12 types of people who get on everyone’s nerves in nonprofit


cake-916253_640pdHi everyone, this Thursday (3/12) is my birthday, and I’m going to use it as an opportunity to shamelessly promote my organization, Rainier Valley Corps, which is trying to bring more leaders of color into the sector while supporting existing leaders. We are a nine-month-old start-up nonprofit that takes nothing for granted; we wept with joy upon finding a working dry-erase marker last week, and I’ve been sneaking into conferences to stock up on pens. If you like this blog, please consider investing in RVC’s work with a donation based on how old you think I am. That’s right, if you think I’m 45, give $45. If you think I’m 36 and a half, give $36.50. If you think I’m 86, why…you genius, that’s exactly how old I am! (And I won’t be offended if you think I’m 1,000 or 5,000 years old).

Also, because it’s my birthday this week, I am going to take a break from serious topics like equity or capacity building or performance reviews, and instead start an annual tradition of poorly-edited ranting about people in the sector who get on everyone’s nerves. Look, we have an awesome field full of smart, very good-looking, and extremely humble people. Still, there is room for improvement. If you are one of these people below, please change your ways before I form a shadow organization that will hunt you down and bring you to justice:

12 Types of People Who Get on Everyone’s Nerves in the Nonprofit Sector

(Special thanks to the NWB Facebook community for its input)

  • Board members who don’t give money to the organization in a timely manner and have to be dragged kicking and screaming at year-end. Come on! Just give something so we can say 100% of our board contributed!
  • People who suck at designing forms. If your electronic form looks like this when it’s filled out—Name:__Vu Le___—you suck at designing forms and should go to a “How to Create Forms that Don’t Suck” workshop. Learn to use tables!
  • People who reply-all on emails when they should only reply to one person. Arrgh!! Also, people who CC everyone, regardless of relevance of content. Also, people who don’t understand the difference between CC and BCC. Remember the saying: “When in doubt, BCC has clout.” (This is not nearly as catchy as it sounded in my head).
  • Volunteers who only want to do fun stuff, at certain times of the year. Really? You only want to help around the holidays? And you don’t like “filing” and “data entry” because it’s not “meaningful” enough for you and your “second grade students”?
  • People who don’t respond to doodle polls on time. Everyone else is waiting for you, Your Excellency! And holy hummus, when you finally respond after much nagging, you are only available on the days/times that no one else is?! (I’m trying to make “holy hummus” our new catch phrase. It’s totally gen-op!)
  • People who are late all the fricken time for important meetings. I know, we need to talk about cultural competency around the sense of time, since it is much more fluid in certain cultures. Still, there are all-inclusive offenders who get on the nerves of people of all different cultures. That face you see me making when you are late yet again after I called you to remind you one hour before the event to be there on time since you have a speaking role, is the face of a man who is trying hard to resist strangling you with dental floss that he always keeps in his wallet.
  • Whiny whiners who just whine about stuff and who never propose solutions. A certain amount of whining is to be expected, and is even healthy, but your overall ratio of complaints-to-proposed-solutions should be at least 1:2, favoring solutions.
  • Gossipy gossipers who gossip all the time. It’s hurtful and unprofessional and I thought we agreed that what happens at happy hour stays at happy hour, so if you’re doing that, you cut that out right now. Especially if you work in the HR department and are trained on this stuff and should know better.
  • People who suck at being team players. They don’t do the stuff they say they’ll do (boooo!!!). Or they’re all like “Meh, that’s not in my work plan” or like “sorry, I can’t help you clean up after our organization’s giant event because I made other plans.” Or they just don’t do the crap they say they’re going to do, which affects your work. A day will come when you think you are safe and happy, and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth. And you will know the debt is paid. (See “10 Game of Thrones quotes you can use at work.”)
  • The Automatic Naysayers, (just add ideas). As one reader puts it: “A board or staff colleague whose immediate response is no, but they can’t put their finger on exactly why, nor can they identify what further work is required to address their doubt. I think that squashes innovation and entrepreneurial spirit in the nonprofit sector.” That’s right, knock it off, you spirit squasher! This also applies to innovation crushers whose default response to new ideas is “but this is how we’ve always done it.”
  • Co-workers who should really work in for-profit. Look, if you lurrrrrv everything about businesses so much and think we should constantly be more like them, why don’t you just marry a business and get out of our faces? (See “Dear business community, stop thinking you’re better than us nonprofit folks.”)
  • People who leave their dishes in the sink for days or months. As Frank Underwood from House of Cards says, “There is no solace above or below. Only us—small, solitary, striving.” There is only us. So please wash your dishes. (See “9 lessons from House of Cards we can apply to nonprofit work.”)

All right, that’s enough ranting for one birthday. No wait, readers also hate: people who speak in acronyms, people who clip their nails at their desk at work, people who provide driving/parking instructions for events but mention nothing about public transit or bike parking, and people who use obnoxious made-up words and phrases like totes, adorbs, and the feels—talk like a human being! Add your pet peeves in the comment section.

Next week, we get back to serious matters, such as how we need more reality TV shows about nonprofits.

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