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66: Friendraising: Building Corporate Partnerships & Getting Black-Led Nonprofits the Funding They Deserve with Monique Parker

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“I was seeing a gap between government resources and where nonprofits really stood up to fill that gap.”

– Monique Parker
Episode #66

Overview

In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…

Faced with the death of her beloved brother, Monique Parker, my guest on this episode of What the Fundraising, reinvented herself and enlivened her purpose. She launched a candle-making business whose revenue she funneled into philanthropies that honored the spirit of her brother. And now she’s taking her nonprofit support one step further.

Leveraging her corporate experience in the tech sector, where she was responsible for granting funds to nonprofits, Monique has launched A Little Bit of Good, a capacity-building accelerator program, to close the gap in funding for Black-led nonprofits. Monique is uniquely positioned to deconstruct institutional giving and highlight the ways in which nonprofits can best work with corporate partners to build long-term, sustainable strategic partnerships. You are not going to want to miss these takeaways!

We are also getting into some of the hard questions, like: Why is there such an enormous gulf between resources allotted to Black-led versus white-led nonprofits? And are our corporate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts more about maintaining funder comfort than making an actual change? Monique suggests that there is a way for nonprofits to fulfill their missions and offer corporate funders an opportunity to partner on an ongoing basis. Employees are demanding something more than performative gestures and now is the time to show up. 

Monique’s program is designed to equip Black nonprofit leaders with the strategy, resources, and capital necessary to create sustainable and scalable impact within their communities. “If you don’t have a focus on diversity, your initiatives will always be a Band-aid,” says Monique, who believes real healing lies in demographics, data, and other concrete measures for demonstrable change. 

Listen now for all of the takeaways for nonprofits, corporate partners, and the sector alike! And if you want to see your dollars at work in a hands-on, targeted way, consider clicking here to support Monique’s work.

Is your nonprofit ready to scale up? Our sponsor DonorPerfect has evolved a powerful platform to get you there. Click here to learn more about how this collaborative all-in-one fundraising hub can help your organization drive results, coordinate development, and foster donor engagement.

If you Check out my Power Partners Formula and register for a masterclass here. You might also be interested in taking my Fundraising Superpower Quiz.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS

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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

  • Is your nonprofit ready to scale up? Our sponsor DonorPerfect has evolved a powerful platform to get you there. Click here to learn more about how this collaborative all-in-one fundraising hub can help your organization drive results, coordinate development, and foster donor engagement.
  • To learn more about how to build long-term strategic partnerships with companies, check out my Power Partners Formula and register for a FREE Masterclass to get the entire blueprint here
  •  A Little Bit of Good is designed to be a capacity-building accelerator program to support Black-led nonprofits in Texas. Her program plans to equip Black nonprofit leaders with the strategy, resources, and capital necessary to create sustainable and scalable impact within their communities.

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Is your nonprofit ready to scale up? Our sponsor DonorPerfect has evolved a powerful platform to get you there. Click here to learn more about how this collaborative all-in-one fundraising hub can help your organization drive results, coordinate development, and foster donor engagement.

To learn more about how to build long-term strategic partnerships with companies, check out my Power Partners Formula and register for a FREE Masterclass to get the entire blueprint here

 A Little Bit of Good is designed to be a capacity-building accelerator program to support Black-led nonprofits in Texas. Her program plans to equip Black nonprofit leaders with the strategy, resources, and capital necessary to create sustainable and scalable impact within their communities. 

Get to know Monique:

Monique is a tech-minded, self-proclaimed badass, DEI and Talent Acquisition professional with the heart and intention of a nonprofit leader. Her career started in recruiting and job placement where she cultivated an interest in increasing DEI awareness and representation in the tech industry. From recruiter to sourcer to program manager, Monique’s interest and purpose has always been about the people behind the products. 

Follow Monique and Little Bit of Good:

Website | Instagram | LinkedIn

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I teach nonprofit fundraisers to bring in more gifts from the RIGHT donors… so they can stop hounding people for money. Fundraising doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.

