12 pieces of advice for folks graduating from school and entering the nonprofit sector

Hi everyone. First off, last week’s post—“When you don’t disclose salary range on a job posting, a unicorn loses its wings”—resonated with lots of people, and was shared nearly 7,000 times on social media [Update: It’s now been shared over 40,000 times]. Let’s put an end to this horrible practice, because our professionals deserve fair, competitive compensation. And if that’s not available, they deserve at least transparency at the onset so that job applicants can start planning their budget and look out for sales on spaghetti and canned beans.

To that end, I am encouraging all of us to disclose salary ranges on all new postings moving forward, and all job posting services to recommend, nay, require, disclosure. And all of us need to give feedback to our peers who ask for our help spreading the word on their new positions.

Second off, I just watched Game of Thrones and am upset and annoyed by what happened in the latest episode, so this post will likely be poorly edited.

All right, on to today’s topic. Lots of young professionals are graduating this month and starting to enter into our illustrious field. Congratulations, and welcome to a rewarding and, uh, lucrative career! I received requests to provide advice for our potential new colleagues. You know you’re getting old when people start asking you for advice on stuff. Sigh. To be young and full of hopes and acne again.

Anyway, I asked the NWB Facebook community for suggestions, and have synthesized them into a few pieces of advice that I wished someone had told me when I first started out on the path to make the world better. Here they are, in no particular order, and definitely not comprehensive, and some are pretty obvious, and there are more than 12 (it’s not marketable to list more than 12 of anything in the title). Please add your own advice for our new colleagues in the comment section: Continue reading “12 pieces of advice for folks graduating from school and entering the nonprofit sector”

Nonprofit work, and the myth of indispensability

hyacinth-1403653_1280Hi everyone, this post may be melancholy and depressing. I won’t be upset if you skip this and read something more hilarious, like “Ask a Nonprofit Director: Advice on Love, Family, and Other Stuff.” Or these nonprofit cocktail recipes.

Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday, and I will wake up to realize that my mother has been gone for ten years. She died at the age of 49 of a stroke. When you’ve lost someone, holidays can be terrible to endure. The first few Mother’s Days I just stayed in bed most of the morning, envious of all those happy people taking their moms to brunch.

Now I am older, so I try to figure out what this all means, what I can learn from all this. I run through memories I have. Since it was one of the last moments I had with her, I recall coming home from college, and being greeted by the smell of her cooking. Sweet and sour soup, tofu sautéed in tomatoes, braised bamboo shoots—dishes she had learned to make when I told her I had decided to go vegan.

My mother stood there at the sink washing dishes, smiling. The late-afternoon sunlight streaming through our kitchen window fell on her hair, and she’d greet me with these sweet maternal words: 

“You’re too skinny. You look like one of those drug addicts on TV.” Continue reading “Nonprofit work, and the myth of indispensability”

“Where the Sustainable Things Are” and other nonprofit children’s books

sendak1Trying to be a good father, I read to my two-year-old son every day. And also feed him daily. Since he turns two this Friday, I thought I would write him some more children’s stories. I want to give him a leg-up early just in case he wants to pursue a career in our field. Here are the texts for four new books. Of course, these are just drafts; they’ll be much better once I find an illustrator. Check them out and let me know what you think. I hope these books will become classics that parents who work in nonprofit will read to their kids each night.

The 990 Dance

Stomp your feet,cow
wring your hands,
everybody ready for the 990 dance.
Bow to the bookkeeper,
bow to your board.
Bow to the accounting firm just outsourced
With an “eek!” and a “yikes!” and a “sigh sigh sigh…”
Discover your overhead is way too “high.”
Analyze your revenues,
analyze your spending
Do whatever the accountant is recommending
Hide your frustration,
sharpen your senses
Allocate some admin as program expenses
With a “blegh” and an “argh” and an “ack ack ack”
The filing is done, but next year it’ll be back Continue reading ““Where the Sustainable Things Are” and other nonprofit children’s books”

Ten resolutions for the nonprofit sector for 2015

australia-699228_640pdEvery New Year, many of us make resolutions to do things to improve ourselves. Of course, many of us skip doing this, because we are perfect. In fact, in some cultures, beer bellies and love handles are considered attractive, so if people have issues with them, then they’re obviously culturally incompetent and should attend a workshop.

As 2015 starts, it is important for us not to just make resolutions for ourselves, but also for our organizations, and for our field. We, as individuals and as a sector, are constantly busy doing stuff that we often don’t take enough time to gaze into the distance and think strategically. As I write this, I recall some profound words from one of my mentors when we were having lunch a while ago: “I always choose the curried chicken.” Wait, no, that’s not it. She said, “Are you spending enough time on the balcony versus the dance floor?” We are always dancing. We nonprofit professionals need to get on the balcony more often.

So let’s start 2015 off right and make it the most awesome year ever! With the help of the NWB Facebook community, I’m recapping a list of resolutions that I am hoping all of us will seriously adopt sector-wide: Continue reading “Ten resolutions for the nonprofit sector for 2015”

Unicorns, time for our sector to take a break!

sleeping_unicorn_by_maleiva-d66gt3zMy fellow nonprofit professionals, I hope you are reading this from home, because I am calling for our sector to take a long and much needed break. If you are at the office, I want you to put down your pen, save your files, turn off your computer, and take a deep breath. Listen to me: You need to rest this week, and next week, and maybe even longer.

Our sector is an incredible one. It is full of smart, thoughtful, talented, and ridiculously good-looking and nice-smelling people. You are one of these people, you sexy unicorn you. Your brilliance is only surpassed by your dedication to your work and your passion for making the world better. I could not be prouder to work in such a kickass field alongside such kickass colleagues.

Now, 2014 is almost done. Stop whatever you are doing at this moment and make a list of stuff you’ve accomplished this year, because chances are you have been so busy working and freaking out about budgets and reports and crap that you haven’t noticed all the sweet and amazing things you made happen. Yup, because of you lives are better, communities are stronger, the world’s supply of happiness has increased, and we are getting steadily closer to equity and social justice. Give yourself a pat on the back. You are awesome. Continue reading “Unicorns, time for our sector to take a break!”