[Image description: A little reddish-brown squirrel, hovering behind a mossy tree stump, looking to the right. It seems attentive and thoughtful, both ears perking up. This is clearly a reference to Number 16 in this post, where a proposed suggestion is “there’s no squirrel in the scuttle.” In this image, there is a squirrel, but no scuttle. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]
Hi everyone. Before we get into this week’s post, a quick announcement. Remember back in grade school when we would have field days at the end of the school year, a day when we had a bunch of games outdoors? We need more fun in the nonprofit sector, considering how serious the work is. So I am declaring July 18th to be the first annual Nonprofit Field Day! This is inspired by Ahead of the Curve, a consortium of capacity builders in New York, who plans to go big this year, possibly involving a potato sack race. If capacity builders can have fun, then so can everyone!
You have plenty of stuff to worry about already, so use Nonprofit Field Day as an excuse to invite other nonprofits on a picnic, canoe outing, outdoor karaoke, ice cream social at the beach, whatever. We need more activities that bring different nonprofits together. Let me know how it goes.
Last week’s blog post was a bit serious, so to lighten things up, here is part 4 of the Jargon series, where we examine clichés and irritating jargon and propose alternatives. Here are parts 1, 2, and 3 (#OxfordCommaForever!)Continue reading →
[Image description: Closeup of a brown puppy, snuggled in a checked grey-white-pink-black blanket. The puppy has nothing to do with this post. I just didn’t want to look at pictures of scary things to find a relevant image. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]
Right away, I could tell that the hotel was haunted. Or just really old. The elevator would occasionally bring me to the basement when I pushed the button for the third floor. Sometimes, it would stop on the second floor, and the door would open, but no one would be there. On the first night, the light outside the bathroom turned on at 5am. Since it was motion-activated, I didn’t think much of it, because these sensors can often be overly sensitive. On the second night, it did it again.
I was in Oakland for the Art of Transformational Consulting, a training led by the legendary Robert Gass of the Social Transformation Project. (Thank you, Haas Jr. Fund for sponsoring my participation). It was an intense one-week program, where the days often went from 9am to 9pm. During these hours, I and 29 other participants, mostly consultants or nonprofit leaders, learned from Robert and from one another. We examined the deepest corners of ourselves, we analyzed case studies, we worked in pairs and triads and groups and sat in large circles. I was constantly pushed out of my comfort zone, encouraged to do things that I never thought I was capable of: Meditate, communicate without words, exercise. Continue reading →
[Image description: A fancy cake on a white platter, in the sunlight. The cake is yellow with a brown crust. On top are pieces of fruit (mango, strawberries) as well as chocolate curls and sticks. Image from pixabay.com]
Hi everyone. Today’s blog post will be short because I am in Oakland this entire week for a training and I just got back to my hotel room, which I’m pretty sure is haunted. (It feels haunted). And also, it’s my birthday today, and I don’t want to think very hard.
So instead of the profound post I was planning to write, I am going to rant about a seemingly minor but very serious problem that has been affecting our sector: the madness-inducingly poor usage of hyphens.
Just when we finally figured out the importance of the Oxford Comma, which is elegant, practical, and majestic–#OxfordCommaForever—I’ve been seeing more and more errors around hyphen usage. Even the brilliant leaders whom I respect make mistakes. I know that our sector has important things to work on, but just look at these abominations of nature: Continue reading →
[Image description: Two hands holding up an orange square with an angry face on it. The background is of a brick wall. Image by Andre Hunter of unsplash.com]
OK, everyone, sit down, we need to have a talk. Every once a while, someone—usually from outside the sector—mentions their goal of forming their own nonprofit. “It has been my life-long dream to quit the rat race and start a possum therapy organization. It’s kind of like one of those equine therapy programs, but with possums instead of horses.”
From the online discussions I’ve seen, the response from us is often, “Hiss! How dare they want to start a nonprofit! Let’s burn their barn down! Let’s pour salt in their field so it shall remain fallow for seven generations! Let’s mix up the labels on their spinning spice rack so that nothing they make will taste good again!” Continue reading →
[Image description: Closeup of a raccoon, resting on a branch, its head on one arm, staring directly at the camera. Cute little creature. Not sure if this adorable raccoon has anything to do with the content of this post, but come on, look at those big eyes. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]
Hi everyone. Before we start, if you haven’t written a review of a foundation on GrantAdvisor.org, or asked your grantees to review you, please take a moment to do so. GrantAdvisor was launched a few months ago to address a pervasive problem in our sector. No, not the mice problem, although that too is pervasive (#NonprofitMiceProblem). I’m talking about the imbalance of power between funders and nonprofits, which leads to a lot of no-good, very bad things such as the lack of honest communication and feedback between funders and nonprofits.
One area where this shows up is on grant applications. It’s not that we nonprofits lie when writing proposals, it’s just that…we’ve been trained to tell funders exactly what we think y’all want to hear, sugarcoating everything in jargon and BS.
A while ago, a colleague imagined what our answers would be like on grant proposals if we nonprofits were allowed to be completely and brutally honest. Here are some of these honest responses, with credit to colleagues across the field, most of whom understandably prefer to remain anonymous; anything in quotes is someone else’s direct words. Apologies in advance for the sarcastic, possibly biting tone; the entire sector has been on edge lately:Continue reading →