Tag Archives: unicorns

Why it would be better for the world if we were all less mission-driven

[Image description: Three adorable baby ducklings floating in the water. There’s a yellow one, a white one, and a black one. This relates to a related post I wrote earlier called “I’m a duck, you’re a duck, we are all ducks.” Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. I am in Oxford, England for the Skoll World Forum, where I’m speaking on a panel. I’m super excited because this is the home of the Oxford Comma! (I think) I just got to my hotel ten minutes ago and am jetlagged and possibly hallucinating a bit. Yes, Paddington, I would love for you to join my board! Anyway, I’m not sure how lucid this post is going to be.

Before we start, though, today April 9th is International Unicorn Day. If you haven’t done so, get your official nonprofit unicorn name and title. Even better, I’m excited to announce that the book Jessamyn Shams-Lau of the Peery Foundation, Jane Leu of Smarter Good, and I are writing is done and will be ready soon! Pre-orders are available on Amazon, for May 15th release, but in the meantime, you can learn more about the book through this Medium article. For bulk orders, please email bulk@redpress.co.uk. Thank you so much to everyone who supported this project.

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The concept of mission-driven has been well-beaten into all of us. It seems that nothing is more important to our work than our mission. This idea has been baked into everything we do: fundraise, communicate, run programs. Concepts like “mission creep” (which sounds like the name of a really boring super-villain) are designed to instill in us this sense that our individual mission is pure and sacred, and that all of us must have as our highest imperative the unwavering devotion to it.

I’m going to say something kind of blasphemous, so hold on to your suspenders. I think we all need to be less mission-driven. “What? No! Oooh, he didn’t just say that!” Continue reading

Book preview: “Unicorns Unite: How Nonprofits and Foundations Can Build Epic Partnerships”

[Image description: A diagram from the book, featuring drawings of cartoon unicorns holding bullhorns, illustrating the cycle of distrust between foundations and nonprofits]

Hi everyone. About a year ago, I mentioned I was co-authoring a book with two brilliant colleagues, Jessamyn Shams-Lau of the Peery Foundation and Jane Leu of Smarter Good. Many of you backed our Kickstarter project, and guess what? We actually wrote the book! OK, Jessamyn and Jane wrote the book, while I tagged along and tried to offer helpful suggestions like “instead of writing this book, how about we take the money and invest it in this awesome tech start-up I just heard about called Juicero, then get rich and start our own foundation but have headquarters in Oaxaca?”

Anyway, the book is called “Unicorns Unite: How Nonprofits and Foundations Can Build Epic Partnerships” and will be available this Spring, with pre-orders being taken on April 9th, 2018, which is coincidentally World Unicorn Day. Now, you may have some questions, so I’ve anticipated and answered them here: Continue reading

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

“Raise Fees 50%” and other nonprofit scary stories for Halloween

halloween-959006_640Hi everyone, Halloween is coming up this week. It’s one of my favorite holidays, along with Wombat Day, which is October 22nd (mark that on your calendar), so thank you to readers who sent in an entry to NWB’s Second Annual Scary Nonprofit Story contest. I asked/threatened two colleagues (Rachel Schachter of Temple Beth Am and Liahann Bannerman of United Way of King County) to review them with me, and we all had a great time. We judged the stories based on three elements: Humor, Creativity, and Scariness. It was difficult selecting the three winners, since the judges all had different definitions of what is scary in the nonprofit sector. If you didn’t “win,” please don’t be discouraged; the rankings are arbitrary, and we may have chugged a lot of pumpkin-spice-flavored ale while reading entries (and by “we,” I may just mean “I.”)

Here are the stories. Do not read them by yourself in the darkness. Continue reading

I’m a duck, you’re a duck, we are all ducks

duck-715568_640Hi everyone, this week my organization, Rainier Valley Corps (RVC), launches its first cohort of nonprofit leaders of color with a 4-day orientation retreat. The ten leaders in our first cohort are brilliant; they represent the future of our sector. I’ll discuss this project and the lessons we are learning in future posts, but for this week, let’s talk about ducks. By the way, we have been working all year to get to this point, and I am excited and terrified and happy and apprehensive and thrilled and nervous, which is to say I’m not sure how coherent today’s post is going to be. It may be ramblier than normal.  

If you’ve been a follower of this blog for a while, you may be thinking, “Ducks? What are you talking about? I thought we’re all unicorns.” Yes, yes we are all unicorns. We are magical unicorns who make the world better by using our horns of equity to stab injustice in the face. But we’re also ducks. Just bear with me. Continue reading