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What Lies Beneath

Updated: Dec 30, 2022


Last month I reluctantly watched as dozens of Giving Tuesday emails rolled into my inbox. While they were often well-crafted and represented great organizations, the sheer quantity made me feel oddly objectified, like a walking piggy bank that needed shaking. Many also created urgency by promoting a limited-time opportunity for matching funds – double, triple and even quadruple– in what seemed like an arms race for attention and resources.


I’m no stranger to the difficulties of nonprofit fundraising and the transformative potential of robust cash flow. Nor am I an expert on development - I’ll happily refer out consulting projects that focus on that side of the house. I do, however, work with groups that want to examine practices to see how they are replicating and furthering systems that create the very conditions we are trying to remedy. This feels like a powerful example of how nonprofit solutions bake in paradigms of scarcity and extraction, and as such, can be rich food for thought.


What does it look like to operate in a different way? I have found a number of examples that specifically address money – both coming in and going out. On the nonprofit fundraising side, a consultant friend referred me to Community-Centric Fundraising, whose 10 principles for fundraising (including nonprofits being generous and mutually supportive of each other) seem like a good place to start.


There’s plenty that can be tackled in money-focused parts of nonprofit management. Vega Mala Consulting has been diligently breaking ground there for years. They have tips in their excellent blog on how to root out inequalities that show up in the way we provide retirement benefits, cost of living increases, or the way we advertise salary bands in job openings. They’ve developed ways to create a compensation structure that recognizes generational effects of racial bias. The self-managed consulting group (Greaterthan) where I’m an “explorer” member is following these same ideas – consultants collaboratively decide how to split fees, taking into consideration wealth and family status.


Of course, a transformed money system extends beyond nonprofits. I loved the description of non-extractive finance on the Seed Commons website – while the fund itself is targeted to worker-owned businesses and co-ops, aspects of the model are directly relevant to nonprofit financial life, including profit-sharing and an emphasis on relationship as opposed to credit score. Development professionals I know would also point out that philanthropy has much work to do as well, and there are an increasing number of tools and resources for their education, such as this self-assessment.


What does it mean to move into financial and fundraising practices that are operating from abundance, wholeness, and collaboration, and what would it look like come next Giving Tuesday? I hope I find out!




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