I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues . . . editor notes issue #70

Sometimes it seems like the bad news is big (the debt deal, global warming) and the good news is little (one little kid inspired). But our constant focus on the bad news can lead some people to mistake our depression and anger for cynicism. We like to quote the Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe: "When I have stopped criticizing Africa, you will know I have given up on Africa."

In a similar way, we in the nonprofit sector demonstrate our hope for the future by criticizing the present, and our idealism about America by our criticisms of America. And here at Blue Avocado we would add: when we have stopped criticizing the nonprofit sector, you will know we have given up on it.

Four substantial articles this issue, including the scoop on Getting a Foundation Job, Advice for Boards with New Executive Directors, and an Ask Rita column on Personnel Files. And Kim Klein contributes a Nonprofit Tax Quiz . . . take it with your friends!

Plus a new batch of Blue Avocado webinars coming up and a 2-Minute Vacation. Quick reminder: if you find Blue Avocado useful or fun, encourage others to subscribe? --Jan Masaoka

P.S. Another favorite quote: "Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed to be undecided about them." (Laurence Peter)

Listen to the Music . . . editor notes issue #69

Several recent articles have clearly struck a nerve -- or pushed buttons -- for readers. The First Person Nonprofit story by a founding executive director whose board fired her incited nearly 100 people to write responses. Last issue's piece on the charitable deduction and John Killacky's "Regrets of a Former Arts Funder" got many people riled up -- either cheering or razzing.

For a moment, let's listen to the music and not the lyrics in these responses. What's surprised us is the harsh tone of so many critics ("put on your big girl panties") and the disagree-ers ("pseudo intellectual liberals know what is best"). Even the agree-ers are full of vinegared self-righteousness.

It's great to see strongly felt, colorfully said comments . . . they fit right in with our goal at Blue Avocado to be less jargonistic, less tiptoe-y, and less full of abstract platitudes like so much of the noise in the nonprofit sector. What strikes us in this instance is that this kind of harshness often comes from people who haven't had many conversations with people who disagree with them.

How many of us have recently had a conversation with someone with a truly different point of view? If we support reproductive rights, have we talked about it with someone who is "pro-life"? Have we discussed our presidential vote with someone who voted the opposite? Have we argued about taxes with someone of a different viewpoint? As for me? Guilty, guilty, guilty.

It's more fun to yell insults, especially anonymously. It's hard for me to sign my name to everything I write in Blue Avocado. But it's a discipline that makes me think harder about convincing someone. (I save my anonymous insult-making diatribes for whoever is playing against the San Francisco 49ers.) -- Jan Masaoka

* This issue: a board member talks about firing a founder, we discuss how to limit staff contact with the board, there's a review of all the "donate buttons" available to nonprofits, and a cooling visit to a hotel in Norway made completely out of ice.

* Query: For an upcoming story on executive director evaluations, we'd like to take a look at the the form or process document your organizations uses for your executive director evaluation. We'd like to collect several dozen as part of our research. To include yours, click here. Please include your contact information so we can properly thank you.

Luminosity . . . editor notes issue #67

Wow! The last special issue of Blue Avocado had more than 1,000 people sign up for free webinars, dozens of folks using the discount on Exceed fundraising software, and many taking advantage of big discounts for IdeaEncore and The Nonprofit Quarterly. Thank you for such a warm response!

Stories: we all know the importance of telling the stories of our clients, constituents, and community leaders. And we hear perhaps a few too many stories about wealthy donors ("Mrs. X donates to us!"-- note to community foundations: no more of these, please) and celebrities who start charities (never any follow-up by the way). But we seldom read the stories about ourselves: people working and volunteering in community nonprofits. (Also see Nonprofits in Popular Culture.)

That's why we like the First Person Nonprofit stories in Blue Avocado so much. This issue we hear from a still-bleeding founding executive director who was fired by her board. Other stories have included Our Executive Director is Embezzling, how a nonprofit pulled through the "shadow of failure," Six of Our Board Members are in Prison, an Air Force captain who changed careers to fundraising, and more. You can read them all by clicking here, and if you have a First Person Nonprofit story to tell, let us know about it by clicking here.

We also welcome a new advertiser: NTEN . . . see their ad across the bottom of this page . . . sign up for their free journal on smart technology use in nonprofits. We especially liked "Five Free Tools for Social Media Listening" in the March issue, and their upcoming free webinar on "Navigating the Nonprofit Cloud."

Finally, "It may be that you are not yourself luminous," said Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes). "But you are a conductor of light." In a similar way, nonprofits are not themselves bodies of light, but they conduct the luminosity of the people who make use of them to change the world. Keep on shining. --Jan Masaoka

Taking On the Big Stuff

A fast look at just four critical areas facing American society today: poverty, race, environment, and democracy:

1. What is the definition of "poor"? In the United States, for the government to consider a family officially poor, a household of four people must have total income of less than $22,050. Repeat for emphasis: a family of four must live on less than $22,050 or they aren't certifiably poor. And even with such a stringent guideline, one of every six children in America lives in poverty.


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