There are similar forces at work when you accept a debt obligation and accept a restricted charitable grant or gift. Both entail a kind of indenture, defined as a “legal contract that reflects or covers a debt or purchase obligation”. In the former case, it is a promise to repay a debt, with the penalty for non-repayment usually being damage to creditworthiness and the (re)possession of debtor assets. In the latter, it is a promise to deliver a certain program, service, or product that fulfills…Continue Reading Ripped from the Headlines – Notes on Philanthropy & Debt Slavery

The proposal of an Undersector, a sector that exists beyond and outside of the three that are recognized today, begs a question of origins. What are the histories and historiography of the Undersector? If the state, private, and charitable sectors describe most, if not all of the geography of possession and control today, how is it that we may even sense there’s something else, another realm? There are some clues in the origins of Western law and political economy. Today’s sectors have largely been defined…Continue Reading “Origin Stories – Pulling on the Thread of Commoning”

What is the Undersector? It is a space beyond, below, above, and otherwise outside of our current frameworks that both define and permit possession and control, namely those of the state, private, and charitable spheres. It is a space that transcends time, having existed since “before the before”, in the words of Fred Moten. And it will be until after the after, plus ultra. In the Undersector, our responsibility to each other, the world, and its resources are defined exclusively by mutual stewardship. Borders and…Continue Reading “Exploring the Undersector”

Reframing Intermediaries as Collective Capacity Builders It’s time to stop using the term “intermediary” and start using the term Collective Capacity Builder for nonprofits that provide resources to other nonprofits. Why? Intermediary has all the wrong connotations and is likely one of the reasons that funders and donors are still squeamish about supporting infrastructure that seems to “get in between” their resources and the needs on the ground. “Intermediary” invokes bureaucracy, barriers, and needless added expense and complexity. Intermediaries are often painted with the same…Continue Reading “From Barrier to Builder”

Can the Nonprofit Sector be Saved? The nonprofit sector today is threatened not only by forces of financial insolvency, as we are most often inclined to point out, but more critically by its rooting in white corporate culture and supremacist practices. Though our sector is one of the battle fronts for social justice, to what degree can we use instruments wrought by white supremacy for its own undoing?  So the critical question is not whether the sector can be reimagined in a more financially sustainable…Continue Reading “A Question of Redemption”

Mission Motivation and Why It Matters The nonprofit sector is home to a staggering diversity of missions and purposes, but there are just two archetypal origins that inspire mission, or mission motivations. Missions are either primarily motivated by external or internal forces to the individual or group defining the mission. The category your mission falls into may help explain some of the inequities in funding you encounter as well as the manner in which you argue impact, build a resource model, think about scale, and…Continue Reading “The Inequities of Doing Good”

A New Framework for the Nonprofit Sector The Problem. The American nonprofit sector, from its origins in the early 20th century, has built itself in the image of the private sector. Private sector thinking, assumptions, values and practices have intruded the management of what is actually a commons–a set of resources (financial, human, physical, intellectual) that are stewarded and sustained for the benefit of a defined group of people. This misapplication of private management and free-market thinking to a landscape of commons resources is the…Continue Reading “Reclaiming Common Good”