Nonprofit with Balls’s 100th post! Let’s celebrate by going home early.

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unicorn sunsetHi everyone. This is Nonprofit With Ball’s historic 100th post. It is a momentous occasion. When I was a little boy growing up in a small village up in the mountains of Vietnam, my father said to me, “Son, we may be poor, but that does not mean we can’t accomplish great things. You are the smartest, most-talented, and, in certain very dim lighting, best-looking kid in our family. Bring honor to our name.” Well, look dad, I wrote 100 blog posts about nonprofits, many mentioning unicorns! I think our ancestors would be proud. They’re probably tweeting about it right now.

For this 100th post, I’m going to provide excerpts of some of my favorite early posts, the ones that you probably haven’t read because they’re so old. If this sounds very lazy, like those TV shows that do montages as a special episode (“Instead of writing a real episode, let’s spend 10 minutes looking at all the times that Joey said ‘How you doin’?’ and all the times that Ross acts like a completely unlikeable character”) you are right. But hey, this only happens every 100th blog posts; we’ll be back next week with new content. Here, read these posts below if you haven’t. And I think it’s only appropriate that we all go home early today in celebration.

Being a Nonprofit with Balls, part 1. This started it all and gave the blog its name, which has gotten its fair share of criticisms.

“Play ball? Listen, Luke, we small ethnic nonprofits are knee-deep in balls! We have balls flying at us from every corner, from the City, from the County, from the School District, from organizations like yours. Usually without any funding to support our operations. We can’t juggle your balls for you!” Read more

We must prepare our organizations for the zombie apocalypse. It’s coming, you guys. Start hoarding peanut butter.

“All right,” said David of the Red Cross, who has an awesome beard, “who has done some emergency preparation at home?” A couple of us raised our hands. “Great,” he said, calling on people, “what steps have you taken?” We threw out answers like bought a first-aid kit, got a hand-crank radio, flashlight, etc. I was hoping he wouldn’t call on me, because I’m not sure if squirreling away vodka and olives-soaked-in-vermouth counted as emergency preparation. Read more…

Nonprofit peeps: Time to go paperless. Seriously you guys, printing out paper is getting ridiculous. We need to stop doing it.

In the age of technology, we really have very little reason to use paper. Most meeting rooms have a projector and screen, data can be instantly emailed, and many people bring their own pads of paper or have electronic tablets for note-taking. Printing, then, is the continuance of years of archaic traditions. But really, just because people used to wear codpieces, does that mean we should continue to wear them? Of course not! Printing out stuff is the equivalent of wearing codpieces, which, while appropriate at Renaissance festivals and some night clubs on Capitol Hill, is just generally silly. Read more…

The Grant. This was one awful grant. How awful?

It was excruciating, like taking some tin foil, covering it with barbecue sauce, and then chewing the whole thing for five or six minutes and only taking a break once to punch yourself in the face. Seriously, this grant was horrifying, like someone taking a garden statue of a skunk, breaking off its tail, dipping the tail in chunky peanut butter and fire ants, and then beating you with it while forcing you to watch Superman IV. Read more…

8 Tips for a successful nonprofit blind date. We have a lot of these in the field.

Tip 3: Get the person’s cell phone number, and give them yours. This is helpful for when you’re running late.  If you can’t find the person and it’s 10 minutes past the appointed time, call their cell. Do not send them a text message like “I am standing in the corner near the bathroom, watching you. Are you the one wearing a red shirt? It’s nice.” Read more…

Collective impact: Resistance is futile. Has Collective Impact gone too far?

However, like taking naps at work, Collective Impact should be done strategically and sometimes not at all. Recently, I’ve started seeing it become more and more like the Borg in Star Trek, a species that assimilates other life forms in a quest for dominance and perfection. Controlled by a hive mind that neutralizes any sort of individualism, and comprising billions of annexed individuals, they are strong and terrifying, like an army of zombie robots, each with one eye that has a laser beam. Read more…

10 steps for writing a kick-ass organizational budget. Writing a nonprofit organization budget is probably more art than science.

Step 8: It is now time to put your astrologer to use. Have them create a chart of where the planets are this year in relation to your organization, as that is the best way to predict where the rest of your funds will be coming from. Mercury (representing foundations), Venus (representing individual donors), and Saturn (representing government funding) are in rare alignment right now, which may mean that it is time to focus more fundraising energy on those areas. The tiny and distant Pluto, representing general operating funds, is no longer a planet, but it still greatly impacts nonprofits, so make sure your astrologer includes its trajectory in the charts. Read more…

Tips for not sucking when you’re on a panel. There are a lot of panelists who suck.

Tip 4: Tell hilarious jokes that are related to the topic. For example, “A Program Director, a tutor, and a refugee family with two small children walk into a school. The school asks why the long faces? The Program Director says, ‘You don’t have enough culturally appropriate services for immigrant and refugee students and families, so they’re struggling academically.” Read more…

Community engagement 101: Why most summits suck. The chance of a summit not sucking is about 5%.

Sigh. Despite my best efforts, this seems to happen a lot in Seattle: “Let’s get a bunch of ethnic people together and listen to them. I bet they’re just standing around; they’ll love to come to a meeting and be listened to, especially if we have hummus and baby carrots.” It is very well-intentioned, and usually ineffective in the long-run. Sometimes it is just insulting, especially when the hummus is all chunky and grainy and not smooth, like high-quality hummus should be. Read more…

The wall of philanthropy, Wildlings, and White Walkers. This post uses Game of Thrones metaphors to discuss funder/nonprofit dynamics.

I don’t think I’m the only one who feels like nonprofit organizations and staff are like the Wildlings trying constantly to make it past the Wall. “Sound the alarms! There is a group of Wildlings at the base of the Wall, and they are chanting ‘General Operating Funds! General Operating Funds!’ Quick, prepare the hot oil!”. Read more…

Site visit: Uncomfortable, yet terrifying. This was the very first post that went viral. And by that I mean that more than my staff read it.

The staff’s personal appearance is also taken into consideration. “What kind of site visit is this?” one of them asked, “how should we dress?” The more funding is at stake, the better we dress. Less than $10,000, we dress a little better than normal, but are still generally shabby. At $10,000 to $19,000, we wear button-down shirts and tuck them into our jeans. $20,000 to $49,000, we wear slacks and a nice shirt, maybe a tie. $50,000 or over, I might require some of the staff to get Botox. Read more…

How to schedule a meeting without being punched in the pancreas. One of the most important posts I’ve ever written.

Rule 1, the List of Three: The meeting initiator must propose, in his initiation email, at minimum three dates and times of when he is available, these aforementioned times being preferably spread over several days. We use that line all the time: “Please let me know what works best for you.” That’s euphemism for “I want to sound thoughtful, but really I just don’t feel like looking at my calendar and proposing several dates that I’m free. Why don’t you do it, and I’ll see if it works for me.” Hell no. That’s lazy. You initiated the meeting; you look at your calendar. It takes a long time to look at my insane schedule to see three times that would work for me. Do you think I just sit in my cubicle watching clips of The Daily Show all day long? Of course not. There’s also the Colbert Report. Read more…

Thanks for reading, commenting, and spreading the word, everyone. See you next week.

  • Vu

    Sorry, everyone. There seems to be a glitch with the commenting system. We’re working on it. Please send comments to nonprofitwithballs@gmail.com in the meanwhile.

  • Stacy Nguyen

    Cool round-up of posts!