MALLORY ERICKSON

episode transcript

Mallory Erickson: Hello and welcome everyone. I am so thrilled to be here today with Monique Parker. Monique, welcome to What the Fundraising. 

Monique Parker: Hi, Mallory. It’s so good to be here. So excited to be tied with you. 

Mallory Erickson: I am really excited for this conversation today, and I’ve been thinking about it so much since we first had a chance to talk. So why don’t we start with you just telling everyone a little bit about you, your history, and what brings you to this moment in time? 

Monique Parker: Yeah, it’s a long winding evolution that’s happened over the last two years or so. But my past professional background and history is in recruiting and talent programs at the beginning. And then eventually I moved my way into DEI diversity equity inclusion. There are a ton of different acronyms that go for DEI but started working in diversity within the tech industry. Originally I was working more on internal programs and strategies, and then I pivoted over into our global diversity strategy. Which a lot of it included how we worked with other organizations, how we engaged with some of the partners that we spent our CSG budget on.

And through that time and more specifically over the last two years, I started doing a lot of one on one work with organizations and really started noticing wow, there’s so many community organizations doing amazing work. Especially we had just gone into the pandemic. I myself was seeing kind of the gap between government resources and where nonprofits really stood up to fill that gap. And at the same time had lost my brother. My younger brother passed away and I basically lost my mind. I was like, oh my gosh, I don’t know who I am. I’ve only ever been a mother and a wife and a professional and now that I’m experiencing grief for the first time I needed some type of outlet.

And so for me, my first thought in terms of an outlet or a hobby was to start real estate. I was gonna do real estate part-time on top of everything else, because that’s a part-time job, supposedly. No, that’s somebody’s full-time job I very quickly found out. And so one day I was like, okay, I need something that’s gonna just take me out of my head. Like I need to do something with my hands. So went to the craft store for whatever reason I was drawn to candles. And so ended up getting some candlemaking supplies very long story short. One candle turned into a few candles, turned into a business. So we launched my company.

It’s called Blow Candle CO in October of 2020. So we’re almost two years old now. And when that launched because my brother was probably like the most amazing human I know and had the most open heart ever and is such like I don’t know, he’s just such a worldly human. Everything that he did, he thought about others.

And so I was like, okay, there has to be a give back mission to whatever business I’m doing. I felt like I’m already working in this job. This is what I’m gonna be doing. So how can I give this money back to places that need it? Which really got me connected and started into this nonprofit journey. So in working with some of the other nonprofit leaders, I found myself like we should do this, or they should be doing that. And like very interested in what they were doing. And again at the same time, I was working that position in tech meeting with a lot of organization leaders, executive directors, and really seeing that disconnect in how they were pitching their mission and impact and what we needed to hear in terms of a donor.

From my perspective and I’ve worked at a few tech companies. I think that, yes we care about the mission, but it’s easier for us to invest when you can show us with numbers what the impact is and you can give us content and information that we can very quickly slap into our impact report or our slide deck that we’re sending. And I could totally see these leaders going in for the heart story and my leader just being like, okay, like next meeting. So I was like, okay, I’m gonna build something that works with nonprofit leaders in rebuilding their strategies. So they could gain access to these larger donors and things, which is how I ended up finding you.

But after doing more research and really looking into funding and fundraising overall, I started to see a really big deficit in terms of money going to black-led nonprofits and what the charitable giving landscape really looked like in terms of demographics and really learning about unrestricted versus restricted funds. Again, I’m very new to this sector. And so in really digging into there’s data available. But when you really think about demographics and by community, there’s not as much that really digs in. But the deficit was very noticeable and a big trend that I saw was capacity building and a lack of skill within everything that fell under that capacity building umbrella.

