Ugh: On the Absurdity of Nonprofit Job Titles

Nonprofits are really good at being really bad about titling positions with multiple responsibilities. A shortlist* for your consideration…

  • Human Resources and Marketing Director
  • Marketing and Operations Assistant
  • Development and Bathroom Services Liaison
  • Executive Director and Window Washer
  • Senior Assistant Associate Deputy Director of Hole Punching II
  • Vice President of Advancement and Dogsitting 
  • Education and Lightbulb Associate
  • Volunteer Services and Carwash Assistant
  • Chief Financial Officer and Office Chef
  • Executive Assistant and Yogi
  • Junior Research Analyst and Crossfit Instructor
  • Social Media and Spiritual Guidance Coordinator
  • Outreach and Backrub Specialist
  • Assistant Director of Events and Costco Membership 
  • Marketing, Operations, Human Resources, Development, Education, Social Media, Outreach, Patron Services and Cookie Baking Manager

Well, at least we pay well……………..

*Y’all have seen things like this while job searching. Don’t lie.



How long to wait before following up with a donor?

To: JaneJimOhare77@aol.com
From: Joe.Desperate@SaveUs.org
Date: July 1, 2016
Subject: Hello to Jane and Jim!

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Ohare,

Best wishes to you both and hope the summer has been treating you well. July always brings a smile, as we roll into a new fiscal year here at SaveUs! John Creep (our director) and I would love to meet with you both to share some of our exciting goals and plans for the year.

I’ll follow up with you both next week so we can set a time. Until then, have a wonderful weekend!

Joe Desperate, Director of Development

To: JaneJimOhare77@aol.com
From: Joe.Desperate@SaveUs.org
Date: October 3, 2016
Subject: Re: Hello to Jane and Jim!

Dear Jane and Jim,

I realize I never followed up with you back in the summer, my apologies! Here in Minnesota, the leaves have turned and we are looking towards a wonderful holiday season upcoming! John Creep and I still hope to meet with you soon, perhaps you can let us know when you are available? So much exciting news to share!

Joe Desperate

To: JaneJimOhare77@aol.com
From: Joe.Desperate@SaveUs.org
Date: April 3, 2017
Subject: Re: Re: Hello to Jane and Jim!

Jane and Jim,

It has been many months and you have not returned my e-mail. Here at SaveUs, we hope all is okay with you both. If you can let me know when you have some time, that would be wonderful. Thanks.


To: JaneJimOhare77@aol.com
From: Joe.Desperate@SaveUs.org
Date: December 31, 2018
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Hello to Jane and Jim!


My how the time has passed! I realize I never followed up with you from my last e-mail, and I hope you’ve had a great summer, fall, winter, spring, summer and fall. Here we are on the last day of 2018 and we are hoping you will consider renewing your $15 gift from 2015 — it meant so much to us! You can get to our donation page by Googling “SaveUs nonprofit” then follow the instructions.

Thanks you,

To: JaneJimOhare77@aol.com
From: Christy.Careless@SaveUs.org
Date: July 1, 2019
Subject: Dear Jane and Jim!

Hello to you, Jane and Jim. My name is Christy Careless with SaveUs, and I am the new development manager, replacing Joe Desperate. I notice in our database you made a transformational gift of $15 a few years back. Please consider renewing this donation. If you do, our new director, Laura Lax would be delighted to send you a meaningful hand-written thank you note.


Christy Careless, Development Manager


Tact: On the Importance of Kindness

The Scene: One of Houston’s myriad mattress retailers. [Seriously, why are there so many?] My wife and I, looking for a new guest room mattress. Twenty-something salesperson who couldn’t seem less interested in closing a sale.

SALESPERSON: This mattress is $800.
Us: Okay, we are looking to spend about $600.
SP: Okay, maybe, but I need to call my manager to approve it.
Us: Okay, go for it.
SP: No, I’m not gonna call him unless you definitely buy it. He’s a very busy man.
Us: ……..
SP: ……..

I was flummoxed. As the only people in the store, it seemed odd to put so much effort into losing a sale. That may not have been the intent, but it happened. Imagine if fundraisers did this? Yeah sure we want your major gift, but I’m not gonna connect you with my executive director unless you guarantee you’ll make the donation.

There is something to be said for tact, and common sense and subtlety are so important in the donor (or customer or client) experience. I say it often, this is the field of feel, where nuance and thoughtfulness go very far. You catch more flies with stewardship than you do vinegar. Or something…

To be clear, some nonprofits work this way. Heck, I’ve worked for some of them. And it might just work and it might just be fine. But who really shines by being fine? Especially as it relates to philanthropy, there’s A LOT of competition out there, and we all need to be our best nonprofit selves. [Note: This piece is a few years old, and the focus is a little social media-heavy, though good wisdom is ageless.]

So get out there, nonprofiteers, and sell those mattresses. Or raise awareness of your mission. Whatever, really, just do it graciously. Always and in all ways. Onward!