Hi everyone. Just a quick reminder that my org is hiring a capacity building coach to work with our partner organizations. We are getting lots of amazing candidates, but we are keeping the position open until we find that magical unicorn to join the team.
Thank you to those of you who supported the Kickstarter project I’m involved with, where I’m helping to write a book. Thanks to you, the project got fully funded within a few days! Sweet! (You can still donate if you missed out, because there are cool prizes).
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for awesome holiday gifts for the nonprofit people in your life, NWB merchandise is available.
I know that many of us have sent out our year-end appeal letter, or are in the process of doing so. Some of us are pouring our blood, sweat, and tears into these letters, sometimes literally, with the paper cuts and the occasional weeping over the hundreds or thousands of letters that need to be stuffed.
Around this time of the year, we nonprofits work to bring in year-end donations, incurring paper cuts and envelope-tongues in the process (seriously, the glue stick is your friend). Around this time also is when people start pushing “guides” about which nonprofits to give to, warning of shady nonprofits that spend too much on “overhead” and leave nothing for the people they are supposed to be serving.
These guides often sound like this: “Don’t give to these horrible organizations! Only 3 cents of every dollar goes to the people they claim to serve! The rest goes straight to the greedy CEOs’ salaries! They sit on crystal-encrusted chairs and feast on caviar and unicorn steaks! Meanwhile, their staff live in actual houses and drive cars! They are paying their mortgages and buying organic blueberries with your donations! Organic blueberries!!!”
Here’s an example of that. It comes back again and again year after year like some sort of aggressive toenail fungus, despite being debunked by fact-checking website snopes.com. WTF. It’s exhausting dealing with so much recurring ignorance. As if our work isn’t hard enough already, with many of us having involuntary eye twitches due to cashflow issues. So, let’s come up with a better strategy to handle this yearly irritation so we can focus on what matters: Writing hundreds of personal notes on our printed year-end letters and praying we don’t misspell donors’ names.Continue reading “How to deal with uninformed nonprofit-watchdogs around the holidays”
All right, business pals, we need to have another talk. First of all, I love y’all. I just moved into a new house this week, and spent time at a hardware store trying to find these little thingies that hold up the shelves in my kitchen cabinets. They’re called “shelf pins,” and you can move them to different holes to lower or raise the shelves. Without some business somewhere making these little pins, my liquor cabinet would not be able to fit my really tall bottles of vodka and it would just look awful. So yes, I am deeply appreciative for all the businesses out there doing all sorts of useful, interesting, and important stuff. I am glad you exist, and I am glad to pay money for the stuff you make and do. Especially vodka.
But dude, the condescension needs to stop. Recently, I’ve noticed it has been in the form of explaining to us simple nonprofit bumpkins just how much better off we’d be if we just acted more like for-profit businesses. Sometimes it is conscious, most times it is not, but always it is irritating. One time, I was showing a potential board member our Saturday morning program, which served 150 kids. It was his first visit, and he launched into a lecture about having a business plan. “We have a three-year strategic plan,” I said, and before I could elaborate, he interrupted to explain what a business plan was. He interrupted several times to explain various Important Business Concepts to me.Continue reading “Dear business people, please stop bizsplaining things to us nonprofit folks”
A couple of months ago I was at a conference, and during lunch the keynote speaker got up and paced the stage and mentioned several times about how we nonprofits need to be more like for-profits. Despite the two drinks I had had that morning—stop judging; it was a Saturday—I found myself getting more and more irritated. This happens over and over. Seriously, if I hear one more person blather on and on about how we primitive, inept do-gooders should learn from our sophisticated siblings from the business sector and get into earned-income and blah blah, I’m going to roll my eyes so hard that they will pop out of my head, and then I will have to find them to put them back in my eye sockets but I won’t be able to see so I will have to feel around on the floor to find them while freaked-out passers-by scream all around me.
Our nonprofit sector has an identity issue, and I think we should resolve this if we are going to reach our potential. Are we nonprofits businesses, or are we something else entirely? I’ve talked to lots of nonprofit leaders who are proud of their work and who say, “Nonprofit businesses are businesses! But instead of making money for our stockholders, we create dividends in benefits to the community!”
But lately, I’ve started wondering if perpetuating this philosophy is actually harming us. Ideally, yes, we are businesses, and we should be accorded the same level of respect. But the frustrating reality is that we are judged as businesses without given the rights and resources to fully operate as businesses. If funders and donors and society want us to be like businesses, then fine, but we also need the following: Continue reading “Hey, you want nonprofits to act more like businesses? Then treat us like businesses”
Hi everyone, I am in Saigon right now, where it is a 95 degrees and the humidity is so thick, you can use a knife to whittle out some humidity sculptures for your next silent auction. But, things have been great. Food is cheap and ubiquitous and good, so I’ve been loading up, especially on cold young coconuts and mangosteens, a purplish tropical fruit that tastes like general operating funds (You need to add “Eat five pounds of mangosteens in Southeast Asia” to your bucket list right now!).
The relatives, meanwhile, still have no idea what I do, and while my Vietnamese is pretty good, it is not when it comes to advanced topics. I have the vocabulary of a ten-year-old, so it leads to awkward conversations like this:
Aunt: We heard that you got a new job? Tell us about it
Me: Yes, I work for a…location…that grows people who…drag others…to do good things…
Aunt: Drag others to do good things? You mean, leaders?
Me: Yes! Yes! Leaders! Leaders from groups of people who have …the darker…skins…
Aunt: People of color?
Me: Yes, people of color! We send these leaders into…businesses that don’t make money, but they help make the world better…