It’s time funders take nonprofit leadership turnover seriously

[Image description: A blue frog with black spots all over, looking to the left, while standing on some sort of mossy branch or something. They look serious. Very serious. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. I have almost exactly one month left before the sun sets on my time as an executive director. (If you want to sound majestic and full of gravitas, just add “the sun sets on [someone]’s time” to anything; for instance, “We have ten minutes before the sun sets on our time together at this dive bar.” Thanks, Lion King.) I explained why I and a whole lot of other leaders, especially leaders of color, are leaving here.

Last week, I got an email from a colleague, a woman of color ED, asking me to call her back. There was no context. I knew what this meant. It meant she was leaving her position and wanted to give me a courtesy notice before the announcement came out. I was right. “I’m tired,” she said; I could hear the weariness in her voice. We were silent for a moment. I didn’t know what to say that didn’t seem trite or patronizing. “I’m sorry,” I said.  

Quietly, nonprofit leaders are leaving their posts. And most of us ED/CEOs swear off ever doing it again. And younger folks, it seems, are increasingly reluctant to take up the mantle. Who the hell can blame them? The ED’s job has always been like Sisyphus pushing the fundraising boulder up a hill, but while the eagle of program impact is pecking out his liver; the Cerberus of board, staff, and community expectations is chasing after him; and he’s trying to avoid looking at the Medusa of cash flow projections.

Continue reading

We need to stop joking about the sad state of retirement security in nonprofit. It’s no longer funny.

[Image description: An exhausted cat sleeping with their head on a wooden platform. They are white with some gray hair on their head, and pink ears. Their eyes are closed. I wonder if they’re dreaming. Do cats dream? Excuse me while I spend the next hour googling whether research has been done regarding whether and which animals dream. Pixabay.com]

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the NAF Facebook community, “What are creative ways you are thinking of in terms of retirement? Me, collecting kitchen gadgets in hope that these cherry pitter and pickle grabber etc., will appreciate in value!” The comments that came back were hilarious, because this is a group of brilliant, witty, and extremely good-looking folks. Here are a few:

  • “I intend to die in whatever museum I’m working in, and have my corpse be mistaken for part of the exhibit program. Until a century later, when an intern is cleaning they figure out that I’m that curator who disappeared. It’s the price of fame.”
  • “Dumpster dive former board members homes.”
  • “Relying on my love of the outdoors, because I’ll be living in a tent. When I’m ready to die, it’ll be with honor- just wandering into the forest and letting the coyotes eat me.”
  • “I plan on selling black market pies at the train station. Not kidding. I make excellent pie.”
  • “Work until I die – in debt”
  • “Commune / small house community with all of the other women I know who gave their best years to the cause and never got enough in salary or retirement benefits to be able to “plan” for retirement.”
  • “I feel like Pokémon will still being a thing in like 40 years, so hopefully I can sell the cards that I hoarded in 1999 to help make the student loan payments I’ll have until I die.”
  • “I’ve thought about dying at my desk”
  • “Counting on society to totally collapse before then, so currency and debt will be meaningless.”
  • “I plan on dying on the phone line, most likely in the middle of an ask.”
  • “My retirement plan is climate change and/or the total collapse of late stage capitalism.”
  • “I will die in my broken office chair.”
Continue reading

More Nonprofit Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

[Image description: Three dogs, draped in white sheets, dressed like ghosts. There is a jack-o-lantern between two of the pups. They are outside in what looks like a forest, all look adorable. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, Halloween, my favorite holiday, is this week. So here are some scary stories that are guaranteed to send tingles up your spine. Make sure you don’t read these alone. Also, if you’re looking for nonprofit-themed Halloween costumes, check out #NonprofitHalloweenCostumes on Twitter (“Dress in yellow clothing. Wear a brown hat. Say things like ‘We will triple the number of people served.’ You are a Strategic Flan.”)

The Chair

There was clearly something wrong with the chair. The team had received it from an anonymous donor. It showed up in the office one day, a shiny black executive swivel, ergonomic, with a headrest. Right away, it gave off a strange vibe that the team had never felt before. Staff who sat on it complained that it made them feel uneasy. Someone suggested they bring in a local medium who was known to be able to purify negative energy in objects and rooms.  

Continue reading

Gatekeeper Fragility, aka Meta-Fragility, the Fragility Around Others Being Too Fragile

[Image description: Two super cute wombats, eating vegetables from a silver feeding bowl. It looks like there’s a corn on the cob, and some sliced radishes. The wombats have their eyes nearly closed, as if in blissful contentment. They want you to get your flu shot if you can but haven’t already. Image by David Clode on Unsplash.com]

Hi everyone, just a quick reminder that I’m having a Facebook Live update/AMA at 12:30pm PST on 10/22, so join if you’re free. Also, October 22nd is World Wombat Day, which I am proposing we turn into World Wombat and Flu Shot Day, a magical holiday where we send our friends pictures of wombats to remind them to get their yearly flu shots (Mark my words, this tradition WILL catch on). The flu killed 80,000 people in the US last season; please get flu shots for yourself and your family if you can.

A couple of years ago, I was discussing potential keynote topics with a group of conference planners. “How about fundraisers’ role in addressing systemic injustice,” I said, “including the need to have courageous conversations with donors about difficult topics like slavery, colonization, wealth disparity, and reparation? I’ll start with some light humor, maybe a few pictures of adorable kittens, and then BAM—racism!”

“Uh,” said the planners, “I’m not sure our members are ready for…that…” There was an awkward silence. I ate some BBQ chips. In the foreground, some tumbleweeds rolled by. A horse snorted nervously.

Continue reading

Let’s stop recognizing donors by donation levels

[Image description: A profile of a fluffy squirrel, with orange-brownish fur, staring to the right. They seem to be standing on a white towel or something. Not sure what this picture has to do with the post. But if you think about it, does anything have anything to do with anything? Or is our need for things to be connected a way for us to cope with our short existence in an arbitrary and chaotic universe? Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, a couple of announcements before we start on today’s topic. In recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, here are a few things we each can do to be more respectful of Native/Indigenous Cultures.

Meanwhile, on October 22nd, at 12:30pm Pacific Time, I’ll be doing a Facebook Live “Ask Me Anything” to provide updates and answer any questions you may have about RVC’s work, nonprofit fashion, adult acne, and why the Oxford Comma is essential to our sector.

Also, a while ago, the Community-Centric Fundraising Council released the Fundraising Perception Survey to ask how folks are feeling about the way the sector does fundraising. Thanks to everyone’s help, we collected over 2,000 surveys. We are in the process of analyzing the results and hopefully will have a report in the next few months. Preliminary data, however, indicates it’s going to be a doozy. Stay tuned. We’re also working on a website and other exciting stuff.

Continue reading