Rants

Lo, Low-Key Braggarts

I started noticing this trend during Hurricane Harvey. For sure it wasn’t a new trend, though it only then caught my attention: people doing good-enough, selfless deeds, but not without posting serious self-kudos on social media. This was in Houston (TX), but with so many natural disasters happening around the U.S., I’m sure people see it often, throughout the country.

But why rant about this here? Well, the people I noticed doing this the most seemed to be my fellow nonprofiteers. Not that they were the only ones out there volunteering, delivering food, being good humans… but I’ll tell you it wasn’t my oil-and-gas, for-profit friends whose Facegrams and Instabooks were filled with low-key brags.

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Caveat: This is a rant, not a diatribe. Lots of folks were posting calls to action, i.e. “I’m here at the Convention center; here’s what they need and here’s what you need to know if you’re coming out…” and as someone who was interested in lending a hand, I saw those as helpful, if not meaningful.

If I had to distill down the reason why this happens so often in nonprofits, I’d probably say — ego. And by ego, I obviously mean the Urban Dictionary definition“The main reason that I am better than you.” Ego can be an incredibly useful tool. It can get people to dream big about seemingly impossible (or improbable) outcomes. The flip side, of course, is self-aggrandizement, which is rampant in our field. If you spend enough time on this blog, you’ll notice people’s opinions of themselves is a sticking point for me.

On a more work-related level, I think LinkedIn is the other primary venue for undercover gloating. I mean, no one really cares you got invited to participate with some lackluster panel discussion about [insert benign topic here]. Well, maybe your mother cares, but probably not the entirety of the Internet. And why don’t they care? Because there’s no call to action (see above). Instead of just boasting about [benign topic], tell us why we should care. Tell us what impact it will have on us, our work, the field, etc. Maybe then we’ll “like” it or “share” it or even leave a comment. Oooooooooooooo.

Rant, over, but to help drive the point home, please enjoy this chart I made with Microsoft Paint. Thank you very much.

Bragging

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Rants

You. Are. Not. Seasoned.

A delicious steak is lightly seasoned. Middle Eastern chicken might be zataar-seasoned. A nonprofiteer in their early 30s — not seasoned. I learned this lesson the hard way a while back on a resume-updating exercise.

A friend was helping to improve my materials, and poked at how I boldly described myself as a “seasoned nonprofit leader,” which was a stretch. At best, he clarified, I was “experienced.” That new, accurate resume put me on a pretty awesome new path, though it came with some hits to my title. I realized then, titles are just words, and it built perspective for me on how I interpret my work, and how I represent myself in the field.

I’m sure, like me, you see evidence of it all over LinkedIn and the interwebs: people with modest experience who drink a bit too much Narcissism Juice. I find it sad on a practical level, because I can actually see potential in some of these folks… maybe five or 10 years down the road, with the right leadership.

Maybe I’m biased, given my background — I’m a recovering nonprofit arts producer-turned-fundraiser. And boy, if you ever want to see ego in action, look no further than creative nonprofits. Perhaps we do that ourselves, and perhaps it’s bred by competition, but I think always and in all ways we should strive to be better, not just “better than.”

Heck, maybe it’s as simple as reading more Jim Collins. Maybe all we need is that right leader, or opportunity. But one thing I know for sure — a steak ain’t ready til it’s ready, and that just takes time.

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Loic Djim (Unslplash)

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