12 New Rules for Virtual Meetings, Since We’re Still In a Pandemic

[Image description: a person sitting in front of a laptop, their hands on the keyboard. On the screen are six people in a grid. Image by jagritparajuli99 on Pixabay]

It seems that with Omicron and everything going on, we are going to be having virtual meetings for the foreseeable future. I’ve been reading through lists of guidelines for virtual meetings, and they are ridiculous, still stressing the standards of “professionalism.” One dude recommended wearing slacks or other work-related pants, even though people may not be able to see what we’re wearing below the waist.

We are in an apocalypse! Most of us are barely hanging on by a thread, and just getting out of bed, or even turning on the laptop while in bed, is in itself an accomplishment. The rules must change to accommodate. We should dispense with many practices rooted in archaic notions of professionalism. Most meetings should probably just be eliminated so we can nap or watch Encanto again, but if we must have them, here are a few new agreements I am proposing:

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Before you quote Dr. King, here are some things you can do to be less of the white moderate he warned about

[Image description: Picture of MLK marching in 1968 with other people, many holding signs with various messages, including “We march for jobs for all now!” “We demand voting rights now!” and “We demand equal rights now!” Picture provided by History in HD on Unsplash]

Today, a whole bunch of people and organizations will be quoting the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., because that’s what we like doing on this day. He was murdered by a white supremacist, and we now cherry pick the quotes that are most inspiring and least likely to cause tension. Few will bring up that he also said these other things, including “Something is wrong with capitalism. Maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”

AndWe all too often have socialism for the rich and rugged free market capitalism for the poor.”

And “I think the tragedy is that we have a Congress with a Senate that has a minority of misguided senators who will use the filibuster to keep the majority of people from even voting.”

The last one hits especially hard this week, because critical efforts to protect and advance voting rights are being stymied. Yes, by Republicans, but that’s to be expected; they know they will lose the majority of federal elections if voting were fair. But more frustratingly, by two white moderate democrat senators.

The white moderate is the force Dr. King identified as the biggest barrier on the path to an equitable world: I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

While this is applicable to the political world, our sector has also become one giant white moderate sector of well-meaning people who often perpetuate the very injustice we were formed to fight. Last year, I wrote “21 signs you or your organization may be the white moderate Dr. King warned about.” Since then, I have seen more signs of white moderation in nonprofit and philanthropy.

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Reports of the nonprofit sector’s death are greatly exaggerated

[Image description: A chameleon, lying on a twig, looking rather annoyed. Image by Enrico Corradi on Unsplash]

Hi everyone, before we get started, this year marks the 10th anniversary of when I began writing about our sector. It has been an amazing ten years, and 483 posts, filled with hummus jokes, rants about restricted funding, and vigorous defense of the Oxford Comma. To celebrate this milestone, here are a few things to note:

  • Nonprofit AF the Book: I’m editing a compilation of the top 50 or so posts into a book, tentatively titled “The Nonprofit AF Omnibus: There and Back Again, A Collection of the Top 50 or So Posts, Finally Edited for Grammar and Typos, Volume 1.” Or NAFOTBGCT50OSPFEGTV1 for short. Be on the lookout for it this spring or summer.
  • Short videos and/or sock puppets? I’m exploring doing more content in other formats because writing is my comfort zone, but I want to push myself a bit. And besides, people have different styles of receiving information and learning, so it’ll be nice to have different ways to engage. It’ll be fun. I hope. Please keep jokes like “you have a face for podcasts” to yourself.
  • Phasing out ads: I’m removing most if not all ads from this website over the next few weeks. I’m grateful for the cool partners who have placed ads. But the spirit and purpose of this blog is to share unfiltered thoughts on our sector, and that is sometimes hard to do if the orgs or concepts I need to call out may be buying ads on this site (not that I’ve had to call anyone out or plan to in the near future).
  • Patreon: Without ad revenues, I rely even more on other ways to make a living. I am very appreciative of monthly Patreon contributors. Your support has been really helpful, especially during these past two years. If you find NAF useful, and want it to remain free and open to everyone, become a monthly patron if you aren’t one already and can afford it. You can also do one-time payments. Orgs and foundations, consider it a professional development investment in your team and in the field.

Thank you for reading Nonprofit AF, engaging with the questions posed here, and putting up with my shenanigans these past ten years.

On to this week’s topic. A few days ago I talked to a colleague who played me a clip of a podcast discussing whether nonprofits are becoming obsolete because for-profits are getting increasingly involved with charity-like work. With the rise of social entrepreneurism, B corps, etc., people are asking this question more and more. Some are concerned, and some barely hide the glee in their voice as they envision corporations solving societal issues and putting an end to nonprofits, us goody-two-shoes orgs with our twitchy-eyed staff decked in Ross-Dress-for-Less clothing, constantly having meetings and eating hummus.

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You are awesome, and 2022 is going to be an awesome year!

[Image description: A tan, white, and grey cat sleeping peacefully under a white blanket, their eyes closed in contentment. Image by Kate Stone Matheson on Unsplash]

Hi everyone. Welcome to 2022! I know the heaviness of this week presses down on us like a weighed blanket filled with mayonnaise and glass shards (This is my first post in a while; the analogies may be a little rough). The holiday break, if you had one, was not long enough, and a lot of it was probably spent arguing with family members and standing in line waiting for covid tests. Those sweet few days of lying snuggled up on the couch watching Ted Lasso or the Wheel of Time or our favorite cheesy movies seem but a distant memory, like the brief romantic flings of our youth, when we too were radiant with joy and Doritos.

Now we have to get back to dealing with emails. So many emails. And to-do lists. Endless. And relentless meetings. Meanwhile, we are still in a worsening pandemic. And the CDC, sponsored by Delta Airlines, basically says that if you have covid, gargle with some warm salt water and get back to capitalism. We’re going to have to put on a brave face and refrain from answering “What are your new year’s resolutions?” with “to make it to March without strangling at least three people in this virtual meeting.”

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I love you, nonprofit colleagues. Please give yourselves a break.

[Image description: A bulldog, dressed in a Santa suit and reindeer antlers, lays sleeping, facing the camera. Floor and background are bright red. Image by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash]

Hi everyone, this will be the last post of 2021 (I’ll be back on January 3rd), and it might be a little more personal and disjointed than other posts, apologies in advance. As the year ends, I try to find time to reflect back on what happened these past 12 months, and what lessons we could glean so that we can improve ourselves and our sector. But I am very tired. I don’t want to learn anything, except maybe that sweat pants and pajama bottoms should be perfectly acceptable to wear to the office from now on.

This year was hell. The last several years were hell. A weird, surreal sort of hell. Amidst this pandemic, I was going through a divorce while supporting loved ones dealing with addiction and various mental health challenges. Rifling through my brain brings random memories, one of me trying to figure out how to help my seven-year-old with his remote math assignment while his four-year-old brother was standing on our porch screaming at strangers, “You’re not wearing your masks! There’s coronavirus! Put your masks on!”   

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