Post-election day mood at the office.

The focus of this blog was supposed to be a humorous slant on the nonprofit world. Today, it’s really difficult to have a humorous slant to anything.

On the Facebook page “Nonprofit Happy Hour” someone posted the question “What is the “temperature” in your office today? What is the mood? How are your leadership teams handling today?”

Here’s a video response to that question:

On an even less humorous note, my 13  year old great-niece posted a screen-shot of the election results this morning with the comment that “America is on its deathbed”.

Nonprofit peeps are always trying to offer hope in any situation. Here’s mine; if a 13 year old girl is pissed off enough about the election results to post them on a nonprofit Facebook page at 6:00am, buddy, you had just better watch out.

So keep up the good work all you nonprofit unicorns out there.

#nonprofitlife #nonprofitproblems #nonprofitwithballs

The Pug Gala

While vacationing in Seattle last summer, my husband and I noticed that pug-dogs were a popular pet of choice. Pugs are indeed cute. I prefer smooshy, foldy face dogs to other dogs, so I was happy to see that pugs were well represented. But, because we’re inquisitive types and because we wanted to know if there was something to this pug thing in Seattle we didn’t know about, we had to ask the next pug owner we saw.

Near the Pie Bar on N Olive Way, (pies of all kinds, liquor of all kinds, how does every town not have one of these?), we spot two guys walking two pugs, so we stopped them and asked a few questions.


The pugs’ names were “Ash” and “Pikachu”. They were adopted through the Seattle Pug Rescue, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Turns out the pug rescue group is quite active. In addition to their nonprofit status, they have a Facebook page, with a packed Events list. They have a pug day at the dog park once a month, meet and greets, and not just pug friendly, but pug only parties. In fact, their insurance rider strictly limits events to pug only. I am not making this up!

The owners of Ash and Pikachu said they had attended the recent “20th Annual Pug Gala” a few weeks ago. My husband and I looked at each other, we both knew the gala concept well. A big special event fundraiser that drives staff crazy because they come with to-do lists from hell. You have to get sponsors, mailings, plan food, beverages, marketing, ticket sales, auction items, a guest list, an RSVP list, a bunch of lists. The ROI on these events is staggeringly low usually.

“What happens at the Pug Gala?” we asked. “There’s dressing up in costumes and showing off tricks”.  I’m like, “Wow, that’s pretty much what goes on at all fundraiser galas when you think about it”. The purpose of the Pug Gala? “To raise money to benefit senior pugs”. “Oh, of course”.

As a nonprofit professional, I want to ask; How much did they raise? Who decides which senior pugs benefit? How are funds distributed? To veterinarians? Or directly to the owners of senior pugs? What if a senior pug decides he wants to start eating the fancy, expensive food from now on and diverts raised funds for this purpose? Who are the stakeholders? How are they communicated with? Where’s the data? Can someone share with me a heartwarming story about a program participant whose life was improved by a Seattle Pug Rescue Intervention? Or is this just a reason to dress up? What happens if Mr. Pug’s wife and mistress both show up and want to sit at the same table? Or heaven forbid, they’re both wearing the same dress!?

Special event fundraisers perpetuate a culture of transactional giving. The “I’ll buy a ticket to your event, but I want to get something back”. This is very different from relational giving where someone falls in love with your cause and donates because it makes them feel great.

When your nonprofit wants you to throw a gala or some other fundraiser event, and they will, remember the Pug Rescue Gala and compare and contrast it against your event.

Nonprofit Drinking

Let’s talk about alcoholic beverages and what role they play in the nonprofit life.

Certainly, I’m not saying that consumption of alcohol is appropriate for everyone or for any of us for that matter at inappropriate times. The ethical concerns associated with alcohol have an ancient history and will always be with us. For some, one drink can lead to a lifetime of despair. Alcoholic beverages were illegal in the United States and choosing to drink alcohol not only was against the law, it was regarded as sinful behavior. Alcohol is considered to be a demonic substance to some. Living in the same town as Liberty University, you really have to be careful not to offend anyone’s sensibilities.

You never know when someone is going to consider alcohol the stuff of the Devil.

