Hi everyone. Quick announcement before we launch into today’s post. The Peery Foundation, whose CEO Jessamyn Shams-Lau and I co-authored the book Unicorns Unite (along with the amazing Jane Leu of Smarter Good), is having an Ask Me Anything on 2/14 at 11am Pacific time. They’re trying to “pull back the curtain on foundation decision-making. No question is off-limits and our host’s favorite question will win a box of chocolates.” Find out how philanthropy sausage is made.
I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a while. Thanks to colleague Theresa Meyers, Chief of Staff at DC Central Kitchen, for bringing this back to my attention. Every once a while, we nonprofits get requests from students, usually from a nonprofit management program. The requests often go like this,
“Hi, I am a student at so-and-so college. I am
taking a course on organizational development this quarter. Part of our
curriculum is to interview several leaders at a nonprofit, and then develop a series
of recommendations on how your organization can improve. May I interview you
and your team? This project is due next Friday. Thank you for your time.”
Hi everyone. I hope you had a relaxing Thanksgiving break (if you’re in the US). I know it’s hard to get back to work after a long weekend, which is why I am here in bed eating leftover mashed potatoes and listening to early-90s Hip Hop. Just remember, though, that your work makes a difference (Read “Welcome back to work,you sexy Jedi unicorn,” if you need a quick pick-me-up)
Unfortunately, however, the difference you are making is complex, which means it is challenging to measure. And this explains the crappy metrics of effectiveness our sector has been subjected to. Chief among them, of course, is overhead rate, one of the most insipid and destructive zombie concepts ever unleashed on nonprofits, as I and others have written about repeatedly (See: “How to deal with uninformed nonprofit watchdogs around the holidays.”)
Hi everyone. This week is Thanksgiving in the US, a holiday revolving around food and spending time with the people closest to us, the people we love despite their continuing to have no understanding of what we do. It’s capacity building, Dad, holistic organizational capacity building combined with equitable leadership development, I’ve told you a hundred times, gaw!
This week I got a text message from a foundation program officer colleague talking about “when philanthropy takes equity seriously but not really because they ask the POC to be THE equity person when they are already doing four jobs.” This reminds me of “Equity Offset,” a term my friend James Lovell may have invented when he and some colleagues were discussing the phenomenon of nonprofits or foundations bringing in well-regarded speakers or equity consultants to signal that the organizations are “woke,” and this then allows them to continue being inequitable.
Equity Offset is like carbon offset. Carbon offset, in simplistic terms, works like this: Companies or individuals pay for trees to be planted, or parks to be cleaned up, or other things that reduce carbon or other greenhouse gas emissions, in order to offset their own negative environmental impact. This allows them to basically continue polluting while feeling less guilty.
Hi everyone. I have almost exactly one month left before the sun sets on my time as an executive director. (If you want to sound majestic and full of gravitas, just add “the sun sets on [someone]’s time” to anything; for instance, “We have ten minutes before the sun sets on our time together at this dive bar.” Thanks, Lion King.) I explained why I and a whole lot of other leaders, especially leaders of color, are leaving here.
Last week, I got an email from a colleague, a woman of color ED, asking me to call her back. There was no context. I knew what this meant. It meant she was leaving her position and wanted to give me a courtesy notice before the announcement came out. I was right. “I’m tired,” she said; I could hear the weariness in her voice. We were silent for a moment. I didn’t know what to say that didn’t seem trite or patronizing. “I’m sorry,” I said.
Quietly, nonprofit leaders are leaving their posts. And most of us ED/CEOs swear off ever doing it again. And younger folks, it seems, are increasingly reluctant to take up the mantle. Who the hell can blame them? The ED’s job has always been like Sisyphus pushing the fundraising boulder up a hill, but while the eagle of program impact is pecking out his liver; the Cerberus of board, staff, and community expectations is chasing after him; and he’s trying to avoid looking at the Medusa of cash flow projections.