It’s been nearly three years since I stopped being a nonprofit executive director. My skin looks healthier, my eyes less sunken and haunted, and I’ve started reverse-aging and now look like my kids’ father and not their grandfather. Best of all, I only wake up once or twice a year screaming “Cashflow! Payroll! NOooOOOO!!”
Being a nonprofit ED/CEO, or any other high-level leaders, can be rough. The systems and norms we have put in place often place unrealistic amounts of responsibility and stress on leaders. Combined with a capricious funding system that forces everyone into default survival mode, and we can understand how leaders burn out and why few younger professionals want to assume leadership roles.
Hi everyone. It is spring in the northern hemisphere. It’s my favorite season and love it as much as we all love MYGOD (multi-year general operating dollars). The days are getting longer and the crocuses and daffodils and tulips are popping up and the cherry blossoms will explode like balls of pink snow and it’s all magical.
The last several years have been one long, bitter winter. With the pandemic, the worsening climate problems, the open embrace of fascism, the rise in hate and violence, the banning of conversations about race, the rolling back of abortion rights, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the potential for world war 3, and so many other horrific things, we’ve been living through at least six consecutive years of end times without much of a break.
Hi everyone, this will be the last post of 2021 (I’ll be back on January 3rd), and it might be a little more personal and disjointed than other posts, apologies in advance. As the year ends, I try to find time to reflect back on what happened these past 12 months, and what lessons we could glean so that we can improve ourselves and our sector. But I am very tired. I don’t want to learn anything, except maybe that sweat pants and pajama bottoms should be perfectly acceptable to wear to the office from now on.
This year was hell. The last several years were hell. A weird, surreal sort of hell. Amidst this pandemic, I was going through a divorce while supporting loved ones dealing with addiction and various mental health challenges. Rifling through my brain brings random memories, one of me trying to figure out how to help my seven-year-old with his remote math assignment while his four-year-old brother was standing on our porch screaming at strangers, “You’re not wearing your masks! There’s coronavirus! Put your masks on!”
Happy Monday, everyone. It’s 100 degrees in Seattle (and may reach 110 today), so I am kind of loopy and not in the mood for editing. I want to let you know that I’ll be taking the entire month of July off from writing, most meetings, and most social media, so this will be the last NAF post until August 2nd. Except for a couple of speaking engagements, I’ll be spending time with my family, catching up with a few friends, tidying up the house, and melting into the couch with some cold coconut water while playing Earthbound or Final Fantasy III/VI. It’ll be glorious!
I hope that you will find time to rest as well. Let’s face it, our sector sucks at doing this. And because we are self-deprecating, we make light of it all the time, for instance this post “Vacation tips for nonprofit professionals who suck at vacationing,” including, from colleague Cheri Kishimoto, “Set SMART goals that align with your vacation strategic plan to keep you focused on relaxing and sustainable vacationing practices. Take lots of notes and be prepared to do a 10-15-minute presentation to your coworkers on what you learned about relaxing on vacation.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, I texted a friend, an executive director, to see how he was doing. “I share this in confidence,” he texted back, “current sitch, watching Frozen 2 in bed with [my daughter].” He sent over a picture of his TV, on which Anna was huddled against a rock, despondent, about to launch into a song about doing the next right thing. When everything was chaotic and stressful, it was nice to imagine my friend spending time with his little one.
It’s been more than a year since the pandemic started. All of us are overwhelmed and traumatized. And unfortunately, I still see many of us falling into the same terrible habits we had during the Before Times, when we met for lunch and dinner, orchestra music swelling as we embraced one another in slow-motion, golden sunlight burnishing our eyes into twinkling coins. (At least, that’s how I remember it).