Category Archives: leadership

The game of nonprofit is flawed. Learn to play it so you can change it. 

[Image description: A raccoon, grayish brown, peeking over a thick tree branch, staring directly at the camera with its piercing dark eyes. Image from Pixabay.com]

Every once a while, an up-and-coming nonprofit professional would ask me, “What advice would you give us folks who are just starting in the sector?” This is how you know that you yourself are no longer an up-and-coming nonprofit professional. I am trying to embrace my status as one of the grizzled old-timers with the battle scars:

“When I entered the sector years ago, we had to walk five miles—in the snow!—to deliver a grant proposal. Back then, paperclips weren’t invented, and funders wanted the attachments to be clipped just right. We had to make paperclips out of pine needles. But, there were only eight pine trees west of the Mississippi, and they were fiercely guarded by vicious raccoons. I can still see their beady eyes, glowing red like those sticky dots people used to vote with during community meetings. Of course, back then, the sticky dots weren’t just something you bought at the store. They were gum drops we had to slice by hand. Problem with using those gum drop slices though was that they attracted the raccoons. We spent as much time battling raccoons as we spent running programs.” Continue reading

Hey people with privilege, you need to be OK with making mistakes and being called out

[Image description: A little grey kitten with black stripes and big, soulful eyes, lying down surrounded by some small green leaves. This kitten has nothing to do with this blog post. Or does it. Image obtained from Pixabay, which is actually a pretty awesome website where you can get all sorts of cool creative commons pictures for free.]

Hi everyone, before we begin this week’s post, a quick announcement: If you’re in Seattle, the community-centric fundraising summit originally scheduled for September 27th has been postponed until likely Spring 2019 so we can incorporate the lessons gained from the amazing pre-summit gathering of fundraisers of color last month where we discussed the intersection of fundraising and social justice. If you want to be kept informed as the team plans the summit, please fill out this quick form. Meanwhile, we are finalizing the “Fundraising Perception Survey,” which will be released soon, and would love your participation when it’s live.

Last week, I wrote a blog post called “Hey progressives, can we stop using the tools of social justice to tear one another down?” The post resonated with many people, and I received lots of positive feedback from colleagues who felt seen and heard. However, there were also some disconcerting reactions as well. A few people from the opposite end of the political spectrum were gleeful—“Ha ha, the libs are attacking one another! Get the popcorn!”—which is to be expected.

More alarming were a few colleagues who dismissed the nuance and basically used the article to rationalize their fragility—“See, y’all were just meanies when you said I was centering myself as a white person! Stop using the term mansplaining!”—or stereotype whole groups of people—“POCs are always piling on white folks!” Continue reading

Tips from introverts for introverts on how to survive a conference

[Image description: A little tan chihuahua lying on a bed, its front paws on an open book. What a cute and studious little puppy. Image obtained from Pixabay]

If you are an introvert, attending a conference can be an overwhelming experience. The 12-hours of networking. The constant discomfort of trying to figure out where to sit. The intrusive icebreakers that involve disclosing to strangers things that even your own family members don’t know about you! (“Dad…there’s something I should tell you. My favorite ice cream flavor is chocolate fudge brownie.”)

If the thought of spending time with hundreds of other people at a conference for several days makes you want to run home and re-binge-watch all four seasons of “Battlestar Galactica,” you are not alone. (But you probably wish to be! #introvertjokes!) People think I’m an extrovert because I do so much public speaking, but the reality is that as a nonprofit leader I have learned to use extroversion skills for my job, but that I need a lot of alone time to reflect and recharge. This is why I like, and need, to write all the time…and why I’m fully caught up on most popular TV shows. Continue reading

“The White-Paper Princess” and other children’s books about nonprofit work

[Image description: A watercolor of a grey dragon hovering over about six trees, with yellow, red, pink, and purple blended background. Image from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. Before we begin today’s post, I created a page on Patreon, where artists get monthly financial support from their community so they can do their creative work. This is something several colleagues have recommended over the years, but I was squeamish about asking for money unless it’s for my organization. However, since I dropped my schedule down to four-days a week (so I can write on Mondays instead of Sundays and spend more time with my kids), it also dropped my salary down an equivalent amount. It’s worth it. I’m sure my board would allow me to keep my pay the same, but I need the separation between my job and the writing. Mainly so I can continue to say the things I want to say.

So thank you for pledging a buck or so a month to keep NAF going. (Pssst: Once we reach 250 patrons, I’ll remove all the random ads from the blog).  

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A common complaint we have in the nonprofit sector is that kids don’t dream about going into nonprofit as a career. Well, that’s because there are so few children’s books about our work! Just imagine how inspired our kids would be if only there were more books about being an ED, or raising money, or running programs, or filing tax forms. Here, read these classic books re-imagined and tell me they wouldn’t inspire children and maybe a few adults to do what we do.   Continue reading

The courage to be unfair

[Image description: A tan brown lion cub, hiding behind a tree branch, blurred yellowish background. I think this is a lion cub. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Last week, I went to speak at a conference in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania put on by the United Way of Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley. The topic was Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Not wanting to use the same graphic with the kids standing on the boxes (you know what I’m talking about) to illustrate the difference between equity and equality, I tried the sandwich metaphor:

“Imagine if you had three kids and three sandwiches. Equality would be that you give each kid a sandwich. That seems fair. But many of you work with kids whose families are low-income, whose only meal that day may be through school or through your program. Imagine if one of the kids has not eaten for three days, and one kid just came from a birthday party and is stuffed. Equity is understanding these circumstances and giving the kid who is really hungry two sandwiches, and maybe the kid who just ate gets none.” Continue reading