And that’s a place where I felt I could really add a lot of value while I am not the expert in marketing or the expert in fundraising. I do know how to think big picture and because of my previous roles, I can really strategize and build curriculum. And what pieces do we need in order to support others in growing and scaling. And I love people. I’m a big people person and I’m a connector person, and I know someone who does that and I’ll refer you to so and so. At a Little bit of good, we’re gonna be an accelerator. I’m gonna pull together these people. And we are gonna support black-led nonprofit leaders in the areas of capacity building so that they can build these strategies not thinking, how are we gonna fund this program, but how are we gonna budget for next year? What does our 2025 strategy look like? So that they can bring this information to their donors, to their community. But also adding in that need for data, that need for measurement. There’s a lot of accelerators and incubators in for-profit that do the same thing for startups and new entrepreneurs.

And we see the success of entrepreneurs exiting accelerators. And if we were to move that time, that energy, that capital. Maybe change some of the vocabulary that we use. We are working on strategy with these nonprofits. Maybe we can redirect a lot of these charitable dollars. We can develop and set up these leaders to really be able to not just make a short-term impact, but really go at that systemic change through. That was so long 

Mallory Erickson: No, I love it. And there’s so many pieces of that, that I want to double click on with you. But there’s something in particular that you said that I wanna dive into really quick right now which is that piece around the relationship between what allows nonprofit leaders to think bigger and long term while they’re needing to fundraise, report on short-term numbers, deliverables, relationships, right? You really highlighted in your story sort of attention that I think nonprofit leaders often feel, maybe not even consciously, because they’re trying to navigate this really complicated relationship of short-term funding, long term vision. I’m just curious, even in hearing that, like what comes up for you? 

Monique Parker: I think people who work in this sector and especially our smaller nonprofit orgs, we want to serve the people now. We want to fill the need now. And I think because of that we’re thinking about our program. Okay, we need to feed these people or we need to get this building so we can house X, Y, and Z people. Because we know that these things are happening in the world now and our communities need help now.

And so it’s hard, especially when you’re a leader and people are coming to you for support on a regular basis to really step back from that and maybe we can’t serve everyone right now because we need to spend a little bit more time thinking of the next two years. Or we need to reserve a little bit of budget so that we do have the capacity to plan for how we’re gonna serve you next year, even.

But I think if we are able to really see what the impact that time has, even if we’re not able to serve at the level that we want to right now. I think really looking at what strategy and what really mapping and road mapping does to greater your impact long term. I think that’s what’s the mission because like how I’m here to serve. But if I’m thinking about two years from now, you never know what’s gonna happen with funding. You never know what money will have. And I think because nonprofit, like we’re working, we need tangible funds to do this, whereas for-profit, we could plan based off of what may happen. I think it’s a little bit more risky for nonprofit to think about the future, but I definitely think it’s much more worth it. When you think about what we get from taking that time. 

Mallory Erickson: What do you think from a sort of a corporate fund perspective putting that hat on of your old role? Can you tell when an organization comes in for that pitch and you can tell that they’re there for the long haul that this isn’t some desperate one year just meeting our budget, but then what does that feel like from a funder’s perspective?

Monique Parker: I think when organizations come in and they’re not talking to us specifically about whatever program they want us to sponsor or whatever event, and they’re talking to us about their mission in much more broad terms. And they’re talking to us about what their one to three-year strategy is and they’re asking us for a longer-term partnership. I think when you’re not hesitant to say, hey, we need a million dollars over three years because here’s what we’re trying to do. We’re not interested in, although we are still interested, we’re not interested in your short-term, one-time donation and maybe we’ll come knock on your door again next year. We wanna be in strategic partnership with you over time because we know it’s gonna take more funding than just right now, just this year to make this mission happen. So join us. And that’s always yeah, got it. In numbers. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. And that mixed with here’s gonna be an impact. How does that though? I’m curious, I’ve seen a lot of companies behave really differently. I’ve seen some companies be willing to do two-year planning, but then I’ve had, especially if the money comes from marketing, they’re like I really only have a one-year budget. I can’t make future commitments. And so what is that sweet spot between how you do multi-year planning visioning with a strategic partner without the budget numbers there? What’s your sort of advice for folks on navigating that? 

