9 annoying nonprofit trends that need to die

incandescent-lightbulbHi everyone, I am heading to Vietnam this week for a much-needed vacation. I’ll still be writing each Monday, but can’t guarantee the quality of the blog posts, since I’ll be stuffing my face with street food and coconut juice. But, before I go, let’s address some irritating trends that have surfaced in our sector. Below are a few that the NWB Facebook community came up with. See if you agree, and for the love of hummus, if you are guilty of any of them, cut it out right now.

Ignite-style presentations: “Ignite” involves a five-minute Powerpoint presentation with 20 slides, where the slides advance themselves every 15 seconds. It cuts off long-winded people, and it’s kind of fun to see how speakers match up their speech with the slides. When done right, and used mostly for humorous and easy-to-understand stuff, it can be great. But I’ve seen it too often used for novelty’s sake to explain difficult nonprofit concepts or missions, in which case it becomes “presentation by karaoke,” underestimates the intelligence of the audience, wastes endless hours of speakers’ time in preparation, and makes me want to punch the event organizer in the neck. I once attended an event feature five of these short presentations. People had a great time—“Ooh, that lightbulb graphic appeared JUST when she said ‘I had an idea!’ That’s so, like, awesome!”—but by the end of the night, no one in the audience remembered anything the speakers said. Continue Reading…

Cuddle parties, and other tips for cross-sector collaborations

26586_113165725368629_112860248732510_204800_6784158_n1Hi everyone. If I seem smarter and more attractive in the past couple of weeks, it’s because I just came back from Harvard Business School. Well, technically, I was sent as part of Seattle’s delegation to the four-day Young American Leadership Program (YALP). But whatever, I feel smarter already; and since it is technically true, I am telling all my relatives that I went to Harvard. I even have a tote bag filled with pens I stole to prove it. I’ll give my cousins these pens when I visit them in Vietnam this July, and maybe they’ll stop sending me job postings.

Anyway, brilliant young leaders from businesses, nonprofits, and government were brought together to discuss cross-sector collaboration, an area that we nonprofits have not really thought much about or done much to advance. And it shows. While I was there—at Harvard—surrounded by up-and-coming colleagues from prestigious corporations like Microsoft, Amazon, Expedia, Alaska Airlines, and White Castle, I noticed just how glaring the gaps between our sectors were. People in the program from the business sector were saying things like, “Well, all nonprofits are slippery with their outcomes, so how do we keep them accountable” and “why do we need to talk about foundations and nonprofits separately? Aren’t they all the same thing?” I know, right? I had to refrain myself from shouting, “You take that back right now or I will eat your face! I will dip your head in hummus and I will eat your face!!!” Continue Reading…

Father’s Day, and the power of storytelling

mad maxHi everyone, Father’s Day is coming up, and I’d like to talk a little about my dad, and then tie it back to our work in the nonprofit sector, specifically the importance of sharing our stories and connecting to one another. Like my Mother’s Day post, this one will be a little personal, and also potentially sentimental. If you are not in the mood for that, please skip this post and read something more hilarious, like Feng Shui for nonprofits, or 12 tips for not sucking as a panel moderator. (If you LOVE sentimentality, though, read this “Letter to my newborn son in case I die early,” which I wrote on my first Father’s Day.)

For the past few months, I’ve been taking my dad to see violent action movies. Kingman was awesome, and Mad Max: Fury Road was so awesome, it was like someone figured out how to distill awesomeness into its purest form and then allowed us to mainline it for two hours. My father doesn’t talk much about the movies after we watch them, but I think he likes our father/son excursions, and this is one of the few activities we can bond over. During the drives, we can talk.

“What was it like in the reeducation camp?” I asked during one of our drives from a movie. Dad is a great story teller with a sharp sense of humor. Charismatic and brilliant, he was born into a time of War. He fought against the Communists, and for that, he was put into reeducation camp when they won. Luckily, he was young and low-ranking enough that they let him go after a couple of years.

