Category Archives: nonprofit field

The Nonprofit Serenity Prayer

[Image description: A light purple lotus, opened and with some yellow pistils showing, floating on a background of green leaves and dark water.]

Hi everyone. A couple of things before we start. First, NWB is changing its name. I’ve been thinking about it a while, having received some feedback from many of you. Most of it has been positive, but I realized that I’ve been preaching about impact versus intention, and while the intent of the name when I started this blog four years ago was light-hearted and humorous, the impact has not always been, and in light of everything happening currently, I want to set a good example. It might take a little time to find the right name, but just wanted to let you know this is happening. Thanks for your patience.

Meanwhile, my wife and I started sleep-training our kids this weekend. It has been rough these past few nights, with the anguished, tormented wailing lasting for hours. And that’s just from us. The kids are even worse! Anyway, because of that, I don’t know how coherent I’ll be for this post. Everyone in our sector has been on edge lately, so I wrote the Nonprofit Serenity Prayer. Here it is below. May it be a beacon to you in the bleakest of times. Continue reading

Grantseekers, how irritating are you to funders? Use this checklist to find out

[Image description: A person wearing a black hat, black shirt, and blue jeans is sitting on the floor. Their face is covered by a white piece of paper with a simple angry face drawn on it. They are wearing two beaded black bracelets on their right wrist and several similar bracelets on their right wrist. They cast a shadow on the background wall which looks like a teal wall with yellow texture squiggles.]

Hi everyone. Last week, I unveiled the FLAIL Index, a tool that allows foundations to see whether or not their grantmaking process will unleash the demon-god Cthulhu upon this world. I’m now calling it the FLAIL Scale (#FLAILscale), since things that rhyme are always more worth our time. I will be updating the Scale this week, based on your feedback, to increase the aggravation points for certain items, such as requiring people to get anything notarized, as well as add some redemption points. Thank you to everyone who tested the FLAIL Scale, especially those who are actually using it to make their grant process better. You are amazing unicorns, and may Cthulhu spare you in the coming Apocalypse.

This week, for balance, we present the other side: Things that we nonprofits do that make funders want to punch us in the jaws—or worse, not fund our programs. I asked the NWB Facebook community, and received nearly a 100 comments from current and past program officers. I synthesized them into the checklist below.

So here, I present, the Grant Response Amateurism, Vexation, and Exasperation (GRAVE) Gauge (That’s, sadly, the closest rhyme to “grave” I can think of). Go through the list below, add up your points (or, use this Excel worksheet), and see how your organization does on any grant proposal. Use this to improve your process. And of course, this is also in beta—and the point values are arbitrary, somewhat based on the frequency the item is brought up—so send feedback and suggestions for GRAVE v2. Also keep in mind there are exceptions and extenuating circumstances. Continue reading

A day may come when the courage of the nonprofit sector fails. Today is not that day!

[Image description: Three sleeping puppies inside a black shoe box. The puppies have their heads resting on one edge of the box. They are all white with brown markings. The puppy closest to the foreground has one front leg dangling over the side of the box.]

Colleagues of the nonprofit sector. My sisters and brothers. I see in your twitching eyes the dread of returning to work today. Scarcely a moon ago we looked forward to a time of relaxation. A few days where we could binge on some episodes of Black Mirror without guilt. An innocent, optimistic time where we resolved to clear out our fridge or otherwise take care of some household projects that we had been neglecting. A period of time that seemed so boundless, but that is now no more.

The dread you feel is pervasive, hanging over all of us, over me as well. It takes this heart of mine and squishes it in its calloused hand. Like you, I stand before the writhing tentacles of my to-do list, staring into the bottomless abyss of my email inbox, shuddering and cowering and clawing at my face in despair. Continue reading

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

A letter to Santa from the nonprofit sector

santa

[Image description: The image is of a man dressed as Santa, sitting in front of a fireplace with a white mantle. His robe is red with white trimmings, accented with a large black belt with a large golden buckle. He has a row of what may be red poinsettia flowers and green holly leaves lining the trimming of his hat, which is flopped over to the right side of his head. He is looking directly at the camera, his head slightly tilted. He has a stern or wry look. His hands are in white gloves. One hand is on his glasses, as if he were lowering them, the other resting on his belt. On the mantle there are several brown pine cones, white snowflakes, and red ornaments. Off to Santa’s right, in the background, is a tree decorated with red and white ornaments. There are several red stockings with white trimmings hanging from the mantle.]

Dear Santa,

I know you are extremely busy. I mean, you are technically a nonprofit, and this is December after all. My colleagues are wrapped up in licking thousands of envelopes, handwriting tons of thank-you notes, organizing a gazillion events for the community, and consuming leftover holiday party wine and chips. (Stop judging us, Santa. Like your lunch is always so balanced). Since they are occupied with year-end tasks, I asked my colleagues what they wanted from you, and I’m synthesizing their responses, to save you some time. I am writing a letter to you on behalf of all of us in the nonprofit sector.

Santa, this has been a horrible year. First-episode-of-Black-Mirror horrible. Superman-IV:-Quest-for-Peace horrible. And many of us are not exactly looking forward to next year either. It’s OK. All of us are rolling up our Ross-Dress-for-Less sleeves and are determined to fight for a just and inclusive society.

It won’t be easy though. That’s why we need you. You can help us out by granting some of these wishes below. This Christmas, please give us: Continue reading