Monique Parker: I feel like in only speaking from my experience, a lot of the times when you’re working with certain businesses or groups within a company or an organization they do have finite budgets. We only have this for the year and that’s the only budget that we can see because we don’t know if this budget will change next year. That’s fine. I think you still go at it with that future thinking type of conversation, great with your donation or with your support this year here’s what we are gonna be able to do. Next year when we partner with you. Here’s what it will look like. Here’s what the impact of this year one partnership will be. And here’s what we’ll be able to do in year two. Because if you are able to set that up as the person who is running that budget or taking this call with you, I do have to say what the impact now is of this partnership, but also what’s the future potential impact.

A lot of organizations aren’t looking for just one-off donor situations anymore. But if you’re able to draw what that would look like even if they’re not able to support at this time, I think it gives you a head start on that conversation in four months, six months, next year and bringing them back. And then of course, just keeping them engaged. I think a lot of organizations will get that single donation. And then we will only hear from them that following year. And I think following up just to say, hey, or here’s how it’s going, here’s what we’re doing. Even if it’s not necessarily tied to our specific donation. I think it’s nice to feel like we have an actual relationship with you. 

Mallory Erickson: Did you guys ever, or have you ever seen a company give feedback to an organization about what was missing from their pitch?

Monique Parker: I think that you are lucky if there is someone who’s taking the time to give you that feedback. I think in organizations that have someone who is specifically working on programming and these types of strategic partnerships or specifically overseeing funding. They will work with these organizations because they’re working with you on a daily basis because they’ve established these relationships with you, even if we haven’t engaged. I think with other companies where maybe it’s your CMO who’s managing this partnership org, they’re not gonna take the time because they truly can’t give you feedback that’s actually gonna help you. They just know, hey, I didn’t get enough information or the information that I needed to easily implement this into our roadmap so that’s why I said no. Whereas a program specialist or coordinator, or whoever may say, hey, next time we’re looking deeper for X, Y, and Z.

I pretty proactively did that, but I will say that not a lot of organizations came back to ask. And I think that there are people who’s willing to give you some feedback. They still want you to do well in your mission to be supported. But I didn’t see that too often. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah, it’s interesting because I think about when I was in that role and how often I led with the heart-centered stories and because that’s so much of what we’re taught inside the sector and individual giving does rely so much on storytelling and that personal connection. And then we’re not taught a lot of kind of translation skills to the business world, those of us who haven’t come from inside the business world or with exposure to it. We don’t understand exactly why we’re striking out. We’re like, wait I’m doing the thing. 

And I don’t even remember when I first had my kind of aha moment. But I think I had a marketing director who finally was like, hey can we just sit down and I can show you what my boss is asking me to report on and you can show me what your boss is asking you to report on? And we can just figure out what it looks like to find the win-win in those things. And it was such a light bulb moment for me around, oh, holy moly of course this is different. But I think when you’re inside the grind of that running a nonprofit every single day and you’re surrounded by those stories and you’re sending that email to the foundation, you’re sending that email to the individual donor. Oh this email cannot sound like those emails. This is actually a totally different type of email, but it’s hard to context switch like that. 

Monique Parker: I think so. And you have to be aware I do think it takes a couple times stumbling or really trying to figure out okay, why did I get this no? Or taking the time to segment who you’re looking at into particular buckets, maybe this organization we really need to dig in and it needs to be highly personalized communications. And I need to really connect what we are doing with their direct mission. And then there are some orgs that we know this is just a money grab. I’m gonna fill out the application. I’m gonna send a follow-up email and that’s what it is. But really knowing who you’re talking to and what they value, not just as an industry but company by company, I think is important. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. I’m curious about that in terms of your previous roles, but also with Blow and setting up like those partnerships. Could you tell when an organization had literally done zero research on you? And what’s that as a funder, as a partner on the other side to get an email where you have this sense that they just saw your name somewhere, your business’ name somewhere. Talk to me a little bit about that.

