Squish, just like grape

berry grape in a wine puddleThree of the more eloquent philosophers of the past few centuries — Mr. Miyagi, John Mellancamp and Alexander Hamilton (if you take Lin Manuel-Miranda’s dialog literally) — all cautioned against sitting on your biscuit and being unwilling to risk it. And while the first one employed the imagery of grapes and a road while extolling his lesson to a young Daniel-san, the latter two were more succinct in their message — “Stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”

It’s a simple-enough message, but then, every truly profound exaltation has its roots in the ordinary.  Indeed, that is why they are so moving. Because they were right in front of us the entire time.  Heck, it took an apple falling out of a tree to point out the obvious — Duh, shit falls DOWN for a reason.

So, if it’s an obvious philosophical tenet, then why is it so hard for many of us to stand for something? You know, saddle up, and put our big boy or girl pants on and generally do something to make the world a better place regardless of our own self-interest or gratification.

Don’t tell me it’s because we have different visions on how to achieve that…different definitions of a better place. There are some debates that are complicated; for instance, there are significant variations in the public school vs. charter school debate or government’s role in helping the poor versus private support. However, surely there’s something that someone can get on board with, such as Cancer. There’s a critical mass of people that want Cancer around or don’t feel too strongly about abused puppies or elder care – really?

It’s hard to believe, but there is a hardened group in our society that just refuse to stand for anything. In fact, according to highly reputable sources like Giving USA and The Chronicle of Philanthropy – not fake news sites popular on Reddit – somewhere between 15% – 35% of Americans just don’t give a shit about charity. They don’t donate money or volunteer their time.

When we’re asked what we do by those not “in the know,” we usually respond that we’re professional “ass-kissers” or “nags” depending upon our disposition, coffee intake, or type of adult beverage nearby.  What we usually don’t explain is the constant pressure and need to generate resources for an organization so that its staff can actually do the work associated with saving the world. A better analogy is that fundraisers are living the demented real-world version of Liza and Henry’s nursery rhyme where no matter what they do, they just can’t seem to fill that pesky bucket because it has a hole in it. Every day we have to bring in new gifts, inspire passion, and cultivate new friends or our organization withers and dies.

This endless cycle hastens burn out. We’re not tired from hard work, stress, or unattainable expectations. We’re burnt out because of the aforementioned 15% – 35% of this world that doesn’t give a shit. And we’re not talking about blowing us off after one random voicemail message. We’re talking about the typical nonprofit Board Member – people who are SUPPOSED TO GET IT but don’t make meaningful gifts because they “conveniently” missed a deadline that a dedicated development director called to remind them about five times, emailed four times, and mailed twice. Jon even ran up to a rooftop once and built a make-shift Bat-Signal using his hands to mime his nonprofit’s logo to try and get a board member’s attention. Sorry, no one is that busy.

Before you dismiss the 15% – 35% as being poor individuals without disposable income or free time, stop, collaborate and listen to the stats (great, now we’re both humming Vanilla Ice). Households with incomes below $20,000 give the most to charity of any group as a percentage of income (somewhere between 5% – 6%). So, it ain’t that.

Maybe those hardened souls just don’t care about humanity. Sociologists will tell you that 2% of any population exhibits sociopathic tendencies. How else can you explain network TV executives inflicting Mama June and Honey Boo Boo on us?

And there is also the fact that a critical mass of people just have fucked-up belief systems… things that no one with an IQ above 70 would embrace. For example, you may not know that 3% of Americans (which coincidentally happens to be the percentage of the population with a 70 IQ or lower) believe that Lizard Aliens have secretly taken human form and replaced every world leader in a long-con to prepare our species for domination. And while that may sound eerily like the plot to a very bad 80s mini-series starring Lori Singer’s older brother (his other famous starring role included dressing-up in a loin cloth and carrying around trained ferrets in a satchel) you can Google our claim about the Lizard Aliens to see that its not hyperbole — after all, Jon’s mother told him a million times never to exaggerate.

