Today’s topic is about Funding-Chicken. Funding-Chicken, which is not nearly as fun as it sounds, is when a foundation refuses to be the first to fund a project or organization. Instead it waits for another funder to formally commit, and then might join in. It’s also known as “Fear of being First Syndrome,” aka FFS.

This is, unfortunately, all too common. I’ve experienced it several times, the latest being trying to find funding to launch the Community-Centric Fundraising movement. I am not saying all funders engage in Funding-Chicken, but enough do, so we need to examine how harmful and inequitable this practice is:

It stifles innovation: Nonprofits are told all the time that we need to be “innovative.” Often this manifests in many funders refusing to support anything but the newest, shiniest programs, often at the neglect of ones that have been proven to work. The irony comes when, after constantly extolling nonprofits to be innovative (and punishing them for not), foundations refuse to be the first to fund a new project. If you want nonprofits to be innovative, then you need to take risks.

It furthers the “Track Record Paradox:” On the other hand, many funders won’t fund stuff until there’s track record of success. This paradox stacks on top of other ones, including the Capacity Paradox, where funders won’t fund an organization unless it has strong capacity, but it can’t build strong capacity unless it has resources; and the Data-Resource Paradox, where an organization can’t get funding unless it has strong data, but it can’t get strong data unless it has funding.

The era of funders playing Funding-Chicken needs to end. Accept failure as part of doing this work. And understand that your decisions disproportionately affect marginalized communities.

Read the full article about foundations' fear of being first by Vu at Nonprofit AF.