Stuff People Say to Nonprofits . . . editor notes issue #76

The latest internet meme has been a lot of fun: S*** People Say to Native Americans and S*** New Yorkers Say, for instance. So we propose:

Stuff People Say When They Hear You Work for a Nonprofit:

  • So, do you get paid for that?
  • I work for a nonprofit too . . . United Airlines . . . ha ha!
  • The problem I have with nonprofits is that not everybody deserves to be helped.
  • You know I've always wondered: why do nonprofit people people get paid so much?
  • Are there any nonprofits here in Atlanta?
  • Yeah, you know, I volunteered once at a nonprofit, but they were really screwed up.
  • I have a great idea for a nonprofit I'm going to start someday!
  • The problem with nonprofits is that they don't run themselves like businesses . . . where do I work? Oh, at Exxon (or Bain Capital, or Solyndra, or . . . .)
  • I wish I had your job . . . I work too hard.
  • I have a friend who works for a nonprofit in San Diego! Maybe you know her!
  • So . . . do you get paid for that?
  • I could never ask anybody for money. Hey, can you help me move on Saturday?

Put up a sign in your organization and ask people to fill in: "Things people say when they hear you work for _______(your organization's name)" and see what they come up with!

(Thanks to Judy Hatcher, Susan Sanow, Nelson Layag, and their funny friends for help with above.)

* This issue Ask Rita wonders whether employees have to be paid for sleeping on the job, and we wonder why more nonprofits aren't using cell phone messaging for policy alerts, raising money, and special event news. In addition, a fresh look at a frequently-overlooked fundraising vehicle -- scrip gift cards -- and a discussion of how to organize the board to support the revenue strategy (and a 3-minute vacation of course).

* We're looking for one or two investigative reporters with backgrounds in nonprofits to write stories for Blue Avocado. Is that you? If so, please let us know about you here.

* It's going to take me awhile to learn how to balance my new role as CEO of the California Association of Nonprofits with my continuing role as editor and writer for Blue Avocado. Please be patient, and as always I and the Blue Avocado Steering Committee welcome your comments, questions, and advice (click here). --Jan Masaoka

Comments (27)

  • Thank you for your most interesting and helpful newsletter.

    Feb 13, 2012
  • You called my home to say thank you for my membership donation, and I'm sorry I missed your call -- I did enjoy getting the flash drive, which is probably the most useful premium I could receive (I mean, how many more coffee mugs can I use?)

    It's really me, though, who needs to thank you. Blue Avocado is the most consistently useful information and resources group that I've come to rely on. I am E.D. of a small, private environmental foundation that actually operates like a community nonprofit. It's me and another part-time person doing everything (plus a part-time housekeeper; we own and operate an historical building, on top of everything else.) I get bombarded with online resources, e-newsletters, nonprofit helps of all kinds, but Blue Avocado is "who" I trust and turn to.

    We've had my first year of overhauling nearly everything at the foundation--bylaws, Board organization, infrastructure and technology, staff, etc. This past week, we used a template provided by one of your professionals to create a new accounting policies and procedures manual--I don't know what I would have done if I had to start completely from scratch.

    I look forward to your e-newsletters, not only for information but for your upbeat and sometimes very funny messages. Etc. Have I said enough?

    So, again, thank you--and here's to a healthy, happy 2012 to you and your colleagues,
    Claire

    Feb 13, 2012
  • Anonymous

    I'd like to add an item to "Stuff People Say to Nonprofits": "You know what you should do, is [put on a huge event, apply for funding from a gigantic foundation, connect with Oprah]" (when they haven't asked any questions yet and your nonprofit has one staff person and a tiny budget they can barely cover.)

    Feb 14, 2012
  • Anonymous

    One of our supporters recently called us to ask for Oprah's contact information for a project that they were working on for another organization. They were sure we had the direct line and they wondered why we never thought to ask her for money. They called about 4:30 pm on a Friday afternoon. Gotta' love it!

    Feb 15, 2012
  • BTW, with reference to what people say to people who work in nonprofits: (When my three daughters were younger): "It's nice for people without children to do things like that, but you should be home with your own children instead of working with other people's children." (I don't even work in direct service.) or You're such a nice person, so that can't possibly [mean you work for "name of nonprofit"] ...what DO you do?"

    Feb 14, 2012
  • Anonymous

    You dont work in the "real world" was what I heard. Yes, your right, being aware of social ills and doing what I can to take care of those is so out of touch. Oy! Thanks for this delightful post.

    Feb 14, 2012
  • NONPROFITS PROFIT EVERYONE! I served on the newly created Nonprofit Committee of our local Chamber of Commerce a number of years ago. At that time, we heard that business members of the Chamber often questioned the appropriateness of having nonprofits as part of their organization. In response, we cited the Chamber's mission, particularly to "enhance the quality of life in our Greater Charlottesville communities." I offered the slogan - Nonprofits Profit Everyone! - which did not gain immediate traction. However, I was amazed to see it displayed as a bumper sticker several years later. And now it's prominently displayed on the Chamber Nonprofit/Business Council's web page!

