Win a year’s supply of hummus through NWB’s poetry contest!

To see the immense hole in the budget, immenser without youblue-259458_960_720
And the outcomes fall to the page like hummus to a plate.

What does it matter that we are an existing program?
The night is cold, and strong is the illusion of sustainability. 

In the distance, a program director weeps. In the distance.

I Can Write the Saddest Grant Proposal Tonight

Happy Lunar New Year, everyone. I am proud to announce the first-ever Nonprofit With Balls Nonprofit Poetry Contest. Write a few verses and stanzas, and you too could win big bucks. Even better, the grand prize winner will be bestowed the title “Nonprofit Poet Laureate of the Milky Way Galaxy.” You probably have some questions, so I am going to try to answer them here:

Question: Why the heck are you doing this?
Answer: April, coming up, is National Poetry month, and the world aches for more poems about the nonprofit sector. There is so much beauty and complexity in our work. It is time we crystalize into stanzas the grandeur of the nonprofit world.

Question: What are the prizes?
Answer: Grand Prize, $750, and the title of Nonprofit Poet Laureate of the Milky Way Galaxy. Second Place, $500. Third Place, $250. All winners’ poems will be published on Honorary winners will also be chosen, but sorry, no cash. Continue Reading…

Common nonprofit terms and concepts and what they actually mean

giraffes-627031_960_720Hi everyone, a colleague asked me to write a translation of nonprofit terminologies and concepts, which may be helpful to those who are thinking of going into nonprofit work. Since I was pressed for time this week (look, Narcos is not going to binge-watch itself on Netflix), I outsourced the task to the NWB Facebook Community, which is full of brilliant and hilarious people who don’t take themselves too seriously. Here are several of the suggestions, mainly copied verbatim. (Go to the Facebook page for the whole list). This is by no means comprehensive, so please add your own in the comment section:


Salary commensurate with experience: We’re ashamed to actually say what it is, but it’s probably nowhere near commensurate with your experience level

Comprehensive benefits: You can take home leftover crackers AND half-drunk bottles of wine after donor receptions.

Welcomes diversity/seeks diverse leadership: You will be the first and/or only person of color on our board/staff/whatever

A dynamic work environment: We are really disorganized

Able to prioritize: You’ll have to decide whether it’s riskier to delay payment on the electric bill or the water bill

There were so many duties we decided to split the job: Your predecessor still works here, but is angry she was demoted, and won’t train you

We are embarking on a new phase: Everything else we’ve tried has been an epic failure, and you will now save us.

A fast-paced environment: We are overwhelmed, overworked and afflicted with this curse called a ‘vocation’, and the Board just keep piling it on.

Looking for someone passionate about the field: Applicants should be willing to accept being paid peanuts

Lots of opportunity: It literally could not get any worse. Continue Reading…

10 classic movies that could have been about nonprofit work

frankenstein-394281_960_720Despite the awesomeness and complexity of our work, and the fact that we employ 10% of the work force, and the fact that independent studies that I have commissioned found that we have the most attractive professionals among all the sectors, nonprofit is still neglected by the media and society at large. I’ve written about the need for more TV shows about our sector. And now, we need to push for more movies. Imagine how much more awesome some of our classic movies would have been, if they had been about nonprofit. Here are some of my ideas, along with potential quotes. #nonprofitmovielines. Go make that trend on Twitter, like you did with #nonprofitpickuplines.

A Few Good Donors: An up-and-coming Development Director tries to convince her ED to change their org’s fundraising strategies, in the process encountering resistance and a complex conspiracy involving budgets, CRMs, the board, and strategic planning. “You want answers? You want the truth?! An effective donor cultivation strategy takes time and resources!”

The Shawshank Restriction: Andy, a new Program Director learns too late that the organization that just hired him had gotten trapped by a burdensome and restrictive multi-year federal grant. The terrifying realities of restricted funding are explored as Andy works to save the remainder of his program and his sanity, using his skills and intelligence to gain the trust of his jaded colleagues and extract the program and organization out of the dilemma. “Get busy living, or get busy dying. Or somewhere in between: just lots of paperwork.” Continue Reading…

Trickle-Down Community Engagement, part 2: The infantilization of marginalized communities must stop

lantern-827784_960_720Last year, I wrote a post on the phenomenon called “Trickle-Down Community Engagement” (TDCE), which 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.” This post became NWB’s most-read article, triggering discussions, workshops, debates, and at least one R-rated puppet show. Today, I want to revisit TDCE, because it is a destructive force in our sector, much like the Overhead Myth, the Sustainability Myth, and the lack of ergonomic chairs, and we must keep it at the front of our minds. (Warning: Seahawks lost to the Panthers, so this post may be a little grumpier than most)

Taking a lantern to go find the light

Every Lunar New Year (which this year is on February 8th), my wife and I go to the local Buddhist temple at midnight to get our fortunes for the year by shaking a container of 80-or-so wooden sticks until one falls out. Each stick has a number corresponding with a particular fortune, one that is supposed to guide your entire year. One time, I got the worst fortune ever, something like “This stick represents a bird in the storm. Danger unfolds from four directions. All your endeavors will lead to failure. For every path you take, there is only pain and despair, and your hopes will be dashed upon the rocky shoals of futility.”

That’s terrifying, so I did what you are supposed to do when you receive a bad fortune for the New Year. It is a secret technique I learned from my father, and he learned from his father, and something I will pass down to my sons: When you get a bad fortune, put the stick back in the container and keep shaking until you find a fortune that you like. Continue Reading…

Your self-care may be holding you back and making people around you hate your guts

meditation-473753_960_720On Friday I attended the Seattle chapter’s monthly ED Happy Hour. A bunch of EDs showed up and for four hours we all drank and laughed and stuffed our faces with sushi and discussed “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and its parallels to nonprofit work. It was awesome, as usual, to get to hang out with my brilliant colleagues. At 9pm, as the group disbanded, we found out an ED was planning to head back to her office for a couple more hours of work. “What’s wrong with you?!” we hissed, pelting her with edamame shells, “Go home to your family!”

The majority of us in this sector, probably 90%, work ridiculous hours at very stressful jobs, and we really do need to take better care of ourselves, and our organizations as well as society need to do more to create supportive conditions—fair wages, adequate benefits, sufficient family leave and vacation time, a culture of learning and camaraderie, a working printer, two-ply toilet paper, etc.—so it’s not just our individual responsibility to ward off burnout.

There are plenty of thoughtful articles on these topics, such as this one by Beth Kanter called “How Can Nonprofits Switch from Scarcity to Abundance Mindsets When It Comes to Self-Care?” and this one by Mary Cahalane called “Your work or a life: A painful choice no one should have to make,” and this one by B. Loewe calling for “An End to Self-Care” (in favor of a more holistic “community care.”) I’ve also touched on this topic a few times, such as “7 self-care tips for nonprofit professionals” and “The courage for mediocrity: Why we nonprofit professionals need to give ourselves a break.

This post today, though, is to bring some balance. In some ways, maybe because we talk so much about it, that self-care has become somewhat of a punchline to various jokes: “Hey, are you attending that breakfast gala of one of our partner organizations?” “Nope! Self-care!” “Hey, I heard you were asked to lead the diversity and inclusion committee?” “I declined. Self-care!” “Did you drink my bottle of Mike’s hard lemonade that I was saving for lunch?!” “Yup! Self-care!” Continue Reading…