Dear Funders, It’s Not Business as Usual

Dear Funders, It’s Not Business as Usual

Take risks, give big and don’t wait.

from the Tides Foundation, January 11, 2017

….“Funders, the signs we’ve seen so far indicate that you are still playing by the old rules. You are talking a lot in your e-news, but we’ve seen no visible changes in your funding or ways of operating. Most nonprofit leaders are hearing from you, but your messages lack the responsiveness and urgency that this situation demands. It’s not enough to huddle with your teams on new strategic plans. It won’t work to promise that you will revisit requests in Q2, when the political landscape is clearer. Q2 may be too late and moreover, how do you know it will get clearer? So far, the arc of reality since November almost guarantees that instead of getting clearer, everything will just get messier.

Funders, you need to speed up, not slow down timelines. Give more, not less. Expand general operating and rapid response support, don’t restrict funding to narrow offensive strategies. We need you to drive change in this new reality with new partnerships, new ways of operating, and unprecedented agility that supports the people and organizations working to uphold decades of social and environmental work. This defensive work may not be as sexy as flashy offensive plays, but it’s vital to holding the line.

Let’s put aside the usual ways of operating that involve annual grant cycles, five-year strategic plans, and project-based funding. Instead, let’s collaborate more. Let’s package less. Let’s show each other our scribbles on whiteboards and try to figure out what these defensive plays are, and how they can best uphold our position until the time is right to push for our next big wins. Let’s put our muscle behind big causes, not branded campaigns or narrow project plans in limited geographies. Let’s pull in allies across sectors, companies, governments, universities, and citizens of our nation and across the world. Let’s be true partners.

You like to talk about risk. Now let’s see you put that talk into action at your own organizations and in how you engage with the people and work that you fund. The world needs the entire nonprofit sector — the changemakers as well as the funders — to adapt, respond, and act, now more than ever.”….