    Feb 14, 2012
  • I am a consultant to nonprofits, which is even more confusing to those who are confused to begin with! Why is the nonprofit sector so misunderstood when it represents the six largest economy in the United States? Are we really THAT inept at getting our message out? Sadly, the answer is primarily 'yes'. Julie Rodda Rodda Consulting Service

    Feb 15, 2012
  • I developed a diagram that illustrates the differences between the for-profit and non-profit sector that is being used on multiple college campuses. If anyone would like it, just send me an e-mail at billhuddleston at verizon dot net with "NP diagram" in the subject line, and I'll be glad to send it to you. Regards, Bill Huddleston The CFC Coach

    Feb 15, 2012
  • Anonymous

    My favorite stuff people say to nonprofits is "maybe if you all worked a little harder you could actually make a profit."

    Feb 15, 2012
  • Anonymous

    A slightly different twist - I work for a foundation and when people hear that they say "I'm a nonprofit and I sure could use a grant."

    Feb 15, 2012
  • When I worked as a grocery checker people would always say to me: "Can you get me discounts on groceries?"

    Feb 18, 2012
  • I can appreciate having to juggle two big jobs or more. And I want to encourage you to continue doing so or find a way to keep Blue Avocado going. It is probably the single most useful nonprofit resource I have found. I use it all the time in my consulting practice with large and small nonprofit organizations alike. It is full of practical and real tools for Nonprofit Leaders and stimulating dialogue for moving our sector forward (and using the nonprofit sector to influence the positive progress of other sectors). I commend all you have done and have yet to do!

    Feb 15, 2012
  • THANK YOU for the great piece on Stuff People Say About Nonprofits. I laughed so hard I cried and then sent it along to my colleagues. We receive monthly calls at Baby Buggy along the lines of, "I used to be a lawyer but left my job when I had kids. Now that I have time on my hands, I want to start a Baby Buggy in my neighborhood. Can you tell me how to do it?" While I used to find the calls flattering, and a great indicator of our success, I quickly tired of speaking to people who had never even heard of 501c3 status. The icing on the cake was a call from two moms who said, "in the spirit of nonprofit cooperation (note: they weren't a 501c3), can you send us your donor list?" And they were rude when we politely declined! In any case, in the spirit of your piece, Baby Buggy staff compiled our own BB-specific faves: "Do you take used diapers?" "That's so cool that you work for Baby Buggy. Do you get to play with babies all day?" "Your so lucky that you are pregant and work for Baby Buggy. You can just take stuff from work when the baby is born." Thanks again for bringing laughter to the Baby Buggy office today! My best, Katherine Snider

    Feb 15, 2012
  • I think we're all a bit insular about the use of the word "nonprofit" -- and, Ha-ha, other people don't know what a Nonprofit is. Have you ever heard someone say "I was at the best nonprofit thrift store the other day"... no, they said "I got 3 great used books at the Goodwill store last week for only 3 Bucks!". The word "nonprofit" has no meaning to anyone outside of the sector. And it's our fault for not coming up with something more immediately descriptive. Karen Aitchison San Francisco

    Feb 15, 2012
  • I just watched an interesting show on nonprofit PBS, bought cookies from the nonprofit Girl Scouts, and picked up my aunt from the nonprofit Alzheimer's day care center she goes to that's run by the nonprofit Presbyterian Church. Great point, Karen. Jan

    Feb 18, 2012
  • Nice piece. The truly scary thing recently is that some of these (not so bright) things increasingly are being said by Democratic elected officials - aka "friends" of the nonprofit sector. Yikes.

    Feb 16, 2012
  • Please don't give up writing for Blue Avocado- you have such a unique, refreshing and valuable voice!

    Rebecca

    Feb 16, 2012
  • Thank you, Rebecca! It's way too much fun writing for Blue Avocado ever to give it up. I really appreciate your taking the time to write. Jan

    Feb 18, 2012
  • Anonymous

    The comment that I got that made me the most crazy? "What a great scam! I'm going to start a nonprofit about xxx so I can avoid paying taxes and get other people to pay my way."

    Feb 16, 2012
  • Anonymous

    "If you're a non-profit, why do you charge for tickets?" (to a local symphony orchestra)

    Feb 16, 2012
  • Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy Blue Avocado. You're brave to keep that going while you begin your challenge. I know you can do it.

    Feb 18, 2012
  • Anonymous

    I have to stop my eyes rolling in my head after reading your opening essay... Yes yes yes! That list of what people say to us when they learn we're nonprofit is classic. I have experienced all of them, and more. Your style and refreshing truth about the nonprofit world helps keep me sane sometimes.

    Feb 20, 2012
  • Re your remarks about the S**** people say when they hear you work for a nonprofit, I collected the following for my web site along the same lines: How to Know You Work for a Nonprofit https://karinwandrei.com/humor.php

    Feb 22, 2012
  • Loved this article on "what people say when you tell them you work in a nonprofit." Yes, you get the weirdest responses.

    Feb 23, 2012
  • Anonymous

    I'm sure we've heard different responses, but we all know 'the look' .... like trying to hide a complete lack of understanding, while trying to figure out why you don't work in the 'real world.' This is often followed by statement equally as telling, as "oh... that's great" - long pause - but secretly thinking 'now get me the heck out of this conversation!' I once actually heard "well, hey, the world needs ditch-diggers, too."

    Feb 24, 2012
  • Anonymous

    My favourite one of ALL TIME is "Yeah, I donated some clothes there in 2005" or "my church volunteered there ONCE 5 years ago." Congratulations.

    Mar 16, 2012

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