now

It was just canceled, but last week the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo — the largest in the world, and a 501(c)(3) — was in full swing. For the uninitiated, it’s a giant, three-week party in Houston attended by 2.5 million people, with concerts, tons of great food, rides and learning opportunities. It’s exceptionally fun, and they do an exceptional amount of good, having provided more than half-a-billion dollars in support of youth and education since 1932.

One of the most entertaining (okay, cutest) things at Rodeo is called mutton busting, which is, essentially, an adorable activity of little kids trying to ride baby sheep as long as they can. Usually only one or two kids “win,” and they put those kids up on giant screens in front of tens of thousands of people and ask them all sorts of questions. Last week, one such winner was asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I want to be kind.” Kids say the darnedest things, though sometimes they say the rightest things.

In the week since, the world has sort of exploded (imploded?) and I believe that’s absolutely the thing we need to hear right now. Too many people, especially in our nonprofit orbit, are stepping into the self-anointed role of thought-leader. Especially all those non-doctors offering all sorts of coronavirus medical advice.

NOTHANKSTo be fair, things are absolutely nuts right now. Here in Texas, cancelations of the Rodeo and South by Southwest will result in prospective hits to the Houston and Austin economies of hundreds of millions. And while no nonprofit consultant has yet done the math (to my knowledge), the blow to our sector will be equally devastating.

Winston Churchill reminded us to never waste a good crisis, and I see all y’all out there putting on your thought-leader pants, trying to make some magic happen. You’re finding every news story and YouTube video on how to turn this disaster into an opportunity, and you’re blasting it out there so all the world knows of your thought-leader prowess. And I get it. Many of us were having glacial fundraising years before COVID-19, and today the market saw its worst drop since 1987. You don’t need to look hard to know this next decade will be a philanthropic slug.

The thing is, we don’t need more thought-leaders right now. We need more kindness-doers. We need reminding from our young mutton buster to be kind when we grow up. Wait a minute, we are grown up. That means we can do it right now! We can talk with our teams about flexibility in their schedules. We can Clorox the office kitchen and let people know (without boasting about it) so they feel more comfortable. We can call our donors and stakeholders to simply say hello and wish them well. My gosh there are 1,001 things you could do right now.

So why are you still here? Go on, ‘git. Put down your nightmare pocket rectangle and vamoose — while washing your hands and avoiding crowds, obviously. And if you figure out the secret kindness sauce, share it with your friends, your colleagues and the world. We need a whole lot more of that right now.

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Rants

RIP, Fundraising Event

Fundraising Event, 156, died February 26, 2020 in Kalamazoo, MI, where it was born, with 95,400 nonprofit fundraisers by its side. A memorial service was held Thursday evening at kitschy renovated firehouse event spaces everywhere, replete with discount Chiavari chairs, bone-color linens, and cold chicken.

Fundraising Event was born as “Kalamazoo Sanitary Fair” on November 10, 1864, the lovechild of Ladies Soldier’s Aid Society of Kalamazoo. As a youth, Fundraising Event moved frequently around the United States until 1948, as a teenager, arriving in New York City under the name “Met Gala.” For the next quarter-century, it found its way until meeting Diana Vreeland, who really cleaned it up. It received a M.A. in philanthropic studies from the Lilly School at Indiana University, though never really did much with the degree.

Fundraising Event was at its best in the evenings, during the months of spring. As a young adult, it was mindful and full of purpose; its closest friends knew it as “modest,” “effective,” and “not a tremendous burden on staff.” As it aged, its tastes grew more refined and elegant, and it started spending time with a more exclusive crowd, which it charged for the pleasure of its company.

Over the past century-and-a-half, Fundraising Event was actively involved with thousands of American nonprofit organizations, particularly arts, culture, social service, and healthcare. Its interests included silent auctions, cloth napkins folded like birds, and imposing upon friends to sponsor high-cost gala tables.

Fundraising Event is survived by its siblings, GivingTuesday and 5k Run/Walk. Though estranged, it is also survived by its cousin, Girl Scout Cookie Drive. It was preceded in death by Haseki Sultan Imaret in Jerusalem.

Donations may be sent to your local chapter of Association for Fundraising Professionals, in support of National Philanthropy Day — fair market value of $45 per person.

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Rest in piece, dear friend.

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