Treat Yo’ Self

Note: This isn’t necessarily a nonprofit-centric post, though after nearly two decades of experience, I see this issue more in our sector than others. Please also don’t accept any of this as medical advice; there were no health courses as part of my nonprofit management degree.

Friends, Romans, countrymen (and women and others)… lend me your ears. Stop. Coming. To work. Sick. Say it with me now. STOP COMING TO WORK SICK. I don’t know what it is about our field — maybe it’s a misinterpreted sense of purpose, or the feeling that appearing in the office showcases a stronger dedication to the mission. Whatever the reason, all y’all need to walk your sneezy, coughing, runny-nose selves back to your cars and go home.


We are in the throes of cold and flu season, and all it takes is one of you to bring your acute viral rhinopharyngitis to the office before all 20 of us are down for the count. I’ve worked places where a simple cold made the rounds for three months (one quarter-year!) because everyone felt they needed to send e-mails from their cubicle instead of the comfort of their own homes.

To be fair, this isn’t solely on the shoulders of employees. If you’re traipsing around the office with a box of tissues and a blanket, it’s up to the powers-that-be to assess and request you go home, if appropriate — lest anyone take advantage of what should be an honorable system. That said, there are helpful things to know, which I for one found eye-opening.

  • First, it’s not allergies. Susan, you have the full-on plague, and your nose has been leaking for days. Why are you in the office claiming it’s just tree pollen? Please Purell everything you’ve touched, and go lay down in your domicile.
  • Yes, you are still contagious. A simple Google search notes the common cold is contagious one day prior to symptoms, and up to seven days after. Keep this in mind when being near people, hugging people, shaking hands, sharing food, etc.
  • Give yourself some space. I can’t imagine why, though if for some reason it is absolutely necessary for you to be in the office around other human beings, studies have shown, “a person with the flu can infect others from as far as six feet away.” Share an open office with other people? Keep that in mind when Chad sneezes in the cubicle right next to you.
  • Zoe’s Chicken Soup. My own personal opinion here, but for some reason, Zoe’s chicken soup has some crazy non-medicinal healing powers, and it’s delicious… if you happen to live in one of the 17 states where they have stores.

None of this is rocket science, right? And if it is, I’m glad to have played a small part in your continuing education. Nonprofiteers, let this haiku help you in times of germophobic worry:

Feeling sick today?
Stay sneezing and coughing in
your own darn bedroom.


The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

Most of us are probably familiar with the classic holiday Andy Williams song. But the tune was actually co-written by George Wyle and Edward Pola. Behind the scenes, the two crafted possibly one of the most well-known holiday songs, ever. A lot of great things happen behind the scenes, and the movers and shakers often get less credit than they deserve.

As a nonprofiteer, I think about this a lot during the holidays. I think about all the terrific things happening throughout the year, and I certainly think about the equally terrific people who make those things happen. In my world of fundraising — especially as it relates to corporate and foundation partners — those people are not always the top figures. They might be coordinators, executive assistants or other complementary collaborators.

Each year, at some point between Thanksgiving and December 31, I always make it a point to set aside a good chunk of time to not only reflect on the past year’s experiences, I make sure to thank each and every one of those complementary collaborators. I pick up the phone, I write notes, I send e-mails. Some I’m closer with, and some I’ve never met, but in no small way they have all made my life easier and better, and they deserve exceptional appreciation.

So as we inch closer to December 31, won’t all y’all join me in sharing thanks with these superheroes? Because really, it IS the most wonderful time of the year.



Stop Making “Test Gifts”

In fundraising, there’s a little glitch in the Matrix some call the “test gift.” These are your not-small-but-not-large gifts — let’s say $250 to $1,000 — given by a donor to “test” a nonprofit’s stewardship. Often, I find, these are donations given by folks on the fringe of an organization’s orbit, or not involved at all.

The reasons donors do this are varied. Some may want to see how snappy a thank you note or call from the organization will arrive. Some may actually want to be more involved, and feel this is one way to open the door. Whatever the reason, there are better ways to spend one’s time and resources.

I follow someone on Twitter called The Whiny Donor. Usually their posts are pretty spot on, though a series of recent diatribes (about not being stewarded by a nonprofit to which they gave a test gift) was unsettling. They go on through a number of posts to express disappointment in the lack of follow-through, even noting a call to the organization to see if the gift arrived. Admittedly, the NPO gave a fairly lackluster response.

Most people flocked to their side, though Twitterer Peter Gannon took an alternative view; suggesting nonprofits aren’t always well-oiled machines, and perhaps The Whiny Donor could offer to volunteer and help them improve. TWD’s response: You are assuming I am invested in this organization. I am not… I have no obligation to help them correct their flawed stewardship. Then why make a gift in the first place?

This hit deep. I work in development for a sizable organization. Our stewardship game is down to a science (in place long before I arrived), though on my own time I volunteer on boards for a number of *small* organizations — budgets under $100,000. These are basically all-volunteer shops, where the boards are not only governing, but operational. In these emerging NPOs, you immediately feel it when things go well, and you also clearly see where the screws need tightening.

Sometimes in these “small, underfunded nonprofits” (TWD’s words), the mail isn’t checked everyday. Online donations aren’t tracked in any systematized way. It is unclear who the most right people are to lead stewardship. I’m not excusing these behaviors, though the scrappiest nonprofits are often founded and led by people with a tremendous sense of responsibility for the mission, with only a modest comprehension of how nonprofits function.

Don’t misunderstand — I believe all donors should be thanked, often, and with haste. They are the life blood of our sector, and make transformative things possible. The fact I work in development creates a laser-focus for me on this issue, and it’s typically my prime directive for the organizations with which I work. But along the way, I made it a practice to discourage test gifts, and stop making them myself. Nonprofits have enough on their plates, and while I believe there are too many of them, it’s our charge as mindful humans to help make them the best they can be. Not challenge them publicly, brazenly, and unnecessarily. Instead…

  • Feel like making a test gift? DON’T. Instead, make a hearty act of charity because you like what the organization is doing. Some would say, the act itself is all the thanks you need.
  • You made that gift and get radio silence? DO call or e-mail and see if it arrived, but only if you really care about the cause. If the response is uninspired, explore appropriate ways to offer constructive feedback. Who knows, this could be the next board on which you serve!
  • Do all that and still feel shafted? In research, sometimes “no data” are all the data you need. Acknowledge you did a good thing, and move on. There are 1.5 million other nonprofits which would be delighted to count (and steward) you as a donor.

That’s all, folks. It’s a fantastic time of year for kindness and thoughtfulness, so go do those things, and do them often.