2% and 3% are huge numbers that translate into tens of millions of people, but that’s just a fraction of what we’re talking about. Those of us who’ve hawked our wares as veteran fundraisers know that it’s 11 times more time consuming and expensive to bring in a new gift than it is to cultivate an increased gift–and that’s to “prospects.” Imagine how difficult it must be to enlighten and engage the 15% – 35% that just don’t give a shit.

So, here’s the thing folks: whether it’s puppies, frail seniors or cancer survivors – there’s something, somewhere that you give a shit about. Well, those causes need fundraisers to frolic down the road and fill our dainty little buckets, hole or no hole, to help them save the world.

You can join us, chip in, lend a hand, return a call, make a difference, and generally “Earn it” as Tom Hanks said to Matt Damon in Saving Private Ryan. Or, you can continue to be noncommittal, unattainable, entrenched Asshats with a propensity for ghosting people that are just trying to do the right thing.

Just don’t squish us, like a grape. It makes a mess, and you’ll never be able to get the stain out of your clothes… or your soul for that matter.

– Jon and Sarah


Nonprofit Apocalypse Camp – Designated Leader: Corporate Social Responsibility Officer

And now, another installment in our search for safe harbor during the nonprofit apocalypse…

Enjoy Your Drinks

Forced into self-reflection and existential contemplation in a post-apocalyptic landscape, our plucky band of nonprofit survivors soldier on for weeks after they were unceremoniously dismissed by Finance-Guy, Trevor, for not providing any ROI. Battered by the elements; sustained by nothing more than crumbs scavenged along the way; Jon and Sarah begin to submit to the overwhelming fatalism of their trudge.

One by one, their numbers dwindled. First, it was the social worker, who stopped to help a mother and child, only to realize all too late that they were zombies intent on feeding. The land conservationist – who was always more comfortable around trees than people – was swarmed by ravenous creatures drawn to his screams of joy upon finding a Shaggy Bark Hickory amongst a copse of Norway Pines. “Oh, happy day!” was the last they heard as he was swallowed by the horde. But still, they trudged. They started to hallucinate, partly from hunger and dehydration, and partly from the monotony of what life had become. Sarah was convinced a squirrel was mocking her choice of camouflage parachute pants. Jon kept seeing a shadowy wraith each morning upon waking. He was sure it was either someone from his past warning him of impending danger or the Grim Reaper offering a final invitation of respite on the other side.

After the group shared a saltine cracker for breakfast, they staked out in single-file through the last of the woods, only to come upon a parking lot of great expanse, ringing a 20-story building a half-mile in the distance. From there, Sarah could recognize the massive placard adorning the top four floors of the building: Sorgan Manly.

“Fuuuck….it’s their corporate headquarters,” Sarah exclaimed defeated, dejected. “For five years, I tried to get program underwriting from their Corporate Social Responsibility representative. I met her for coffee six times. We talked on the phone 28 times. Each grant was for $5,000. She wouldn’t allow me to ask for more. She said I wasn’t worth more, and, in fact, I was asking for one of the highest grants Sorgan Manly had to offer. She was murder.”

“We have to check it out, Sarah. We’re almost spent. Allie keeps saying ‘It’s not that I’m weak; it’s that I’m not strong,’ and Kelly’s been babbling incoherently about a farm and mustard greens for days,” pleaded Jon.

The group carefully skulked toward the front entrance of enormous, reinforced, revolving glass doors opening into a cavernous marbled hallway with Sorgan Manly etched into each side of the lobby. They were surprised by the lack of confrontation or conflagration. Once inside the lobby, a late 50-something year old women in a black-and-white Karl Lagerfeld business suit walked out from around the corner.

“Patricia, oh my god, hi! I should have expected you’d survive the apocalypse. It’s Sarah. We met two years ago when…”

“I know who you are, Sarah. You were the one that just didn’t get it,” said the Sorgan Manly Corporate Social Responsibility officer. “We only fund programs that get it.”

