Be On Time, Leave On Time

I like to think I’m unique, though there are so many ways in which I’m not. I’m not the shortest man on the planet, I don’t have the tallest hair. However, many professional experiences are solely mine, and where I find the latter most comically true is in some of my experiences in nonprofit fundraising.

Those in development (fundraising) may be familiar with the idea of the “reverse ask.” Picture it — you’re out with a donor, having a great talk, enjoying your coffee, then right as you’re about to shift into solicitation mode… the tables turn.


I hilariously remember once, a colleague and I visited a prospect at her home to discuss supporting a cultural initiative. After about one hour, my colleague gave me the look, implying, “alright, let’s do this, let’s get ‘dat money.” Misreading the room, I changed the subject — and took the donor up on her offer for cookies — which extended the visit another hour.

So there we were, entering hour three, and just as we’re about to make our ask, the donor pulls out some papers and flat out reversed the conversation — she asked us for financial support of a project she was producing. It was truly artful.

The colleague and I no longer work together, but we’re dear friends, and to this day we joke about that experience. We shake our heads in jest and say:

“Never take the cookie.”

But really what I mean is: in any given situation, know when your time expires. As nonprofiteers, I find this is something we do exceedingly poorly. Time as a gift, or at least a non-renewable resource, and it helps to fully know how much you want to offer any person or situation. It’s as respectful to leave on time as it is to be on time. When I feel something stretching longer than it should, I like to say, “So-and-so, please allow me to give you back as much of your day as I can,” which is usually understood and acknowledged.

So, folks, unless the purpose of your donor visit is to talk about pastry philanthropy, take it from me and don’t take the cookie.


Work-Work Balance Tips

Based on absolutely zero research, and having consulted no experts, I’ve followed in the footsteps of every “thought-leader” ever, and concocted a short-list of benign power tips for being successful on the job. These will change your life, and truly create a scalable value-add to your work-work balance. But first, a completely gratuitous, incorrect, mis-attributed quote.

Wishing upon a star is not a completely formulated plan, but it leads all the fish to water.” – Michelle Obama

1. Show up relatively on time, as in mostly exactly on time, though sometimes late, but also sometimes a few minutes early, so it looks unpredictably rational.

2. You don’t need to re-make the office coffee if you don’t technically finish the whole pot; always leave just enough for about 2/3rds of one more cup so it’s the next guy’s problem.

3. No matter what she says, Sharon* is always going to gossip about your business, so be careful what you say around Sharon.

4. Taking one online HR class absolutely makes you qualified to navigate the intricacies of the workplace; you can prove this by showing folks the certificate you received.

5. Don’t listen to what those sour grapes say; a casual dress code totally makes up for having to deal with a horribly toxic work environment.

* This is also true for Jenni, Nick, and some Heathers


Get it Done > Getting Credit

I have a multi-faceted philosophy on work, which often begins with: worry about getting it done. One of those facets, specifically, goes: worry about getting it done… not who gets the credit.

I grew up with a relatively no-nonsense approach to work. If something needs doing, you do it. No big fuss, no big reward. It was therefore strange entering nonprofits ~15 years ago, where I continue to find myriad colleagues who require great recognition for tasks big or small. [If you have 2 minutes, this video paints a clarifying picture.]

I’m getting at the concept of humility. In my short career, I’ve spanned public programs to administration to fundraising, and I’ve done those things at cultural institutions, universities and beyond. At the end of the day, I’ve often found colleagues — irrespective of the sector — unable turn on a dang light switch without exorbitant self-aggrandizement, either in person or on social media. More on that, here.


This also speaks to the idea of “me” instead of “we” — or “I” instead of “our.” As in many fields, much of our work as nonprofiteers does not happen in a vacuum, and fewer things get under my skin more than people taking singular credit for joint efforts. I don’t care if it’s something big like your organization’s 5k run-walk or annual luncheon, or something simpler like cleaning up a database — if you’re in it for yourself, my feeling is you’re generally in the wrong industry.

Maybe this kind of behavior is inherent. Or maybe you learned it, working for a few bosses who always stole the thunder you deserved. Either way, it’s a disappointing characteristic, and for the savvy among us, it’s totally obvious. When people tell me tales of how they individually accomplish something, I respond with inquiries about the micro-steps of which I know, for sure, they were not part. I’m passive-aggressive AF, and there’s only a “me” in “team” if you rearrange the word. Even then, it would spell “at me,” and if you take unwarranted credit, I will come at you, bro.

come at me

So next time your nonprofit — which is staffed by what? people — does something totally stellar, make sure you take a look around and consider the fine folks who helped bring the thing to fruition.