Category Archives: Cultural Competency

Why we need to stop asking “What do you do?”

[Image description: A right hand is in focus, extended toward the viewer, as if this person is offering to shake hands. The person is out of focus, but appears to be wearing a grey button-down shirt with a black blazer. The composition is focused on the hand and torso, so we don’t see the person’s head.]

A while ago, while I was seeking input for a post on how we can all be more disability-inclusive, a colleague mentioned that we should drop the get-to-know-you question “What do you do?” because people with disabilities face significant employment discrimination, and this question is often a painful reminder of that. Another colleague of mine who is brilliant and talented and hilarious and wheelchair-enabled told me she spent seven years searching before someone hired her. I can imagine all the times during those seven years when people asked her “What do you do?” and how she must have felt. This has made me think of the “to-do” culture that we have and how it’s been affecting our work.

I learned a few years ago, through my participation in the German Marshall Memorial Fellowship, that the US has a default “To-Do” culture. The first thing we ask someone we meet is about what they do. Actions, in our culture, define us. For other cultures, though, are more of a “To-Be” culture, and you are defined less from what you do, and more from who you are:  Your relationships, your family history, your beliefs, your passions, your haircuts, etc. Continue reading

Funders’ role in protecting marginalized communities during the next four years

[Image description: Green stalks of wheat. It looks to be a closeup of a wheat field. The wheat flowers are silvery green, and the leaves are light green.]

Last week, my organization, in partnership with several other orgs, called for an urgent meeting between funders and nonprofit leaders. “Protecting Marginalized Communities During the Next Four Years.” It was just a few days of notice, and I was nervous people wouldn’t show up. Over 100 did, half funders and half nonprofit leaders from diverse communities. For three hours, we checked in with one another, shared stories and ideas, and discussed actions.

There are certain days in my career where I return home exhausted and drained, but simultaneously grateful to get to do this work, and to get to do it with brilliant and passionate colleagues. This was one of those days. Although many of the stories shared were painful and alarming—a Muslim colleague detailed the fear and danger she experiences every day taking the bus; two Native colleagues discussed the challenges their communities face at Standing Rock—the energy and support and sense of community were palpable. Continue reading

Hey, you got a little racism stuck in your teeth.

toothbrush-685326_960_720Recently, there was a news story claiming there’s no evidence that flossing actually does anything. I fell on the ground weeping with joy. Yes, complete exoneration! Take that, you dentists and dental hygienists, with your judgy eyes above your mouth covers. Now, I just need to find a study that says exercise is completely useless, and I can keep lounging on the couch, watching Veep and gnawing on an ear of corn and not feel any guilt. (What, like your Saturday nights are sooooo much more exciting).

But dang it, snopes.com just ran this fact-checking article that says, nope, the study’s methodology is flawed, and we still need to floss. Apparently, dental professionals consider not flossing so damaging that it would be unethical to subject a control group to several years of it, hence the lack of evidence of flossing’s effectiveness. So, back to the sink for all of us. 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

Common nonprofit terms and concepts and what they actually mean

giraffes-627031_960_720Hi everyone, a colleague asked me to write a translation of nonprofit terminologies and concepts, which may be helpful to those who are thinking of going into nonprofit work. Since I was pressed for time this week (look, Narcos is not going to binge-watch itself on Netflix), I outsourced the task to the NWB Facebook Community, which is full of brilliant and hilarious people who don’t take themselves too seriously. Here are several of the suggestions, mainly copied verbatim. (Go to the Facebook page for the whole list). This is by no means comprehensive, so please add your own in the comment section:

Hiring

Salary commensurate with experience: We’re ashamed to actually say what it is, but it’s probably nowhere near commensurate with your experience level

Comprehensive benefits: You can take home leftover crackers AND half-drunk bottles of wine after donor receptions.

Welcomes diversity/seeks diverse leadership: You will be the first and/or only person of color on our board/staff/whatever

A dynamic work environment: We are really disorganized

Able to prioritize: You’ll have to decide whether it’s riskier to delay payment on the electric bill or the water bill

There were so many duties we decided to split the job: Your predecessor still works here, but is angry she was demoted, and won’t train you

We are embarking on a new phase: Everything else we’ve tried has been an epic failure, and you will now save us.

A fast-paced environment: We are overwhelmed, overworked and afflicted with this curse called a ‘vocation’, and the Board just keep piling it on.

Looking for someone passionate about the field: Applicants should be willing to accept being paid peanuts

Lots of opportunity: It literally could not get any worse. Continue reading