To the nonprofits of America,
Our country is at a turning point, and so is philanthropy. The disparate economic and social fallout from COVID-19, the murder of Black Americans at the hands of police, and the resulting widespread reckoning with racial justice have put a spotlight on many problems that have long plagued nonprofit-funder relationships and slowed progress toward meaningful social change. We cannot ignore these problems any longer. We as funders and donors must recognize the role we have played (unintentional as it may have been) in perpetuating them. We do not wish for things to return "to normal." Instead, we commit to doing our part to create a new future for the nonprofit sector, for the good of all.
We solidify that commitment through this pledge to you, the nonprofits we partner with. We also ask you to make a similar set of commitments to your communities alongside us.
Together, we can create a better future for our sector, for the good of all.
Commitment 1: We will encourage you to collaborate, not compete.
We recognize that nonprofits can do more good for their communities when they work together. We will discontinue any practices that incentivize competition between your organizations, and instead focus on enhancing the effectiveness of our sector as a whole. We will work to build bridges between the organizations we fund and those doing complementary work.
Commitment 2: We will invest in focused organizations.
We know the most effective nonprofits are those that treat their missions, visions, and values as the compass that guides every decision they make. We will direct our support toward organizations that demonstrate they can stay focused on the big picture no matter what sorts of crises, distractions or shiny objects come their way. This focus is what makes it possible for transformative change to take hold.
Commitment 3: We will prioritize partnerships that advance equity and racial justice.
We recognize systemic racism and widespread, long-held inequities as the root causes that make much of the work of the nonprofit sector necessary. We commit to supporting all of our grantees in advancing equity, and where possible, will direct our funding to organizations that are creating opportunity for Black people and people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, those living with disabilities, and others who hold marginalized identities. We also commit to helping our partner organizations build their capacity to advance equity and racial justice. We will take a stand for what we believe in, call out racism and bigotry whenever and wherever we see it, and prioritize action over intention in our own organizations and among our grantees.
Commitment 4: We will put an end to all practices that keep nonprofits starved for the resources they need to do effective work.
For example, we will stand up against the misconception that low overhead is the sole indicator of a successful nonprofit, look at ways we can simplify our grant application and outcome reporting requirements to ensure they do not perpetuate inequities or create unnecessary burdens for you, offer unrestricted funding whenever possible, share our decision making processes with transparency, and ensure the power to drive change sits with you and your communities, not with us. We have been making shifts in this direction for some time, and commit to accelerating those shifts now.
Commitment 5: We will support organizations that have a plan, but also know when to deviate from it.
We expect the organizations we invest in to have a strategic plan and clear set of goals always in place, but we will not hold them to that plan at all costs. Instead, we will encourage you, our nonprofit partners, to remain agile and responsive to the ever-changing needs of the people and communities you work with, and we will build our relationships with you in a way that fosters that sort of agility.
Commitment 6: We will ensure the people and communities our nonprofit partners work with have the power to shape priorities and plans.
We recognize that in the nonprofit sector, power has long been inequitably distributed away from the people and communities served by nonprofits, and toward donors and funders like us. We recognize our privilege and the role we have played in perpetuating this problem in the past. In the future, we commit to doing all we can to distribute power to the people and communities our nonprofit partners work with and to amplifying the voices of people who hold marginalized identities in the process. We will ask for and listen to your input, feedback and opinions, and those of your communities, every step of the way.
Commitment 7: We will ensure our nonprofit partners are known among and accessible to those who need their services and those who can support their work.
We know you cannot maximize your potential for impact until your organization is known among, respected by, and accessible to the people you exist to serve, and the donors and funders who can support you. We therefore commit to investing in the brands, marketing and fundraising of our grantees, and to treating these investments not as overhead, but as core mission support.
Commitment 8: We will invest in the people who make the nonprofit sector's work possible.
We recognize that your organizations must have a healthy, diverse, inclusive, and fully supported team of staff and volunteers in order to advance their missions. We will put a stop to all practices that perpetuate the idea that burnout, undermarket compensation and limited opportunities for advancement are "just part of working for a nonprofit," and commit to making funding decisions that prioritize the personal and professional wellbeing of everyone who contributes to the important work of the nonprofit sector.
Commitment 9: We will redefine what success looks like and expect nonprofits to hold themselves accountable first and foremost to their communities.
We commit to doing away with false metrics for nonprofit success such as overhead ratios, dollars raised or people served. Instead, we will support our nonprofit partners in their quest to measure their true impact and encourage them to hold themselves accountable not to us, their funders and donors, but to the people and communities they serve.
Commitment 10: We will prioritize action over intention.
We know our words, statements of solidarity, and even these commitments only go so far. We will therefore continually prioritize action over intention. We will show up to work every day and take meaningful steps forward to improve the way we work with nonprofits like yours, and the role we play in helping you to respond to what your communities are telling you they need most. We will share our progress (and our missteps) transparently, and make continual adjustments to the way we work together, for the good of all.
We ask you humbly to join us in this quest for a better future for the nonprofit sector, and welcome your feedback on these commitments. We also ask you to pass this letter along to other funders you work with, and encourage you to join other nonprofits across America in making a similar pledge alongside us.
Funders and Donors of America