There Is A Group Naming Names And Advocating For Better Funding Practices

Around the start of the year, the group Crappy Funding Practices was created on LinkedIn. Vu Le who writes the Nonprofit AF blog had started calling out the problematic practices of funders on Twitter a few years ago, but with the help of some volunteers, they decided to expand the scope of their activities and started to solicit submissions of bad practices non-profit staff have run up against.

A lot of what they call out are things like onerous reporting requirements or twenty page applications requiring world changing results in return for $5000 grant or prohibitions on fundraising for a quarter of the year. And even an instance where you had to pay $100 to attend a luncheon to learn if you received a grant.

One of the very worst examples were the requirements from a foundation supporting classical music.

The team also praises some positive funding practices like the Minnesota Council on Foundations which offered tools for other funders to use in order to reduce barriers for grant seekers. The Fairfield County Community Foundation got a shout out for acknowledging that they listened to feedback from grant seekers and had revised their processes.

Even though the page has only been operating for about four months, a writer from Inside Philanthropy took notice and reported on the page, the problems it was addressing, and the change that is slowly taking place as a result.

I expect that the profile of the group will continue to rise over coming months and years. Hopefully that will result in some industry wide changes that will make the process easier and more equitable for grant seekers.

As the article mentions, none of these problems are new. They have been acknowledged as hurdles in the granting process for years and years, but most funding organizations haven’t really worked at making changes to remove barriers for applicants. Vu Le started calling people out by name out of frustration. The group of volunteers behind Crappy Funding Practices has helped expand on this effort out to act as an advocate for non-profit grant seekers rather than out of spite. Though I imagine there is some angry frustration at the base.

I post about this not so much to encourage people to submit funders you dislike as to let people know that there is an organized effort to advocate for better conditions on your behalf. That said, if there are organizations whose practices and requirements are burdensome, you may want to consider completing their submission form.

Examples of Great Funders can be submitted here.

Benefits Of Incorporating Your Arts Career

h/t for linking to a really valuable article on Observer about considering creating a limited liability corporation (LLC) if you are an artist.  I recently created a post on ArtsHacker summarizing some of the ways in which an LLC protects artist’s personal assets in the case of lawsuits and in some cases, divorce proceedings.

This excerpt from Observer article summarizes how an artist would operate after forming an LLC:

….but most artists operating as one-man shops set up limited liability companies, according to Powers, where the LLC is the employer and the artist is technically the employee. When a sale or commission is made, the money is paid directly to the corporate entity, which then pays the artist, either in a lump sum or in increments (as a salary), and the artist pays taxes on that money as ordinary income. But not all the money transfers directly through to the artist. The corporate entity retains some cash to purchase art supplies, health insurance, workmen’s compensation to protect employees who may get injured during transit or installation, commercial premises and liability insurance—and, assuming the artist is successful enough, to hire employees or consultants.

The article discusses a number of legal scenarios an artist might find themselves in which the buffer of an LLC would be beneficial. More than just providing legal protection, they also note that forming an LLC would allow the artist to solicit investment to support their work.  Take a look at the ArtsHacker post or go straight to the article to learn more.


Should Your Work Be Protected By An LLC?

Guaranteed Basic Income Programs Seem To Benefit Those With Concrete Goals

Long time readers know I tend to pay attention to news about guaranteed basic income programs, particularly those that have artists as a target group. Thanks to a CityLab link to a story on Los Angeles’ recent foray into providing guaranteed basic income, there is more data about what approaches are most effective. This program didn’t target artists as a group, but it has some good insights.

Like most stories on the subject, there were many heartening stories about the successes people had and continued to experience after the program ended. However, this article also mentioned those who were doing well while they were receiving the $1,000 month funds, but once the program ended found themselves faced with living in their cars. Anecdotally, at least those who had problems after the funding ended weren’t spending that much differently than those who continued to thrive. (i.e. the biggest spurge spending was on rather modest once a week meals)

What seems to be the differentiating factor is whether people had concrete goals they wanted to achieve prior to receiving the monthly payment:

Participants that do achieve a measure of economic mobility, she said, are those who already had concrete goals or plans.

“What happens with guaranteed income is that it smooths that income volatility … and it creates predictability,” Castro said. “When you have that floor, that scarcity starts to go away. And we know that it calms the mind, it calms the spirit, and it creates space for people to re-imagine an alternative future, or to maybe take steps toward a goal that they’ve always had but have not been able to actualize.”

Abigail Marquez, general manager of L.A.’s Community Investment for Families Department, which ran BIG:LEAP, called guaranteed income “one effective strategy” for ending generational poverty in L.A. Such programs must be paired with workforce development, economic development and housing strategies, she said.

Knowing this, one concern I would have is that guaranteed basic income programs not gradually evolve guidelines similar to foundation grant programs where candidates for receiving the money have to provide evidence of having goals they are pursuing and just need a little bit of help gaining stability. Unfortunately, it is easy to imagine this happening because the folks putting up the money want to hear success stories and know their funds are being used effectively. Little by little, the unrestricted use nature of guaranteed basic income can become a little more restricted.

On the other hand, I feel like guaranteed basic income for artists becomes an even better idea since artists generally always have projects in mind they want to pursue. Though I am sure there are some who would say some of those projects aren’t as practical as the goals people in the L.A. Times story were working on.

A Flip Of A Coin Is More Likely To Correctly Identify Your Org As A Non-Profit Than A Recent Visitor

Another post I wanted to make to get people thinking and doing things differently for 2024 is based again on research Collen Dilenschneider and the IMPACTS team have done. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, they provide a lot of worthwhile data.

As with yesterday, this topic deals with how your organization is perceived by the community. In this case, it is people’s ability to correctly identify your organization as a non-profit to which they might donate.

While you might already acknowledge that not everyone knows your organization is a non-profit, it might surprise you to learn just how few people are aware your organization is a non-profit.  According to Dilenschneider, even those organizations enjoying the highest level of awareness don’t break 50% (subscription required).

Overall, only 38.6% of US adults believe that nonprofit exhibit-based organizations are nonprofits. This number considers visitors and non-visitors alike and the weighted attendance distribution of each organization type in the US.

Nonprofit performing arts organizations are in a similar situation: Fewer than half of recent patrons correctly identify them as nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit live theaters and live theater organizations are least likely to be accurately perceived as nonprofit organizations, and nonprofit orchestras are most likely to be perceived accurately as nonprofit organizations.

What is actually successful according to Dilenschneider, is emphasizing your organizational mission. She cites data that people who are unable to discern an organization is non-profit are frequently “cannot name a single meaningful achievement associated with the organization in question, despite being aware of or perhaps even visiting that organization.” She says making people aware of “unique meaningful achievements and missions” increases the likelihood that people can correctly identify an organization as a non-profit. Instead of continuing to mention that you are a non-profit, she advises emphasizing the “perceived values and impactful initiatives that an organization brings to its respective communities and constituencies.”

I go into a little more detail in my ArtsHacker post from October. If that piques your interest, check out Dilenschneider’s original post for more charts and data.


No One Knows You’re A Non-Profit (Sometimes Even After You Tell Them)