Standing Up To Donors With Untenable Demands

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She let them know this in a letter following her pledge.

Although the donation was returned but as it should have, the interaction steeled the group, which then went forward to create a crowdfunding campaign which has, in a little more than twenty-four hours raised more than $250,000 from more than 5,000 donors. In doing so this council reminds us that without our principles we disappear into irrelevance; and with them, even if it means possible or sure sacrifice and danger, we can do our parts to change history.

These moments also solidify our bonds with and expand the numbers of our supporters. We may see some fallout – some former supporters may find our values less than appealing and even maybe abhorrent but such is the nature of true leadership.

Many situations in which we feel that our values or programmatic assumptions are in conflict with a funder are perhaps less dramatic than this but our experience is that for some organizations the steady “drip, drip, drip” of changing our language to fit, emphasizing one program that may not be so important but is preferred by the funder over another that is more critical but less in favor can erode the meaning in our work slowly enough that we can ignore it and justify it until we realize that we have painted ourselves into a submissive corner.

Bad deal.

One of the things this brings up for us is the need to remind ourselves that very little of the place setting level governing of organizations goes on in the board room. David Renz speaks about this in his classic article, “Reframing Governance II”. In it, he makes the point that where decisions get made regarding resources is only partially under your control, and so affecting the mental models of those with those resources becomes part of what every nonprofit board should understand as the organization’s job and its risk to take.