Monique Parker: I laugh because I am still a very small business. And so in the beginning I had a new nonprofit partner every quarter and I was doing a lot of chasing hey, I’m a new business. Here’s what we’re doing. And of course they were so happy to engage with me. But I think as Blow started to gain a bit of a name or whatever you wanna say locally, I would get these emails that is just, hey, we came across your website or saw your Instagram and we’re throwing a such and such gala and wanted to see if you could donate. They’ll ask for product but it would just be like, I could literally tell that the email was copied and pasted to everyone that they were reaching out to. 

The same thing with our strategic partnerships. We’ll have organizations reach out and literally forget to input my name into the hi. And with the strategic partnerships this is a substantial portion of my revenue for me 10 to 15% and at least take the time to put my name. So it’s interesting. And I’m fine when people are upfront in the first email and I really like when they say we like what you stand for because I have a very specific kind of mission when it comes to Blow and we very specifically support organizations empowering women here in Austin. And when they know that and make that quick connection, they didn’t just scan through the Instagram. And they can speak to why, why me, why Blow. I’m like compared to whoever else, I really enjoy that. And you make the ask and I’m fine. We don’t need to have extended conversations because I’m happy to partner. But it is funny when I get those emails, it’s hey, you sound great. Let’s be friends 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. I think that’s such a good point that finding aligned strategic partnerships doesn’t always have to mean that you’re making a commitment to have a super time-heavy investment of a relationship. What you’re saying is we are aligned in this way and whether the organization or you or anyone has the time to build something together or not, it might just be that alignment alone that it’s yeah, what we are looking for is an investment in our work. And I think what you’re looking for is X, Y, and Z, which would happen naturally in this partnership because we both care about this. And then it doesn’t have to be this huge undertaking. But if you don’t do that kind of alignment assessment at the beginning, 

Monique Parker: And I think and especially speaking for nonprofits looking for partners or any kind of donors, alignment is the easiest way to gain entry, I think. If we can say here’s what you’re doing and here’s how this makes sense for you and what you’re trying to do. What can you say? And then when you add data to it, when you add numbers and facts, it’s like, what can you say? And if you do say no, it should be for solid reasons because this is an alignment. This makes sense. Here’s the data that supports it. What’s stopping you? 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah, for me, it’s like the only way to do it. Otherwise what you’re left with you have money, we need money. Can you gimme some of your money? I’m like, what’s the other way? I just don’t know but I don’t wanna fundraise that way. I certainly didn’t wanna fundraise that way. And yeah, I feel like it is really the only way to actually build real partnerships. And ideally, the alignment is around those deeper mission values, and vision. But sometimes I would argue from a marketing partnership or a corporate partnership, sometimes the alignment is in the assets of visibility or brand alignment and it may or may not go deeper. The organizations can decide what level of alignment they feel comfortable with in terms of partnering. But sometimes the alignment is just in those data numbers that you’re talking about. We are in front of this many people, you want to get in front of that many people. And as long as the organization feels comfortable accepting money from that business. That would be enough alignment. 

Monique Parker: Exactly. Yeah. And sometimes, organization leaders have to point out the alignment. I think, especially I’ve been writing grants to gain more experience in nonprofit and really see and understand what we’re working with here in terms of funding and even with working with the city.

And I imagine it could be like this for other agencies as well, but they had these pots of money that is just pooled and stored away to support these initiatives that they’ve announced. But they’re slowly coming out with programs under these initiatives, but we have so much availability or access to be able to write up a proposal and say, hey, here’s your big initiative. Here’s what we’ve been doing as an organization. Here’s something or a program that we’re looking for support with. Here’s how you can support it. You’re comfortable, slap a city badge on it. Sometimes I need to show you what you’re missing as well. 

Mallory Erickson: Yes. Yes. I love that you shared that because I had a super interesting conversation with corporate partnerships manager at a nonprofit recently who told me that she actually mocks up all of her partnership stuff. And she sends them like the whole campaign, basically. She does a ton of prospect research. She gets that initial heat. And then before the meeting, she’s like, here’s one idea that I had for us to talk about at the meeting, but she basically pitches it done. And it’s a lot of upfront work, but it’s done. They have content they can use. They see how it looks and so I love that you brought that up. 

