12 dating tips for nonprofit professionals


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Hi everyone. Valentine’s Day is coming up this week, which means many of us are thinking about love, relationships, and, for some of us, culturally-responsive organizational capacity building strategies. The nonprofit sector is full of amazing individuals. But we all tend to work really hard and focus on others, so love and relationships are often put on the back burner, along with exercise and, for some of us, personal hygiene. If this area is relevant to you, however, make time to focus on it as part of your overall well-being. Here are some #NonprofitDatingTips that may be helpful if you are looking for love (If you’re not, the final season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is now on Netfllix):

Now, some of you may be asking, “Vu, what exactly do you know about dating?” To which I would reply that after being married for a decade, I have no understanding whatsoever of the modern dating scene. However, I do know a lot about nonprofit work, and I am sure dating and nonprofit are very similar:

  1. Take time to find out who you are: Relationships are strongest when all parties enter with a clear understanding of who they are, what they want, and what are their deal-breakers. To do this effectively, it is important to gather community input and not have a top-down approach. Create a survey on Google Forms or Survey Monkey and solicit your friends and families for anonymous feedback. Then aggregate the feedback and analyze the data to discover who you are.  
  2. Use a Logic Model to determine what you want in a relationship: The Logic Model is not just something you include in a grant proposal or podcast interview to make you sound like you know what you’re doing, it can also be applied to dating. It can help you determine your desired short-term, medium-term, and long-term outcomes. Create one, and don’t forget to include a column called “Community Impact” and add to it “a stronger society through strengthened interpersonal connections.”
  3. Remember that confidence is very appealing. Right before asking someone out, or going on a date, take a moment to remind yourself that you are a badass nonprofit professional who is making the world better every single day. You are awesome AF, and don’t you EVER forget this or let anyone else forget it! Also, make sure you wear deodorant; that has been shown in commercials to increase confidence.
  4. Be the easel paper, not the sticky dot. You know exactly what I mean. You don’t? OK, let’s put it this way: Be the hummus, not the pita chip.
  5. Give online dating a try: As a busy nonprofit professional, you don’t have time for the more traditional venues to meet people: Bars, gyms, small independent bookstores, and scrimshaw carving competitions. Everyone and their grandparents use online dating these days. Good pictures are important, so avoid taking photos of you the week of a gala or at year-end; yikes!
  6. Workshops and community events are great for dates: Besides having free food, these events are excellent for testing for compatibility. I mean, do you really want to be with someone who can’t handle an important three-hour discussion on education inequity? Or who won’t stack chairs after the lecture and group discussions? Or who’s “embarrassed” because you brought several reusable storage containers to take home leftover food?
  7. First impressions are very important: Studies have shown that the first few seconds of an interaction can anchor someone’s perception of you for a long time (which may explain why Kenny Loggins won’t return my phone calls). Always wear your best outfit from Ross Dress for Less on your first date, and if you have bought some jewelry at a silent auction at some point, now is the time to break it out.
  8. When dating folks outside the sector, learn some terminology and concepts: For instance, if they work in for-profit, learn enough corporate speak so you can say intelligent things like “So, how is your company’s stock performing this quarter on the hedge fund portfolio? I bet the P/E Ratio is totally bullish. Haha, Enron, am I right?”
  9. Keep the conversation light: Here are a few get-to-know-you questions to keep in your mental pocket to use when there might be a lull in the conversation: “What do you think are the causes of poverty?” “What are your views on the relationships between power, privilege, wealth disparity, and systemic injustice?” “Tell me about the last equity training you attended.”
  10. Avoid artifice and be your true self. The challenge with dating is that everyone is putting on some sort of mask, and you don’t really get to know one another. Be your authentic self. If someone can’t handle your screaming “Down with the patriarchy!” in the middle of a high-end restaurant and then making sure the restaurant staff have support for collective bargaining, do you really want a relationship with them?
  11. Follow up with a handwritten thank-you note: After every date, it’s important to send a handwritten thank-you note to help with date retention rates.
  12. It’s OK to call it quits: Sometimes, dates and relationships don’t work out, and it’s best to gracefully and amicably party ways. But schedule a debriefing meeting to do plus/minus/delta on the experience. Assign someone to take notes on Google Docs

I hope that has been helpful. Please add additional tips you have in the comment section, or on Twitter using #NonprofitDatingTips. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. Or as happy as it can be. Considering it’s Valentine’s Day.

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