Category Archives: Community Engagement

Appreciation for all the nonprofit professionals working this week

[Image description: A heart made out of about twenty small, tan-colored pieces of wood or stones of different sizes. It is hollow in the center, like a ring. There is a piece of string at the top, suggesting that this may be an ornament. The heart is on a very light blue, almost white background]

Hi everyone. This message will be short, because I am off all of this week. Also because I stuffed myself with dark chocolate and hard pear cider. Many of us are taking a break this week, and if you can, I hope you are too. The work we do is unrelenting, often heartbreaking. But we cannot be our most effective if we do not take time to recharge. If you have the authority, and it is possible, give your team this week off. It costs little, and the return to the organization in morale and future productivity is tenfold.

All of us who can, let’s lay down our burdens for a few days. Let’s watch our favorite shows. Bake cookies. Sleep. Let’s spend time with the people we love and remember why we do this work.

I know, though, that that is easier said than done. While many of us are resting this week, there are lots of you out there working. You run food banks and shelters and emergency services. You answer calls on suicide hotlines. You check in on seniors who may not have family nearby. The need for these services often increases during the holidays, and not only do you not get a break, but you may be working even harder than you normally do. Continue reading

25 simple ways we can all be more disability-inclusive

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[Image description: Two hands with fingers close together on a book, opened to a white page filled with text in Braille.]

Hi everyone, before I launch into today’s topic, two announcements. First, I’m co-authoring a book about how we can reset the funder/grantee relationship to minimize power dynamics and allow us all to be more effective at our work and less likely to curl into the fetal position under our desks, rocking and weeping to 80s rock ballads. I’m writing it with Jane Leu and Jessamyn Shams-Lau, and we’re trying to raise $9,600 on Kickstarter by the end of this month. Please pitch in $5, $20, $50, or…$9,600. You’ll get cool prizes such as getting your name in the book for a donation of $5. For $50, you get a t-shirt and the book. For $200, you’ll also get a hand-made unicorn. For $9,600, I will personally fly to your office anywhere in the US and put on a puppet show about the horrors of restricted funding.

Second, last month I issued the #OpEdChallenge, which is simple: Write an op-ed related to your mission and get it published before the end of 2016. We nonprofits must be more vocal, especially in light of the political climate. Some colleagues are actually taking on this challenge! Look: “Seattle must address root causes of racial disparities.” And “Stand with your Muslim neighbors and fight bigotry.” You are awesome. If you’ve successfully taken this challenge, please let me know. Your op-ed may get mentioned here.

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I have not written much on NWB about disability. Mainly because I am not an expert on it, and I’m afraid that I’ll make serious mistakes and cause offense. The world is complex, and there are so many ways for us to screw up. I’ve done it at least once already while researching for this post. I asked the NWB Facebook community for tips, writing “Please send in things we should all be aware of, and any pet peeves you have, especially if you work with individuals with disabilities or have a disability.” Continue reading

10 ways the nonprofit sector must adapt to the new reality

butterfly-1716535_1280Hi everyone. Two quick announcements: First, my organization is hiring an on-staff capacity building coach. This is a high-level position focused on supporting grassroots organizations led by communities of color. If you believe in strengthening communities of color to advance social justice, and you love organizational capacity building and working with small grassroots organization, please apply. It is more urgent than ever for us to support our community-based organizations to be civically engaged, so this position is critical. But no pressure or anything! (Make sure you like unicorns and Oxford Commas, though…)

Second, please read my article in Chronicle of Philanthropy on what funders must do in light of the new political reality. It’s hilarious, and I added pictures of bunnies and puppies. OK, it’s deadly serious, and there are no pictures of baby animals at all. Given the urgency of the work, we can no longer afford to continue the same destructive funding philosophies and processes that have been hampering nonprofits’ abilities to carry out our missions.

While funders discuss how to adapt, we nonprofits need to do things differently too. Here are my thoughts on a few areas that we need to consider. This is by no means comprehensive. Or particularly groundbreaking. Some of these are ideas I have written about before, and some I will expand on in future posts: Continue reading

9 traits of the kind of leaders we need in this time and place

flower-108685_1280Hi everyone, this post may be a little more serious than usual. Last week, Seattle lost one of our community leaders, legendary activist Bob Santos. “Uncle Bob” was one of the Gang of Four, also known as the Four Amigos, a group of racially diverse friends who hung out, sang karaoke, and fought injustice. The other three Amigos were Bernie Whitebear, Roberto Maestas, and Larry Gossett. They realized that they, and their diverse ethnic communities, were much stronger together, a philosophy that carried them through countless successful sit-ins, rallies, and other forms of protests in their fights around gentrification, poverty, funding inequity, fishing rights, and other issues. The friendship between these men—who are Black, Native, Latino, and Asian—and their activism, made Seattle better and continue to inspire countless people, including me.

The Four Amigos are a significant inspiration for the founding of my organization, Rainier Valley Corps, which has a mission of ensuring the nonprofit sector has a strong bench of leaders of color. We are building the next generation of 100 Amigos and Amigas. If a Gang of Four diverse leaders bonded by deep friendship can do so much for a community, imagine how much a Gang of 100 social justice leaders can do. This vision is what guides RVC, along with the question, “What kind of leaders do we need in this time and place?”

Continue reading

Meta-Equity and the irony of inequity around Equity work

dog-1443465_960_720Hi everyone, before we begin today’s post, look: Get a Beer and Undo Nonprofit Power Dynamics Day (#GABAUNPDD) on July 8th is actually happening. Thanks GEO for organizing an actual event! Please use this historic day to build stronger relationships between program officers, trustees, and nonprofits. I think many of our world’s problems can we solved quicker and more effectively if we get a beer together more often. This is going to be an annual thing. #GABAUNPDD #BestHashtagEver

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One of my favorite words is “meta,” a prefix that allows something to be about or comprising itself. For example, meta-writing could be writing about the process or benefits of writing. Meta-film-making might be making a film about film-making. A meta-presentation is a presentation about how to make effective presentations. It works for everything. We might want to have a meta-meeting to talk about how to make meetings more effective. And we should make a meta-hummus, which is a delicious hummus that is made out of leftover dollops of other hummi. Try to use meta at your next meeting; it’ll make you sound really smart: “Can we do a meta-financial-analysis? I think we’re spending too much money on our financial reviews.”

So today, let’s talk about meta-Equity—the equity around Equity. I have really appreciated that everyone has been paying more attention to Equity, having thoughtful discussions led by qualified trainers, and incorporating Equity into grantmaking, hiring, and other practices (#OxfordCommaForever!). Hell, maybe Equity won’t just be another fad like coconut water, but will actually stick around and become a timeless beverage that will nourish us all, like tequila. Continue reading