I also think there’s this really important piece about that point that you said, which is that I think sometimes nonprofit leaders were deep in our own work that we forget that other people are seeing like 1/16 of the things that we’re seeing. And so we make assumptions like, they’ll see the alignment when they hear our mission statement. But no, because when you hear your mission statement you actually see the entire organization from your depth of work in it, they are not seeing that alignment. And so I think sometimes nonprofits maybe get a little bit, I shouldn’t have to overexplain that. But it’s not actually overexplaining it to the company it’s really demonstrating where you are seeing that alignment. And in fact, what I’ve seen I’m curious what you think about this is that it doesn’t always mean that is the perfect alignment. But it gives the company something to respond to and they’ll say, oh, I see that, and also I was thinking about this. But it helps their brain get into the weeds with you.

Monique Parker: I think it helps to get the conversation flowing, but it also opens up opportunities for you to connect with the company or for you to provide value to whatever organization that maybe you weren’t thinking about. Because from my experience, it’s okay, we don’t necessarily have the time to invest in something that’s gonna be a really heavy lift of a project. We’re gonna need to meet with you every three weeks. So even once a month, sometimes there’s a lot dependent on who your point of contact is.

So in your friend’s example, that is beautiful. If you have alignment, you have the things to support. You’re not gonna be doing 12 of those pitches, but that core five to seven is probably worth your time. I also think a lot of larger businesses and for-profit corps are really moving away from the larger gifts, trying to be a little bit more specific in terms of the impact and how their employees feel impact. So I think that there’s been pressure on how do we invest in more local organizations. So as opposed to focusing on these large corporate umbrellas and looking into, okay, what companies have built in this city because employees, we wanna feel now like the on the ground hands work, we wanna see what the impact of these dollars.

I think specifically post George Floyd, everybody had some initiative or commitment regarding the black community and how and where they were gonna give. And I think a lot of people didn’t necessarily see that because they were giving to super huge United Ways who said that they have this black-specific initiative. So that’s where we’re putting our money and employees are, you just gave $12 million to this org and I leave our building and see people of color starving. So showing them how you not only uplift what they’re trying to do in their initiatives but how you can create better engagement for them with their employees through just engaging with your mission. It’s always that okay, it’s about us, but also what are they getting from this, retention, you’re getting employee engagement, data. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah and I would argue that there’s a value in it not just being about the nonprofit. If you can actually align those things what the employees are thinking about when they leave the office and what the organization is doing in the local community. From a movement perspective from a community engagement perspective, the impact that you’re having on that company even on the employee engagement, that’s powerful work. It might be invisible to your impact report but it’s actually much more community driven on so many different levels. And I think that sometimes in the nonprofit sector,  we want the nonprofit to feel, I think centered in an important way. We don’t wanna make it about the performative side of things for donors but if it can mean people being engaged with the nonprofit like that it’s actually us, not you or I, but us that is like the most powerful way to move the needle. 

Monique Parker: Absolutely. And if you have ways to engage where maybe it doesn’t come with a donation right now, this is a partner that you’re working on and you say, okay, we’ll table this conversation for six months from now. But in the meantime, what would it look like to get 10 hours of engineering support per month or what have you. That’s a real way to have these organizations really walk the walk because they’ve all made these commitments and it’s that’s fine. If you’re not able to donate funds right now. But you have 5,000 people in this organization, 2000 of them work in this area, can we have some time, nothing against asking, half companies will just be like, oh, I’m sure that’s something we can figure out. 

Mallory Erickson: Can we talk about why it’s so important that black-led organizations specifically are being supported in a unique way? And I don’t wanna lead your answer here but I’m thinking about what you just said related to the post George Floyd pledges that we saw. And the difference in how you think about when a pledge is made to serve the black community in a certain way versus supporting black leadership or black-led organizations, and how you think about that.

