Essay Archives

Underpaid staff don’t need motivation, they need dollar bills and benefits

“Financially, [working at a nonprofit] can’t work for a lot of people. And in fact, with a nonprofit our size — boy, you almost have to be in a committed relationship with somebody else with an income, because you’re not — it’s hard to support yourself on what we can pay people, in Denver.”

This was the moment my Executive Director (ED) finally admitted that what I was being paid wasn’t enough to support me. I was just one month shy of six years into my position at the organization, and she didn’t say this quote directly to me. She said it on a podcast that she was featured in as a nonprofit leader.

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The 2021 CCF big ol’ rewind mega round-up

We’re closing out our second year of posting content to the Community-Centric Fundraising content hub. We feel incredibly lucky and honored to have worked with so many talented and passionate folks this year to expand our collective knowledge.

Here’s an anthology of everything that was published in 2021, organized by theme (and in order of date they were first published).

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The worst pieces of work advice I ever received

If asked, many women of colour (WOC) can tell horror stories of the advice they received early in their careers. Most of us have heard versions of, “You should use an “English name on your resume,” (something I personally first heard from a career counsellor when I was an undergraduate at a Canadian university, ironically directed at a room of 5 ethnically diverse faces attending a career workshop). Or perhaps, like me, you’ve been told to dress “professionally,” that is, with no overly bright colours (which of course means to never dress in a way that might identify your ethnic heritage). A temp agency staff member offered me that gem.

These types of advice continue to pop up throughout the careers of women of colour. These pieces of advice are tropes bandied around — microaggressions wrapped in helpfulness and presented with a smile.

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Seasonal Nonprofit Burnout Disorder: You may be entitled to compensation

If you often feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or anxious at work, you’re certainly not alone. I’ve heard from many colleagues in the nonprofit sector who feel the same way. In fact, this is the very reason I felt compelled to talk about this issue.

I’ve come to believe that burnout culture is the ultimate unspoken truth of the nonprofit sector. Now, don’t get me wrong. When I say unspoken, I don’t literally mean unspoken. In truth, we talk and joke about burnout all the time. The problem is no one takes it seriously. And more importantly, I think we’re neglecting some key factors from the burnout equation.

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Use informed consent to build trust and answer that damn demographics survey on grant applications

Imagine this: It’s grant deadline day. You get on the grant portal to submit your materials. Proposal, check. Project budget, check.

You scroll down the list of required attachments. Wait a second, what’s this? Staff and board demographics… you must’ve forgotten, darn it.

So in a rush, you scroll through the current staff and board rosters and hastily assign demographics to them “to the best of your knowledge” according to the survey categories. Save and submit. Phew!

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America’s charitable problem extends far beyond Giving Tuesday, and the Global South is bearing the consequences

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving has become a charity free-for-all, with pleading subject lines vying for attention as they flood mailboxes. Nonprofit organizations have seized onto Giving Tuesday as an opportunity to reap a kind of fiscal penance after the indulgences of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

After spending one day feasting and feeling thankful for all we have, and spending the next days consuming even more, it is difficult to turn away from societal injustices like homelessness and hunger.

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The annual report that never was …


As DEI professionals will tell you, one way to assess the authenticity of your workplace culture is to take stock of the types of messaging that circulate around the office. Are they overwhelmingly positive? (“We received this grant!” “Enrollment goals were exceeded!” “We can make payroll!”)

Seriously though, consider whether you are perpetuating a tone of toxic positivity. If you are, it likely flows over into your external messaging. Like your annual report.

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Tis the season: But is Giving Tuesday really community-centered?

PSL season has started so you know what that means. Thanksgiving. Black Friday. Small business Saturday. Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday.

It’s the season to give … and give and give.

During the week of Giving Tuesday (or more accurately, the month leading up to Giving Tuesday), you are probably inundated with emails and bombarded with marketing about it. Everyone is writing hot tips and hosting webinars on how you can up your Giving Tuesday campaign game.

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Listen to the children … (because the world hasn’t ruined them yet)

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my first decade of parenthood is that I have so much more to learn from my children than they will ever learn from me. They are curious, kind, and optimistic. They feel their feelings in a big way and have not succumbed to shame and self-doubt. They are excellent at speaking their truth and voicing their own needs. They could probably use some work on their boundaries (who needs privacy in the shower, anyway?), but, if there’s any force that can teach us to be the best, most unapologetic versions of ourselves, it is our children.

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What TikTok taught me about capitalism and nonprofits

I spend a lot of time engaging with the world virtually these days — especially on TikTok. In addition to viral dances and meme-ified sounds, my TikTok “For You Page” offers videos of creators dancing, making art, sharing their pains and joys, telling jokes, and engaging in political education and discussion. Although I’ve felt particularly isolated during this last year and a half, TikTok has helped me find community and confirm that I’m not the only one frustrated by capitalism.

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7 tips to write content that is more accessible

I think we’re all a bit prone to thinking that accessibility is tied to technology — like a website’s coding, the structure of a PDF, metadata, whatever — and so we think that accessibility is an ‘expert’s domain,’ like we kinda assume it’s the web developer or graphic designer’s job. But actually, accessibility comes in really varied forms, including how we write. And this is cool because just about everyone writes and reads, which means everyone can play a part in creating more accessible content.

Here are seven ways to make the written word more accessible.

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