Are you or your nonprofit or foundation being an askhole?

askholeGo Hawks, everyone. Last week, I wrote about Trickle-Down Community Engagement (TDCE), a frustrating phenomenon that each year causes many of us EDs of grassroot organizations to daydream about abandoning civilization to live with adorable woodland critters, foraging for grubs and berries, which would actually feel very much like nonprofit fundraising, but at least would be cuter and more whimsical. (Note to self: Stop writing blog after watching Disney movies with toddler). Today, I want to touch base on a related topic: Askhole Community Engagement (ACE). TDCE and ACE are connected, like two peas in a dysfunctional pod.

So what’s an askhole? Here are some Urban Dictionary definitions. Basically, you know that one friend who keeps coming crying to you about something, asks you for advice, and so you hit pause on Netflix, listen to them attentively, empathize, and give them reasonable suggestions, and then later you find out that they completely ignored you or did the opposite of what you recommended? That’s an askhole. Or someone who keeps asking for advice until they get an answer they agree with. That’s also an askhole.
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Are you or your org guilty of Trickle-Down Community Engagement?

trickleIn Seattle, if you’re a person of color and you walk down a dark alley late at night and you feel like you’re being followed, it’s probably someone trying to do some community engagement: “Psst…hey buddy—Go Hawks!—you want to attend a summit? It’s about economic inequity. We need your voice.” “Daddy, I’m scared!” “Stay calm, Timmy; don’t look him in the eye.” “Come on, help a guy out! Here, you each get some compostable sticky dots to vote on your top three priorities! You can vote on different priorities, or, if you like, you put more than one dot on—” “Run, Timmy!”

This is why you should never take your kid down a dark alley in Seattle.

A while ago I was talking to friend (another Executive Director, since all my regular friends have abandoned me because I make jokes about compostable sticky dots), and he said, “Have you noticed that everyone is getting paid to engage us communities of color except us communities of color?”

Sigh. Yes, I have noticed. I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and have come up with a term to describe it: Trickle-Down Community Engagement (TDCE). This is when we bypass the people who are most affected by issues, engage and fund larger organizations to tackle these issues, and hope that miraculously the people most affected will help out in the effort, usually for free. Continue Reading…

Yo mama is a double-dipper: Funders’ micromanaging of nonprofits must stop

yo-mama-so-u1m9g5In the nonprofit sector, there are few things as grave as “double-dipping.” DD is a no-good, very bad thing. In fact, I imagine if we had a nonprofit trash-talking contest, it would go like this:

Nonprofiteer 1: #yononprofitmama so inconsiderate, she attends a meeting and doesn’t sign in.

Audience: Oh! Burn!

Nonprofiteer 2: Oh yeah? Well, #yononprofitmama so inexperienced in finance, she doesn’t know the difference between a fiscal year and a calendar year.

Audience: Oh no! You didn’t just say that about his mother!

Nonprofiteer 1: #yononprofitmama so unethical, she asked a funder or donor to pay for something that is already paid for by another funder or donor, thus, she is therefore double-dipping.

Audience: (Stunned silence) Continue Reading…

Ten resolutions for the nonprofit sector for 2015

homerEvery 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…

Nonprofit With Ball’s revolutionary note-taking system

Business man with checkboxesHi everyone. I hope you are still in the middle of your break and are catching up on your favorite shows and spending time with your family. Or just sleeping. Our sector needs it, and you deserve it, you sexy smart hardworking nonprofiteer you. I have been off for a week, and it’s given me a lot of time to have profound and life-changing thoughts. Thoughts like “I should probably clean my fridge. I think the molds are starting to evolve into advanced civilizations.”

Anyway, one of the thoughts is, “Dude, I need to have a better note-taking system!” (Warning: This is probably not going to be the most exciting NWB blog post. Here, make yourself a nonprofit cocktail while you read this.) Continue Reading…