Monique Parker: I think, I feel like I have very complicated feelings because I was working in house during George Floyd. And seeing kind of the aftermath in terms of, oh my gosh, the huge tech uproar around we need to figure out what it means to be anti-racist. That was everyone’s favorite word. And now what that looks like within the company and everyone’s hiring chief diversity officers and things like that.

And I think when it came down to the dollars and where they were putting their funds, speaking for myself. I think I felt that I saw a lot of these funds getting donated to organizations that didn’t necessarily support in the areas that we actually needed change. I think that we saw a lot of bandaid support. Okay, we have committed X amount of money to this fight. But didn’t necessarily say what organizations or how. 

Or a lot of companies took what I feel is the easier way out. And they went with that top, 1% of nonprofits because yes, technically they serve the black community through their services, of course. A lot of these organizations also made racial commitments and initiatives and things. So it was, okay, this is an alignment, let’s put our money there because they’re doing good things. But when it came down to it, a lot of these smaller nonprofits that are really on the ground feeding, clothing, housing, and providing resources to the black community. They were left without resources and I think in terms of the need for support specifically for black-led organizations and leaders is because we see the huge deficit between white-led organizations and their unrestricted dollars, versus black-led organizations and their unrestricted dollars. 

And there are a couple reports that kind of estimate what that looks like on a year-over-year basis. And most recently I believe I read it was a 20 million difference annually between white-led and black-led nonprofits and their restricted versus unrestricted resources. And I think a lot of that, we can go into it when it comes to diversity but I think a lot of that is around visibility and trust in these organizations and specifically smaller black-led organizations. And I also think that there’s a disconnect when it comes to being able to show impact. Exactly what we are talking about because these groups are really working in the trenches on providing and working on those programs haven’t necessarily had the time or the bandwidth to really structure out what their impact looks like in numbers.

Again, organizations don’t have the time to really do that digging. So they miss the opportunity. And that’s just the trend that I feel I see pretty consistently. And while I get it, I think that we have a really big opportunity to change how we look at donor funds and our expectations from grantees. 

Mallory Erickson: Talk to me about that a little. 

Monique Parker: Just in my little bit of time writing grants and learning about this world, I think that some of the metrics that organizations and foundations expect from nonprofits don’t necessarily acknowledge where they are as an organization yet. And so I think that makes it really easy for foundations to then count out orgs that are doing really good work. But maybe they didn’t even understand what you were asking because some of the verbiage that I’ve seen in these applications is, I have to go and Google a couple words to put together how this makes sense and what you’re asking for. 

But I think that we can be foundations or any large donors, we can be a lot more flexible and a lot more collaborative in terms of how we work with these organizations on what the outcomes look like. I think that promotes much more positive work than saying, okay, here are this list of things that you need to report back on. It just doesn’t make sense to me, but again process, time, it makes things easier to have a system. I just don’t think that system serves everyone. 

Mallory Erickson: All right. I think what you are calling out that I very deeply agree with is that the ways that we’ve set up funding have been very much to keep funders comfortable. And anti-racism work should not be comfortable, really shouldn’t be comfortable. And so it feels almost in conflict to me to continue to look for, seek out, find. I feel like people are trying to shapeshift the systems as quickly as possible to a new version of comfortable. But any kind of quick fix, even on your grant reporting process or your metrics process, anything that isn’t involving some uncomfortable discourse back and forth is maybe gonna be a one-degree shift towards more anti-racist practices, but it’s not actually gonna move the needle we’re talking about. 

Monique Parker: I think the same as in for profit or any other business that has a DEI strategy. Or when you look within the recruiting industry and most businesses have a strategy or some sort of metric that looks at by demographic, who are we hiring? Who are we losing? Who are we promoting so that we can at least try to practice some equitable behavior by looking at that. And I think that foundations and funders also need that DEI strategy because I think that it can feel good doing good, and it is great. But I think that you also have to be aware of or acknowledge that funding wasn’t created to support people of color historically, just like everything else. 

