Category Archives: nonprofit field

Star Trek and the Future of the Nonprofit Sector

[Image description: A cartoonish action figure of Spock, from Star Trek, with his hand outstretched in the Vulcan salute. The figure is standing on what looks like a wooden fence post, with a blurred background of plants]

Thank you Nonprofit Quarterly for publishing my piece last week on the future of the nonprofit sector. Except for the post on the misuse of the word “literally,” this is probably one of the most important things I’ve written about in the past four years. Due to a few people not having read it, I am reposting the entire piece here. If you haven’t read and thought about it, please take some time to do so. We can, and must, move our sector into the future.

Let’s face it, the last few months have been brutal. Dealing with the constant threats to communities and to democracy itself has been exhausting and heartbreaking, and many of us have been questioning whether we nonprofits are equipped to respond to current and future challenges. During these dark times, there has been at least one bright light: A new Star Trek show!

When hatred and xenophobia are on the rise, it’s nice to see a universe where diversity is a norm. From the two episodes I’ve seen, the new show, Star Trek: Discovery, is awesome. It’s not without flaws, of course, but this show, and Star Trek itself, paints a hopeful picture that we nonprofits should observe closely. And the Starfleet model in particular is something we should study

In Star Trek, there are various starships. Each has a different captain and a different mission. However, they are bound together by Starfleet, an organization that supports and coordinates the work of all the ships. Starfleet is big, with multiple departments. There’s Starfleet Academy, which trains officers; Starfleet Command, which provides governance; Starfleet Shipyard, which builds the ships; Starfleet Judge Advocate General, which serves as the judiciary branch, etc. Continue reading

New tax “reform” bill could seriously screw nonprofits and the people we serve

[Image description: A cute little brown bunny on a fluffy white carpet, in front of a light blue wall. Image from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. Before we launch into today’s exciting topic, check out the pilot episode of this hilarious show called “The Humanitarians.” It’s set at an organization called Stuff We Don’t Want (SWEDOW), and had me cracking up at clever one-liners like “Have we assessed the actual need for winter coats in Sub-Saharan Africa?” Check it out. We need to support more shows about nonprofit work.

Unfortunately, the rest of this post is about tax “reform.” I know, I know, I don’t really want to talk about it either. But, like taking out the compost or putting on deodorant or remembering our partner’s birthdays, we have to do it, or else bad things happen. To reward you for reading, though, and for me to actually write this, I’m putting in pictures of bunnies throughout this post. The bunnies have nothing to do with taxes.   Continue reading

7 nonprofit scary stories to tell in the dark

[Image description: A hand, glowing blue, with a creepy blurry blue background. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. I usually don’t post more than once a week, but I love Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday. So here are some terrifying stories set in the sector. Read them, but beware, they are really, really scary, so make sure you are prepared. Happy Halloween.

The Salary History

Every day, Francine applied for jobs, spending time to carefully tailor and craft her resume and cover letter. There were never any responses. It seemed hopeless, until she saw a posting for a job that seemed perfect for her. But as she scanned to the bottom, a sinking feeling swelled up in her stomach. From outside her cold attic room, a crow cackled ominously. There was no salary range listed. A shiver ran through her spine as her eyes rested on a solitary line “Please submit resume and cover, including your salary history for the previous three positions.” Three positions. Three. Why, she thought, what does why previous salary at a previous position have anything to do with this completely different job? What sort of unethical BS is this? Desperate to pay rent and to eat, she applied anyway. Francine got the job, and because she had been underpaid before, she was now doomed to be underpaid at this job too. And the next job. And the next. And at all jobs in her future. Continue reading

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 on 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

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