The Nonprofit Equation
Today, I heard someone say something like, “None of us wake-up and decide we’re going to work in nonprofit.” Now, I understand how he likely meant that. A lot of people do “fall” into nonprofit work. I’ve heard the "fall" story time-and-time again. And, even me… there was a time in my life that I really didn’t understand the nonprofit sector or how it contributes to society.
But, for the last eight plus years, I’ve made a conscious decision to work within the nonprofit sector or to have a job that supports it. And, I had a really terrible feeling when I heard that “none of us wake-up and decide on nonprofit.”
‘Ya know that untrue saying, “Those who can’t do, teach?” It’s crap, right? Yes, it’s crap. It should probably be, “Those who can’t teach, do.” Because, teaching is really hard. OR, better yet, it could be, “Some people have some talents and some have others. We use them where they’re best suited.”
So, the terrible feeling I had when the room snickered a bit at “none of us wake-up and decide on nonprofit” was that they were all thinking, “Those who can’t corporate, nonprofit.”
Now, I know I have an inferiority complex when it comes to nonprofit issues, which means I also know I’m overreacting to a quote I’ve probably taken right out of context because of my internal challenges. But, I often feel like the nonprofit sector is treated as “less-than” the corporate world. I mean, I’ve literally been told 1) I should be volunteering and should not be getting paid because my husband should be making the money, and 2) I’ve had someone stand next to me while I was working and assume out loud that all the ladies in the room were volunteering our time. I rather abruptly corrected him.
I guess I just want to make it clear that a lot of nonprofit professionals wake-up every morning and choose to go to work in the nonprofit sector. And, not because we’re super good people with gigantic hearts. I wouldn’t describe myself as such. The truth of the matter is that I’ve thought and do think regularly about my career with nonprofit organizations. I’d be lying to you if I said I never think about trading it all in for suits and corporate structure and parking garages. And, I mean those things in a positive way because some of that suits my personality and work environment needs pretty darn well.
But, I never think about leaving the nonprofit world because it’s “less-than” the corporate world. And, as long as I’m committed to professional work for nonprofit organizations, it’s because I’m choosing that path for myself one day at a time.
If you’re a nonprofit professional, do you ever feel like the nonprofit sector is seen as “less-than?”
I'm The Expert (Not You)
Get ready… this is an entry where I tell you that I’m good at what I do professionally but hope you don’t think I’m pompous simply because I go on about how I know what I’m doing because I have experience doing it. (You won’t actually think I’m pompous. I just worry about crap like that.)
Now, I don’t know if this is unique to work on behalf of nonprofits, but I feel like as I’ve made the transition back to working directly for a nonprofit business, I’m often being told how to do my job.
Also, I should note that I’m totally open to new ideas, being proven wrong (proven is the operative word – not just people assuming they are right and telling me they are pretty sure they’re right), and learning. So, it’s not just your average, everyday person trying to be helpful that I’m bothered by. It’s people in a room who are super good at what they do but attempt to give you advice on the thing you’re super good at doing.
Like, I don’t hang drywall (hang? install?). So, I can’t ever imagine a scenario where I would say to a drywall expert, “Oh, you’re still thinking about what brand of drywall* you should use? Well, I think you should get a brand that’s really durable.” Or, better yet, “Well, I think you would probably need drywall that’s yellow because yellow is the best, I would think.”
Two things just happened there. Let me explain it through some examples that are familiar to me and my career in development.
First, there’s the “obvious” advice. I don’t know anything about drywall, but I’m not a complete idiot, so I’m pretty sure you’d want durable drywall. BUT I DON’T NEED TO OPEN MY MOUTH TO TELL A DRYWALL EXPERT THAT. HE/SHE ALREADY KNOWS.
At my former job, I’d get advice on the regular that I should sit those baseball players down and tell them all about doing great things in Kansas City. Yes; yes, I should. But, I know that, and I also knew what barriers existed to accomplishing that. AND WHY WOULDN’T YOU THINK THAT I ALREADY THOUGHT OF THAT. I’M THE EXPERT at managing internal talent given that I’m the one running a sports team foundation.
Second, there’s the “ridiculous” advice. I’m pretty sure yellow drywall isn’t a thing. But, yet, I’m compelled to tell the drywall expert something completely off-base revealing that I have no idea about what I’m talking but in an attempt to look like I know something about the matter.
This one really throws me off. I have no idea how to politely say, “You’re 100% wrong about that, and I know that because I’M THE EXPERT on the matter.”
