I was sitting in a coffeeshop the other day and there was this woman sitting on a couch across from me. She said, “What day is it? I said, “The 19th” and she said, “No, no, it can’t be the 19th!” And I said, no, I think it really is, and she said, “I’ve just lost $49,000!”
We got to talking, and it turned out she was a new fundraiser for a nonprofit in town. She was writing grants that were due right away and she had to get on them, so we didn’t talk long, but it turned out she had 3 jobs at this nonprofit and had never written grants before. And she didn’t know much about fundraising.
I tried to reassure her that it was okay, we all start out not knowing anything. I asked her if she knew about the funding history of this nonprofit, and she said, no, the previous person left and took all of the grant information with them.
I tried to share with her some other ways to fundraise aside from grants, but I think my enthusiasm for fundraising just about burned her face off. She interrupted me, and said, “I hate fundraising, but I need to keep this job!” and I said, “Well… maybe there are some aspects of fundraising you might like, once you get to learn more about it.” (I never give up, right? Relentless.)
And then she said something heartbreaking.
She said, “The last person who was here before me, tried to make the board learn how to fundraise, and then they fired her. I’m afraid if I ask anyone to help me fundraise, they’ll fire me too. I’ve gotten so I’m keeping my grants in a box under my desk, so that if they fire me I can take my work and go.”
The sad thing is, her story is all too typical. The lack of respect for the profession of fundraising, combined with lack of respect for people who fundraise, and the disposable culture of nonprofit workers all adds up to no idea what has been done, and no donor relationships, because everyone has taken their grants with them and burned the files.
Wow. So they’ll use this person up, and chew her up and spit her out. Just like the previous person. And she knows it. So she’s taking steps to sabotage the records because she knows they won’t respect her.
Sabotage comes from the French word Sabot, which means wooden shoe, because workers would throw a shoe into the textile machine, to gum up the works. But there are more recent uses of sabotage that are relevant to us today.
Radical labor unions such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) have advocated sabotage as a means of self-defense and direct action against unfair working conditions.
For the IWW, sabotage came to mean any withdrawal of efficiency — including the slowdown, the strike, working to rule or creative bungling of job assignments.
“Can’t stand it! I know you planned it! I’m gonna set it straight this Watergate!
While you sit back and wonder why I’ve got this fuckin thorn in my side, oh my god it’s a mirage, I’m tellin y’all it’s sabotage!”
There’s even a manual on sabotage that UNFORTUNATELY sounds just like business as usual at some nonprofits and for profits!
In the next few weeks, I’m going to be sharing a resource with you, that talks about what we can do to stop this terrible culture of disposable fundraising professionals.