So obviously there are going to be natural inequities that happen. And especially if you are a non POC, if you are a white leader of one of these foundations, there are so many things that you can’t even be aware of. So you need a strategy to make sure that what you’re doing is truly serving the community holistically. And that means all of the different groups and communities within it. And so I think that what we miss is that like specific focus on diversity and calling out that we need that, even though we serve the community there are different levels to the community. And I think that can really only be found when you’re specifically looking for it. When you say we want to be more supportive, or we want to see what our impact is by demographic, or how specifically are we serving the Latin X community? You don’t know until you really do that digging and you can’t do better. 

So I think that there’s powering kind of having those strategies, even if it’s just a lightweight, we’re gonna work with these orgs that are connected to this community and that’s what we have the bandwidth for right now. That’s fine. But just the awareness and having something I think is so important. Or working with people who know. That’s fine too. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. And working with people from inside the communities that you’re trying to support. And this is why I think your incubator is so important as well. I think the other piece that I’ve seen a lot around that I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir around the DEI conversation is people looking at metrics around the diversity of staff percentages, but not how much control of resources those staff members have. So it’s one thing to hire diverse staff that don’t have any impact on allocating your budget. It’s quite another to hire folks who are redistributing the funding of your organization and your foundation.

And so I think that’s also the second layer is what’s the quick way perhaps that post George Floyd, we tried to make ourselves comfortable. Again I say we as white people tried to make ourselves comfortable again. And then really understanding what that actually did because we don’t wanna be performative And we’re watching businesses get called out for performative actions all the time in a number of different ways. And I would say that I don’t think everybody even knows what they did performative. They’re like, but I really did diversify the team. And because without really doing that work, you’re like, okay yeah but all of that diversity was in this area of your business, which has no ultimate effect on this other piece of the puzzle. And so it is complicated and layered. 

Monique Parker: Yeah, absolutely. But I think even with nonprofit missions, if you don’t have a focus on diversity I think it is in my opinion that your initiatives will always be band-aid. There will never be systemic change because how can you be aware of what that looks like? And it’s not just, I love that you mentioned not just hiring people within your staff that are of color, but really in influential positions, what does your board look like? Is this an active board? Not just are we just bringing on people for the looks of it. But also are you engaging them around these topics? What kind of conversations are you having? Because I truly believe that everyone has good intentions but I think that there is another step that we need to start taking if we really wanna move our missions to support the community, to really change the systemic factors that cause the need for this in the first place.

And this is me just as a novice. I still feel like when I speak anything about nonprofit, I’m just like, ooh, you don’t even know yet. But I think that it’s truly no different in my head, I’ve always, this is nonprofit and this is for-profit. And the more I move from one world to another it literally no different. And I think because we just use different vocabulary. So I try not to now, when I’m talking about fundraising, I’m talking about investments and capital. I just think we need to flip how people think about it, but it runs the exact same way. It has exact same needs for strategy, for that same attention, for partnerships. 

But yeah, I think there’s a lot more to do, but I’m really excited. 2020 through to now I think that there’s been a lot of energy around I wanna make a difference or an impact and what does that look like? And people redefining their paths. I being one of those people and I think it’s gonna bring a lot of good, a lot of change. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. So it’s August, it’s black philanthropy month. Tell everyone where they can learn a little bit more about the incubator, donate. if there’s a campaign going. Tell us where they can find all the things. 

Monique Parker: Yes. So the organization is called Little Bit of Good. Again, it’s a four-month capacity-building accelerator and fund for black-led nonprofits in central Texas. We launch next month. So our website is www.littlebitofgood.org. It’s not yet live but it will be on August 1st. We’ll be accepting donations there. We are working with The Give Butter Platform. And then we’re also on Instagram, Littlebitofgoodorg_. I’m still getting used to saying it. And if you like candles, Blow Candle Co, BlowCandleco.com and BlowCandleCO online on Instagram, and we support a lot of amazing organizations here in Austin. So feel free to get some good smells. 

Mallory Erickson: Thank you so much for joining me today. This was such a wonderful conversation. 

Monique Parker: Thank you. You are so amazing. And I just appreciate you so much. 

Mallory Erickson: Ah, likewise.

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