And, can I be really honest? I feel like this happens to me a lot. And, I think it happens because people make assumptions about other people (we all do!), and I fear that assumptions people make about me are bad. For the last six years, the word director or chief has appeared in my title. I used to think that earned me some type of credibility, but I’m pretty sure these days that nobody pays attention to or cares about my title. But, I’m fairly certain that because I look young (yay!), am super short, and don’t just talk to hear myself in meetings (for real, I try not to do it, and if I do, it’s because I’m insecure about something) that people don’t typically take me very seriously or make the assumption that I don’t have a lot of professional experience.
I suspect this because people often just CANNOT BELIEVE that I am 38-years old and a licensed attorney who no longer practices and ran a $3.5 million public foundation and is really quite good at the development work I’m currently doing.
Now, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t temper all of this boastfulness with a disclaimer… I am so open to learning from others. And, I have SO MUCH MORE TO LEARN about my profession. But, you know who I’m not going to ask? The drywall gal.**
*I’m not sure if there are different brands of drywall.
**Not because she isn’t excellent at drywalling. Because installing impeccable drywall isn’t super helpful to me as I grow in my career. Just like my lousy opinion on drywalling (verb?) ain’t worth a dime to her.
My Turquoise Jeans Burden
I have a terrible habit of supporting nonprofit businesses through shopping at for-profit businesses’ events that promise a percentage of sales proceeds will be donated to the chosen nonprofit. And, back in the spring of 2013, I found the most beautiful and burdensome turquoise jeans.
There is a local animal welfare nonprofit that I love because my adopted pups were waifs there. And, at one point, there was an annual shopping event at a Kate Spade store that benefitted that animal welfare agency. I loved this. What a fantastic excuse to spend too much money. “It will benefit the pets,” she said. I also distinctly remember that this was the second time in my life that I was actively trying to bring my weight back down to 120 lbs., which is about where I had hovered most of my life (save for end of college/law school when I was up in the 130s – that’s the first time I actively tried to lose weight to get back to 120ish). I recall weighing 127 lbs. at this Kate Spade shopping event. Seven pounds to lose.
While I was shopping, I found the most beautiful turquoise jeans, and I’m pretty sure they were on-sale. That’s good news. I wasn’t paying full-price, AND I was supporting pets. But, the jeans didn’t actually fit. I mean, they almost fit. But, they didn’t fit. I decided that they would be my goal jeans. Besides, I was about to start a new job, and I just knew that my new schedule and lifestyle would help me easily lose seven pounds.
Instead, I gained 40. 40 pounds. I weighed 167 lbs. at my worst. (For context, I’m 5’0” tall.)
When I started my new job, I stopped working out… like completely. I worked long hours. I was getting sick on the regular, and I was eating food served in a press dining club to mostly men who ate a lot of hot dogs and popcorn and nachos. Oh, and then, I’d have a cookie. Every night. Because everyone else was doing that, too. And, lordy, do I love cookies.
And, I’m not totally sure what stopped it. Although, I did recall reading somewhere that while a person might owe her employer a lot of things, she does not owe that employer her health.
I finally figured out that I was, in-fact, giving my employer my health. At the beginning of 2016 and after gaining 40 lbs. in three years, I started going to barre and Pilates classes. I had started to get back into working out before that time, but it wasn’t enough to combat the overeating habits, the dips in blood sugar because there wasn’t consistency in the timing of my eating, the fact that I started adding artificial sweetener to coffees and teas (which didn’t make sense because I was proud of liking teas that tasted like “dirt”), the eating when a migraine started in hopes that it would help the pain stop, and the unbelievable anxiety at my job in October 2014 and October 2015 (never mind the ongoing stress I experienced). I liked Pilates. It was just hard enough that I had to think about doing it, which allowed me to clear my head from the job stresses. But, it was something I could do, which kept me coming through the door.
I stabilized my weight that year, but I wasn’t losing it. So, in 2017, I signed-up for Hitch Fit’s online weight-loss program, and I followed it. And, I lost weight. I was right at the 140 lbs. mark, and I had learned some really great eating and nutrition habits that I’ve carried with me since I stopped following the program. I changed my workout during the Hitch Fit time to do what was recommended, but I also knew that the routine wasn’t something I enjoyed. So, I headed back to Pilates and barre, and I loved it.
