Tag Archives: unicorns

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

Botox on a unicorn: Should the nonprofit sector change its name?

hongkongfood_downstairs_10Hi everyone, I am heading back to the US this week. It has been a fun vacation, though kind of exhausting with a two-year-old who refuses to eat anything or sleep more than three consecutive hours. This, and being an ED for nearly ten years, has taken a toll on me. I keep getting comments like, “Your son is so cute! Hm…you must have started your family late, huh? How old are you, 44, 45?” After the fifth time, asked by a tofu dessert vendor, I just said, “No, I did not start a family late! I just look way older than I am! Time has not been kind to me! Thanks for reminding me, lady!” Then I softly wept into my bowl of hot silken tofu with ginger caramel sauce, thinking that maybe I should get some cosmetic surgery here, since it’s way cheaper than in the US.

But anyway, today’s topic. In the past few months, I’ve been hearing more and more people suggest that the nonprofit sector should change its name. “Defining ourselves by something we’re not is pretty ridiculous,” said some very smart people during a happy hour. “Yeah!” I agreed, getting up in arms, “that’s like calling a woman a ‘non-man’! Or hummus a ‘non-guacamole’! Ridiculous! Let’s grab our torches and pitchforks!” Continue reading

Volunteers, a critical ingredient in the banh mi of social justice

banh miHi everyone, I am in the beach city of Nha Trang right now. It is beautiful, the 100 degree heat making the ocean extra blue. So far, the vacation is going great, except that I am now overdosed on MSG, which the locals use in great quantity in everything. I’m not against MSG, but when you can see individual crystals of it in your spring roll sauce…

And I can’t find an adapter for my laptop, so I am in the hotel lobby typing this up and sweating gallons on the sticky keyboard (probably why the keyboard is so sticky, from all these sweaty people using it). Sorry in advance for typos and unedited rambling. And since I’m hungry, there will be food metaphors.

A highlight of this city so far, is a vegan banh mi stand we found. Banh mi, of course, is the Vietnamese sandwich stuffed with pickled daikon and carrot and various meats and is the humble and delicious meal of students, workers, and anyone on the go. I met a lady three years ago who has a vegan banh mi stand, where she works 16 hours a day. Her banh mis are arguably some of the most amazing sandwiches ever created and she’s been using the stand to pay for her kids’ schooling and even to buy a house. 

After a long walk, I found the stand and ordered four banh mis for 50 cents each. I bit into one, and it was magical, the combination of grilled gluten and shredded green papaya and Vietnamese cilantro and the secret sauce, all of it melding in my mouth and tasting like an unrestricted multi-year grant.

Anyway, I could spend an entire post talking about banh mi and the feisty and hilarious seller, but on to today’s topic, which is about the need for our field to better appreciate volunteers. In the US, 62 million volunteers contribute about 8 billion hours of service each year, the equivalent of $173 billion. The nonprofit sector would probably collapse without all our awesome volunteer unicorns. Continue reading