June 22, 2009

My Name is Not Those People

Today I'm sharing this wonderful video presentation of Julia K. Dinsmore's moving poem, "My Name is Not Those People" as read by Danny Glover, from "Give Us Your Poor - 17 New Recordings To Help End Homelessness" (Appleseed Recordings).

Grassroots grantmaking isn't about a specific issue such as homelessness. It is, however, about acting/funding from stance of everyone as contributor, everyone has value, everyone is needed. It is also based on the belief that agencies - no matter how well run - and the services that they provide - no matter how needed, professionally delivered and documented - are not the generators of healthy communities. To me, this moving presentation is that message underscored with its focus on homelessness. It reminded me that it's easy to think that the best way to help people who are down-and-out is to connect them to a professional who can provide services - especially when your business is to know so much about the services that are available. Or that it's easy to wonder if people who are so down-and-out and so in need can be (or need to be) contributors? Or, possibly even to assume that they are so down-and-out because they have nothing to contribute.

Thinking big about small grants demands some rigor about keeping some basic assumptions in clear view and airing them out with a reality check now and then. What are you assuming about people who live in challenged neighborhoods? What are you assuming about organizations that don't operate like the non-profits that your organization has traditionally funded? What can you do to connect your experience of "you as neighbor" to "you as funder".

This moving poem, so beautifully presented, served as a gentle reminder to me that it's time for a reality check. See what it does for you.

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