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

[Image description: A laptop, opened and sitting on a wooden table, next to a black phone. The laptop’s display is covered with pieces of paper in various colors. Image by geralt on Pixabay]

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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25 proverbs, rewritten for nonprofit and philanthropy

[Image description: An adorable baby horse, light brown with a streak of white on the face. This foal is outside, with a field of grass in the blurry background. Look at their fluffy mane. Aw, now I want a pony. Image by Blaer of Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, quick announcement: If you are interested in forming a community-centric fundraising local affinity group in your area, please register to join me and some other folks this Thursday, 8/20 at 12pm PT. Meanwhile, check out some new content on the CCF Hub, including “Reparations: How we white relatives must try to pay back the unpayable debt” by Hilary Giovale, “Nonprofit Industrial Complex 101: a primer on how it upholds inequity and flattens resistance” by Sidra Morgan-Montoya, “Why I decided to give up complicity in order to be an anti-racist volunteer manager” by Laura Pilati, and more.

We’ve had a string of serious posts here on Nonprofit AF. This week we’ll mix it up a bit. Proverbs! As a wise man once said: “Proverbs are the roux that binds the gravy of existence.” Or something. I totally made that up. Anyway, here are a bunch of famous proverbs that have been re-written to be more applicable to our sector. Feel free to add your own in the comment section, and on twitter using #NonprofitProverbs.

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Hey businesses: Act more like nonprofits if you want to succeed!

[Image description: A metal spoon balancing on a small black calculator resting on its side. A yellow potato is impaled on the handle end of a spoon, while the concave end holds a stack of about ten coins. The ground is covered in spreadsheets and additional coins. If y’all want to exercise your brain, try to write some image descriptions. Pixabay.com]

Businesses are all truly inspiring and contribute so much to our community. However, many businesses are failing to reach their full potential. During this pandemic, demands for business products and services have decreased significantly while demands for nonprofit services have skyrocketed! Is this just a coincidence? Unlikely. It would benefit for-profits to be as nimble, agile, and innovative as nonprofits. Although I have never run a business before, I do frequent many of them, and when I retire from a long career in nonprofit, I hope to do something relaxing and fulfilling, like open my own bank or grocery chain. Until then, here are some lessons I have learned that would help your business run more like a nonprofit and be successful:

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11 annoying jargon phrases we’re overusing, and new jargon to use instead

[A beautiful little dik-dik, a type of tiny antelope that are super cute and about a foot tall. This one has big doe-like eyes. Awww. This dik-dik has nothing to do with the content of this blog post. Pixabay.com]

Quick announcement before we start today’s post: In light of the fact that certain funding practices are not just annoying, but actually endangering people’s lives, such as funders requiring anything to be signed or mailed, I have decided to start naming and shaming on Twitter, using the hashtag #CrappyFundingPractices. DM me @nonprofitAF (or email vu@nonprofitAF.com) any ridiculousness you see, and I will tweet about it and tag the funder so you can remain anonymous. Then I want everyone following to like and retweet because it notifies the funder every time you do that.

All crappy funding practices and general philanthropic shenanigans are fair game to be called out. (updated to add: I always recommend direct communications and feedback to funders, so please try to do that when you can. However, because of power dynamics, sometimes it helps to remain anonymous.) To balance things out, let’s also publicly acknowledge funders engaged in #AwesomeFundingPractices. If you can keep your DM to 280 characters and also find me the funder’s twitter handle, that will save me some time, but don’t worry too much about it. Feel free also to use the hashtags yourselves. I also encourage you to write anonymous reviews of foundations on Grantadvisor.org.

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Hi everyone, like you, I’ve been on lots of Zoom calls. And I noticed we use tons of jargon and cliches. So, for a break from serious COVID news and discussions this week, here is part 5 of the NAF jargon series, where we examine annoying and overused jargon, and then come up with other phrases we should use instead, until those jargon themselves become annoying. New game: You get a point for every new jargon you use this week on video meetings (Here are parts 1, 2, 3, and 4, with classics like “silos” and “in my wheelhouse.” The new jargon in those posts also count towards your points.)

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A sample annual appeal letter, if nonprofits were brutally honest with donors

[ Hi everyone, this is the last post of this calendar year. NAF will take a short break and will return with a feisty article on January 6th, 2020. Happy holidays! ]

[Image description: A blank white sheet of paper on some untreated wood planks, with various round gold ornaments and green pine branches surrounding it. The top right corner of the paper is covered with a smiling cartoony angel ornament, while the bottom left corner has a gold bow and a red bow, the kind one puts on presents. Pixabay.com]

Dear John,

As the year winds down, I know you are getting inundated with appeal letters from dozens of nonprofits. This letter is one of them. Just like other missions, we are writing to ask you to give money so we can keep vital programs and services running. And don’t worry, despite all those memes floating around about nonprofits spending 94 cents of every dollar on luxury cars and unicorn steaks or whatever, the money you donate is being put to good use. By being spent on staff, who do all of the work, along with critical things like office rent, utilities, etc. Your support makes it all possible.

Let me insert a story designed to affect you emotionally. Our program director Katie had terrible dental pains caused by her wisdom teeth, but we could not afford to give staff health insurance AND dental insurance. For months, she just carried on, but it really affected the program. The kids we serve could not understand what she was saying due to all the agonized mumbling. It made consoling them when ICE raided their parents’ workplaces a little more challenging. But thanks to donors like you last year, we were able to upgrade our healthcare from Copper to Copper Plus, which includes dental! Katie was finally able to get her wisdom teeth removed (with a $1200 deductible that she can pay off gradually with interest)! The afterschool program is stronger than ever!

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