It’s been over two months now since I stepped down as an executive director. I wish I could say that, unchained from the shackles of leadership, I would be able to relax and recharge like I had planned. I haven’t been able to yet. I have to unlearn so many strategies that I adopted to be an effective ED: Constant vigilance, emotion suppression, functioning on reduced sleep, abandonment of personal hygiene, etc.
And then there’s the guilt. I feel like I have abandoned
my friends in the trenches. This guilt manifests in my trying to buy colleagues
lunches and coffees, leading to conversations like this:
Me: Let me buy you lunch.
Colleague: That’s sweet, but you don’t need to do that.
Me: No, I insist! It’s the least I can do! You are facing
so much! Let me pay!
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.
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.
The last four years have been rough on many of us. There is generalized anxiety caused by the relentless cruelty, racism, and inhumanity of this administration. My mental health professional friends have been getting more business than they can handle. All of us to a degree feel helpless against the overwhelming forces of hatred that we read about on a daily basis. Our dedication to the fight, though, means that we often channel this energy toward targets that are easier and closer in proximity. And thus, we sometimes turn on one another. As one colleague said to me, “People need closer targets, and ones they can successfully take down.”
Hi everyone, this blog may have more typos than normal
because it is (was) Father’s Day, and instead of spending it writing and “editing,”
I hung out with my kids. They are in bed now, so I can finish this post.
Before we launch into the subject, though, this Friday is the Third Annual Beverage to Enhance Equity in Relationships (BEER), a time, usually on Summer Solstice, where nonprofit and philanthropic leaders can get a beer, ice cream, donuts, or perfectly blistered shishito peppers sprinkled with Maldon sea salt and a spritz of lime (we deserve nice things too!) and get to know one another without an agenda. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for a list of events happening. If you’re in Seattle, there’s a get-together from 4pm to 6pm at Hill City Tap House, sponsored by Medina Foundation, United Way of King County, Philanthropy NW, and RVC.RSVP here. I’ll be there; go ahead and come argue with me if you don’t like something I’ve written in the past, but just to warn you, I will crush you.
Last week, I wrote a pretty long post listing some of the serious challenges faced by EDs, and in particular EDs of color. It resonated with quite a few colleagues across the globe. All of us are tired. We’re tired of the lack of trust, the unstable scraps of resources, the funding Sudoku, the power dynamics, the criticisms from staff and board, the involuntary eye twitch, and the sleepless nights listening to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” on repeat while hugging a stuffed unicorn that’s designed to smell like baked apple pie. (Shut up, like your coping mechanisms are soooo much better).