First Person Nonprofit

Focusing on the individual.
Real people experiencing and reporting on real life.


Nonprofit Economic Downturn: A Performance Poem

Brian BullingtonAt a Chicago meeting earlier this month, leaders of 35 community nonprofits engaged in a vibrant discussion about all things nonprofit in the economic crisis - collaboration, scaling back, fundraising woes and more. Donors Forum sponsored the gathering. Here's how participant Brian Bullington captured the exchange in performance poetry in the style of a poetry slam:

Wrong Collaboration causes frustration and the stench of tension
Economic mess: do more with less; I confess I need
A more focused
Hard choices: what to cut so the doors don't shut. Funding cut? So what?
We want the world.

That sounds tragic so be strategic. Trouble lurkin'? Expect less turkeyin'
How do you open the Bill Gates flood gates without going overboard on your board?
Buy in individual tie in.
Special events tickets down to ground level? Find something that resounds, reflects your mission,
Smaller scale chasing a smaller white whale.
Volun-teary eyed? Collaboration, consulting? Tech out sourcing? Colleges coursing with
Energy seeking experience

A Board Leads an Organization Out of the Ashes

Perhaps the least-appreciated aspects of nonprofit boards is their role as a safety net. Even boards that don't seem to be doing much, or that may even have contributed to deep problems, rise up and do heroic work to fix things. Here is a First Person Nonprofit story from a board chair about such a breakthrough -- how an organization walked to the precipice of bankruptcy and then walked away.

Tom Siino, long-time board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the East Bay: "Three years ago our financial troubles started when we lost our executive director. Then we made a couple of false steps in hiring a replacement. At one point we were down in the ashes with one staffperson and a lot of debt. Our budget had gone from $700,000 to $75,000. Now. . .

From Air Force Captain to Nonprofit Fundraiser

Keira Havens went from Air Force captain to nonprofit fundraiser. She has an enlightening First Person Nonprofit story, tips on hiring and integrating veterans, and at the end of this article, a link to a wonderful, wacky 1-minute video about her. And if you're a servicemember about to transition to civilian life, don't miss Keira's Advice for Servicemembers and Veterans Looking at Nonprofit Jobs.

I spent four years in the Air Force working with nuclear missiles at F.E. Warren Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. This is not your typical beginning to a career in the nonprofit sector. But on the other hand, I don't have a typical set of skills.

After I left the military, I decided to take an internship at a local nonprofit. Global Explorers, a nonprofit student travel company that promotes global citizenship, has been a great way for me to transition from the rigid structure of the military to the much more fluid network of nonprofits.

Layoff Stories from Blue Avocado Readers

Whether you work for a major airline that merges and casts off 10,000 employees or are one of two part-time people staffing the local gay men's chorus, it's no fun to get laid off.

Too often grace and consideration are not a huge part of the equation. We asked Blue Avocado readers to tell us how you found out you had gotten laid off. Your experiences ran the gamut from insane to perfectly smooth and respectful. Here's what seven readers shared. (Some asked that we change their names to protect their privacy):

Lessons learned: I was a summer intern at a nonprofit in Chicago that was having financial trouble and laid off much of the staff. As an

Laid Off From a Nonprofit: Me!

A First Person Nonprofit story:

Nearly two months ago, I joined the ranks of laid-off Americans. It almost makes me feel Patriotic, somehow Special, to be counted among the group considered most newsworthy, 24/7. The news is filled with stories about us: How will these laid-off folks manage? How will they afford health coverage? More important to the economy, How Will They Go Shopping?

It's not as if my own layoff came out of left field: for months, like other nonprofits, our health services organization had been suffering from declining donations. Hints of coming changes were everywhere: a sudden rush of closed door meetings at unexpected times, hush-hush conversations in the hallways, cancellation of the

Word on the Street About . . . Preschool

Fannie GreerWhen I started working at Head Start--and I retired from there after 38 years--we were supposed to teach everything through play. We couldn't even have the alphabet up on the wall. We said, "Hand me that blue ball," instead of teaching the colors. They learned naturally, you know. Now I'm working at a private nonprofit preschool, and there's so much pressure on the kids.

Word on the Street from: Council on Foundations Conference

When Pete Manzo, long-time grantseeker and nonprofit staffperson, told us he was going to the Council on Foundations conference for the first time (two weeks ago), he sounded to us like a Connecticut Yankee anticipating going to King Arthur's Court--what really happens at this grantmaker gathering where nonprofit folks can't go except by invitation from a foundation? So when he returned we asked him what his impressions were:

Well, warm and intimate it wasn't. It was HUGE--more than 3,000 people. The Gaylord Resort was cavernous, very new and lacking in soul. As Lucy Bernholz said, it was disorienting to hear people talking about environmental issues in a setting that seemed to waste energy and water and to have been designed to siphon off revenue from the nearby DC urban area.

People look at your badge to see where you work. Mine said "National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy" (where he's on the board) which I assume branded me as a left-wing outsider. Some of the plenary things were quite good, especially a panel on human rights - which was said to be the first