Category Archives: Work-Life Balance

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

10 rules for dating in the nonprofit sector

loveDozens of people have asked me to address dating within the nonprofit sector, and by dozens of people, I mean one drunk single person at a fundraising gala. This is not a topic that we talk much about, but it is important, because of self-care and blah blah, so I asked the brilliant and attractive people in the NWB Facebook community to help create a list of rules. Here is the list below. Please keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list. Rules may be changed, and new rules may be added. 

10 Rules for Dating in the Nonprofit Sector

Rule 1, the Cardinal Rule of Dating in the Nonprofit Sector: Do not date other people from the nonprofit sector*. Yes, proximity is powerful, especially when so many of us work ridiculous hours and see each other all the time. But resist the temptations. First, because we deserve a decent car and house and occasional access to organic blueberries, and the chances for those things greatly decrease if we only stick with each other. But more importantly, our work depends on the rest of society understanding and appreciating the role that nonprofit plays, so we have to marry outward. It’s not gold digging, it’s thinking of the children. Continue reading

21 time-saving tips for busy nonprofit professionals

One of the most common questions that I am asked is, “Dude, how do you manage to find time to write a regular blog post each week, while being a full-time ED, while also maintaining a family that includes a two-year-old, while also coordinating the underground Nonprofit Fight Club?”

Oh wait…uh, forget the last part. There is no underground Nonprofit Fight Club. Not at all.

As nonprofit warriors, most of us are strapped for time. Many of us have work that does not end when the day ends. Like artists working on a painting, there is always something else that we can improve, another donor to call, another report to read, another board member to email, another grant rejection notice to weep softly over as Boys II Men plays gently in the background (“Let’s don’t wait till the water runs dry…” It’s like they know us and our pain.)

Sometimes, when I hear my business friends complain about their 9-to-5, I just want to grab them by the collars of their shirts and yell, “You exquisite fool! I would trade my soul for a 9-to-5! Look at these empty, haunted eyes! These are the eyes of an exempt nonprofit staff! Is this what you want?!” Then I would slap them once or twice to drive the point home.

Anyway, since time is of the essence, I asked the Nonprofit With Balls Facebook Community for creative tips on how to save time during our day so that we can use even more minutes to make the world better. Or else go home before our partners break up with us and our children forget our faces. Here are the tips, in no order of importance or coherence; the ones in quotations are contributed by NWB readers. I hope that these suggestions are helpful. Please add yours to the comment section. Continue reading

12 pieces of advice for folks graduating and entering the nonprofit sector

unicorn spockHi everyone. First off, last week’s post—“When you don’t disclose salary range on a job posting, a unicorn loses its wings”—resonated with lots of people, and was shared nearly 7,000 times on social media. Let’s put an end to this horrible practice, because our professionals deserve fair, competitive compensation. And if that’s not available, they deserve at least transparency at the onset so that job applicants can start planning their budget and look out for sales on spaghetti and canned beans.

To that end, I am encouraging all EDs to disclose salary ranges on all new postings moving forward, and all job posting services to recommend, nay, require, disclosure. And all of us need to give feedback to our peers who ask for our help spreading the word on their new positions. If a colleague sends a posting to you and asks for help with outreach, check to make sure the salary range is disclosed. If it’s not, send back this message:

“[First name], you know that I have great respect for you as a colleague in our struggle to make the world better. There are few that I think are smarter, more dedicated, or good-looking-in-a-platonic-way, even in a field rife with intelligent, attractive people. However, I cannot in good conscience help you spread the word on your new position, because your posting does not disclose the salary range. Not disclosing the range widens the gender pay gap, disadvantages candidates of color, and wastes lots and lots of people’s time. I know not listing salary is a common practice, but it is one that is archaic and will be laughed at later. Like MySpace. Or skinny jeans. Or exercise. Disclose your salary range. Let us end this harmful practice and move our profession one step closer to equity.”

Second off, I just watched Game of Thrones and am upset and annoyed by what happened in the latest episode, so this post will likely be poorly edited.

All right, on to today’s topic. Lots of young professionals are graduating this month and starting to enter into our illustrious field. Congratulations, and welcome to a rewarding and lucrative career (or at least one of those two)! I received requests to provide advice for our potential new colleagues. You know you’re getting old when people start asking you for advice on stuff. Sigh. To be young and full of hopes and acne again.

Anyway, I asked the NWB Facebook community for suggestions, and have synthesized them into a few pieces of advice that I wished someone had told me when I first started out on the path to make the world better. Here they are, in no particular order, and definitely not comprehensive, and some are pretty obvious, and there are more than 12 (it’s not marketable to list more than 12 of anything in the title). Please add your own advice for our new colleagues in the comment section: Continue reading

Nonprofit work, and the myth of indispensability

hyacinth-1403653_1280Hi everyone, this post may be melancholy and depressing. I won’t be upset if you skip this and read something more hilarious, like “Ask a Nonprofit Director: Advice on Love, Family, and Other Stuff.” Or these nonprofit cocktail recipes.

Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday, and I will wake up to realize that my mother has been gone for ten years. She died at the age of 49 of a stroke. When you’ve lost someone, holidays can be terrible to endure. The first few Mother’s Days I just stayed in bed most of the morning, envious of all those happy people taking their moms to brunch.

Now I am older, so I try to figure out what this all means, what I can learn from all this. I run through memories I have. Since it was one of the last moments I had with her, I recall coming home from college, and being greeted by the smell of her cooking. Sweet and sour soup, tofu sautéed in tomatoes, braised bamboo shoots—dishes she had learned to make when I told her I had decided to go vegan.

My mother stood there at the sink washing dishes, smiling. The late-afternoon sunlight streaming through our kitchen window fell on her hair, and she’d greet me with these sweet maternal words: 

“You’re too skinny. You look like one of those drug addicts on TV.” Continue reading