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The Nonprofit Impact Pledge

The Nonprofit Impact Pledge includes two different letters: one from nonprofits to the people and communities they serve, and one from funders and donors to the nonprofits they support. These letters were written in collaboration with a group of likeminded organizations as we came to the end of a trying 2020 and recognized the need to explicitly commit to creating a better future for the sector in 2021 and beyond. 

Read the letter that is applicable to you, sign your name in solidarity with the commitments, and then share it with others who may want to join this movement.

We’ll spend 2021 more deeply exploring each one of these commitments, so that as a sector we can determine the actionable ways we will turn them from statements to reality.

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The Nonprofit Impact Pledge: From Nonprofits to the People and Communities We Serve

To our communities and all those who benefit from the work of nonprofits in America,

Our country is at a turning point, and so is the nonprofit sector. The disparate economic and social fallout from COVID-19 and the widespread reckoning with racial justice have put a spotlight on many long-standing problems with philanthropy and with the way nonprofits work. We cannot avoid these problems any longer, nor do we wish for things to return “to normal.” Our old way of existence, and many of our sector’s past practices for collaborating with funders, donors and our communities (while often well-intentioned), are broken. Instead, we wish to create a new future for the nonprofit sector, for the good of all.

 

As our country starts down the long road toward recovery from a tumultuous 2020, demand for our services continues to grow, resources continue to shrink, and outmoded systems and ways of thinking seem determined to keep our impact small. It has never been more challenging to run and sustain an effective nonprofit organization, but it has also never been more important, and we will rise up in the face of these challenges.

 

That is why we take this pledge and double down on these 10 commitments to you, the people and communities we work with. We also ask our donors, funders and those who support the sector to make a similar set of commitments to us.

Together, we can create a better future for our sector, for the good of all.

Commitment 1

We will collaborate, not compete.

We recognize that we can do more good for our communities together than we can do alone. We will focus our efforts on making a specific contribution that only our organization can make, and when we encounter other organizations doing similar work, we commit to closely collaborating, partnering or merging with them rather than competing in an effort to maximize our collective impact.

Commitment 2

We will be guided by our mission, vision and values.

We reaffirm that our mission, vision, and values are the compass that guides every decision we make. Though we recognize our need to adapt and pivot based on changing circumstances and the needs of those we serve, by putting these elements at the center of what we do, we will always focus on what matters most.

Commitment 3

We will center equity and racial justice in our work.

We continue to recognize systemic racism and widespread, long-held inequities as the root causes that make much of our work (and the work of the nonprofit sector at large) necessary. We commit to doing everything we can to create opportunity and advance equity for Black people, indigenous people and people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, those living with disabilities, women, immigrants, and other folks who are often marginalized. We will take a stand for what we believe in, call out racism, inequities, and bigotry whenever and wherever we see it, end white donor-centerism and prioritize action over intention.

Commitment 4

We will do our part to foster healthy relationships between nonprofits, donors and funders.

We will welcome donors and funders who are aligned with our mission, vision, and values. We will advocate for funding practices that provide the resources we need to do effective work for the good of our communities. This includes everything from celebrating funders whose decision-making is not driven by overhead concerns, burdensome grant applications, or reporting requirements that drill down to minutiae, and who instead are transparent in their funding process, partner with us in problem-solving for the sake of the community, and understand that multi-year  unrestricted funding has the best opportunity for the most significant impact and outcomes.

Commitment 5

We will have a plan, and we will know when to re-evaluate it.

We refuse to make the many challenges facing our organizations and the uncertain environment in which we exist an excuse for our inability to focus on what matters most to our communities or our failure to plan proactively for the future. We will operate with a strategic plan and clear set of goals always in place, but we’ll also make sure that plan remains agile and responsive to the ever-changing needs of you, the people and communities we work with.

Commitment 6

We will ensure the people and communities we work with have the power to shape our priorities.

We will put an end to all forms of savior-ism, recognizing that the power to chart our organization’s direction can’t rest with our funders, leadership and board alone. Instead, we commit to distributing that power to you, the people and communities we work with, and as we do, amplifying the voices of people who hold marginalized identities. We will ask for and listen to your input, feedback and opinions every step of the way.

Commitment 7

We will ensure we are known among and accessible to those who need our services and those who can support our work.

We know we cannot maximize our potential for impact until our organization is known among, respected by and accessible to the people we exist to serve, and the donors and funders who support us. We therefore commit to investing in our organizations’ brands, marketing and fundraising at a level that corresponds with the impact we hope to make.

Commitment 8

We will prioritize our staff and volunteers.

We recognize that our organization must have a healthy, diverse, inclusive and fully supported team of staff and volunteers in order to advance its mission. We reject the idea that burnout, undermarket compensation and limited opportunities for advancement are “just part of working for a nonprofit” and commit to prioritizing the personal and professional wellbeing of everyone who contributes to our work.

Commitment 9

We will redefine what success looks like and hold ourselves accountable to our communities.

We commit to breaking free from false metrics for nonprofit success such as overhead ratios, dollars raised or people served, and instead commit to measuring our true impact and holding ourselves accountable to you, the people and communities we serve.

Commitment 10

We will prioritize action over intention.

We know our words, statements of solidarity, and even these commitments only go so far. We will therefore continually prioritize action over intention. We will show up to work every day and take meaningful steps forward to respond to what you, our communities, are telling us you need from us. We will share our progress and our missteps transparently, and make continual adjustments to the way we work, for the good of all.

For many of us, these commitments do not represent new ideas or epiphanies. They have long been central tenants of our work. But by making them clearly and explicitly, and signing our names to this pledge, we aim to leave no doubt about what we stand for or about what we expect from our colleagues at other organizations.

