Hi everyone. My plane is boarding for Aotearoa, so apologies for any errors or clumsy wording in this post.
When I was in high school, I took AP Psychology. A few weeks into the class, my teacher, Mr. Henderson, approached me to ask how I was doing in class. I said I didn’t think I was doing OK, that I was nervous about the AP exam, and that I was afraid I would fail it. He then told me that we would be learning about the Dunning-Kruger effect (DKE) and gave me a brief synopsis. (I did end up passing the exam with a 5, and Mr. Henderson, with his mustache, piercing insights, and gentle sense of humor would end up becoming one of the most important mentors in my life; he advised me that a career in psychology may not pay very well, so I took his words to heart and went into the lucrative field of nonprofit.)
The Dunning-Kruger effect is basically this (though I’m paraphrasing a bit): People with lower skills, knowledge, and expertise tend to overestimate themselves, while those who are more skilled, knowledgeable, etc., tend to underestimate themselves. Some of this is hypothesized to be because incompetent people may be too incompetent to recognize that they are incompetent, while competent people are competent enough to realize they may not yet know everything and still need to learn and improve.
Y’all, I have a confession to make. I am not sure I like the whole “abundance” thing. In many ways, this concept became prominent in our sector because of our ingrained scarcity mindset, where we are so freaked out about potential lack of funding that we underinvest in everything, leading to poorly paid, exhausted staff who sit on crappy chairs, typing on a 10-year-old computer, with 48 dollars and a dozen Beanie babies as retirement savings.
Because it’s trendy, so many people are using the term abundance all the time. But it’s not really defined. I’m not sure we all have the same common understanding of it. I see some colleagues sprinkling “abundance” in conversations like fistfuls of confetti who are some of the most scarcity-ridden people ever. Is abundance just about money? Is it about relationships? All of it? At the risk of oversimplifying, here are some thoughts on abundance, starting with a few different “spheres” of abundance:
Hi everyone, next week we have PEEP (Party to Enhance Equity in Philanthropy), a series of fun events where nonprofit and foundation staff and board members get together and stare into one another’s eyes while the wind rustles through the leaves and the warm sun paints the afternoon with shades of rose-gold, heralding the beginning of a long, languid summer.
Or something like that; I might be romanticizing it a bit. It’s basically an agenda-free get-together. It won’t solve the power dynamics and systemic issues, of course, but it’s nice to find time for nonprofit and philanthropy folks to connect, and maybe cool stuff may result. Details for some of the events are listed at the end of this post. If you are having an event that’s not listed, fill out this form and I’ll mention it next week.
Some of you may recall that PEEP’s original name was Beverage to Enhance Equity in Relationships (BEER), which I came up with years ago. Lots of people found it amusing, and before the pandemic, BEER events were taking place in different geographic areas. But I was getting the occasional feedback from colleagues who are in recovery, or who have loved ones in recovery, saying that “BEER” was normalizing and possibly glorifying drinking. So the name was changed through a vote.
Over the past few years, I’ve been supporting a family member with alcohol addiction. The experience made me realize how awful this illness is, and also how ingrained a culture of drinking is in our society and in our sector. Our galas and other events are often saturated with booze. Drinking is often core to our hangouts. We joke about drinking all the time. I myself have made numerous jokes about alcohol on this blog, during meetings, and during my keynotes and panels, without stopping to think about how this may affect colleagues.
Considering how so many of us are so thoughtful of others in so many ways, this is an area I hope we can improve on. Here are some things we can all do:
Hi everyone. Just a reminder, before we dive into this week’s post, that the pandemic is not over. Some of y’all are acting like it is. Cases are surging. Get your boosters, wear masks, avoid indoor dining when you can, and stop double-dipping when you’re eating with other people lest you want me to smack the chopsticks out of your hand.
A few months ago, a colleague told me that they were writing a grant application. One of the questions was “what is your board’s giving rate? If it’s not 100%, please explain why.” This is a silly and archaic question that all funders need to stop asking. My colleague had written an answer to the effect that her org believed it was inequitable to focus on money as the most prioritized contribution, that they valued time and lived experience, and so they didn’t have 100% board giving nor did they care to measure it, etc. A dose of refreshing honesty so rare in our sector, like decent chairs and retirement savings.
Last week, I had bought my 9-year-old Viet his first bicycle. He got to choose it and he was very excited about it. It was my fault for leaving it overnight on our porch, where it got stolen. While he was at school, I went around the city to a few different stores, trying to find the exact same bicycle, coordinating with his mom so he wouldn’t know what was going on. We could have just told him the truth—and we will, someday, as an amusing anecdote when he’s older—but knowing our son, he would be worried about his bike, about the world. His excitement would give way to fear and anxiety. We wanted to save from that, to let him be a kid for a bit longer.
I was able to find the same bike, and he never knew what happened, and I left town for a speaking engagement in Park City, Utah. There I learned about the students and teachers who were murdered in Uvalde, Texas. We parents try to protect our kids from the horrors of reality. We replace their stolen bikes and sick goldfish and kiss their foreheads and tell them the world is not a terrible place. And then we send them to school, where they do active shooter drills to learn how to hide and remain quiet if someone comes to gun them down, and we hope they return home safely each day. The unimaginable pain and anguish the Uvalde families must be feeling, their lives forever shattered, knowing their loved ones, their babies, will never come home again.