The Signifying Nonprofit


Way down in the jungle deep,

The philanthropic funder stepped on the signifying nonprofit’s feet.

The nonprofit said, “Funder can’t you see?

These restricted funds are slowly strangling me.”

The funder replied, “I ain’t heard a word you said,

My money only supports programming, I don’t care ‘bout overhead.”


Now the nonprofit lived way up in a tree

With no funder on his back he was happy as can be.

Hard days addressing social challenges were followed by hummus and kombucha tea.

But ever so often the funder would come around

Just to show the nonprofit who was the best problem solver in town.


Collective impact and innovation the funder demanded

The poor nonprofit fell in line but no funds were ever handed.

The nonprofit got tired of the funder playing tricks

He came up with a plan, “I’ll fix this tricky dick.”

So the nonprofit ran up to the funder the next day

“Mr. Funder a whole lot of trouble is coming your way.”


I ran into Mark Zuckerberg the other day.

He talked bad about you till my hair turned gray.”

He said, “Your daddy was an industrialist who just got bored.”

And “Your momma was in bed with a Rockefeller, a Carnegie and a Ford.”

When the funder heard this he was fit to be tied,

“How dare an owner of a raggedy social network question my bona fides!”


The funder took off in a rage

He found Mark Zuckerberg on a TED stage

“Zuckerberg, what’s this I hear about you dissing philanthropy,

You messed up in Newark now you want to start some funky, LLC.

If you were smart you would be like Bill Gates and start a 501c.”


Zuckerberg roared, “You dusty, old funder I know you ain’t talkin’ bout me

When the whole philanthropic model might be an affront to democracy.

You redistribute resources and make policy without a single vote cast

Your days are numbered, your time has passed.”

The funder was about to speak when Zuckerberg exclaimed, “Don’t say another philanthropic word!

Or I’ll call every one of my friends on your funky little board.”


The funder left with his head hanging low

He couldn’t believe he let that signifyin’ nonprofit trick him so

When the funder saw the nonprofit the next day

He said you signifying trickster I’m gonna make you pay

The nonprofit ran up his tree and started to dance

He told the dusty old funder, “You’ll never get the chance.

Zuckerberg is the new philanthropy and I’m no longer subject to your whims and rants.”


Just then the nonprofit slipped and fell

He tripped over some old funder progress reports he forgot to mail.

The nonprofit hit the ground with a loud thump

In an instant the philanthropic funder was on his rump.

A tear welled up in the signifying nonprofit’s eye

The funder’s teeth gleamed reflecting the sun in the sky.


And with one final tear, the nonprofit knew that was the end of his signifying career.







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