3 reasons we all need to go to more happy hours

Happy-HourLast week I went to Boise, Idaho to give a keynote speech. And to eat an Idaho potato in its native setting, which is number 37 on my bucket list. (What, like your bucket list is so much more interesting). Boise is a lovely town, and I think my speech, titled “Happy Hour: A Tool for Social Justice,” went over pretty well with the crowd of 300-or-so friendly Idahoans. It was 45 minutes of profound concepts mixed with hilarious nonprofit jokes like “Why did the ED cross the road? So he could hand-deliver a grant proposal while one of his staff drives around the block…” You know what, you had to be there.  (See “8 Classic nonprofit jokes to tell at parties.”)

Anyway, it would be cruel to make you read the entire 7-page, 5,000-word speech. So I’ll just summarize the main points, the chief of them being that we all need to get out of our office more often, because happy hour is not just about getting a drink with some colleagues. It is a tool for social justice, and the fate of the world may just depend on it. Continue Reading…

All right, you guys, we need to talk about nonprofit salaries

54557587Last month, one of my friends told me she was making 70K as a waitress at a fancy restaurant. She quit because she didn’t find it satisfying, and took a pay cut to work as a community organizer. I wept softly into my soy hot chocolate. 70K was way more than I was making as an ED with rapidly greying hair and daily night terrors.

Most of us who entered the nonprofit field didn’t do so because of the Benjamins. We knew, when we decided to dedicate our lives to making the world better, that we would not likely be able to afford a huge house with a pool. Or trips abroad every year. Or private school for our kids. Or maybe healthcare. Or organic blueberries at $6 per pint. Gawd, that’s like fifty cents a berry! Seriously, are organic blueberries watered with unicorn tears?!

Sorry, where was I? Yes, we knew what we were getting into. There are tons of reasons why nonprofit work is so awesome (See “10 reasons nonprofit work is so awesome”), and not one of those is a huge pay. Unless you include unlimited hummus at meetings as part of wages. Continue Reading…

7 challenges inspired by the Icebucket Challenge

Ice Bucket ChallengeUp until now, I’ve managed to avoid talking about the Icebucket Challenge. First, because I don’t have a personal Facebook page and thus have been spared videos of friends and celebrities pouring freezing cold water over their heads to raise awareness and funds for ALS.

Second, I’ve been very jealous at the humbling success of this viral campaign. Over 100 million raised?! Can you imagine what most nonprofits could do with $100,000,000? Five words: Unlimited. Breadsticks. During. Committee. Meetings.

Honestly, I’m not really sure how I feel about it all. On one hand, it’s inspiring that so many people—people of all races and classes, kids and adults, celebrities and the unwashed masses—are participating in addressing a terrible and incurable disease. It’s great that an important message is able to cut through the noises and get some needed attention. Continue Reading…

Is equity the new coconut water?

coconut waterIn the past couple of years we have seen the meteoric rise in the consumption of coconut water. Cold, refreshing coconut water. Drinking some is like being punched in the mouth by a tropical breeze. Coconut water is now everywhere. People drink it before and after working out. It’s added to everything, such as fancy smoothies made with flaxseed and goji berries. It’s flavored with mango and pineapple juice. Coconut water is delicious. And it’s excellent for hangovers. Not that I would know from experience or anything.

Recently we have also seen the rise in “equity.” I don’t know about you, but in Seattle, the term “equity” has become ubiquitous. You can’t walk down the street without hearing someone saying something like, “Equity. Equity, equity, equity. Blah blah community engagement Seahawks equity.” Funders are incorporating the terminology and concepts of equity more into their work. People are having summits on it. Strategic plans incorporate it. It’s included now in many organizations’ set of basic values. “Equity” will become one of the top baby girls’ names soon, believe you me (If I had three daughters, I would name them Equity, Charity, and General Operating Funds). Continue Reading…

The joys and burdens of being an ED of color

orangesLast week I flew to Los Angeles to talk to a group of 12 or so Asian/Pacific Islander EDs who are in a leadership program of which I am an alum. This cohort was a group of all women. I was a bit nervous, looking at the leaders seated in a circle. First of all, there were some EDs who have had way more experience than I do. And second of all, people in LA are hella stylish, and in comparison, I looked like I was dressed by a few smarter-than-average bonobos.

The EDs came from all over the US and work in many different areas—art, cancer awareness, education, etc. They had the archetypal look of the Executive Director: Radiant good looks surrounded by an aura of power stymied by baggy eyes, greying hair, and the slouched shoulders of stress and exhaustion.

It’s rough being an ED, but being an ED of color has an additional set of stress: Continue Reading…