20 quotes by famous people if they had worked in nonprofit

LVJ-67905-00003-4Hi everyone, I am back in the US after a rough 24-hour trip with a two-year-old that ended with us at US Customs declaring that we had brought back several packages of vegan deer jerky made from soy protein. “I have never heard anyone declaring that before,” said the officer, “did you try it before you bought it?” Of course we did, I said, disheveled and slightly offended. Everyone knows that only a fool would buy twenty bags of vegan deer jerky without trying some samples!

We are now all completely jetlagged, thanks to the baby, who does not care to get back to regular schedule. He wakes up at 3am with this soft, almost creepy whisper of “I’m hungry?” I’ve had about eight hours of sleep total over the last three days and have started hallucinating a little (“Yes, Your Holiness, I would love some easel paper…”)

All of that is to say I have no mental capacity to do a serious post today. Instead, here are some quotes I imagined from famous people if they worked in nonprofit. Add your suggestions to the comment section:

20 quotes from famous people if they had worked in nonprofit

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy attending meetings.” John Lennon

“You miss 100% of the grants you don’t write.” Wayne Gretzky 

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you still have to file your 990 each year.” Henry Ford Continue Reading…

Botox on a unicorn: Should the nonprofit sector change its name?

hongkongfood_downstairs_10Hi everyone, I am heading back to the US this week. It has been a fun vacation, though kind of exhausting with a two-year-old who refuses to eat anything or sleep more than three consecutive hours. This, and being an ED for nearly ten years, has taken a toll on me. I keep getting comments like, “Your son is so cute! Hm…you must have started your family late, huh? How old are you, 44, 45?” After the fifth time, asked by a tofu dessert vendor, I just said, “No, I did not start a family late! I just look way older than I am! Time has not been kind to me! Thanks for reminding me, lady!” Then I softly wept into my bowl of hot silken tofu with ginger caramel sauce, thinking that maybe I should get some cosmetic surgery here, since it’s way cheaper than in the US.

But anyway, today’s topic. In the past few months, I’ve been hearing more and more people suggest that the nonprofit sector should change its name. “Defining ourselves by something we’re not is pretty ridiculous,” said some very smart people during a happy hour. “Yeah!” I agreed, getting up in arms, “that’s like calling a woman a ‘non-man’! Or hummus a ‘non-guacamole’! Ridiculous! Let’s grab our torches and pitchforks!” Continue Reading…

Volunteers, a critical ingredient in the banh mi of social justice

banh miHi everyone, I am in the beach city of Nha Trang right now. It is beautiful, the 100 degree heat making the ocean extra blue. So far, the vacation is going great, except that I am now overdosed on MSG, which the locals use in great quantity in everything. I’m not against MSG, but when you can see individual crystals of it in your spring roll sauce…

And I can’t find an adapter for my laptop, so I am in the hotel lobby typing this up and sweating gallons on the sticky keyboard (probably why the keyboard is so sticky, from all these sweaty people using it). Sorry in advance for typos and unedited rambling. And since I’m hungry, there will be food metaphors.

A highlight of this city so far, is a vegan banh mi stand we found. Banh mi, of course, is the Vietnamese sandwich stuffed with pickled daikon and carrot and various meats and is the humble and delicious meal of students, workers, and anyone on the go. I met a lady three years ago who has a vegan banh mi stand, where she works 16 hours a day. Her banh mis are arguably some of the most amazing sandwiches ever created and she’s been using the stand to pay for her kids’ schooling and even to buy a house. 

After a long walk, I found the stand and ordered four banh mis for 50 cents each. I bit into one, and it was magical, the combination of grilled gluten and shredded green papaya and Vietnamese cilantro and the secret sauce, all of it melding in my mouth and tasting like an unrestricted multi-year grant.

Anyway, I could spend an entire post talking about banh mi and the feisty and hilarious seller, but on to today’s topic, which is about the need for our field to better appreciate volunteers. In the US, 62 million volunteers contribute about 8 billion hours of service each year, the equivalent of $173 billion. The nonprofit sector would probably collapse without all our awesome volunteer unicorns. Continue Reading…

9 awesome nonprofit trends we should all celebrate with unicorn cookies!

MangosteenHi 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…

Aunt: NGO’s?

Me: Yes, yes!

I won’t recap the next part, where I try to explain capacity building and community organizing. Just be glad your elevator speech doesn’t last thirty minutes and involve a lot of wild gesturing, followed by your relatives looking disappointed at your career choice. Continue Reading…

9 annoying nonprofit trends that need to die

incandescent-lightbulbHi everyone, I am heading to Vietnam this week for a much-needed vacation. I’ll still be writing each Monday, but can’t guarantee the quality of the blog posts, since I’ll be stuffing my face with street food and coconut juice. But, before I go, let’s address some irritating trends that have surfaced in our sector. Below are a few that the NWB Facebook community came up with. See if you agree, and for the love of hummus, if you are guilty of any of them, cut it out right now.

Ignite-style presentations: “Ignite” involves a five-minute Powerpoint presentation with 20 slides, where the slides advance themselves every 15 seconds. It cuts off long-winded people, and it’s kind of fun to see how speakers match up their speech with the slides. When done right, and used mostly for humorous and easy-to-understand stuff, it can be great. But I’ve seen it too often used for novelty’s sake to explain difficult nonprofit concepts or missions, in which case it becomes “presentation by karaoke,” underestimates the intelligence of the audience, wastes endless hours of speakers’ time in preparation, and makes me want to punch the event organizer in the neck. I once attended an event feature five of these short presentations. People had a great time—“Ooh, that lightbulb graphic appeared JUST when she said ‘I had an idea!’ That’s so, like, awesome!”—but by the end of the night, no one in the audience remembered anything the speakers said. Continue Reading…