Category Archives: Staff Dynamics

15 lessons for the nonprofit sector we learned in 2015

fireworks-728412_960_720Hi everyone, I hope you are having a restful and much-deserved break and are reading this in bed while sipping on a nice single-serving box of red wine, like I like to do on the weekends. Next week, the new year starts, and I am excited. Personally, because my new baby boy arrives in March, and I’m looking forward to meeting him. He will be named Equity and get all his older brother’s used clothing. As soon as he can hold his head up, his training to be a nonprofit warrior will start, just like for his brother, who at 2 years old can put sticky dots on easel paper at community forums.

2016 will be a game-changing year for our sector, I just know it. From my conversations with readers and colleagues, there is a hunger for us all to do things differently, to examine complex issues, to talk honestly about challenges, to express our needs assertively and push back against the forces that prevent us from doing our work. There are long-held philosophies and beliefs, among ourselves as well as within society, that we must unravel, and there are several critical polarities we must shift. NWB will continue to bring up these conversations, this time with more urgency, more attitude, more moxie—whatever that is—, and possibly…more merchandising. (Be on the lookout for NWB T-shirts and mugs, and, if I can swing it, severed stuffed unicorn heads you can send as warnings to under-performing colleagues and board members, Godfather-style).

But first, we need to close 2015 by reflecting on the lessons we learned. Below are a few of the many I gathered, frequently the hard way, as well as some shared with me by the talented and very good-looking members of the NWB community. Some of these we’ve talked about before, and some I’ll elaborate more on in the coming year. Jot down your thoughts and lessons learned in the comment section: Continue reading

10 agreements for a happy and well-functioning team (aka, how to not suck as a coworker)

team-386673_640Hi everyone, as a dashing and debonair nonprofit blogger, I get lots of emails venting about coworkers, from those who leave dishes unwashed for days to those who are passive-aggressive (see “12 types of people who get on everyone’s nerves in nonprofit.”) Our work is very complicated, with so many obstacles, from the instability and unpredictability of funding; to society’s ridiculous expectations; to intersectional dynamics of race, class, ethnicity, culture, privilege, gender, sexual orientation, disability, health, age, parenthood, etc. To face all those complexities and do our jobs well, we need to work effectively with each other. So here are 10 fundamental agreements that I recommend we make with one another as we do the challenging work of making the world better. Let me know your thoughts.

The 10 agreements for a happy and well-functioning team

Agreement 1, We will assume the best intentions in one another: I consider this the Cardinal Agreement. If someone makes a mistake the first time, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Yeah, there are jerks out there, but really, most of the time, people mean well. None of us are perfect, and the world is full of chances for us all to screw up. Let’s be generous with each other. I also find it to be a lot lighter a burden to think people are well-meaning. It is so much easier on our souls to think, “John didn’t say good morning back to me. I hope everything is OK with him. Maybe he’s just having a bad day.” Versus, “He ignored me on purpose! Curse him! May his field remain fallow, his livestock weak and barren, his progeny afflicted with gingivitis unto the seventh generation!”  Continue reading

Why most annual performance reviews suck and how we can make them better

I want to begin today’scastle-862700_640 post with a story that is truly terrifying. Don’t read this by yourself in the dark:

“It was a dark autumn afternoon. Jose, a Program Director, walked into his ED’s office for his annual performance review. Jane’s skin looked pale and ashy, as if she hadn’t seen sunlight for years, her eyes were bloodshot, and her hair was stringy and dull like a wet wombat’s fur. This was nothing unusual, thought Jose, since she is an ED after all, and all EDs look like that. But something about Jane was making him uneasy. Her tone was different; it was harder, more businesslike. ‘Jose, this year, you accomplished many things. But you failed to meet expectations in a few key areas. You didn’t, for example, throw an 80’s-themed volunteer appreciation party, and you didn’t build enough partnerships with gluten-free bakeries to secure in-kind snacks for our gluten-free clients. I also called and talked to some of your staff and they said that you never bring cupcakes to the team meetings.’ Jose tried to scream, ‘I didn’t know those were your expectations! How can I meet expectations I never knew I had?! And that feedback probably came from the one disgruntled staff who doesn’t do anything but whine, whom I’ve been trying to coach and mentor before firing and needed your support on but you kept skipping our one-on-one meetings!’ He tried to scream these and many other things, but no sound came out. He left the office that evening, walking into the darkness, feeling like crap, and no one ever saw him again. Unless they were buying or selling a house. For you see, Jose became a real estate agent…”

Spooky, right? I won’t blame you if you have to sleep with the lights on tonight. Continue reading

20 quotes by famous people if they had worked in nonprofit

ostrich-992753_960_720Hi everyone, I am back in the US after a rough 24-hour trip with a two-year-old that ended with us at US Customs declaring that we had brought back several packages of vegan deer jerky made from soy protein. “I have never heard anyone declaring that before,” said the officer, “did you try it before you bought it?” Of course we did, I said, disheveled and slightly offended. Everyone knows that only a fool would buy twenty bags of vegan deer jerky without trying some samples!

We are now all completely jetlagged, thanks to the baby, who does not care to get back to regular schedule. He wakes up at 3am with this soft, almost creepy whisper of “I’m hungry?” I’ve had about eight hours of sleep total over the last three days and have started hallucinating a little (“Yes, Your Holiness, I would love some easel paper…”)

All of that is to say I have no mental capacity to do a serious post today. Instead, here are some quotes I imagined from famous people if they worked in nonprofit. Add your suggestions to the comment section:

20 quotes from famous people if they had worked in nonprofit

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy attending meetings.” John Lennon

“You miss 100% of the grants you don’t write.” Wayne Gretzky 

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you still have to file your 990 each year.” Henry Ford 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