I still love it. But, I weigh 152 lbs. now. I had told myself at some point that it wasn’t going to be super important to me what the number on the scale said as long as I was eating-well and being active. But, that’s not true. I care what that number says. I care how plump my belly is, and I care that the doctor writes in her notes that in order to lower my cholesterol I should work-out at least three times per week. I AM WORKING OUT AT LEAST THREE TIMES PER WEEK.
And, throughout all of this, these perfectly turquoise Kate Spade jeans that had helped support pets hung in my closet and burdened me. I kept them there because they were my “goal jeans.” My goal was to lose the seven pounds I had gained at the time I tried on the jeans so the beautiful things would fit. I would have been 120 lbs. and walking around in turquoise jeans. It never happened.
And, as I got back to about 140 lbs. through Hitch Fit, I was super proud of myself. But, I realized that those damn jeans were still in my closet telling me that I wanted to weigh 120 lbs. The idea of having to lose another 20 lbs. sounded impossible, and honestly, that wasn’t even my goal. My goal now was to reach 130 lbs., but I still had in the back of my mind that 120 lbs. was ideal because, ‘ya know, the “goal jeans.” So, the jeans remained. They survived A LOT of closet cleanings.
So, just a few days ago, at 152 lbs. with a desire to lose another 22 lbs. but not to weigh 120 lbs., I took the jeans out of my closet preparing to donate them.
Because, goals change. And, it’s worth reassessing what your new goals are vs. goals you had more than five years ago (ten years ago, three minutes ago, 40 years ago, etc.). And, there’s zero reason to be focused on something that has become a burden because it doesn’t even represent what you want anymore. Now, if I could find those jeans in a size that would fit a 130 lbs. person, I might just buy them again… but, at least, they would represent what I wanted.
So, the jeans and I took a ride to an event that required either a $5 donation for entry or the donation of a gently-used clothing item. My never used Kate Spade, perfectly turquoise jeans that were purchased as goal jeans to support a local animal welfare agency had now been donated at another shopping event to support another local animal welfare agency. Hopefully, it sets me free from an old goal and gives me the strength I need to set and attain newer goals. And, if for nothing else, the pets of my community continue to benefit from my shopping habits.
The Context of Compliments
I feel safe in saying that all women have experienced some type of sexism or sexual harassment. And, as I’ve grown older, I’ve grown more sensitive to it. Or, I’ve been better at identifying it.
When I was working my first high school job, I thought I just had to accept that “older than me cook” talked about how he liked me, that I was cute, etc. And, the other adults in the room didn’t do much to help me understand that it wasn’t acceptable. ‘Ya know; he was just teasing. That wasn’t very helpful adult guidance because I was at an age where I was already starting to believe that my worth depended on boys and their interest in me.
At somewhere in my mid-20s, when a couple guys drove up next to me as I walked to work and invited me to a party (which isn’t the best way to extend an invitation, in mg opinion), I pretended to be thankful. ‘Ya know, to make sure they didn’t get mad that I didn’t appreciate their advances and hurt me. Now, I had a clue that what was happening was unacceptable, but I was pretending not to understand to protect the feelings of men I’d never met and to avoid any possibility of my being hurt.
At 38, I had experienced so much sexism (mostly subtle and mostly in work environments), that any compliment on my appearance by a man that wasn’t in my close circle made me feel downright angry. Although, I still feigned appreciation which made me feel even worse.
So, today, when a man working the drive-thru at a local juicery/good food place handed me my unsweetened latte with unsweetened, house-made almond milk and said, “Have a nice day, beautiful,” and I drove away with the biggest smile on my face, I was utterly confused at my reaction.
At first, I thought it was odd that I valued his words when I would have hated those words in other contexts. I laughed out loud when I thought it was just another one of my “hypocrite” moments. Like, if you yell, “Hey, beautiful,” at me from a car window, you must see me as an object and be sexualizing me. But, if you say, “Have a nice day, beautiful,” from the drive thru window at a juicery/good food place, you just made my day.
But, here’s the thing…. context around compliments is actually important. I will never stop thinking that it’s weird when a man with whom I’m talking for a professional reason says, “Your hair really looks nice that way.” Yeah, don’t do that, men. You wouldn’t go to a lunch meeting with another male colleague or contemporary and say, “Thanks for discussing this important topic with me, and also, your hair looks nice longer.”
And, when the two men whom I’ve never met or seen before in my life drive by in their car and invite me to a party while I’m walking alone to work, I get scared. So, also, don’t do that, men. I literally worry about being assaulted and killed in almost every environment, so compliments don’t feel super good when they scare me.
