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Defense of realists

Nonprofit work is largely based on the belief that we should try to make our community, network, state, nation or world a better place. I’ve heard nonprofit workers talked about as a bunch of dreamers, idealists, and visionaries seeking to go against all the odds! With hard work, energy and the right attitude that anything is possible. Hooray! However, we see new and old societal ills persist in our communities, arts access can still be sequestered to those with wealth, and our nonprofit educational institutions can perpetuate systems of inequality. I think there is a link between a culture of optimism, and a failure to truly make progress. Allow me to provide a defense for the realists in nonprofits, and that a dash of a realist mindset with some optimistic drive may be helpful, particularly in these trying cultural and political times.

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“I dissent”: Why you should vote no when no one else does

One day last fall, I texted my mom, “soooo…. I’m either getting fired or getting promoted.”

I had just gotten out of a meeting where I had the least amount of positional power of anyone in the room, and I had basically told everyone, including my boss’s boss, that the plan we were making didn’t hold true to our values. We weren’t trusting the people we served, and the plan would be flawed without that value at its center. I was calmly furious, my hands were shaking, and I questioned the wisdom of the experts at the table who had been working longer than I’d been alive. The result? My boss and coworkers raved about it, our program staff felt like the values of our work were supported, and we changed our plan.

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On being human

Content warning: police brutality

Happy holiday season, everyone.

As we reach one more year’s end and look ahead to yet another new year, I’m doing that thing that’s maybe expected, maybe common: thinking about things I hope can be better next year, and into the future.

And I just can’t shake one dominant thought.

We need to be more human with each other. I don’t mean be awful to each other – to follow our worst human impulses, or hew to the lowest common human denominator. I mean recognize our own and others’ humanity before anything else.

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Tips to increase nonprofit giving

As a CPA, one of the things I enjoy most about my job is getting to work with a wide variety of nonprofit organizations and seeing all the great work they do. In my opinion, one of the best opportunities to learn more about the issues affecting your nonprofit organization is at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) Annual Conference, which was held recently in St. Paul. I attended the conference and there was so much good information that I took two pages of notes! My favorite session was about generating monthly donors. 

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The formative months: Three ways to set yourself up for long-term success in your job

It’s said that the formative years of human beings is 0-5 years, during which the brain is growing most rapidly and is extra vulnerable to trauma and stress.  It is during this time that parents need to be hypervigilant, ensuring that their children have the right nutrition, are exposed to learning opportunities and given the freedom to move around, play and test their environment.

I want to suggest that there is also a formative time for employees in a new position. Based only on my own experience, I would argue that this critical time period is 0-12 months.  In many ways, we are just like newborns when we start a new job: we have to adjust to a new environment, learn a new language (or, at least, a hundred new acronyms) and experience a steep learning curve. We are in a vulnerable position, one where we have to assimilate into the culture we find ourselves in rather than stake our claim or make our mark on the world. We have to crawl before we can walk.

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Balancing a nonprofit job and self-care

It is not surprising to anybody in the nonprofit world that we all end up doing a lot more than what our job description initially entailed. In many cases, organizations have too much work to get done with not enough hands to help, so we all end up pitching in. I am the first one to admit that I usually have a hard time saying “no” when my boss asks me to take on extra projects, or to take over projects from other staff members. It took me a long time to be able to say “I’m sorry, but I can’t”. I don’t say it often, but the first time those words came out of my mouth I panicked. What if my boss was mad because I said no? What if they thought I was incompetent?

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The gifts of giving back: 5 reasons I volunteer

I’ve always been a high achiever, so naturally when I learned that I could earn extra credit for doing volunteer work related to my degree, I seized the opportunity. Within a matter of weeks, I landed an open position at the Walker Art Center that was a great fit for my hectic class schedule and love of contemporary art.

It didn’t take long for me to catch the volunteering bug.

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Coming back from failure

Last year, I was asked to present a workshop session on social media for the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Essentials Conference.  I couldn’t have been more confident. I had presented before, knew social media marketing well, and overall felt like it would be a breeze.

And then the session happened. 

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Tales of a first-time project manager

I recently managed a Communications project for YNPN-TC with a group of badass young professionals. Our task seemed simple: update an existing document with YNPN-TC’s brand guidelines and create four new resource guides with social media best practices. I am going to reflect on the process of managing this project, what was challenging, and some personal and professional growth that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my career.

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We need a new model for positive social impact

The further I get in my career, the more I catch myself processing and integrating within myself all the experiences I’ve had so far – and then drawing conclusions about what it all means, and what is most important for me to work on next. 

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