Jon, nonplussed by the coldness of their reunion, interjected, “I know we’re intruding on your time as well as Sorgan Manly property, but we’re desperate. It’s been months since the nonprofit apocalypse, and our band of survivors are looking for a safe haven. Might your company welcome us? We have a lot to offer and we don’t need much. We’ve made do with a saltine cracker a day. And that’s been split 23 ways. We know how to keep low overhead!”

“A saltine? My god man. We can do better than that here. Come with me.”

Sarah and Jon looked at each other in abject disbelief and contemplated the possibility that this may, in fact, be a safe place for their group to ride out the end-of-nonprofit-days. The group followed Patricia around a corner into a large cafeteria, with dozens of 20-year-olds running around in chaotic fashion. Most had reams of paper in tow. Some were carrying styrofoam food containers. More than one was carrying a cardboard tray with cups of lattes and other assorted pretentious beverages. They all seemed to be under the Svengali-like control of a handful of men seated behind mahogany desks in corner, glass enclosed offices.

“Do you want something to eat? Drink? One of our interns can get you something,” offered the Sorgan Manly representative.

Sarah stammered, “In… wait, what? Interns?”

“Yes,” replied Patricia. “We have a very competitive yet progressive program here. It’s a fantastic learning experience, which of course, will lead to great job opportunities in the future for those that are team players and follow the Sorgan Manly way. Our interns are only required to work 18 hours a day.”

“18 hours… a… day? I thought Silverman Sacks capped them at 17,” said Jon, who felt like the initial welcome was about to wear out.

SILVERMAN!!! You think we care about anything Silverman does!?!Silverman Sacks has an intern/zombie turnover rate of 96%; we are proud of our low turnover rate of 89%, which dramatically increases our human rate of highly accomplished Portland coffee brewing techniques!”

Sarah sensed the welcome was about to end. She feared Jon’s response to the situation: a sharp falchion and a swift hand. “I think what Jon was trying to say was that clearly an 18 hour workday will enable Sorgan Manly to continue its, um, low intern/zombie turnover rate for continued and longterm post apocalyptic dominance in the free labor market. I mean…Wow. It’s amazing. You’re amazing. This place is amazing. We would be speechless if we weren’t already speaking. We just don’t know what the hell is going on in the most wonderful way, but, we want in.  How can we join your camp, ermm, company? How can we become part of the Sorgan Manly team?”

“Oh, so now you get it, Sarah. Good. Good. It took you long enough. Not enough of you nonprofit people get it. Well, if you’re serious about being a part of the team, then I’ll take you to meet our Chief Branding Officer.” Patricia, without delay, stepped lively down a hallway.

“Branding?” Jon exclaimed as the group scurried to keep up. “Are you fucking kid…” Jon stopped himself mid-sentence. He could feel Sarah’s icy gaze and sensed his group’s desperate longing to grab onto any life preserver, particularly one that was greeted by really excellent coffee every morning. “Sure, right, branding, that would be great. We’d be happy to wear Sorgan Manly T-shirts or fly banners or whatever.”

“Oh, deary. We prefer a more permanent commitment to our team,” said Patricia as they turned another corner and were greeted by the warmth of a wood-fired kiln heating a red-hot iron featuring the Sorgan Manly logo.

Sarah turned to Jon and stated simply: “Jon, why are they all fucking crazy?”

“I don’t know Sarah, but let’s make sure to grab a couple of lattes as we run out of here.”

– Sarah and Jon

A Consideration of New Careers

zombieAs a new administration plots its bloodthirsty vengeance on federally funded social services and the cultural sector, Development professionals everywhere wait for the next move in this brave new world. Waiting on the brink is exhausting, mostly because as a fundraiser, your charge is to control the situation. Every day, with every program, donor, mode of operations, income and expense stream, staffing pattern, and the like, you need to predict multiple scenarios for the future in the hope that today’s actions will lead to tomorrow’s funding. Since the new normal involves Biff Tannen, the Bundy brothers and a gang of Nazi-apologists occupying Washington and playing King Joffrey against a terrorized nation, it’s hard to make predictions for tomorrow. So, in this new reality, Jon and Sarah grab a coffee and wade into the silent, still waters of possibility as they consider how their skill set will fare in the coming nonprofit apocalypse. 

