A few weeks ago I called up a program officer of a foundation to discuss my organization’s amazing idea to bring more immigrant and refugee leaders into the nonprofit field. “That’s a great idea,” said the program officer, “but what’s your sustainability plan? We don’t tend to support projects unless we know they will be financially independent in the future.”
“Well,” I said, “I have a great plan for that. Have you heard of teeth tattoo? No? You will! Dental adornment is going to be the latest thing, believe you me. Think about it: the Seahawks logo on your incisors! We will open a teeth tattoo parlor, and it will generate literally billions of dollars, enough to fund the project forever. But we need seed money. So how about 50K from you all?”
All right, I didn’t say that. I waffled something that sounded intelligent—“We are building up our base of individual donors, establishing relationships with local businesses, and using the Synergistic Paradigm Action Matrix in order to find the nexus between our strategies and adaptive advantage”—like a good grantseeker is trained to do. We talked some more. Then I hung up and unwrapped a bar of dark chocolate and ate it, both me and the chocolate 72% bitter.
Continue reading “Can we all just admit there is no such thing as nonprofit sustainability?”
For the past 19 months, I have been a father, and it has been a fun, rewarding, and exhausting experience. Having a baby is like getting a really large multi-year grant: You’re like “Yay, I got the grant!” and then you’re like, “Damn, this is a lot of work…”
I have been a new father and a nonprofit director simultaneously, and this combination is a terrible experiment that no one should try at home. Sleep has been as elusive as general operating funds. This is why when I carry the baby down the street, passersby often remark, “Aw, what a beautiful grandson you have.”
Still, the baby is magical. I have been flexing my hours so I could spend every Friday with him. First, because life is short, and I don’t want to wish later that I had spent more time with my son. And second, because I am training him to be a nonprofit warrior, passing down the wisdom I have gained so that he could eventually take over for me. “Learn your ABC’s, son,” I would say, “so that one day you may fight injustice through grantwriting.”
Continue reading “10 Lessons about nonprofit work I’ve learned from my toddler”
Hi everyone. It’s Thanksgiving this week, and I usually spend a post listing things for which I am thankful—a meaningful job, awesome colleagues, loving family, The Walking Dead, etc.—but something has been weighing on my mind. Equity. It’s like coconut water; everyone’s drinking it lately (See “Is Equity the new coconut water?”). Diversity, inclusion, and cultural competency meanwhile are like hummus: you can’t attend a meeting without at least one clear plastic container of it.
The problem with Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Here’s the thing: The people of color that I’ve been talking to are getting kind of sick of these terms. We love them, but the dissonance between their usage and actual practice is like getting poked in the eye on a daily basis. Case in point, at panel I was on recently a colleague of color told me that someone contacted her, saying, “Can you help us spread the word about this new job position? We want to diversify our pool of candidates.”
My friend said, “I wanted to ask, Are you trying to just diversify your POOL of candidate, or ACTUAL hires?” We both sighed; thankfully, the wine was plentiful that evening. Continue reading “The Equity of Risk and Failure”
Last week, I wrote an open letter to people from the business world telling them to stop thinking they are better than us nonprofit folks. That resonated with a lot of people from our sector: “Yeah, business people, just because you have decent dental insurance and can go to Chipotle as often as you like does not mean you’re better than us!”
But today, we need to address an equally serious problem with our sector, and that is our own sense of inferiority, which, unlike the overt superiority of many of our friends from the corporate sector, is usually unconscious. Still, it is pervasive across the sector, and combined with the martyr complex, it is debilitating. These things lead to burn out and prevent people from wanting to enter our field.
Continue reading “The nonprofit inferiority complex is not sexy”
My friends from the business community. I love you guys. Without you, the world wouldn’t have smart phones. And 70% dark chocolate. And airplanes. And a bunch of medicines and technology that save lives. And clothing. And running water inside our houses. And these giant flat-panel TVs that display all my favorite shows from Netflix. And kitchen gadgets like the Veggetti; it slices zucchinis and carrots into long strands and is really fun to use, despite the slightly dirty sounding name. Ooh, and restaurants serving organic kale salads with little toasted pumpkin seeds. Businesses are awesome, and I am genuinely grateful what you all do for the world. We nonprofits love you all. So I want to make sure you know this letter is from a place of appreciation and fraternity.
But seriously, many of you need to check your superiority complex. It’s annoying as hell.
Continue reading “Dear business community, stop thinking you are better than us nonprofit folks”