Game of Thrones Nonprofit Staffers

We know them. We work with them. We eat lunch with them. They are our colleagues who resemble characters from Game of Thrones. By no means a definitive list, but definitely an accurate list.

Bran Stark

Bran is the quintessential Executive Director. Doesn’t say a lot in meetings, pretty much zones out in every conversation, and where exactly was he before coming to your organization? No one knows. On the other hand, he has somehow convinced the entire organization he has special skills (powers?) which everyone expects will somehow make great things possible. The one time you expect him to step up big and close the icy major donor, he wargs into some lame corporate sponsor who gives an in-kind gift of bags with ravens on them. Way to under-impress everyone, Bran.

Arya Stark

Arya is obviously the day-saving Executive Assistant. You can tell she has a bit of a sordid past, but she’s charming and knows how to clean up the ED’s lackluster failures. Her wardrobe choice is a bit peculiar, and you’re pretty sure she could kill you with an envelope opener. But remember that one time the ED was supposed to close the icy major donor and didn’t? Yeah, well Arya snuck in at the last minute and closed the deal, even though it clearly wasn’t her responsibility. I’m not sure anyone was really surprised, though.

Cersei Lannister

Cersei is your run-of-the-mill horrible board member. She’s clearly in it for selfish reasons, and only got on the board because of her rich husband, who died rather questionably. She has something negative to say at every meeting and just wants her stupid kids and brother to chair various ridiculous committees. She would gladly see the organization go bankrupt before giving up her position.

The Night King

Controversial opinion here, but I’m going to say the Night King is the rarity we know as a true “Nonprofit Leader.” Leaders have followers, and this guy has hordes, doesn’t he? And is there a better example of a leader who raises up his followers and lets them do what they’re supposed to do? Conversely, his staff are too dependent on him, and when he goes on a “long vacation” everyone pretty much falls down on the job.

Tyrion Lannister

Tyrion is probably the CFO. And since so many nonprofits do this weird thing of shoveling finance, operations and HR into one position, it’s perfect. He knows the numbers, but also somehow gets people. The ED and board question him all the time, though he usually ends up being painfully right. Side note: He may have a drinking problem, and several people have reported smelling Dornish wine on his breath in the office.

Rickon Stark

Sweet Rickon. Sweet, sweet Rickon. As the millennial Project Manager, everyone really enjoys his generally positive attitude, including the belief he can survive the cruelty of the dreaded Program Director. Sadly, no one was very surprised when the Program Director gave Rickon “autonomy” over that Zig Zag project, and when he didn’t deliver, he was executed. Fired, I mean fired.


As a fundraiser myself, I hate to admit… Varys is a Development Director, but a really smarmy one. He deploys a ton of sinister methods to get people’s donations, including really icky methods of gaining people’s trust, and even flat-out lying about the organization’s mission and programs. To the chagrin of Association of Fundraising Professionals, he uses his friends who work at other nonprofits to gain information about their donors, then solicits them directly for his organization.

Who’s missing? Who are we leaving off? With the seemingly endless list of characters, who’s obviously a nonprofiteer from the show?

See also: The Five People You Meet In Nonprofits


The 7 Faces of Fundraisers

Some people may know the early 90s book, The Seven Faces of Philanthropy. It mused on seven types of donors — the “socialite,” the “investor,” etc. The book is a quarter-century old, though it still holds its weight in the canon of good practice literature.

Since there are, evidently, seven types of donors, I thought it would be fun to explore the types of people asking those donors for support. I give to you, THE SEVEN FACES OF FUNDRAISERS

  • The Lazy Larry — You’re not at all sure what this person does all day, since they’re never out with donors. They spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and absolutely no one is surprised when they leave after 18 months, just a few weeks before you learn the organization won’t meet its fundraising goal. Thanks, Larry.
  • The Michael Scott — Much like the character from The Office, this person somehow remembers everything about every donor, like grandchildren’s birthdays, favorite cars, spousal musical interests and beyond. It’s magical to experience, though replicating this skill is impossible. If they quit, you are screwed.
  • The Sleeze — Much like Clementine from this post, this person is always fundraising, irrespective of the situation. Doesn’t matter if it’s a luncheon, funeral or doctor visit, they are always talking about their organization in the most smarmy way possible, and it’s gross.
  • The Overachiever — Your organization wants to do an annual appeal, capital campaign AND gala, even though there’s only one development staffer? No problem, the overachiever has your back! Not one of those things will get done well, but by golly, “E” for effort. Much like Lazy Larry, this one may also be gone in 18 months, but only because they need to go “find themselves” in a new job at Lululemon.
  • The Transition-ist — This one doesn’t make any sense on paper. They come from a totally different field like corporate banking or Starbucks, perhaps with the expectation they might bring a fresh perspective. Usually they spend too much time talking about “how things used to be” at their last gig, with nonsensical suggestions on how to do things like “scale up” or “optimize.”
  • The Analyst — Numbers are the only thing that matter. Did you make your goal, no. Will the organization have to lay people off, yes. But new donor acquisitions are up by 3 percent, so, winning!
  • The No Nonsense Nicholas — Colleagues and contributors alike love working with this person. They have passion for the mission, don’t overstep with donors, never suggest new program ideas just to solicit funds and they are generally super pleasant. Similar to The Michael Scott, this one is a unicorn.

So does this sum it up? Who is missing from the list? Inquiring minds want to know…

[See also, The Five People you Meet in Nonprofits]