21 irritating jargon phrases, and new clichés you should replace them with

mallard-ducklings-938666_960_720Hi everyone. Thanks for buying NWB merchandise this past week (it pays for the hosting of this blog. And also grant-rejection tequila). Sorry if you’ve emailed me or left a voicemail, tweet, or Facebook message and never got a response from me. I am going to blame having a two-month-old. I’m pretty much in a constant state of hallucination. I’ll get back to you, but it may be a while, especially if these pterodactyls keep dropping 990 forms on me. Get away from me; you’re extinct!

Let’s talk about jargon. We have so many clichéd phrases and concepts in our sector. Many of them we’ve adopted from the for-profit sector; and some of them, we invented. More people are talking about jargon and how to avoid them, like this article, and this great infographic. But no one offers alternatives to jargon. And it is my philosophy to never offer a critique without offering potential solutions, unless I’m lazy. So I made up new jargon that you can use as alternatives. Try them out. Hopefully, these new clichés will catch on so that we can make charts to complain about them later: Continue Reading…

So, you don’t think you directly benefit from nonprofits

sn,x1313-bg,f8f8f8.u1Hi everyone. Before we begin today’s post, a couple of announcements. First, my organization is hiring a Development and Communications Manager. Spread the word to anyone who may be a good fit. Make sure they believe in #OxfordCommaForever though, because we are not going to get along otherwise. Second, new NWB merchandise! The Nonprofit Unicorn Mantra line of products! Also, I got comments from non-nonprofit readers who felt left out, so here is some “I am a social justice unicorn” merchandise.

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This week, my awesome smart audio speaker arrived. It’s really cool. I can use my voice to ask it to play music, forecast the weather, read news headlines, set the timer, add things to my calendar, and—with other devices linked to it—control the lights and other appliances in the house. Her name is Alexa, and she’s a lifesaver when I have a newborn screaming in my ears and a three-year-old dangling from my leg. Alexa also spouts pick-up lines upon request, although “Hey girl. Are you a high chair? Because I want to put a baby in you” did nothing to calm the children down.

Why do I bring this up? Because I am amazed and grateful for all the incredible stuff people come up with. I appreciate inventors and manufacturers and retailers and am happy to pay money for useful gadgets that make my life easier. For-profits are critical to society, and we nonprofit folks understand that. I don’t know a single nonprofit that makes vodka. Continue Reading…

7 hopeful trends in philanthropy

friends-1149841_960_720Hi everyone. Last week I was in Minneapolis for the GEO (Grantmakers for Effective Organizations) conference. I was there primarily to give a short talk called “Want to Help Communities of Color? Stop Trickle-Down Community Engagement” and avoid work. But I stuck around for most of the conference, mainly because funder conferences always have way better food and booze. I was trying to hoard appetizers, having developed this unconscious fear of being in places traditionally reserved for funders. If I was going to get found out as an unwashed nonprofit Wildling and asked to leave, by golly I was going to take as many grilled artichoke hearts with me as I could.

But then I realized that my organization, Rainier Valley Corps, is considered by many as a funder. Instead of giving financial support to organizations, though, we send resources in the form of full-time fellows of color, whom we train, to develop the capacity of host organizations led by communities of color. They apply to be a host org. No wonder these past two years everyone has been treating me nice, and no wonder I’ve suddenly become 27% more attractive to most people, despite being married and having two kids and basically having let myself go. Continue Reading…

Why organizational values are so awesome and sexy

red-squirrel-570936_960_720Hi everyone. Before I delve into today’s topic, I’m going to ask for donations to my organization. Seattle has a day called GiveBig, hosted by The Seattle Foundation. Donate on May 3rd (not before or after) and the money gets a share of a stretch fund. If you like the rantings on NWB, and especially if you are a foundation or major donor, consider giving to RVC on May 3rd (you can go there and pledge to give before May 3rd). We’re trying to raise 10K; 100% of this money will pay for rent and utilities*. As an Executive Director, I freak out a lot about fundraising and being able to pay for rent and utilities. A lot. It basically accounts for 80% of my daily night terrors. The less I freak out about fundraising, the more time I can focus on thinking and writing about important stuff, like Trickle-Down Community Engagement, or the rules of dating in the nonprofit sector.

Today, I want to talk about Values. Values have been like the middle children of the nonprofit sector, wedged between the older brother Vision and the me-me-me baby of the family, Mission, whom everyone has to pay attention to all the time. Or maybe Mission is the bossy older brother, and Vision is the baby. Or maybe Mission is like the mom who makes us eat our vegetables, and Vision is like that cool but aloof cousin.

Whatever. (It’s midnight, and I have a newborn. And in fact, I am at the airport). Point is, few of us pay much attention to Values. Values are the platonic friend who has a crush on us but whom we constantly take for granted while we chase after hotter people. We scatter a few inspiring-sounding words on our website—Equity! Respect! Compassion! Community! Accountability!—and call it a day. A few of us elaborate on our core values with vague sentences like “Respect: We treat everyone with respect.” Continue Reading…

Hey job applicants, stop doing these dumbass things

chihuahua-puppy-958203_960_720Hi everyone. I went to get my tattoo touched up today, and holy hummus, it hurt like a federal contract! Luckily, Game of Thrones is back. Watching GOT with a sleeping newborn on your chest while imbibing one or more bottles of hard apple cider to blunt the pain of your tattoo touchup is one of the joys of life.

All of that to say, I am not sure how coherent this post is going to be. Last week, we talked how to treat job candidates nicer. See “Hey, can we be a little nicer to job applicants and stop treating them like crap?” I remember how stressful and even existentially horrifying it was to find a job. A moment that I will always remember was an interview I bombed. So tell us about some of your strengths, the interview panel asked, to which I replied, “I, uh, um, well, I am, you see—uh, um, I have excellent communication skills.” Did not get that job.

So I have a lot of sympathy and empathy for our colleagues who are trying to find work. This week, I asked the NWB Facebook Community as well as ED Happy Hour’s Facebook group to name mistakes that job candidates frequently make. I got nearly 350 comments. I’ve combed out a few key ones into a list of not just dumbass things you should avoid, but also some things you should do. This list is by no means comprehensive, or groundbreaking. Please add other advice, or argue any of the points, in the comment section. Continue Reading…