Sarah: What about Zombie Porn?

Jon: Yeah, great… wait… what??!!!

Sarah: Zombie. Porn. Listen, it is sort of a thing already, and I’d rather not go into the details of my research, but I think we can really blow this thing out. I started my skills-list with “tragedy porn,” and I realized that with my – and our – arts and writing backgrounds, horror affinity and daily salesmanship of tragic real-life scenarios, that we could be, like, The Walking Dead for the sex industry. This could be Yuge! And Trump is totally not going to touch porn – we both know that, right? Him, porn.

It’s important that it’s written and directed from a perspective of intersectionality and empowerment for women, particularly because we’ll have at least 40% of the proceeds go to Planned Parenthood. Or heck, we’ll give money to all the nonprofits facing life-changing cuts like the national parks, PBS, National Endowment for the Arts, civil legal services, etc. Seems only fair… they are all set to lose billions in Federal funding. We both know a bunch of actors, although this may not be their “thing.” What do people shoot porn on these days, iPhones? Do you need a zoom lens? Hey, didn’t you say you have a friend that writes Vampire Porn?

Jon: Um, yea, I do, and he says it’s very lucrative. But, Vampires are different. You can write tone, mood in a Vampire narrative. But Zombies? How do you even write dialog?  They only grunt and growl.

Sarah: Exactly! That’s perfect for Porn. It’ll be easy.

Jon: True, but, it’s just not creative. Besides, I want to feel inspired by what I do, like I’m improving myself, challenging myself on some fundamental and metaphysical level. And that during my journey of self-discovery, I’m also improving the world. I don’t know, Zombie Porn just doesn’t seem right for my idiom.

Sarah: Right. I forgot. Your fascination with Captain America and all things Apple Pie.

Jon: Gluten Free and Vegan Apple Pie.

Sarah: Whatever.

Jon: Besides, if our entire industry is going to be torn asunder by the “Mangled Apricot” as if he were doing shots of Jaegermeister while playing social service Jenga with his Frat buddies on a Wednesday night, then I’ll be damned if I take my skills to the recesses of the Dark Internet in exchange for Bitcoins and Mario Brother hacks. We should use our skills to resist. Fight back. Like Jyn Erso and the Rebel Alliance or Jon Snow and the Men of the North.

Sarah: Last I checked we were short one blaster and an army of Wildlings.

Jon: Hell with that! Let our words be our blasters. Let the prose we create inspire an army. We will become the engineers of a brave and bright new future for us all.

Sarah: Jon, we can’t even get the local Community Foundation to give us a grant. Their largest gift went to a start-up music therapy program for refugee kittens with feline AIDS. It was crowned as a model of local sustainability! The biggest army that I know dominates the many tiered rankings of our professional networking affiliates–consultants. They can teach you how the blaster works, but they ain’t gunna hold it, and they’ll always tell you your aim is true.

Jon: I’m sure we know at least 60 people that would read our passionate entreaties.

Sarah: 60? That’s not an army, that’s a Platoon, and you and I are nothing more than a fire team. We’re hopelessly outgunned, outmanned, outnumbered, out-planned.

Jon: You’re a buzz-kill Lin Manuel-Miranda.

Sarah: You know nobody outside of the New York area gets your “Hamilton” references, right?

Jon: Okay – Let’s not look at this from an interest or impact perspective. Let’s look at this from a skills perspective. What job requires the ability to turn a phrase, albeit in a slightly humorous, concise format, while enduring constant rejection and occasional abuse?

Sarah: Blogger?

Jon: We’re fucked.

Sarah: ….So no Zombie Porn?

