The nonprofit inferiority complex is not sexy

Dog-and-KittenLast week, I wrote an open letter to people from the business world telling them to stop thinking they are better than us nonprofit folks. That resonated with a lot of people from our sector: “Yeah, business people, just because you have decent dental insurance and can go to Chipotle as often as you like does not mean you’re better than us!”

But today, we need to address an equally serious problem with our sector, and that is our own sense of inferiority, which, unlike the overt superiority of many of our friends from the corporate sector, is usually unconscious. Still, it is pervasive across the sector, and combined with the martyr complex, it is debilitating. These things lead to burn out and prevent people from wanting to enter our field.

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Dear business community, stop thinking you are better than us nonprofit folks

dilbertMy friends from the business community. I love you guys. Without you, the world wouldn’t have smart phones. And 70% dark chocolate. And airplanes. And a bunch of medicines and technology that save lives. And clothing. And running water inside our houses. And these giant flat-panel TVs that display all my favorite shows from Netflix. And kitchen gadgets like the Veggetti; it slices zucchinis and carrots into long strands and is really fun to use, despite the slightly dirty sounding name. Ooh, and restaurants serving organic kale salads with little toasted pumpkin seeds. Businesses are awesome, and I am genuinely grateful what you all do for the world. We nonprofits love you all. So I want to make sure you know this letter is from a place of appreciation and fraternity.

But seriously, many of you need to check your superiority complex. It’s annoying as hell.

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10 lessons nonprofits can learn from The Walking Dead

TWDHi everyone. Happy Monday. The quality of this post may not be the highest today, because I just ate about a pound of chocolate while watching The Walking Dead and I’m kind of hyper. This show is awesome, but this season especially has been like as if someone filled a zombie-shaped piñata with pure awesomeness and whacked it with a titanium bat wrapped in tempeh-bacon. So it’s about time that we do a post about lessons we nonprofits can learn from this show.

The Walking Dead, about a world during the zombie apocalypse, has much to teach us nonprofits. Here are just a few of many lessons I’ve gleaned. But first:

SPOILER ALERT: If you are not up-to-date with TWD, and plan to be, stop reading this right now. Read something else, like 9 lessons from Breaking Bad we can apply to nonprofit work (“Lesson 4: Make sure your organization’s programs and services are as high in quality as Walter’s meth.”) If you’re not current with Breaking Bad either, then read 10 Game of Thrones quotes you can use at work (“You know all that from staring at marks on paper? You’re like a wizard.” Perfect when talking to your Treasurer.) If you haven’t been watching Game of Thrones either, then forget it, you’re hopeless. Go read “The New Yorker” and eat some “organic arugula” and “spend time with your family” or whatever it is that you weirdoes do. Continue Reading…

6 terrifying tales from Nonprofit With Balls’s scary story contest

Halloween-Pumpkins_2560x1600_1192-11Happy Halloween, everyone. I hope you are going to a party tonight. If you don’t have a costume, just remember: As a nonprofit professional, you are automatically a unicorn (see “Nonprofit professionals, you are each a unicorn“).

Thank you to all the NWB readers who submitted entries to NWB’s first-ever Scary Nonprofit Story contest. We received all sorts of tales, about creepy consultants, revenge by volunteers who emailed an org and never got a response, a never-ending festival from hell and the horrible director behind it all, a literal strategic planning nightmare, an org overly depending on volunteer staff, technology that go horribly awry/annoying, a Nonprofit Zone where things seem all right but are not, clueless board members who dismiss every single new idea, and a Frankensteined-together Collective Impact model forced to dance forever.

I just want to say how much the two other judges (a Development Director and a Deputy Director) and I enjoyed these stories. They are hilarious and terrifying. There are many talented writers in our field. It was a very difficult decision, since so many stories were so good. We each independently scored the entries on Creativity, Nonprofit Scariness, and Humor; and the scores were aggregated. If you entered and didn’t win, please don’t be discouraged. The scores are as arbitrary and subjective as…I dunno, most grant awards. Gather you team; I dare you to read these terrifying tales in the darkness of your conference room… Continue Reading…

What the NFL would look like if it were an actual nonprofit

foam fingerAll right everyone, I hope you are all sitting down for this, because I am filled with mild outrage at the National Football League. But first, go Seahawks! Dudes, sweet touchdown at the last minute to beat the Panthers! We all needed that. We’ve been worried about you guys. Welcome back!

But back to the outrage. Apparently, the NFL has for decades been considered a trade association, kind of like a chamber of commerce, and is granted 501c6 status, which makes it a nonprofit. That’s right, the NFL is a nonprofit! Sure, it makes over $10 billion a year and pays its commissioner, Roger Goodell, $44 million in salary last year. But with the 501c6 status, which it gained through some political voodoo in 1966 when it merged with the American Football League, the NFL is tax-exempt.

Now, before you too get upset and punch your cubicle wall with your carpal-tunnel-afflicted hand, here are some facts to consider. First, even though the NFL is considered a nonprofit, its members (the 32 football teams like the Seahawks) are not, so the revenues they make through licensing and swag and stuff are taxed. Second, the NFL often operates at a loss, which you can clearly see on their 990. Heck, in 2012 they were $304 million in the red. You can’t tax a net loss. Removing their tax-exempt status would only recover about $10 million per year in funds, which is still a lot, but not nearly as much as we were all hoping. 

What is mainly annoying me, however, is the fact that the NFL is considered legally a nonprofit. This is ridiculous. That’s like saying that a donkey is a bunny. Or that a hat is a door. Or that a Hershey’s bar is actually chocolate (it is chocolate-flavored sugar). It is insulting to all of us who proudly wear the title “Nonprofit.” Do I go around telling people that I am a dentist? Of course not! Especially not after the last tooth extraction I did on a colleague who didn’t have dental insurance; it did not go as well as Youtube suggested it would. Continue Reading…