Category Archives: Office Culture

Nonprofits, we need to talk about mental health and suicide

[Image description: A bunch of flowers with yellow centers and white petals, likely daisies, resting on a metal railing of some sort. Blurry brown and beige background depicting land and a small patch of light blue sky. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, this post is going to be a little serious, but I hope you will read it and discuss with your team. The recent suicides in the news have made me think about our sector and our responsibility to one another.

Ten years ago, a friend of mine took her life a day after calling me asking to hang out. I would learn later from her mom that she had been dealing with bipolar disorder for a long time, and hid it from her friends and coworkers. I wished that I had been a better friend, that I had known what she was going through, that I had supported her more.

My friend’s suicide made me realize that we have a long way to go when it comes to mental health awareness, even among those of us who are in the nonprofit sector and thus are supposed to be more attuned to the people around us. Because mental health conditions are mostly invisible, our colleagues, friends, and family members may be going through challenges, and we may not be aware of it. Or we may be unintentionally creating an environment where mental illness is stigmatized, leading to further isolation. Continue reading

Operations professionals, you are awesome AF!

[Image description: Two grey koalas sitting together on a tree branch, their heads turned to look to the right. There is a big koala on the left and a smaller koalas holding on to the big koala. These koalas have nothing to do with operations, except that koalas and operations professionals are both awesome. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Last week, I sat down with a public notary to sign some papers to open new bank accounts for partner organizations in Rainier Valley Corps’s operations support program, where we handle the back-office tasks for partner orgs so they can focus on delivering vital programs and services. We were on a time crunch, and our bank’s new rules required signatories be notarized, which has been a huge hassle. It took days of RVC’s Operations Support Program Manager, Kristine, and me running around, sending endless emails, and strategically deploying chocolate: “So…maybe this half-eaten bar of Theo sea salt almond 70% cacao might convince you shave a day or two off the paperwork turnaround time, wink…”

In the middle of all this paperwork and failed attempts at bribery, I realized that we really do not appreciate our operations staff as much as we should. While EDs get all the credit, program staff get warm fuzzies, and development peeps get leftover gala wine and accolades when they bring in money, operations folks often operate like clockwork without much fanfare. And in fact, the better they do their work, the less they are noticed, because we only tend to notice operations when they don’t go well—payroll didn’t run on time, bank accounts are not up-to-date, etc. 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 500 patrons, I’ll remove all the random ads from the blog).  

***

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

Why I’m working less, and why you should too

[Image description: A grey and white dog asleep on the carpet, facing the camera. Image by Adam Grabek of Unsplash.com]

Hi everyone. Before we get into this post, a quick announcement: My organization, Rainier Valley Corps, is looking for two new team members: An Operations Support Program Manager and a Development and Communications Associate. Join the team, and pass the word. We have awesome snacks! 

Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday. A while ago, I wrote a post called “The Myth of Indispensability,” which deals with the loss of my mother and how all of us need to spend more time with the people we love, because we never know how many more days we have left with them. 

Since that post though, I haven’t really been following my own words. Working for a nonprofit is all-consuming. I know you know what that is like. Our work is often not confined to a 9-to-5. It is often in the evenings, on the weekends, sometimes in the bathroom on the phone (hey, whatever it takes to get that online grant application submitted). Even when we aren’t at the office, we are thinking about work, worrying about clients and payroll and programs and reports. And we never feel that we are doing enough, that we ourselves are enough.

And while we work, the people we love change. Kids grow older, our parents grayer, our friends don’t call or drop by as much anymore. I had to contain my emotions one day when my then-four-year-old held on to my leg as I was leaving for the airport. “Daddy, I don’t want you to go on a work trip.” I didn’t know how it happened that my tiny, sweet little baby who was only eight pounds was now speaking full sentences. It reminded me of what a colleague once said years ago, but whose words I never absorbed until that moment: “Your projects will always be there. But your children will only grow up one time.” That was a difficult ride to the airport. Continue reading

#metoo and the nonprofit sector

[Image description: Black and white image of the silhouette of a figure with shoulder-length hair standing in front of a large window. Image by Alex Ivashenko of unsplash.com]

Hi everyone. I haven’t talked about the #metoo movement, even though it’s been on my mind. This is mainly because as I identify as a man, I should be listening and not mansplaining. Also, others have discussed this intersection of #metoo and nonprofit a lot more authoritatively, and I’m afraid to screw up in whatever I might have to say, if I had anything worth saying at all.

However, this movement is a discussion all of us need to have in the sector, and making mistakes and learning is a part of it, especially those of us who have positional authority due to our titles.

In the past few months, I’ve been reading up on others’ stories and thoughts. This blog post is a reflection on a few things our sector must do, prompted by various articles written by other professionals in the field. As such, it might not be very eloquent or comprehensive. But I hope one or more of these points might help to facilitate some discussions and actions. Continue reading