This week’s blog post, however, is aimed less at the funders who engage in ineffective and infuriating funding practices and more at the colleagues who read these call-outs and feel the need to defend the status quo.  So, to save us all time, I’m going to list some of the common ones I’ve gotten over the years, below; most I’ve paraphrased, but some are direct quotes.

 1. ”It’s not my money. It’s not your money. It’s the funder/donor’s money! So they get to do what they want with it.” If you’re spouting this, you need to have a better analysis of equity and wealth. A lot of wealth, at least in the US, comes from some combination of inequitable means, including slavery, stolen Indigenous land, worker exploitation, environmental degradation, and tax avoidance.

2. “What, you expect funders to give out money without doing their due diligence like a bunch of wild animals?!” Due diligence is great, but it can be done without all the time-wasting nonsense that many funders inflict upon nonprofits. For instance, as I’ve said many times now, no funder needs their own unique snowflake grant proposal. Funders can literally just accept grant proposal packages that nonprofits have already prepared for other funders. It’s all the same information.

3. ”But what you’re complaining about is standard practice! Most or all foundations require this! What’s the issue?” The fact that a crappy practice has become so common that it is the standard IS the issue! “That’s the way it’s always done” has been used throughout history to keep ineffective and inequitable systems in place, such as health insurance being tied to employment in the US.

4. “Any competent nonprofit/fundraiser/grantwriter should be able to meet all those requirements made by the funder.” Just because something CAN be done, doesn’t mean it SHOULD be.

5. “If you stop whining and complaining and instead put up with all these terrible practices right now for these small grants, maybe it’ll lead to bigger grants later!” There is definitely a pattern of some of the smallest grants being some of the most onerous and burdensome. Putting up with them just rewards and reinforces their awfulness, which perpetuates the pattern. And without feedback and pushback, if these funders ever decide to give bigger grants, they’re likely just going to scale up their crappiness.

6. “An attitude like yours will not get you very far with funders.” This philosophy that we have to have the right “attitude” of gratefulness and compliance in order to get funding to do our work is gross. Nonprofits and funders and donors need to be working as partners to make the world better, not reinforce shitty power dynamics and hierarchy.

7. “Nonprofits are not serving their Cause if they are condemning the very businesses, foundations and individuals who support them”: No, nonprofits are serving their community when they speak up against things that waste their time and energy, things that make it harder for them to do their job, which affects the people they serve.

8. “To say that a small grant from a small foundation or business isn’t worth the trouble to provide the documents that every nonprofit should have handy is an insult to all donors, not just foundations.” Oh no, we’re so sorry these foundations and donors are offended! Small grants can be extremely helpful, and small donations are great and when feasible it’s far better to have tons of small donations than a few giant ones. Horrible funding practices are horrible regardless of grant amount or foundation size.

9. “It takes so much privilege to call out funders. Not everyone can do it.” This is a response I got a while ago after naming and shaming a funder, and it’s confusing. Yes, it’s true that because of power dynamics, not everyone can call out funders without jeopardizing their job, reputation, funding for their orgs, programming for their community, etc. We understand. Which is why those of us who have the privilege and can, should.

10. “This [calling out of funder] is kind of troll-like and adds no value. Maybe funders will listen if you were nicer.” No. Decades of asking funders nicely through countless articles and discussions has often not worked, which is why we still see the same crappy practices over and over. This is not to say there are no amazing funders who are incredibly helpful. There are. The ones who genuinely follow the tenets of Trust-Based Philanthropy, for example.

Read the full article about funding practices by Vu Le at Nonprofit AF.