‘Grinch’ Takes On Nonprofit Funders

By the end of the classic Dr. Seuss tale, “How The Grinch Stole Christmas!,” the Grinch’s heart triples in size. But what happens after that? The Human Services Council of New York (HSC) put its spin on a sequel of sorts, with a 12-minute video as part of its annual Changemakers benefit on Wednesday.

Michelle Jackson, executive director of the Human Services Council of New York (HSC), wasn’t sure if they would do another video this year, after her predecessor left the organization in January. “Trilogies are scary,” she quipped. But the pandemic and the fact that the annual benefit would be virtual made sense to give it another go.

“The Grinch – A Non-profitable Christmas” riffs not only on nonprofits and the relationships with the city and state but also the ever-present video conference and virtual events of the past year.

“Our members really appreciated the message of this video, the kind of lack of government involvement during the pandemic. That definitely got our biggest applause because the state has really cut back on funding to human services providers,” Jackson said. HSC represents 170 direct human service providers or other coalitions that provide human services, mostly in New York City and the surrounding area.

HSC’s first try at tongue-in-check videos about the sector, “Everyone Deserves a Fair Slice,” took on the idea of nonprofit overhead and foundation funding. It has garnered almost 75,000 views, with 643 likes and 7 dislikes. Most of the 24 comments were effusive in how relatable the video was, with only one that questioned whether “humiliating” foundations and funders was the right move. Last year, HSC spoofed “The Bachelor” television show with a video called, “The Funder.”

“That’s the personality of the council and our leadership, we use everything in our arsenal, to make the human services sector more relatable,” Jackson said. “We’ll keep doing it as long as we think we’re coming up with ideas that push a narrative and add value to the work we’re doing. If we don’t do that, we’ll stop.”

The Grinch – A Non-profitable Christmas cracked 200 views as of this morning. The video opens with a narrator telling the story of The Grinch, who leaves Whoville for New York City at the beginning of 2020 to run a nonprofit after this heart grew so large at the end of “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”

In the video, the Grinch participates in The Nonprofit Summit 2020 via videoconference, along with representatives from the city and state, and bemoans how difficult the year has been for human services providers. “We are feeding, sheltering and providing services to more New Yorkers than ever,” the Grinch said. “Funding from the government has been delayed, renegotiated, or cut altogether. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have cared about any of this, my heart was too small. But now. Now it’s just too big,” he said.

The city representative leaves the Zoom to file his mayoral candidacy while the state rep echoes more than a few platitudes. “Let’s make this a super-spreader of hope,” she shouts and later announces a special state campaign: “Just in time for the holiday season, Cuomo Claus ugly sweaters: 80% of 10% of every dollar is going to eventually be divided in half to the nonprofits around the state. We’ll be sending you RFPs shortly. We got them down to 100 pages.”

The Grinch lays down some hard truths about the human services sector, particularly amid the pandemic.  “Y’all are gonna turn me into the old me,” The Grinch warns. “Christmas is coming. You know what I’m capable of. We need action, not just talk,” he said.

HSC collaborated again with Key Ideas, a San Antonio-based agency. Much of the filming was done over Zoom and the video cost roughly the same as previous years, about $20,000, which came out of general operating funds as part of its advocacy work.

Overall, the response to the video has been positive, according to Jackson, but there are some people who don’t love the videos because of its sarcastic tone. “It’s true of our membership, like New York City, when done with a sense of humor, it’s done much deeper than skits; our members seemed OK being portrayed as Grinch,” she said, adding that a lot of government partners recognize the limitations of what they can get done in politics.

HSC’s first two videos have been really sarcastic — “kind of the New York way,” Jackson said — but this one ends on a more uplifting note, showcasing executive directors.

“Time to stand up and unite, to make everything wrong with government policy right,” the narrator says. “To show how this story ends, we asked for some help from our friends,” he said, as the video segues into a montage of nonprofit leaders during the pandemic before the final credits roll.