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.”)
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.
A week later the medium, Madam Perry, appeared. She looked stern and serious. She stared at their chair. She sat on it. She was silent for a while, her eyes closed in thoughtful contemplation. Then she opened her eyes. “There is nothing wrong with this chair,” she said, “you’re just so used to crappy chairs that you have no idea what a normal-ass chair feels like.”
The team laughed sheepishly, relieved. “That will be $175,” said the medium, “Please make the check payable to Perrynormal Consulting, LLC.”
Carlie thought the interview had gone well. She answered confidently. A position at a nonprofit she respected. After several months of searching and feeling hopeless, maybe this was her break. She spent hours researching and applying. After the interview, she wrote an individual handwritten thank-you note to all six members of the panel. Then she waited.
And waited. After a week, she emailed the organization, gently nudging them. There was no response. She called and left a voicemail. No words came. She emailed again. And left another voicemail. She waited some more. A month. Three months. Summer became fall. She never heard from the organization again. For a time she wondered if it existed, or if she herself existed.
Then one day she got an appeal letter, asking for a donation.
It was a chilly September evening. Fog and dead leaves blanketed the ground. A group of leaders had gathered at the foundation’s conference room. They were excited but nervous. The foundation had a been a lifeblood of the community, for decades funding many critical services and programs. Then, one Autumn day, it went on a hiatus to do a strategic plan, putting a halt to giving out new funding, leaving many organizations to scramble like restless spirits.
Now, two years later, they invited the community to hear an announcement. Hope started to build within the leaders. Could the foundation finally shore up efforts on homelessness? Could it back education equity? Census outreach efforts? Social justice?
The CEO appeared at the lectern. His eyes were sunken. He shuffled, restless. “Thank you for coming,” he said. “I know many of you are wondering about our strategic plan. I am proud to tell you that after two years of serious consideration among staff and trustees, we have decided…we will spend the next 18 months conducting a community needs assessment!”
Outside, the barren trees rattled, shaken by the cold wind, forlorn branches stretched upward in supplication, beseeching a full but distant moon.
The New ED
After a period of searching, the board hired someone they thought would be the perfect ED for the organization. She was affable, down-to-earth, and didn’t seem to need to be the center of attention, a problem they had with the previous ED.
But something was off, the staff could feel it, especially the Communications Director, who wanted to slow down the process. The board was having none of it. They sent the offer letter; it was signed immediately.
Then, on the ED’s first day, all staff received an email from the executive director. Their hearts stopped. Their faces went pale. At her desk in the converted janitorial closet, the Communications Director screamed silently in horror.
Their new ED double spaced after periods.
Every year, community members get invited to a summit. They are given sticky dots to vote with on various strategies. None of their recommendations are ever implemented. Year after year this happens. The end.
After over a year of searching, Carlie landed a job as a Development Manager. She was excited. Sure, she would be one of the few staff of color there, but she hoped she could make a difference. Right away, though, something did not feel right, but she couldn’t pinpoint exactly why.
One day, the team meeting, the staff discussed professional development needs. “How about Undoing Institutional Racism?” Carlie suggested. The room turned to look at her, then moved on. “Project management?” suggested someone.
At the development retreat later in the year, she mentioned the disengagement of donors of color. “Maybe we should have a discussion focused on something more substantive. One donor told me she’d love to hear more about how we’re addressing racial injustice in our advocacy work.” There were blank stares. “We need more thank-you videos!” suggested a colleague.
Month after month, Carlie made recommendations. They were never acknowledged. Her energy waned and she faded away. No one knows what has become of her.
Just kidding. She quit the sector and became a real estate agent. One day, she got an appeal letter from this org, asking for a donation.
The Haunted Nonprofit
The organization was loved in the community for all the vital services it provided. Everything went well for a few years until one day, the Operations Director came to the office. The team was shocked by her appearance. Her eyes were sunken. Her hair was unkempt. When colleagues passed by, they smelled a slightly sour odor that seemed to permeate her clothing. Her energy also changed. Their once enthusiastic, efficient Operations Director now seemed lethargic, sometimes falling asleep at her desk. Soon, she left the agency.
But their troubles did not stop. Another staff, a young man, eventually experienced the similar symptoms. He had been normal before, and then one day became sluggish, his once cheerful demeanor gave way to vacant stares. The familiar sour odor followed him. Sometimes he wore the same clothing several days in a row.
The team decided that the office was haunted and they had to do something before they lost another team member. At a colleague’s recommendation, they brought in Madam Perry. She walked around the office, stopping in different spots to feel the energy. She looked at the young man, who sat at his desk staring into space. Finally, she asked to see the organization’s personnel manual. The team was confused, but handed her a copy. For a while she scanned the documents.
“What’s wrong?” asked the ED, “Do we need, like, to burn some sage, or something?”
“No,” she said, “that’s cultural appropriation. This place is not haunted. You just have a crappy family leave policy. You don’t offer any paid family leave. Staff who have new babies are forced to come in to work too early. Offer paid family leave, FFS!”
Madam Perry packed up her things. “That will be $250, payable to Perrynormal Consulting, thanks.”
Happy Halloween, everyone. If you like these stories, check out “7 Nonprofit Stories to Tell in the Dark” and “Three Nonprofit Ghost Stories to Send Chills Up Your Spine,”
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