However, personally, I have NO IDEA how I’d do my job as a nonprofit development/fundraiser without it. Money flows more easily at fundraisers and auctions when there’s drinking involved. There’s swagger and swaggerING. Imbibing people throw caution to the wind when it comes to outbidding each other at auctions. Middle aged adults in a small town like to get dressed up for charity events, it’s the only social life we have. If you’re the chair of a successful capital campaign and you’re wearing a gown or a tuxedo, you’re going to want to knock back a few, cut a rug like a teenager despite your torn meniscus or osteoporosis. A big charity gala is the ultimate in old person date night.



There is no denying that the fundraiser events that serve alcohol have interesting dynamics. When your nonprofit throws a fancy event, board members and community leaders you’ve come to know as leaders in your organization, who are usually serious, hard working, dedicated, professional, in-charge, and/or intimidating might get a little slurry. Sometimes they might get a little more than slurry. If there’s music and dancing, it gets extra interesting as the night goes on. Spoiler alert:


If you stay sober at an event, you can glean a lot of valuable information. I find it helpful to walk around with a half empty glass of something and pretend to sip it.



If you do decide to serve alcohol at your event, please make sure to get your license or permit. Here’s a link that shows you how to apply for one in the state of Virginia:

Aside from the extra splash alcohol can add to your fundraising events, there’s the nuances of different kinds of alcohol. I once impressed a major donor by remembering what kind of beer he likes and having one especially for him during a very small wine (only) & cheese event.

My drink of choice is bourbon. Being able to talk about bourbon, its history, how it’s made, the different tasting notes, my experiences tasting very rare and expensive ones is a great conversational tool. In this case, just knowing about alcohol makes me more interesting. It was a lot of work, but somebody had to do it.

Now let’s talk about some effects of alcohol on every day conversations.

As Doc Holliday said to Johnny Ringo in the movie “Tombstone”; “In vino veritas.” which is Latin for in wine there is truth or “When I drink, I speak my mind.”

This can be a good thing…, sometimes. My favorite board member of all time says you can’t really know someone until you have had a drink with them. There is a certain form of bonding that takes place when alcohol is added to the conversation. In the best of those conversations, you share your true self a bit, they share their true self a bit and when everyone has shared just the right amount, you establish a “vulnerability based trust”. You admit to a few vulnerabilities and other person does too, and neither of you takes advantage of the other. WARNING – DO NOT OVER SHARE!

For more information on vulnerability based trust, check out this link:

This is usually true of board members, donor, potential donor, or anyone you work with, even your executive director. There are people I have drinks with that I don’t know well. I like maintaining a professional distance with people like this. You have to play your cards close to the vest in my line of work. My advice on this is to let people you don’t know well lead the conversation. Never say anything negative about someone or vouchsafe someone else’s negative statements about someone else. A good rule of thumb is to follow the Rotary four-way test:

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

In light of the current news coverage of how women can be put in awkward or dangerous positions when drinking with unscrupulous people in positions of power, you can never be too careful.

That being said, there is tons of fun to be had in having drinks with your real friends, ESPECIALLY when they also work for nonprofits. This is because we all have developed our own private jokes.

In his blog “Nonprofit With Balls”, Vu Le jokes about drinking tequila to overcome the disappointment of having a grant application rejected.

Check out his other nonprofit cocktail recipes. They are hilarious.

Here’s an example:

The Annual Event

1 piece edible gold leaf

2 oz Cinzano extra dry vermouth

½ oz framboise

½ oz black Sambuca

½ oz pureed sardines

rose petal, lime wedge, lemon peel twist, raspberry, pineapple piece, candied hibiscus, black truffle shaving, cape gooseberry

Put gold leaf into glass. Shake Cinzano, framboise, and Sambuca with ice and pour into glass. Float pureed sardines on top. Garnish with rose petal, lime wedge, lemon peel twist, raspberry, pineapple piece, hibiscus, truffle shaving, and cape gooseberry. Drink up, rest for three months, then start gathering ingredients to make another one.

And when the donors leave the building…


Nonprofit Survival Strategy: Humor

This blog is a project for a graduate course in digital marketing for nonprofits.

Laughter is a legal high. Not only is it fun, it also reduces stress. For my first nonprofit survival strategy, I’m going to explore nonprofit humor. So, let’s all take a look at the lighter side of saving the world, shall we?

There are so many nonprofits in the world and so many different missions, but there are a few things that we all have in common and they are a bit different than the for-profit work world.