We ask you humbly to join us in this quest for a better future for the nonprofit sector, and welcome your feedback on these commitments. We also ask you to pass this letter along to other nonprofits you support so they can join us in taking this pledge, and encourage you to share its counterpart with funders and donors who are making similar commitments alongside us. 

 

Sincerely,

Nonprofits of America

The Nonprofit Impact Pledge: From Funders and Donors to the Nonprofits We Support

To the nonprofits of America,

Our country is at a turning point, and so is philanthropy. The disparate economic and social fallout from COVID-19 and the widespread reckoning with racial justice have put a spotlight on many problems that have long plagued our country and that have implications on the systems we live with, including nonprofit-funder relationships. We cannot ignore these problems any longer. We as funders and donors must recognize the role we have played (unintentional as it may have been) in perpetuating them. We do not wish for things to return “to normal.” Instead, we commit to doing our part to create a new future for the nonprofit sector, for the good of all.


We solidify that commitment through this pledge to you, the nonprofits we partner with and acknowledge you are making your own set of commitments to your communities alongside us.

Together, we can create a better future for our sector, for the good of all.

 

Commitment 1

We will encourage you to collaborate, not compete.

We recognize that nonprofits can do more good for their communities when they work together. We will discontinue any practices that incentivize competition between your organizations, and instead focus on enhancing the effectiveness of our sector as a whole. We will work to build bridges between the organizations we fund and those doing complementary work.

Commitment 2

We will work with you to align our funding with your mission.

We know the most effective nonprofits are those that treat their missions, visions, and values as the compass that guides every decision they make. We will commit to working with you to understand how our funding can best support your work, so you can stay focused on your mission. This focus is what makes it possible for transformative change to take hold.

Commitment 3

We will prioritize partnerships that advance equity and racial justice.

We recognize systemic racism and widespread, long-held inequities as the root causes that make much of the work of the nonprofit sector necessary. We commit to supporting all of our grantees in advancing equity, and will direct our funding to organizations that are creating opportunity for Black people, indigenous people and people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, those living with disabilities, women, immigrants and other folks who are often marginalized. We also commit to helping our partner organizations build their capacity to advance equity and racial justice. We will take a stand for what we believe in, call out racism, inequities and bigotry whenever and wherever we see them, end white donor-centerism and prioritize action over intention in our own organizations and among our grantees.

Commitment 4

We will do our part to foster healthy relationships with our nonprofit partners.

We will be intentional about having conversations with our nonprofit partners about what they and the communities they serve need most to be successful, and focus our funding in those areas. We will share our decision-making processes with transparency, and ensure the power to drive change sits with you and your communities, not with us. We will stand up against the misconception that low overhead is the sole indicator of a successful nonprofit. We will look at ways we can simplify our grant application and outcome reporting requirements to ensure they do not perpetuate inequities or create unnecessary burdens for you, and we will offer unrestricted funding when possible. We have been making shifts in this direction for some time, and commit to accelerating those shifts now.

Commitment 5

We will support organizations that have a plan, but also know when to re-evaluate it.

We expect each of the organizations we invest in to have a strategic plan and clear set of goals always in place, but we will not hold them to that plan at all costs. Instead, we will encourage you, our nonprofit partners, to remain agile and responsive to the ever-changing needs of the people and communities you work with, and we will build our relationships with you in a way that fosters that sort of agility.

Commitment 6

We will ensure the people and communities our nonprofit partners work with have the power to shape priorities and plans.

We recognize that in the nonprofit sector, power has long been inequitably distributed away from the people and communities served by nonprofits, and toward donors and funders like us. We recognize our privilege and the role we have played in perpetuating this problem in the past. In the future, we commit to doing all we can to distribute power to the people and communities our nonprofit partners work with and to amplifying the voices of people who hold marginalized identities in the process. We will ask for and listen to your input, feedback and opinions, and those of your communities, every step of the way.

Commitment 7

We will ensure our nonprofit partners are known among and accessible to those who need their services and those who can support their work.

We know you cannot maximize your potential for impact until your organization is known among, respected by, and accessible to the people you exist to serve, and the donors and funders who can support you. We therefore commit to investing in the brands, marketing and fundraising of our grantees, and to treating these investments not as overhead, but as core mission support.

Commitment 8

We will invest in nonprofit's general operations, including staff who make the nonprofit sector’s work possible.

We recognize that your organizations must have longer-term unrestricted funds that can be allocated toward general operations and a diverse, inclusive, and fully supported team of staff. We commit to making funding decisions that prioritize the personal and professional wellbeing of everyone who contributes to the important work of the nonprofit sector, and providing them with the resources and technologies they need to do their best work.

Commitment 9

We will redefine what success looks like and expect nonprofits to hold themselves accountable first and foremost to their communities.

We commit to doing away with false metrics for nonprofit success such as overhead ratios, dollars raised or people served. Instead, we will support our nonprofit partners in their quest to measure their impact in terms of social return on investment and encourage them to hold themselves accountable not to us, their funders and donors, but to the people and communities they serve.

Commitment 10

We will prioritize action over intention.

We know our words, statements of solidarity, and even these commitments only go so far. We will therefore continually prioritize action over intention. We will show up to work every day and take meaningful steps forward to improve the way we work with nonprofits like yours, and the role we play in helping you to respond to what your communities are telling you they need most. We will share our progress (and our missteps) transparently, and make continual adjustments to the way we work together, for the good of all.

We ask you humbly to join us in this quest for a better future for the nonprofit sector, and welcome your feedback on these commitments. We also ask you to pass this letter along to other funders you work with, and encourage them to make this pledge with us.

Sincerely,

Funders and Donors of America