Category Archives: nonprofit field

Toxic Self-Marginalization: How our unconscious addiction to being underdogs harms our work

[Image description: Two super cute little dark brown or black chihuahua puppies, or possibly three. One is facing the camera. The other one is resting their head on top of the first one. Actually, I’m pretty sure there are three now. The other one is also resting their head on the first puppy. They’re adorable and were chose to help you remain calm as we tackle a difficult topic. Hope it’s working. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. This post is long and will deal with a serious topic that may rile you up.

Lately, I’ve been seeing more and more of us who are supposed to be on the same “side” attack one another. “We progressives are eating our own” is a refrain I hear often. I wrote about this earlier, in a post called “Hey progressives, can we stop using the tools of social justice to tear one another down?” This was followed up with a post to balance things out, called “Hey people with privilege, you need to be OK with making mistakes and being called out.”

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.”

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Walk through this spooky nonprofit-themed haunted house…if you dare

[Image description: A silhouette of a hand, directly facing the camera. In the background is a blurry figure. It’s like someone is holding up a hand. It is so spooky. Just looking at this picture so I can write the image description is giving me the creeps. Why do I write blogs at 1am? Oh man, I am getting creeped out. Pixabay.com

Hi everyone. Quick announcement: This Wednesday, 9/18, from 1pm to 2:30pm EST, the co-authors of Unicorns Unite and I are having a conversation about how all of us can work together more effectively as a sector. Join virtually (or in person in San Francisco). It’s free.

It may seem too early to write a Halloween-inspired post, but Halloween is awesome, so it’s never too early to get into the spirit. Also, next week’s post will likely be extremely serious and possibly get a whole bunch of you mad at me, so might as well butter you up with a lighter piece this week.

A few years ago, my partner took me to a haunted house. It was dark and spooky, with grisly lights and decorations and there was fog everywhere and people dressed up like zombies and serial killers and sometimes they would chase you while holding chainsaws and screaming. So basically very much like our sector!

This gave me an idea. We need a nonprofit-themed haunted house! Here is what one might look like. Thanks to everyone on the NAF Facebook page who contributed ideas; and apologies that not all were incorporated and that individuals couldn’t be credited. Make sure you don’t read this by yourself at night, because it is terrifying. Add your thoughts in the comment section, and on Twitter with #NonprofitHauntedHouse

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10 lessons for nonprofits I learned from getting a vasectomy

[Image description: A golden pair of scissors, lying on the ground, holding a beige twine of some sort. Wow, this image is actually relevant to the topic at hand, while being both suggestive and yet not graphic. But I am sure I will stay up wondering if I should have used a picture of a baby animal. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. Last week, I got a vasectomy. Normally I would not talk about highly personal stuff like this, but there are lots of guys who are still squeamish about this simple and relatively painless procedure, so I am trying to help normalize it by being public about it. We dudes should do our part in family planning, and getting a vasectomy is a great option, as it is extremely effective while less intrusive and with fewer complications than what women have to go through. As this is a nonprofit blog, however, I am going to extrapolate my experience into lessons for all of us in the sector. So here are the lessons:

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Are you an overheadhole? Why we need to just stop talking about overhead

[Image description: A black rottweiler puppy, looking slightly bashful. Maybe it’s because they’ve been bragging about their nonprofit’s overhead ratio on their website. Pixabay.com]

One of the points Unicorns Unite (the book that I co-authored with Jessamyn Shams-Lau and Jane Leu; you can order it here) is “Don’t be an overheadhole.” An #Overheadhole is a person, nonprofit, or foundation who is obsessed with low overhead. They reinforce the idea that any organization that has “high” overhead is terrible and ineffective, with immoral staff who hoard money for themselves and who have bad personal hygiene and never call their mothers. Oh yeah, overheadholes?! Take a look in the mirror! YOU’RE the ones who never floss! Is that a piece of spinach stuck in your teeth, or just your blatant ignorance?!

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Why art and music matter in the fight for social justice

[Image description: A beautiful spiral made up of stained-glass windows, depicting various scenes, likely from the Bible, since this looks like a dome of a chapel of some sort. Pixabay.com didn’t identify it. Update: It’s the Chapel of Thanksgiving in Dallas, TX. Thanks Marijana Ababovic for identifying it]

Hi everyone, before we dive into today’s subject, my organization is growing and hiring three new positions. I’m highlighting here our Capacity Building Lead position. If you are a capacity building geek who also loves using an equity lens to support organizations led by and serving communities of color, this may be your dream job. Check it out. Must be able to tolerate rain, transformative work, and the Oxford Comma.

Last week, I gave a keynote at the conference held by the Association of California Symphony Orchestras (ACSO), whose staff and board are some of the nicest people ever. And extremely talented, with everyone seeming to play one or more instruments. There was beautiful, moving music everywhere. At one point, I stood in the corner, sipping on a margarita and listening to a duo of mandolin and fiddle players whose virtuoso performances for a few minutes lifted me away from thoughts of the gradual apocalypse our country is going through.

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