Tag Archives: unicorns

Volunteers, a critical ingredient in the banh mi of social justice

banh miHi everyone, I am in the beach city of Nha Trang right now. It is beautiful, the 100 degree heat making the ocean extra blue. So far, the vacation is going great, except that I am now overdosed on MSG, which the locals use in great quantity in everything. I’m not against MSG, but when you can see individual crystals of it in your spring roll sauce…

And I can’t find an adapter for my laptop, so I am in the hotel lobby typing this up and sweating gallons on the sticky keyboard (probably why the keyboard is so sticky, from all these sweaty people using it). Sorry in advance for typos and unedited rambling. And since I’m hungry, there will be food metaphors.

A highlight of this city so far, is a vegan banh mi stand we found. Banh mi, of course, is the Vietnamese sandwich stuffed with pickled daikon and carrot and various meats and is the humble and delicious meal of students, workers, and anyone on the go. I met a lady three years ago who has a vegan banh mi stand, where she works 16 hours a day. Her banh mis are arguably some of the most amazing sandwiches ever created and she’s been using the stand to pay for her kids’ schooling and even to buy a house. 

After a long walk, I found the stand and ordered four banh mis for 50 cents each. I bit into one, and it was magical, the combination of grilled gluten and shredded green papaya and Vietnamese cilantro and the secret sauce, all of it melding in my mouth and tasting like an unrestricted multi-year grant.

Anyway, I could spend an entire post talking about banh mi and the feisty and hilarious seller, but on to today’s topic, which is about the need for our field to better appreciate volunteers. In the US, 62 million volunteers contribute about 8 billion hours of service each year, the equivalent of $173 billion. The nonprofit sector would probably collapse without all our awesome volunteer unicorns. 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

When you don’t disclose salary range on a job posting, a unicorn loses its wings

pizza-926104_640pdHi everyone. Today, while driving past a pizza place, I noticed something: The dude who normally stood at the corner wearing a toga and spinning a giant arrow sign pointing the way to the shop had been replaced by what looked like a cardboard cutout. It was holding the giant arrow, but the sign was hooked to a spinning machine. And I thought, “This is an example of what’s wrong with our world! Artistic sign spinning has been outsourced to machines! Where is the artistry, the finesse?!” I was so annoyed, I only bought one pizza to bake at home.

Why am I bringing this up? Because unlike many other fields, the nonprofit sector will always rely on human beings. When other professions are replaced by robots in the future, we will still be around. Can you imagine a robot trying to do case management or counseling or advocacy?

Despite our reliance on people, we have a bunch of no good, very bad habits in hiring and in paying nonprofit professionals. I talked earlier about our need to raise salaries. And also the need to reexamine our archaic, inequitable hiring practices such as the overreliance on formal education. And now, we need to dismantle another terrible habit that many, many of us have, one that we don’t think much about, but one that is driving lots of people nuts, perpetuates gender and other inequities, and increases the power imbalance between employers and employees: Not listing salary ranges on job posting, and putting “DOE,” which stands for “Depends On Experience” instead. Here are reasons why it is so awful, and why we should all agree to put an end to “salary cloaking” immediately. Continue reading

Why the Sustainability Myth is just as destructive as the Overhead Myth

unicorn headHi everyone, thanks to the latest episode of Game of Thrones, I’m depressed out of my mind. And I’m hungry. So this post will probably be slightly bitter, and have food metaphors. Last week I mentioned my piece in the Chronicle of Philanthropy regarding sustainability. Unfortunately, since the piece is for paid subscribers only, many of you were not able to read it, leading to several angry comments, and one reader who sent me a severed stuffed unicorn head.

All right, no one sent me a stuffed unicorn head. But that gives me a brilliant NWB merchandizing idea: Stuffed unicorn heads that you can buy and send to board members who don’t show up to meetings. Or funders who make you write a ten-page proposal with eight attachments for a $5,000 grant. Or coworkers who keep leaving their containers of food in the fridge until they get all moldy. Take your butternut squash and quinoa salad home, for the love of GOF (General Operating Funds)!

But, getting back to the topic, there were a few readers annoyed that they couldn’t read the article, so I want to recap and elaborate on the main points here. I know, I know, we’ve been talking forever about this. I hope this will be the last time we bring up Sustainability for a while.

The Overhead Myth

When Charity Navigator, Guidestar, and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance got together in 2013 and wrote a letter denouncing the Overhead Myth, I was ecstatic. The Overhead Myth is one of the dumbest and most damaging concepts ever inflicted on nonprofits and the communities we serve. Imagine if we go on Yelp to find help deciding which restaurants to frequent, and all the reviews are like this:

“We were disgusted that the Happy Chicken spends over 30 percent of their revenues on rent, water, insurance, and accounting software. Go a block down the street and eat at the Flying Lemur instead; the owner assures me she only spends 10 percent on things like electricity.” 

That’s what the Overhead Myth is like, and since it is down, we all need to kick it so that it never gets back up to terrorize us again. There is still a lot of people in society we need to educate regarding this issue. Let’s send them severed stuffed unicorn heads… Continue reading

Our hiring practices are inequitable and need to change

Hi everyone, I just returned from giving a keynote speech in at the Chatham-Kent Nonprofit Network‘s annual conference (in Ontario Canada) called “We Are Unicorns: Why Nonprofit Peeps are Awesome, Magnificent, and Downright Sexy.” It was an easy speech to give, since we are all those things, and our sector is kicking some serious butts. Just look at this article in Forbes that says we are more “poised for the future than either business or government.” And this report that shows we have been growing jobs at a rate of 2.1% while businesses have been losing them at a rate .06%. In light of this, I recommend we all go home early today and bake some unicorn-shaped cookies to celebrate.

However, since we are adding so many jobs, we need to now focus more attention on our hiring practices, which, unfortunately, are often medieval, short-term-focused, and inequitable. We have been relying heavily on the for-profit world’s hiring model, which has not been aligned with our sector-wide values of equity and community. It leaves out too many good people, and it is time that we as a field examine and change how we hire people. Here are some weaknesses of the hiring process for us all to reflect upon while we eat our unicorn cookies: Continue reading