But, when the guy from the drive thru window at the juicery/good food place said “beautiful” to me, intuition suggested that he didn’t mean it like, “You’ve got a hot face and nice hair, beautiful.” He meant it like he probably actually believes that we’re all beautiful at our core, and it wouldn’t hurt to be reminded of that. And, because I know I need that reminder, I smiled.
#LetsRoll, Or Not…
First of all, I hate the Chiefs’ chosen hashtag for this playoff run. “Let’s Roll” is the phrase that was generally accepted as the phrase that was used when a group of people decided to take down a plane on September 11, 2001, over Pennsylvania instead of crashing into whatever iconic target as planned. To be clear, I’m not a ‘Merica kind of person (like, I believe in everything she could be, not everything she really is), and I even believe we were never really told the full story about that horrible day.
And, that’s just one example of why I’m a hypocrite. Because no matter how much I hate that hashtag, I’ll be watching the AFC Championship.
So, maybe I should just make a list. I hate the NFL. I think American football is dangerous and barbaric. I think the NFL doesn’t really care about the life-long effects of injuries to its players who make their owners so rich.
But, I’ll be watching the AFC Championship.
I hate that the Chiefs are named the Chiefs. The Native American imagery and imitation is gross. We built this country by removing (and that’s a euphemism) its indigenous people. Then, we reason that it’s some kind of honor to Tomahawk Chop our way to the playoffs.
But, I’ll be watching the AFC Championship.
I hate that Chiefs fans yell, “Home of the CHIEFS!,” at the end of the National Anthem. And, don’t get me started on the NFL and its relationship with the National Anthem. The NFL has been part of the inaccurate narrative that its players were protesting the Anthem when 1) they were protesting something far more pervasive than the Anthem (like culturally engrained racism), and 2) part of what makes the United States special is that we really aren’t supposed to be Nationalists honoring the flag and the Anthem by requirement. We can choose to sit for it, and that actually makes us pretty darn patriotic when we exercise the freedom to sit, kneel, or not otherwise stand.
But, I’ll be watching the AFC Championship.
I hate that the NFL hasn’t taken domestic violence committed by its players seriously. I hate that only when video surfaces of an incident that a player release is considered. I hate that the release doesn’t occur until the NFL has confirmed that the (very good) player can’t play for any other team for the remainder of the (soon to be releasing team’s promising) season.
But, I’ll be watching the AFC Championship.
And, if we’re talking really high level, I hate sports. I hate the drinking that accompanies it. I hate that people think God cares about which team wins. I hate that our players are paid unbelievable money, and I hate that the rich get richer at the expense of people who just want to be in the stands to root for their hometown team.
But, to know the truth about me is to know that I LOVE SPORTS. Baseball is my favorite closely followed by college basketball. But, I will watch almost any sport being played. I LOVE SPORTS. I tried in college to pretend like I didn’t love sports because I was running with a super cool music focused crowd (like, they were super cool… I was hanging around them hoping some of the cool dripped off on me). BUT, I LOVE SPORTS.
I’ve seen all too closely the positive impact a sports team can have on a community, and even though I believe all of the things I said earlier in this entry, I STILL LOVE SPORTS.
And, part of this blog for me is opening-up about things that make me… well, me. And, one of things is my tendency towards being hypocritical because I was born to see things from too many different perspectives. I’ll be exploring this further as we go along, but my parents’ personalities almost seem like complete opposites. I’m the product of that (both nature-like and nurture-like). It means that I truly often believe two things that are completely contrary to each other.
As I said, I hate the NFL, and I’ll be watching the AFC Championship rooting for the Chiefs and wearing my red sweatshirt (which totally says Rock Chalk on it and has nothing to do with the Chiefs but is my way of showing support without giving money to the team through apparel purchases).
My nephew has made two stinkin’ adorable comments related to the television since I’ve known him. The first was when he was quite young. He was used to seeing me and my partner together in real life. So, when my mother turned on the television to see one of the relatively frequent interviews I was doing on behalf of a prior job, he asked, “Where’s Partner?” (Partner isn’t his real name.)
He thought that because Partner and I were together when we were in Nephew’s (Nephew isn’t his real name.) presence, we were together everywhere, even on TV.
Much more recently, I received the reminder that Nephew was playing in his first real basketball game... at an elementary school. When I arrived, Nephew’s Mom told me that as they prepared to leave their house for the first basketball game, Nephew asked, “Is my game gonna be on TV?”
