Hi everyone, a colleague asked me to write a translation of nonprofit terminologies and concepts, which may be helpful to those who are thinking of going into nonprofit work. Since I was pressed for time this week (look, Narcos is not going to binge-watch itself on Netflix), I outsourced the task to the NWB Facebook Community, which is full of brilliant and hilarious people who don’t take themselves too seriously. Here are several of the suggestions, mainly copied verbatim. (Go to the Facebook page for the whole list). This is by no means comprehensive, so please add your own in the comment section:
Salary commensurate with experience: We’re ashamed to actually say, but it’s probably nowhere near commensurate with your experience level
Comprehensive benefits: You can take home leftover crackers AND half-drunk bottles of wine after donor receptions.
Welcomes diversity/seeks diverse leadership: You will be the first and/or only person of color on our board/staff/whatever
A dynamic work environment: We are really disorganized
Able to prioritize: You’ll have to decide whether it’s riskier to delay payment on the electric bill or the water bill
There were so many duties we decided to split the job: Your predecessor still works here, but is angry she was demoted, and won’t train you
We are embarking on a new phase: Everything else we’ve tried has been an epic failure, and you will now save us.
A fast-paced environment: We are overwhelmed, overworked and afflicted with this curse called a ‘vocation’, and the Board just keep piling it on.
Looking for someone passionate about the field: Applicants should be willing to accept being paid peanuts
Lots of opportunity: It literally could not get any worse.
Looking for a self-directed individual: We don’t have enough staff to pull off this plan, so you’ll be on your own to get the stuff done we hire you for
Out of pocket expenses incurred will be reimbursed: We really have no approved budget line item for parking, mileage, postage, or approved meeting meals….
Fast-paced, multi-tasker: We have too much work and not enough staff. Be prepared to do everything yesterday.
And other duties as requested: There is no janitor, you’ll be taking out your own trash. We received a capital grant for new carpeting and you need to move furniture. Can you make cookies for the board? Oh, are you done with that grant yet?
Flexible: You will need to change your own toilet paper rolls. Or bring your own toilet paper. Or donate toilet paper. Or bring your own toilet. Or go home to use the toilet. Or we often run out of toilet paper before the next supply run.
Likes to wear many hats: This is actually 3 positions, but we only have budget for one, and you’ll likely have to do strange things you may not be qualified to do
Exciting: Terrifyingly out of control
We are in an exciting period of transition: You won’t believe the frequency of turnover and job descriptions change monthly, or our executive director was just indicted for both embezzling AND harassment!
Must be proficient in Microsoft Office: We have people who aren’t proficient in Microsoft Office on staff
Computer skills required: You are now the IT department
Must be a self-starter: Expect zero training, support, or real buy-in from the organization on your project. And you must be able to raise your own salary.
Some evening and weekend work required: You’re attending all the committees and doing snack runs all the time.
We value professional development: We expect you to perform your usual work while staying on top of trends by attending relevant trainings, workshops, and conferences but there is actually no budget for said activities. And don’t plan to do that stuff on the clock.
Intricate set of group dynamics: There are pain-in-the-butt people you have to work with who refuse to learn a better way to work smarter
Collaborative working environment: We have meetings every minute of every day
Team player: Never get credit for your work
Open concept office: We can’t afford more space than this one room and you will need to go to a nearby Starbucks for private meetings
This is a polite culture: Everyone here is passive aggressive
Good sense of humor: Understands “boys will be boys,” and someone is going to cover your desk with aluminum foil at some point
Flexible work schedule: You may work whatever hours you like, as long as they add up to 60 hours per week
Breaking down silos: Occasionally, people from different departments sit across from each other and see who’ll break first.
Leadership opportunity: A challenging project we are going to talk you into doing (without you realizing it) that is in addition to and mostly unrelated to your actual job responsibilities
We transitioned him/her to a new role: We don’t have the balls to fire anyone, ever
“Can you help me with some numbers for this grant report?”: If you don’t drop everything right now and invent numbers for tracking you never did, we will have to close down.
So-and-so is a visionary leader: So-and-so sucks at details and drops the ball a lot
Can I give you some feedback?: You really screwed up
Let’s circle back: Shut up you guys and focus!
Conference call: 1 person speaking, everyone else on mute doing other work/checking Facebook
Let’s put that idea in the parking lot: That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard
Strategic planning: We’re gonna make some stuff up about how the next 5-10 years are going to shake down. Then, we’re going to do something totally different within 6 months of the plan.
Strategic plan: A really expensive binder on a shelf that can occasionally be used as a doorstop
Innovative evaluation: Survey monkey responses
Logic Model: Our work distilled into a one-page chart using 3-point font for Type-A individuals
Big picture thinking: Avoiding work that actually needs to be done, like picking up the phone to call donors.
Rebranding: Something we paid a marketing firm way too much to develop that won’t actually change anyone’s perceptions about our organization.
Compliance: A quarterly exercise where we fill in an excel dashboard with numbers we’re not entirely sure of, but meet the benchmarks
We’re going to use Big data: We’re gonna use the filters in Excel
Best practice: We read an article once
Relationship building: Can hold your liquor
Inclusive: One time we asked someone in the lunch room what they thought about a project.
Community: Anyone who doesn’t work here
Community engagement: Conversations with 10 or more people who don’t work here.
Involved the community: We brought in a few people, gave them no training on the type of guidance we were seeking, and then talked about how useless it was to have them there after they left.
We have long-standing relationships with many community partners: we did a one-time, limited-duration grant project with that agency once many years ago, but keep putting their names down as a community partner.
Community partnerships: Because we wanted that grant
Strong network of community partners: We work with three orgs a lot
Equity: Something we just talk about
Letter of support: I write it and pretend to sound like you and your org, then you sign it
He brings considerable private sector experience: He worked at Microsoft and we’re easily impressed
Our board of directors is engaged and empowered: Be ready for regular bouts of conflicting micro-management.
Engaged board: The board will micromanage all of the things that don’t matter, like which shade of grey the supply room should be painted, but will disappear when something important, like fundraising, needs to be done.
Executive Session: We’re gonna grill your ass without you in the room, then act like it was simply private protocol all along, but as conflict-avoiders we’re not aware of other options
Goal of increasing board engagement: We had 4 months straight without a quorum.
Annual meeting: Our bylaws make us do this every year, so let’s have a party!!!
Board meeting package: Something we spend 12 hours preparing, that 0 to 2 board members will read
Development plan: List of bake sales and people we plan to beg for money
Diverse revenue stream: We’ll take money from where ever we can get it
Must be able to innovate our fundraising: We have no freaking idea beyond silent auctions and golf outings.
Friendraiser: Fundraiser that bombed
They’ve supported us for a long time: This donor is probably going to say something problematic or unintentionally racist to you; please just give them a pass this once.
We raised awareness: We raised NO money
Sustainability: A land of rainbows and unicorns
Thought leader: A leader among thoughts. When referring to self, marks an irritating, pretentious person/org.
Innovative: We’re trying to sound edgy and disruptive
Disrupt: We’re trying to sound edgy and innovative
Grassroots organization/nonprofits in general: Place filled with people who care so darn much about making a difference that they knowingly take this job – with joy – understanding full well that all the above comments are true.
The preceding is a guest post by Vu Le from his blog, Nonprofit with Balls. To read the original post, click here. Vu is a writer, speaker, vegan, Pisces, and the Executive Director of Rainier Valley Corps, a nonprofit in Seattle with the mission of developing and supporting leaders of color to strengthen the capacity of communities-of-color-led nonprofits and foster collaboration between diverse communities to effect systemic change.