Here are some common themes: Executive Directors (ED’s), boards, board committees, tight budgets, fundraising, friendraising, special events, development staff (professional fundraisers), volunteers, program directors, donors, major donors, mega donors, asks, grant applications, grant funders, foundations, mission statements, cases for support (a fancy ask).

Nonprofits have our own climate and culture and it comes with our own way of working, navigating, leveraging resources, jargon, highs and lows as well as our own humor.

I’m delighted to see that there are a few gifs, memes, videos and humorous blogs created about us. This gives the rest of the world a glimpse into what it’s like to work for a nonprofit: how the struggle is real but sometimes in a fun way. You don’t have to work at one to get the jokes, but it helps.

If you aren’t familiar with Buzzfeed’s “25 Situations Only Nonprofit People Will Understand”, then I encourage you to check it out. It’s a great example of what I’m talking about.

While Buzzfeed appears to be making these just for fun. There are consulting companies like that are making them for marketing purposes. The reason I know this is because I tweeted a link to this one they made and a few days later, a very young sales guy cold calls me at work saying he “really appreciates what we do, and we’re doing an awesome job of serving the needs of our community. Would we be interested in engaging in some preliminary conversations with some of their staff that can suggest some digital marketing tools for an online campaign?” I asked where he was calling from, he said San Diego. I told him we had zero budget for online campaigns or social media consulting of any kind. I also told him that his marketing writers were doing a great job and they really hit the nail on the head right here, I especially love the Kanye one.

Then I thanked him for reaching out to us. I also appreciated the work they were doing to try to build capacity across the sector. He said it was the most pleasant cold call experience he’d had since he began working there a couple months ago. (Hey, I know what it’s like to be on the other side). Meanwhile, my assistant and I were doing a Snoopy dance while he was on speaker in our shared 6×9 office space, with no windows, located in the basement of our agency, because someone had actually noticed my tweet. Indeed, it was even retweeted by Ten months ago, I’d successfully convinced my reluctant Baby Boomer board that Twitter is actually legit and my assistant rocks our Instagram account.

I used to work at a soup kitchen and I’m married to an Economics professor who specializes in the economics of food, particularly the “hunger-poverty nexus”. Since we’re talking about humor, now is probably not the best time to read this, but my assignment dictates that I add four outside links in my blog posts. We are super proud of this because it’s an eye-opening study about poverty and hunger in our city and how food banks and soup kitchens are great, but they aren’t an effective way of providing a systemic or sustainable approach to fixing the hunger problem and because it was a herculean effort:

Segway to the Youtube. Youtube is a galaxy of billions and billions of videos and a few stars, like Adam from Adam Ruins Everything on TruTV. You can also use Youtube like social media if you like, comment or subscribe to someone who posts. Recently, my son (thanks Jake!) sent me this link about why canned food drives are an inefficient way of addressing food insecurity. Sometimes, adding humor can convey a message that can be difficult to talk about, especially with donors and volunteers in an attempt to correct misguided assumptions, archaic practices, or preconceived notions that have been ingrained into our approaches to provide services, especially to the poor.

There are several “Adam Ruins Everything” short videos and Youtube is a fantastic way to explore, share and reshare these and others like them.

Another great platform for nonprofit life experience-sharing is the blog “Nonprofit With Balls


This is an obvious double entendre. During a podcast interview Joan Garry did with Vu Le, the gentleman who writes this blog, he said the idea for the name came to him because people are always asking him to juggle countless balls of details and responsibilities. It’s also a way of letting people know that there is a brave new world of nonprofit organizations and professionals who are creating a post-modern do-gooder mindset that agencies and programs cannot run on the work of fictional characters like magical helper elves and unicorns. Staff needs to be well compensated for their expertise, and that means providing living wages for nonprofit staff.

While Le, the Executive Director of a nonprofit in Seattle, admits that the subject of this blog post is serious and kind of dry, he keeps the humorous flow of the blog going by shamelessly inserting pictures of baby animals in order to keep his readers engaged.

In keeping with that spirit and since I also have to include two pictures in this blog post for credit. (The #fundraisingcycle one counts, right?)

Behold, a picture of #maudethepigdog when she was a puppy. Awwwwww!!!


My next blog post will be about friends and family. As well as a nonprofit love story for the ages.

#nonprofitlife #nonprofitproblems #nonprofithumor