I have no idea why Nephew actually thought his basketball game played at an elementary school gym was important enough to be broadcast on television. And, at first, I was going to write this entry about “kids these days,” and their focus on “likes,” being “Insta-famous,” and screen-time.
Then, I thought about it, and I wondered if seeing his Aunt on TV has oddly skewed his belief that things our family does are on TV. Eh, maybe not.
Then, I thought about it some more and decided that THE KID JUST THOUGHT HIS GAME WAS THAT IMPORTANT. This isn’t the time to argue about whether what’s on TV actually is important. And, you can understand why a kid playing his first basketball game at an elementary school does think that things on TV are important.
And, I love that he would care so much about something that he assumes other people care as much as he does. I wish I did everything with the mindset that, “This is so important; it’s gonna be on the TV.” But, honestly, I assume that almost everything I do won’t be on television.
And, maybe, that means Nephew’s approach is better.
Welcome to Blank Ballot
Let’s start with why it’s called Blank Ballot. First, I’ll give you the literal story. I love voting. I recognize that there was a time in our country when women and people of color weren’t able to vote. I recognize that voting is one of the key ways to actually be counted and to make an impact politically. I know that voting isn’t as pure as it might once have been. Lobbyists and other special interests get to our elected officials who often succumb to interests beyond those of their constituents. But, I don’t care. I love voting. I want to be counted.
However, I don’t love when I’m uneducated on a topic or about a candidate, and I’m faced with a ballot question. But, I refuse to let that stop me from trekking to my polling station. If I don’t know enough about a question but feel strongly about another ballot measure, I vote on the one, and I skip the other. If there’s only one issue on the ballot, and I’m opposed to selecting a candidate or an answer to the proposed question, I still go to cast an entirely blank ballot. Let’s say there is a special election, and there are two candidates in opposition. But, I’m opposed to both candidates. If I don’t go to the polls and cast a ballot, there’s no way to know what I’m thinking. Was I busy? Did I forget? Am I disenfranchised? If I go to the polls and cast a blank ballot, all of those questions are eliminated. I went to the polls, but I didn’t make a selection. I said, “I want to be counted as someone who doesn’t like the choices.” What if after 100% of the ballots were counted, 25% selected option one, 35% selected option two, and 40% cast a blank ballot? Did we just indicate, by being counted rather than just giving up on voting because there are no good options, that we want different choices?*
So, Blank Ballot is actually a protest concept. But, on a personal level, it explains a lot about me. And, let’s be honest; if I’m the one writing this blog, you’re going to learn a lot about me and how I see the world. My hope is that you identify with some of how I perceive things and process experiences.
I have a lot of opinions. A lot. But, if you know me casually, you probably don’t know that. I work hard to play nice, be liked, and avoid conflict. And, usually, I’m successful at it. And, it tears me up inside. I’ll have to address the “tearing up inside” as we get better acquainted. For now, you need to understand that I want to scream my opinions from rooftops. I want to get into arguments on Facebook that are well-reasoned (at least by me) and not worry about how my Facebook friend perceives me because I’ve said how I feel. But, for now, I protest more quietly. And, while I often don’t think that gets the job done, I know it’s how I’ve been inclined to share my opinion and make an impact. Casting a blank ballot is quiet, non-offensive, and anonymous. And, although I think it can be effective, for me, it’s more a symbol of my desire to be heard but not if I have to be too loud.
So, Blank Ballot begins. While I hope that casting a blank ballot does catch-on as a protest mechanism, I also hope that through this process, I catch-on to protesting** loudly through the written word. My protests will range from funny, to political, to social, to observational (probably mostly observational), and authentic. And, I know you’ll relate. If you don’t, I’ll have to learn to be disliked for being me. That just has to be better than being liked for being someone I’m not.
Welcome to Blank Ballot.
*I understand the election commission would just indicate that option two won. If 1,000 people cast ballots, election results would still dictate that the person getting 350 votes vs. 250 votes would win. But, it seems like it could stir up a story that 1,000 people went to the polls and the majority of voters (400) didn’t pick a candidate at all.
**Protesting is used loosely here. Its definition within this blog has more to do with honestly sharing my opinions and observations without letting my fear of judgment stop me. The blog generally protests living an inauthentic life. Stay tuned to hear more about authenticity and your environment’s impact on it. Turns out, you (I) might not be as inauthentic as you (I) often feel in certain spaces.
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