Category Archives: Unicorns

Hey you amazing unicorns, we’re going to be OK (despite this election)

dog-617041_1280My friends in the nonprofit sector. This has been a brutal, divisive, ugly, bitter election cycle, and I’m glad it is ending. If you are like me, you can’t focus on anything, since the Apocalypse may be coming this week. You are probably checking the news obsessively, alternately hopeful and distraught, depending on the headlines. Seeing the word “email” anywhere instantly raises your blood pressure. You may be wishing you had a nice cabin somewhere off the grid, near a stream, away from civilization, where you and your family can grow plants and gather mushrooms and berries and use solar panels to generate your own electricity. A cabin away from polls and tweets and television ads and pundits. But with satellite access so you can get Netflix. Also, maybe a microwave. And, like, a flushing toilet. Continue reading

Leadership styles, part 2: Have you flipped your iceberg lately?

pegacorn_stickerHappy Monday, everyone. Due to requests, here is some new NWB merchandise based on the mythical creatures leadership styles I wrote about. Now you can proudly proclaim that you are a Dragon, Phoenix, Pegacorn, or Griffin. I changed unicorn to Pegacorn to distinguish from the general nonprofit unicorn, and Lion-Turtle to Griffin because I didn’t want Nickelodeon to sue me. Thanks to the ever-brilliant Stacy, who designs this website, for creating these mugs and t-shirts.

Just to recap, Dragons are decisive and action-oriented and would rather run into traffic than talk about their feelings. Phoenixes have lots of energy and vision and are great communicators, but they’re easily distracted. Pegacorns bring harmony and consensus and are great listeners but are often indecisive. And Griffins ground everyone in processes and data and are great analyzers but can be too perfectionistic and slow to action. Continue reading

25 things awesome board members do

beyond-1157000_960_720Hi everyone. A colleague asked me to write about what board members can do to be helpful to staff. Nonprofit board members are critical to the success of organizations. We rely on y’all for so many important things and are deeply grateful for all the time, skills, connections, and resources you give, especially considering that the majority of board members are volunteers.

However, boards are also the direct cause of 39% of brain aneurysms in the sector, according to statistics that I made up. So I asked the NWB Facebook community to help develop a list of what awesome board members do. This is not a list of board roles and responsibilities, which you can google, or find at BoardSource, but actual, down-to-earth, sometimes seemingly minor stuff. One colleague writes this of one of her board members:

When your fundraiser is on the same night as an ice storm, he personally salts the sidewalks and parking lot. Then when all the salt runs out he goes to the gas station down the road and buys more salt to finish the job. He also demands car keys from me and coworker at the end of the night to defrost and scrape our car windows. And somehow in the midst of all that he also pays several hundreds of dollars on an auction item and poses for tons of pictures with the kids. #oneofthebest Continue reading

Dude, what’s with this notion that nonprofits don’t have clear outcomes?

hedgehog-468228_960_720 Hi everyone, this post will likely be my last coherent one for a while, because my second baby is due to arrive next Tuesday, March 15th (Eeeeeeek!) I plan to keep up with my weekly writing schedule, because I have my priorities. But that means the next 20 posts or so will reflect the hallucinogenic, meandering thoughts of a sleep-deprived father of a toddler and a newborn. Grammar and spelling may be questionable, and there will probably be a lot of baby-related analogies, such as “Restricting funding is like using duct tape as a diaper; sure, it makes you feel clever, but—OMG, please please just go to sleep, Daddy is so tired!”

For some wacky reason that I can’t comprehend, there seems to be this pervasive notion that nonprofits don’t have clear outcomes. In the past few months, I’ve heard this several times in various places. At a leadership seminar last June, for example, a colleague from the business sector said, “Nonprofits are just so squishy on outcomes.” I think squishy was her exact word. Or maybe slippery. Or fishy? Whatever, it was not complimentary. I got so annoyed I had to look at several pictures of baby animals on my phone to calm down.
Continue reading

10 classic movies that could have been about nonprofit work


humphrey-bogart-619157_960_720Despite the awesomeness and complexity of our work, and the fact that we employ 10% of the work force, and the fact that independent studies that I have commissioned found that we have the most attractive professionals among all the sectors, nonprofit is still neglected by the media and society at large. 
I’ve written about the need for more TV shows about our sector. And now, we need to push for more movies. Imagine how much more awesome some of our classic movies would have been, if they had been about nonprofit. Here are some of my ideas, along with potential quotes. #nonprofitmovielines. Go make that trend on Twitter, like you did with #nonprofitpickuplines.

A Few Good Donors: An up-and-coming Development Director tries to convince her ED to change their org’s fundraising strategies, in the process encountering resistance and a complex conspiracy involving budgets, CRMs, the board, and strategic planning. “You want answers? You want the truth?! An effective donor cultivation strategy takes time and resources!”

The Shawshank Restriction: Andy, a new Program Director learns too late that the organization that just hired him had gotten trapped by a burdensome and restrictive multi-year federal grant. The terrifying realities of restricted funding are explored as Andy works to save the remainder of his program and his sanity, using his skills and intelligence to gain the trust of his jaded colleagues and extract the program and organization out of the dilemma. “Get busy living, or get busy dying. Or somewhere in between: just lots of paperwork.” Continue reading