Hi everyone, I am back in the US after a rough 24-hour trip with a two-year-old that ended with us at US Customs declaring that we had brought back several packages of vegan deer jerky made from soy protein. “I have never heard anyone declaring that before,” said the officer, “did you try it before you bought it?” Of course we did, I said, disheveled and slightly offended. Everyone knows that only a fool would buy twenty bags of vegan deer jerky without trying some samples!
We are now all completely jetlagged, thanks to the baby, who does not care to get back to regular schedule. He wakes up at 3am with this soft, almost creepy whisper of “I’m hungry?” I’ve had about eight hours of sleep total over the last three days and have started hallucinating a little (“Yes, Your Holiness, I would love some easel paper…”)
All of that is to say I have no mental capacity to do a serious post today. Instead, here are some quotes I imagined from famous people if they worked in nonprofit. Add your suggestions to the comment section:
20 quotes from famous people if they had worked in nonprofit
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy attending meetings.” John Lennon
“You miss 100% of the grants you don’t write.” Wayne Gretzky
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you still have to file your 990 each year.” Henry Ford Continue reading “20 quotes by famous people if they had worked in nonprofit”
Hi everyone, I am in Saigon right now, where it is a 95 degrees and the humidity is so thick, you can use a knife to whittle out some humidity sculptures for your next silent auction. But, things have been great. Food is cheap and ubiquitous and good, so I’ve been loading up, especially on cold young coconuts and mangosteens, a purplish tropical fruit that tastes like general operating funds (You need to add “Eat five pounds of mangosteens in Southeast Asia” to your bucket list right now!).
The relatives, meanwhile, still have no idea what I do, and while my Vietnamese is pretty good, it is not when it comes to advanced topics. I have the vocabulary of a ten-year-old, so it leads to awkward conversations like this:
Aunt: We heard that you got a new job? Tell us about it
Me: Yes, I work for a…location…that grows people who…drag others…to do good things…
Aunt: Drag others to do good things? You mean, leaders?
Me: Yes! Yes! Leaders! Leaders from groups of people who have …the darker…skins…
Aunt: People of color?
Me: Yes, people of color! We send these leaders into…businesses that don’t make money, but they help make the world better…
Me: Yes, yes!
I won’t recap the next part, where I try to explain capacity building and community organizing. Just be glad your elevator speech doesn’t last thirty minutes and involve a lot of wild gesturing, followed by your relatives looking disappointed at your career choice. Continue reading “9 awesome nonprofit trends we should all celebrate with unicorn cookies!”
Hi everyone. Today, while driving past a take-and-bake pizza place, I noticed something: The dude who normally stood at the corner wearing a toga and spinning a giant arrow sign pointing the way to the shop had been replaced by what looked like a cardboard cutout. It was holding the giant arrow, but the sign was hooked to a spinning machine. And I thought, “This is an example of what’s wrong with our world! Artistic sign spinning has been outsourced to machines! Where is the artistry, the finesse?!” I was so annoyed, I only bought one pizza to bake at home.
Why am I bringing this up? Because unlike many other fields, the nonprofit sector will always rely on human beings. When other professionals are replaced by robots in the future, we will still be around. Can you imagine a robot trying to do case management or counseling or advocacy?
Despite our reliance on people, we have a bunch of no good, very bad habits in hiring and in paying nonprofit professionals. I talked earlier about our need to raise salaries. And also the need to reexamine our archaic, inequitable hiring practices such as the overreliance on formal education. And now, we need to dismantle another terrible habit that many, many of us have, one that we don’t think much about, but one that is driving lots of people nuts, perpetuates gender and other inequities, and increases the power imbalance between employers and employees: Not listing salary ranges on job posting, and putting “DOE,” which stands for “Depending On Experience” instead. Here are reasons why it is so awful, and why we should all agree to put an end to “salary cloaking” immediately. Continue reading “When you don’t disclose salary range on a job posting, a unicorn loses its wings”
Trying to be a good father, I read to my two-year-old son every day. And also feed him daily. Since he turns two this Friday, I thought I would write him some more children’s stories. I want to give him a leg-up early just in case he wants to pursue a career in our field. Here are the texts for four new books. Of course, these are just drafts; they’ll be much better once I find an illustrator. Check them out and let me know what you think. I hope these books will become classics that parents who work in nonprofit will read to their kids each night.
The 990 Dance
Stomp your feet,
wring your hands,
everybody ready for the 990 dance.
Bow to the bookkeeper,
bow to your board.
Bow to the accounting firm just outsourced
With an “eek!” and a “yikes!” and a “sigh sigh sigh…”
Discover your overhead is way too “high.”
Analyze your revenues,
analyze your spending
Do whatever the accountant is recommending
Hide your frustration,
sharpen your senses
Allocate some admin as program expenses
With a “blegh” and an “argh” and an “ack ack ack”
The filing is done, but next year it’ll be back Continue reading ““Where the Sustainable Things Are” and other nonprofit children’s books”
Some people think capacity building is boring. Well, I think it’s sexy, and I’ve spent many hours writing romantic poems about it: “Can Love’s arrows seek truest rapture/Without the quiver of Infrastructure?/Can e’er Equity take flight and sing/Save with steadfast Capacity ‘neath her wings?” (What, like your hobbies are SOOO much more interesting).
Since most of my work is now focused on building capacity of communities-of-color-led nonprofits, I’m glad that there seems to be a new resurgence of people talking about capacity building. Here’s a great paper from Grantcraft with cool concrete recommendations for funders including a brief discussion on the importance of general operating funds for capacity building. And here’s one from the TCC Group on what they call “Capacity Building 3.0.” According to this briefing paper, Capacity Building 1.0 is about individuals, Capacity Building 2.0 is about nonprofit institutions, and 3.0 is about the entire nonprofit ecosystem, which includes funders, businesses, even the government.
These white papers are all written by very intelligent people who have thought long and hard about the critical role that capacity building plays in our ability to do our work. After reading through them and other articles on the topic, I want to offer some reflections and recommendations. Continue reading “Capacity Building 9.0: Fund people to do stuff, get out of their way”