Tag Archives: overhead

37 brilliant nonprofit-inspired Halloween costumes

[Image description: Picture of nonprofit professional, Leah Sakala. Leah has her hair in a bun on top of her head. A small sign on a stick is planted in her hair. The sign says “NONPROFIT.” She is demonstrating the “Nonprofit Overhead” costume. Source: Leah Sakala]

Hi everyone. Quick reminders. Reminder 1: If you haven’t reviewed a foundation on GrantAdvisor.org, please do so; GrantAdvisor lets you anonymously review foundations. Reminder 2: Nonprofit Happy Hour Facebook group, which has over 34,000 members, is now back from hiatus and open every day; thank you to all the new moderators and volunteers who signed up to make this community even more awesome than it was. And if you’re an ED/CEO, there’s a support group for you, because it’s lonely at the top, eating protein bars and crying over payroll. Reminder 3: Make sure to floss each day.

Halloween is tomorrow, and if you’re like me, you’ve procrastinated on figuring out your costume. Well, procrastinate no further. I asked the Nonprofit AF Facebook community for suggestions of costumes that are inspired by nonprofit work, and the brilliant people there did not disappoint! Here, I am sure one of these ideas will make you the most popular person at whichever Halloween party you’re going to. 

Note, there are more than 37 ideas here. I just like the number 37.  Continue reading

How the focus on overhead disenfranchises communities of color and fans the flames of injustice

[Image description: A lone firefighter standing on a road spraying water at some raging flames on our left and up an embankment. It looks to be a wild forest fire. The firefighter’s hose is connected to a truck that is facing us with its headlights on. Smoke and orange flames are in the background, along with silhouettes of trees being consumed by the fire.]

Hi everyone, before we start on today’s post, a couple of announcements. First my org is hiring a Development Director and an Operations Associate. (Make sure you like unicorns and Oxford commas). Also, you can now buy a t-shirt, mug, or notebook that says “I am a pita wedge for the hummus of justice.” And, finally, I’m on Instagram (@nonprofitwithballs), mainly taking pictures of stuff I find pretty while doing nonprofit work. Like this event wagon, and this gala centerpiece, and this 9-year-old keyboard

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In this political climate, when so many of us nonprofits are rallying to put out one fire after another, many of the things we have been used to and have been putting up with no longer make sense. Many of us in the sector have been making the argument against restricted funding and for general operating for years. Here’s a report from GEO. Here’s one from CEP. Here’s a piece from my colleague Paul Shoemaker. And I’ve made impassioned pleas here, here, and here. But despite countless arguments by dozens of leaders, we still have foundations who restrict funds, who set arbitrary numbers for “indirect expenses” and “overhead.”

But there has been one argument that we have not stressed enough to funders and donors, but now it is urgent that we do so: The focus on overhead is no longer just annoying, it’s perpetuating inequity and injustice. Continue reading

Bragging about program-to-admin ratios is a destructive practice that needs to die 

raccoon-1612593_1280

[Image description: A black and white photo of a raccoon standing behind a chain-link fence. The raccoon has one paw raised near its face resting on the fence, and its other paw lower, also resting on the fence. This is a cute but kind of sad-looking raccoon. This image may be evocative of restricted funding in the nonprofit sector]

Hi everyone. Just a quick reminder that my org is hiring a capacity building coach to work with our partner organizations. We are getting lots of amazing candidates, but we are keeping the position open until we find that magical unicorn to join the team. 

Thank you to those of you who supported the Kickstarter project I’m involved with, where I’m helping to write a book. Thanks to you, the project got fully funded within a few days! Sweet! (You can still donate if you missed out, because there are cool prizes).

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for awesome holiday gifts for the nonprofit people in your life, NWB merchandise is available. 

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I know that many of us have sent out our year-end appeal letter, or are in the process of doing so. Some of us are pouring our blood, sweat, and tears into these letters, sometimes literally, with the paper cuts and the occasional weeping over the hundreds or thousands of letters that need to be stuffed. 

You know what makes me weep, though? Y’all who still use language in your letters like “94 cents of every dollar goes directly to programs!!!” Every time I see it or hear about it, it is like getting a barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat directly to the noggin. Continue reading

How to deal with uninformed nonprofit-watchdogs around the holidays

dog-1127486_1280Around this time of the year, we nonprofits work to bring in year-end donations, incurring paper cuts and envelope-tongues in the process (seriously, the glue stick is your friend). Around this time also is when people start pushing “guides” about which nonprofits to give to, warning of shady nonprofits that spend too much on “overhead” and leave nothing for the people they are supposed to be serving.

These guides often sound like this: “Don’t give to these horrible organizations! Only 3 cents of every dollar goes to the people they claim to serve! The rest goes straight to the greedy CEOs’ salaries! They sit on crystal-encrusted chairs and feast on caviar and unicorn steaks! Meanwhile, their staff live in actual houses and drive cars! They are paying their mortgages and buying organic blueberries with your donations! Organic blueberries!!!”

Here’s an example of that. It comes back again and again year after year like some sort of aggressive toenail fungus, despite being charitiesdebunked by fact-checking website snopes.com. WTF. It’s exhausting dealing with so much recurring ignorance. As if our work isn’t hard enough already, with many of us having involuntary eye twitches due to cashflow issues. So, let’s come up with a better strategy to handle this yearly irritation so we can focus on what matters: Writing hundreds of personal notes on our printed year-end letters and praying we don’t misspell donors’ names. Continue reading

Dear business people, please stop bizsplaining things to us nonprofit folks

ra,unisex_tshirt,x3104,fafafa ca443f4786,front-c,650,630,900,975-bg,f8f8f8Hi everyone, before we get into today’s topic, look, NWB merchandise is on sale! Get an “I Am A Nonprofit Unicorn” t-shirt, hoodie, mug, or other stuff. Big thanks to my talented webmaster/designer Stacy Nguyen. Other designs—such as the Nonprofit Unicorn Mantra, and nonprofit yoga poses—are coming later. (In case you are wondering, all proceeds from the sale of NWB stuff go directly to my childcare payments. Someone should have told me how ridiculously expensive children are).

And don’t forget NWB’s poetry contest, sponsored by Nonstop, is due next week, March 27th! You can win up to $750 in cold hard cash!

All right, business pals, we need to have another talk. First of all, I love y’all. I just moved into a new house this week, and spent time at a hardware store trying to find these little thingies that hold up the shelves in my kitchen cabinets. They’re called “shelf pins,” and you can move them to different holes to lower or raise the shelves. Without some business somewhere making these little pins, my liquor cabinet would not be able to fit my really tall bottles of vodka and it would just look awful. So yes, I am deeply appreciative for all the businesses out there doing all sorts of useful, interesting, and important stuff. I am glad you exist, and I am glad to pay money for the stuff you make and do. Especially vodka.

But dude, the condescension needs to stop. Recently, I’ve noticed it has been in the form of explaining to us simple nonprofit bumpkins just how much better off we’d be if we just acted more like businesses. Sometimes it is conscious, most times it is not, but always it is irritating. One time, I was showing a potential board member our Saturday morning program, which served 150 kids. It was his first visit, and he launched into a lecture about having a business plan. “We have a three-year strategic plan,” I said, and before I could elaborate, he interrupted to explain what a business plan was. He interrupted several times to explain various Important Business Concepts to me. Continue reading