Philanthropy confidential – September 2020

Alliance magazine

All your confidential philanthropic queries answered

Philanthropy confidential is your space to safely and anonymously get advice on ethical dilemmas in the sector. Tell Regi, our secret philanthropy correspondent with impeccable standing in the global philanthropic sector, what’s on your mind. Go to alliancemagazine.org/philanthropyconfidential

A major grantmaker simply ‘forgot’ about the funding they’d verbally committed and now, with the Covid-19 pandemic, their priorities have changed. What should I do? I’m worried we will lose impact and possibly need to let staff go at a time when jobs are scarce.

Dear Forgotten,

You’re new around here I suppose? What you describe is horrid and I feel for you and your staff, though my advice is: don’t count on anything until the cash is in the bank. Even then, sleep with one eye open: recent tales on the #CrappyFundingPractices Twitter feed tell of donors unethically taking funds away from current grantees, in order to divert cash to Covid-19 relief. You can always put your saga out in the world at that hashtag.

But grantseeking, like the heart, must go on. One day you’ll meet that perfect donor you’ve been searching for: the chemistry between you electric, alignment of missions undeniable. At exactly the right moment, just when your faith in humanity and funding is nearly lost, that perfect donor will lean in, whispering softly in your ear: “The grant is approved. And it’s unrestricted support.”

Rainbows and Puppies, Regi

A very senior executive at a faith based organisation I am on the board of insisted that a junior manager babysit his children after work (on multiple occasions). She didn’t want to do so, but was afraid that she’d lose her job. The executive was evidently told by others that this was inappropriate, but he stated that he didn’t care – he was a senior member of the organisation and he could do what he wanted.

Dear Faith Based,

It’s amazing that this junior manager had time to babysit for the senior executive, if she was already washing the car of the president and cutting the grass of the vice-president.

Sounds like a major shake-up is needed at this organisation. If only we knew of a brave board member who could lead that change?

Brightly, Regi

A very highly regarded member of our community told me that one of the organisations that he worked for – a very, very wealthy non-profit – had told their fundraising staff the following: When they contacted a prospective donor, and that donor told them that he/she was donating to another organisation, they should actively try to get the donor to stop donating to that other organisation and to donate to them instead.

Dear Informant,

Tsk tsk. Do we ever win by denigrating others? Dare I ask if this community member is still “highly regarded” by you? All contributions to social change are valuable. Choosing between plastics in the ocean or clean air is difficult. Said community member should get a grip on the full picture: those who donate to one organisation are likely to donate to a second if their values are aligned. As any effective fundraiser knows: you want the potential donor to walk away from the encounter having had a pleasant experience so that when you ask again, the answer will be positive.

Brightly, Regi

A non-profit that I had donated to in the past was led by a person who strongly suggested that a staff member go on a trip with a much older board member (the board member was married), and that doing so would be “good for her”. When the trip was about to take place, and the staff person asked to confirm that they’d be staying in separate hotel rooms, she was told that they would not – they’d be sharing a room. She went to her supervisor and was told that she should still go on the trip. She did not. Should I still be donating to this organisation, or should I say something?

Dear Clueless,

Oh lost one. Really? How is this even a question? If you see something, say something.

Hearts and Flowers, Regi

I work for a philanthropist who has asked me to join him on his private jet to visit one of our international development projects. I’m uncomfortable because the cost of travel ($40,000) could be spent on better things not to mention climate change impacts. Should I just get over myself and enjoy the ride?

Dear High-Flyer,

You are already working for this guy, so you know the score. Enjoy the ride and buy him a present for plane reading: Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything.

Economy Passenger for Life, Regi

Tell Regi what’s on your mind – Go to alliancemagazine.org/philanthropyconfidential

All your confidential philanthropic questions answered


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