10 tips for spicing up your love life if you work in nonprofit and philanthropy

[Image description: Two penguins nuzzling each other’s beak affectionately. They are outdoors, with grass and small fuzzy brown flowers in the foreground. Image by AGL Fotos on Unsplash.]

Valentine’s Day is this coming Sunday. Even without an endless pandemic, it can be challenging for people in relationships to keep the spark alive. So here are some tips, written with nonprofit/philanthropy professionals in mind, and not just for Valentine’s Day, but every day. As usual, please use what you find helpful and ignore the rest. Add your own advice in the comment section.

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Honest email auto-replies you can use during these challenging times

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Hi everyone. The past few months have been ridiculous. If you’ve emailed me, you literally got this auto-response back:

“Hi. This is an automatic reply. Due to parenting and homeschooling two small children, I will be slow to respond to emails. And I’ll be honest, I may forget to respond completely. If something is urgent, please call or text me. Thank you. Vu.”

This has actually been extremely helpful to have in place, as folks have been a lot more understanding when they hear from me three months after they email. Things are not normal. We all need to be a little more honest with one another in our communications. With that in mind, here are some auto-responses I drafted to serve as inspiration for you all. Feel free to adapt them to suit your needs:

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9 crappy paradoxes that shape nonprofit and philanthropy

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Hi everyone, quick announcement: Please put August 10th at 12:00pm Pacific Time on your calendar for Community-Centric Fundraising’s first town hall meeting. Sign up here and we’ll send you the zoom link. Until then, the (CCF) Hub is designed to provide alternatives to our default white-centric fundraising narratives. It features about three new thought-provoking pieces of content each week, including “How prospect research can help nonprofits become less racist and more inclusive,” “What I Learned from Losing Two Jobs in the Fight for Racial Equity,” “‘You want a director of what now?!’ When orgs that are hiring are too lazy to know what they want,” and the first episode of the Ethical Rainmaker podcast, where CCF Co-Chair Michelle Muri and I talk about fundraising and equity. Check it out!

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I’ve been spending a lot of time flossing while thinking of how to categorize the challenges in our sector (What, like your quarantine activities are so much more interesting). Many of the stuff we deal with falls under the category of “well-meaning people inadvertently making nonprofits’ jobs harder.” Here are a nine. I’m going to call them paradoxes, though some of these are not paradoxes exactly, but are more like dilemmas, conundrums, or shenanigans. I’ve written about a few of them, but they keep coming up and remain a problem, so it’s good for us to review and have common language to push back. If we want our sector to succeed, we need to be aware of these paradoxes and control for them.

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Is there such a thing as too much gratitude? Yes, and it’s been harmful to our work

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An executive director colleague told me he received $1,000 from a corporation for his organization’s emergency funds to help people pay for food and rent. Of course, he thanked the representative on the phone and sent a letter. A few days later, he got an email asking whether the nonprofit would mind publicly acknowledging the corporation and its $1K gift on some combination of social media, website, and newsletter. I could hear the weariness in his voice. He and his team had been working nonstop on the front line and barely had time to breathe. “I kind of wanted to be petty and just return the money. But I can’t, because people are starving.”

If there’s one thing that’s been beaten into all of us in the sector, it is the concept of gratitude. Donors and funders should definitely be thanked, preferably throughout the year and in multiple forms: Handwritten note, phone calls, recognition events, maybe a swag mug. It should be as personal as possible so as to not seem routine. “You can never thank someone too much,” a development director colleague told me.

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What are we willing to give up to end the Nonprofit Hunger Games?

[Image description: A squirrel, staring at the camera in surprise, their paws touching. So cute, with their little whiskers. Also, their ears are touching. Is that normal? I have no idea. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, a couple of notes. The Nonprofit AF Facebook page is still locked due to FB refusing to confirm my location (this happened, coincidentally, the week where I wrote a post talking about how our sector needs to be more political). I’m working on it, but sorry about that. I’m active on twitter (@nonprofitAF) in the meanwhile. And if you’re free tomorrow, 4/28, at 1pm PST, I’m on this live podcast recording with brilliant leaders Mary Morten, Jane Kimondo, and Michelle Morales to talk about philanthropy.

Also, I want to thank everyone who has been supporting NAF through Patreon. I left my job a few months ago, so this pooled source of income has been very helpful. However, my partner is securely employed and we have savings (in great part thanks to you) so we are in a much more stable financial situation than many families out there. Please don’t hesitate to lower your Patreon support, stop being a supporter, or shift your support to others. We’ll be fine, I promise. Thank you so much.

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I know the past few weeks I’ve been pushing hard and being very critical of our sector, especially of foundations. And also, not being very funny. The urgency of this moment means we and the people we serve can no longer afford for us to put up with ineffective or destructive philosophies and practices. Besides deaths from the virus itself, there will be significant increase in global poverty. Starvation threaten to kill millions more in the years ahead. Our sector must dispense with all the BS that has been keeping us down.

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