Category Archives: ED Life

Why we hold on to bad employees, and why we need to fire people faster

game-animals-334334_1280Hi everyone. This post a little tough for me to write. Because, I love the people in our sector, 93% of whom are amazing, dedicated, wonderful individuals. Getting a chance to work with you every day is one of the biggest reasons I love doing what I do. Knowing you are out there makes it easier for me to get out of bed each day, put on deodorant, wet down my cowlicks, eat a handful of Fudgee-Os, and tackle injustice (not always in that order).

This post, however, as you can tell by the title, deals with challenging staff situations; specifically, why we hold on to people who are ineffective or even harmful to our organizations, what that does to our team and mission, and what we need to do about it. I am not an HR expert, and recommend you go to people who are (Ask a Manager is one great resource). So take my words with a swig of Pepto. But having been an ED for a while now, and being in various venting sessions with colleagues, whom I’m quoting in this post, I’ve been noticing some patterns. Continue reading

Requiring formal education as a default is an inequitable hiring practice we need to end

barn-owl-1208035_960_720Recently, I’ve been seeing more and more job postings list the salary range. This is awesome. As awesome as the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” which I binge-watched in three days in lieu of sleeping. As I mentioned, not listing salary is inequitable, punishing women and people of color and wasting everyone’s time; and the corollary practice of asking for salary history is as evil and gross as the monster in “Stranger Things” and also must be destroyed.

But now, we also need to focus on another pervasive and inequitable hiring practice: our default of requiring a formal degree for practically every job in our sector. If you look at job postings, you’ll likely see language like “Bachelor’s degree in related field required” or “Bachelor’s required, Master’s preferred.” Even for entry-level positions. This mention of a formal degree in job postings is so ingrained in all of us that it is seen as normal, and we don’t even stop to think about it. It’s kind of like having a veggie platter at a party; it doesn’t matter how many people will actually eat the celery sticks and raw cauliflower florets—basically three people—we must have the giant veggie platter!

If we want to create a just society, we have to be more thoughtful of our hiring practices, because this formal education requirement hurts real people and perpetuates the inequity that all of us are fighting against. Here are a few reasons why: Continue reading

7 lessons nonprofits can learn from newborn babies

chick-1202577_960_720Hi everyone, my apologies in advance, as today’s post may not be very coherent. On Friday, my son, Kiet Thomas Prinzing Le, was born (you can see a picture on Nonprofit Happy Hour). The little tyke came several days early, surprising all of us. I have not slept since then. It’s been a little rough, I won’t lie. I am barely lucid right now.

I said before that having a baby is like getting a giant multi-year highly-restricted grant. Like, “Congratulations, our foundation has decided to award you a million each year for 18 years. But every two hours, day or night, you have to get up and fill out an online survey while we scream at you in a high pitched voice.”

Except replace “fill out an online survey” with “change diapers.” I had forgotten what’s it’s like to have a newborn. The screaming, the spit ups, the clawing at the face. And that’s just me. Then there’s the meconium. It is a baby’s first poop, and like most strategic plans it is so dense and viscous that not even light can escape, thus giving it the color and consistency of roofing tar. You can only pray that you do not get any of this on your hand or hair, because only a caustic agent like gasoline or kombucha tea can dissolve it. Continue reading

10 classic movies that could have been about nonprofit work


humphrey-bogart-619157_960_720Despite the awesomeness and complexity of our work, and the fact that we employ 10% of the work force, and the fact that independent studies that I have commissioned found that we have the most attractive professionals among all the sectors, nonprofit is still neglected by the media and society at large. 
I’ve written about the need for more TV shows about our sector. And now, we need to push for more movies. Imagine how much more awesome some of our classic movies would have been, if they had been about nonprofit. Here are some of my ideas, along with potential quotes. #nonprofitmovielines. Go make that trend on Twitter, like you did with #nonprofitpickuplines.

A Few Good Donors: An up-and-coming Development Director tries to convince her ED to change their org’s fundraising strategies, in the process encountering resistance and a complex conspiracy involving budgets, CRMs, the board, and strategic planning. “You want answers? You want the truth?! An effective donor cultivation strategy takes time and resources!”

The Shawshank Restriction: Andy, a new Program Director learns too late that the organization that just hired him had gotten trapped by a burdensome and restrictive multi-year federal grant. The terrifying realities of restricted funding are explored as Andy works to save the remainder of his program and his sanity, using his skills and intelligence to gain the trust of his jaded colleagues and extract the program and organization out of the dilemma. “Get busy doing work, or get busy doing paperwork.” Continue reading

Your self-care may be holding you back and making people around you hate your guts

meditation-473753_960_720On Friday I attended the Seattle chapter’s monthly ED Happy Hour. A bunch of EDs showed up and for four hours we all drank and laughed and stuffed our faces with sushi and discussed “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and its parallels to nonprofit work. It was awesome, as usual, to get to hang out with my brilliant colleagues. At 9pm, as the group disbanded, we found out an ED was planning to head back to her office for a couple more hours of work. “What’s wrong with you?!” we hissed, pelting her with edamame shells, “Go home to your family!”

The majority of us in this sector, probably 90%, work ridiculous hours at very stressful jobs, and we really do need to take better care of ourselves, and our organizations as well as society need to do more to create supportive conditions—fair wages, adequate benefits, sufficient family leave and vacation time, a culture of learning and camaraderie, a working printer, two-ply toilet paper, etc.—so it’s not just our individual responsibility to ward off burnout.

There are plenty of thoughtful articles on these topics, such as this one by Beth Kanter called “How Can Nonprofits Switch from Scarcity to Abundance Mindsets When It Comes to Self-Care?” and this one by Mary Cahalane called “Your work or a life: A painful choice no one should have to make,” and this one by B. Loewe calling for “An End to Self-Care” (in favor of a more holistic “community care.”) I’ve also touched on this topic a few times, such as “7 self-care tips for nonprofit professionals” and “The courage for mediocrity: Why we nonprofit professionals need to give ourselves a break.

This post today, though, is to bring some balance. In some ways, maybe because we talk so much about it, that self-care has become somewhat of a punchline to various jokes: “Hey, are you attending that breakfast gala of one of our partner organizations?” “Nope! Self-care!” “Hey, I heard you were asked to lead the diversity and inclusion committee?” “I declined. Self-care!” “Did you drink my bottle of Mike’s hard lemonade that I was saving for lunch?!” “Yup! Self-care!” Continue reading