The World Doesn’t Need Another Nonprofit: For Those Who Miss ‘Connect the Dots’

Connect the Dots LogoI wish I could say I don’t miss Connect the Dots. I do.

Some nights are filled with intense regret. Several people contact me each month with pleas to start the project again. Sometimes I’m surprised that people still remember it. Sometimes I yearn to have it back. Then I have to remind myself some of the main reasons I closed it in the first place:

The world doesn’t need another nonprofit.

  • When I worked in St. Louis, there were something like 26 separate nonprofit organizations focused on domestic violence. From my point of view, we had so many because no one wanted to give up power by merging their organization with another and potentially losing their directorship. A graduate student in Public Administration at the time of Connect the Dots, I couldn’t in good conscious contribute to the competition and desperate scramble for funding that defines the nonprofit sector.

We can and should work the connecting the dots approach into existing organizations.

  • Why not work on strengthening the many, many nonprofits already in existence rather than creating a new one? In fact, for quite a few years now, there have been numerous calls for more nonprofits to merge. Scarcity and inefficient use of resources are the most cited reasons. Connect the Dots was about increasing capacity to address the links between human, animal, and environmental well-being. Rather than coming in from some outside, offsite organization, in my expereince incorporating such capacity building into existing social justice organizations is far more effective.

Sistah Vegan Project and Food Empowerment Project

  • Two perfectly “connectionist” organizations have existed for years, Sistah Vegan Project and Food Empowerment Project, both created and run by women of color. Why would I create a new space to have these conversations, to address these connections? And, especially as a white woman, how would doing so impact Sistah Vegan and F.E.P.?

Copycats..well, white men.

  • Don’t even get me started on the number of white men who just flat out took the idea and copied it – who told me they were taking it because they wanted to make a living off of it. I’m not kidding. One white man even told me that he wanted to be “the one who brings the connections between domestic violence and animal rights to those movements.” Yeah, because no one has done that before, especially not *gasp* women. During my whole career, I’ve watched men get praised and rewarded for saying the same thing a woman said a minute earlier. And this is in purportedly feminist organizations and spaces. I just couldn’t stomach it anymore. I do, however, greatly regret handing the Connect the Dots book manuscript over to white men, but that’s a story for another time.

I don’t own the issue.

  • As Connect the Dots grew, I began to feel more and more like I was somehow patenting something that didn’t belong to me. I had even begun using new language (see “connectionist” above), language that didn’t need to be created. Offering capacity-building assistance and the like doesn’t take 501c3 status. I can offer such assistance as myself – turning it into an organization implied a level of ownership and placed a veil over the other concurrent and formative work that got Connect the Dots there in the first place.

Connect the Dots will always be a part of me – my writing, my work. But we can all connect the dots. Many of us are doing so right now. Our community couldn’t and didn’t just exist through the Connect the Dots movement. It has and continues to spread throughout all social justice communities. Let’s be there.

If you miss Connect the Dots, thank you for coming here to find it in me. And here’s something even better that you can do – support Food Empowerment Project and Sistah Vegan Project. That’s where you’ll find the epitome of Connect the Dot’s mission.




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