– Sarah and Jon

Nonprofit Apocalypse Camp – Designated Leader: Finance Guy

And now, another installment in our search for safe harbor during the nonprofit apocalypse…


MercedesOur plucky band of nonprofit survivalists, having been recently turned away from the false Sanctuary that was run by a Foundation officer, happen upon a razor wire-topped stone wall shielding an old building besides a woody copse of trees. Tentative after their last encounter with “civilization,” Jon takes the lead, with his falchion twirling in hand like a nervous lover.

Suddenly a voice booms out from behind the wall, “Welcome Bro, I’m Trevor.” Sarah stops suddenly and casts her gaze just to the left of what must be the entry gate. There, a late 20-something man, perfectly coiffed and groomed, stands to attention in a Ralph Lauren Black Label pinstripe suit. He carries no weapon or associated accoutrement… just a highball glass with an amber-colored liquid, neat. Behind him, the nonprofit survivalists can discern a hodge-podge of human rabble, adorned with little more then rags, tending to a shiny car of some sort.

“Is that a Mercedes S-Class behind you?”  Jon proffers, trying to hide his incredulity.

“Sure is,” the well-dressed man responded. “How else do you lead but by inspiring greatness in people? I mean look at them. They’re all lazy. Half of them don’t even have the drive to put on a Brooks Brother, forget a Ralph Lauren. It’s my job to show them that if you work hard, meet benchmarks, and embrace accountability, then the sky’s the limit. That’s how I got to be the boss… by playing the boss. It’s all about appearance you know? And it’s all mental discipline. And it’s 90% sheer determination. Oh, and it’s also 50% who you know. That’s how I got to be in charge. These desperate lazy fucks saw my inherent qualities, my success, and handed everything over to me. After all, they knew if I got all this shit, then I must know how to work hard. ”

“Um, wait, work hard? It sure looks like you’re the one enjoying a Scotch while they’re breaking their asses,” Sarah blurted out before Jon could interject a more measured response. “I think what my esteemed cohort means is that it doesn’t seem to be an equitable distribution of labor… after all this is the apocalypse. Shouldn’t everyone be pitching in, sharing the load?”

“Pitch in? Do you even know who I am? Dude, I graduated Yale second in my class. Third generation. I started my own boutique hedge fund in Greenwich and was managing $7 billion in assets by the time I was 27. I know how to work hard. Damn, I work like 18 hours a day. Like yesterday for that matter. I got up at 6am, hit the gym to work out next to a couple of hotties. Got some digits, yea, whatever. Grabbed my double expresso and rolled into my office at 8am. Worked the phones all morning. Went to lunch with Taylor and Austin to discuss that IPO launch and the percentage split after the derivatives are swapped. Back to the office to work the phones. Left at 5pm to hit a strip club and talk business with the guys from Blackrock. Four lapdances and two hits off the top of the toilet later with those jackasses, and WHAM, $25 million being wired into our account. That’s how I roll bitches. Making it rain.”

“You have an expresso maker?” Sarah said lovingly, longingly, apparently missing the rest of Trevor’s improbable screed. It had been months since she indulged in that particular addiction, since before the apocalypse, when she earned a decent salary at the nonprofit she worked at. Usually she grabbed a cup to go from the mom and pop coffee shop next to the train station on her way into the City each day… not of course, from the Starbucks by her house… she wasn’t a pretentious fraud with no morals after all.

“Yea, babe, I used my Chase Sapphire Black Card. Wanna’ check it out? It’s in my penthouse apartment overlooking the park.”

Jon, clearly unimpressed, and a bit perturbed by the outward misogyny, turned the conversation back toward the issue at hand… surviving the apocalypse. “Ok, you’re clearly someone of great renown. We get that. Can you offer sanctuary to our plucky band of nonprofit survivalists? We’ve got nurses, teachers, musicians, farmers, engineers, you name it. They’re all willing to work hard to build a community… to build a better life.”

“Sorry Bro. No can do.”

“WHY!?!” Sarah screams, partly from anger, and partly from the prolonged hunger associated with having to ration a bagel cut in foursies across as many days.

“Because, sweetie, there’s no ROI.”

– Jon and Sarah