“They didn’t feed us much,” he said, “worms, grasshoppers—we ate those. If we caught a mouse, it was a rare treat. They made us set off unexploded mines. Two guys would hold a long tree trunk, one at either end. They set the middle part of the trunk down on the mine to make it explode. One time, a piece of tree trunk flew up and took off half of my friend’s ear. He found his ear, put it into his pocket, and continued working. Can you imagine wooden shrapnel just shooting into your face? I’d be extremely ticklish.”

“Of course,” he added, “we were the ones they didn’t shoot. If they found out you had been a high-ranking officer, they just dragged you off and shot you right away. You wouldn’t get to do fun things like explode mines and eat worms.” Continue Reading…

12 pieces of advice for folks graduating and entering the nonprofit sector

unicorn spockHi everyone. First off, last week’s post—“When you don’t disclose salary range on a job posting, a unicorn loses its wings”—resonated with lots of people, and was shared nearly 7,000 times on social media. Let’s put an end to this horrible practice, because our professionals deserve fair, competitive compensation. And if that’s not available, they deserve at least transparency at the onset so that job applicants can start planning their budget and look out for sales on spaghetti and canned beans.

To that end, I am encouraging all EDs to disclose salary ranges on all new postings moving forward, and all job posting services to recommend, nay, require, disclosure. And all of us need to give feedback to our peers who ask for our help spreading the word on their new positions. If a colleague sends a posting to you and asks for help with outreach, check to make sure the salary range is disclosed. If it’s not, send back this message:

“[First name], you know that I have great respect for you as a colleague in our struggle to make the world better. There are few that I think are smarter, more dedicated, or good-looking-in-a-platonic-way, even in a field rife with intelligent, attractive people. However, I cannot in good conscience help you spread the word on your new position, because your posting does not disclose the salary range. Not disclosing the range widens the gender pay gap, disadvantages candidates of color, and wastes lots and lots of people’s time. I know not listing salary is a common practice, but it is one that is archaic and will be laughed at later. Like MySpace. Or skinny jeans. Or exercise. Disclose your salary range. Let us end this harmful practice and move our profession one step closer to equity.”

Second off, I just watched Game of Thrones and am upset and annoyed by what happened in the latest episode, so this post will likely be poorly edited.

All right, on to today’s topic. Lots of young professionals are graduating this month and starting to enter into our illustrious field. Congratulations, and welcome to a rewarding and lucrative career (or at least one of those two)! I received requests to provide advice for our potential new colleagues. You know you’re getting old when people start asking you for advice on stuff. Sigh. To be young and full of hopes and acne again.

Anyway, I asked the NWB Facebook community for suggestions, and have synthesized them into a few pieces of advice that I wished someone had told me when I first started out on the path to make the world better. Here they are, in no particular order, and definitely not comprehensive, and some are pretty obvious, and there are more than 12 (it’s not marketable to list more than 12 of anything in the title). Please add your own advice for our new colleagues in the comment section: Continue Reading…

When you don’t disclose salary range on a job posting, a unicorn loses its wings

Spin-that-signHi everyone. Today, while driving past a pizza place, I noticed something: The dude who normally stood at the corner wearing a toga and spinning a giant arrow sign pointing the way to the shop had been replaced by what looked like a cardboard cutout. It was holding the giant arrow, but the sign was hooked to a spinning machine. And I thought, “This is an example of what’s wrong with our world! Artistic sign spinning has been outsourced to machines! Where is the artistry, the finesse?!” I was so annoyed, I only bought one pizza to bake at home.

Why am I bringing this up? Because unlike many other fields, the nonprofit sector will always rely on human beings. When other robotprofessions are replaced by robots in the future, we will still be around. Can you imagine a robot trying to do case management or counseling or advocacy?

Despite our reliance on people, we have a bunch of no good, very bad habits in hiring and in paying nonprofit professionals. I talked earlier about our need to raise salaries. And also the need to reexamine our archaic, inequitable hiring practices such as the overreliance on formal education. And now, we need to dismantle another terrible habit that many, many of us have, one that we don’t think much about, but one that is driving lots of people nuts, perpetuates gender and other inequities, and increases the power imbalance between employers and employees: Not listing salary ranges on job posting, and putting “DOE,” which stands for “Depends On Experience” instead. Here are reasons why it is so awful, and why we should all agree to put an end to “salary cloaking” immediately. Continue Reading…