Your crappy chair is not a badge of honor

[Image description: A rolling black, high-backed office chair. Its seat is ripped in three places, with a large tear about eight inches long on one side. This was a chair in Vu’s office. Image taken by Vu. Because he was procrastinating from writing a grant proposal.]

[Hi everyone, before we begin today’s post, if you are in the US and have not written a review of a foundation or two on Grantadvisor.org, please take a minute to do so. It’s like a Yelp for foundations, but all the reviews are anonymous! And every new reviewer gets a puppy*!  *This may not be true]

 

This week, I went to Fort McMurray, Canada, to speak at events put on by FuseSocial and Capacity Canada. Fort McMurray is rebuilding after a devastating wildfire swept through and forced the town to evacuate. It was inspiring to feel the palpable sense of community and resilience from the warm-hearted people there, some of whom made a special whiskey from a bunch of barley that got smoked during the fire. As the old Canadian proverb goes, “When Life smokes your barley, you make whiskey, eh?”

During my keynote, which focused the future of the sector and which heavily referenced Star Trek and included the trademark pictures of baby animals, I mentioned how we all need to get over the Scarcity and Martyrdom complex. “Half of you are sitting on crappy chairs that you got from a bank that moved or something,” I said, and people laughed and nodded.

The crappy chair is a hilarious trope in our sector. Everyone seems to have some sort of crappy chair story. There’s my ED friend whose chair was so bad her board had to force her to buy a new chair. At my own organization there was a chair with multiple holes in it; I took this picture of it and posted it on NAF’s Facebook page, which got sympathetic comments like, “My chair was missing a wheel for a full year. I just told people trying to balance was strengthening my core.” Someone wrote, “I am Spartacus!”

But one person wrote “Obviously you work for cheapskates. Everybody deserves to be at least comfortable in their workplace. This is degrading.” To which l replied, “Well, considering that I am the boss, you may just be right [crying face].” Continue reading

Can we agree on this simple definition of Equity?

[Image description: An open silver briefcase with stacks of 100-dollar bills held together with rubber bands. Strewn around the briefcase are loose bills. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

In a previous article, I mentioned that equity has been like coconut water. It’s all over the place. It’s flavored with pineapple, sometimes with chocolate. Everyone is drinking Equity; it’s on websites, in conference themes, and in those “word-cloud” thingies. Given how pervasive it is, it’s weird that we don’t seem to have a common, universally-accepted definition for it. As this article states “Very few foundations had a clear definition of what equity meant to them internally, and absolutely no one saw any common definition emerging from the field anytime soon.” So, after thinking about it for a while and talking to other leaders, here’s my take on it, at least in the nonprofit/philanthropic sense:

“Equity is about ensuring the communities most affected by injustice get the most money to lead in the fight to address that injustice, and if that means we break the rules to make that happen, then that’s what we do.”

Some of you are probably thinking, “Money? That’s your definition? That’s simplistic AF. Maybe you should stick to writing nonprofit jokes.” Yes. It’s money. Equity is about money and whether that money is going to the people most screwed over by our society. All of us need to stop avoiding this basic premise. Continue reading

21 things you can do to be more respectful of Native American cultures

[Image description: A view of downtown Seattle, with tall buildings overlooking Mt. Rainier in the distance. Seattle was named after Chief Seattle, who was a Suquamish Tribe and Duwamish Chief. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Today is Indigenous Peoples Day. A colleague asked me to write and encourage people to not use sayings that reference Native American culture (“let’s have a pow wow”) or allude to Native Americans as enemies (“circle the wagons”). I realized that besides our thoughtless usage of phrases, we all probably do other things that are disrespectful. I checked in with a few of my friends and colleagues who are Native about things that they wish all of us who are not Native would do or not do. It has led to some eye-opening conversations.

The tips below, in no particular order, are from Tara Dowd, Inupiaq; Randy Ramos, Colville and Coeur D’Alene; James Lovell, Turtle Mountain Ojibwe; Joey Gray, Métis and Okanagan; Vicki Mudd, nondocumented Cherokee and Blackfoot; and Miriam Zbignew-Angelova, Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Sauk/Fox, and African-American and Ashkenazi. Sentences in quotation marks are from them. I want to thank my colleagues for their time and suggestions for resources. This is clearly an area that many of us need to learn more about and do better on, and I’m grateful for their time and energy.

I know that Native American history and identity are extremely complex and can’t be covered in a blog post, especially one that is written by a non-Native, but I hope that at the very least, this would be a start for all of us to be more thoughtful in our interactions with our Native colleagues and community members. Continue reading

9 self-care strategies in the era of Trump

[Image description: A white kitten lying down, with its head upside-down and looking directly at the camera. Beneath it is a light blue towel. The background is out of focus, but seems to be of a shelf with a few figurines. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. I know that it seems indulgent to discuss self-care when people in Puerto Rico are suffering and dying without power or water or baby formula while our president attacks athletes and calls the mayor of San Juan nasty from the safety of his golf course. But all of us are in the work to make the world better, so we have to take care of ourselves. Because, unfortunately, our work is only going to increase. So, here are some self-care tips:

 

Donate to organizations on the ground. It feels horrible to read the news about people drinking out of creeks and children running out of food and not be able to do anything about it. But we CAN do something about it. Give cash! As much as you can! Here’s a bunch of orgs in Puerto Rico you can give to. And remember how much we all hate restricted funding? Make sure your donation is general operating so that these orgs can use it however would be most effective. Continue reading

14 irritating jargon phrases, and awesome new cliches you should use instead

[Image description: An emu, with two red eyes. We only see its head and part of its long neck. The background, out-of-focus, is green and yellow, suggesting trees and other plants. Image obtained from pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. I’m trying to focus more on positive or just lighter stuff on this blog for the next few weeks, but people really need help in Mexico and Puerto Rico, so please click on those links and donate. 

We’ve examined irritating jargon in two previous posts (“21 irritating jargon phrases…” and “17 irritating jargon phrases…”), but when all the rhubarb is harvested, there are still more. So here’s some more jargon, and new clichés to replace them with. Thanks to the NAF Facebook community and other colleagues for the suggestions, some of which are jargon, some just cliches. We’ll save for last the most annoying jargon we all use, but otherwise, these are in no particular order. Continue reading