So recently I was talking with a friend of mine about her new nonprofit job.
“How’s it going?” I asked.
“Oh I’m looking for new jobs every day!” she said. She’s never worked in nonprofits before.
“What’s the deal?” I asked.
“I went to sit with donors at this event, and my boss asked me if I was DRUNK because I seemed to be having such a good time.”
Wow. There’s an assumption there that we’re not supposed to fit in with rich people. We’re not supposed to comport ourselves as if we’re as good as they are.
She told me about interacting with major donors and how they tried to act as if they were very important people and she wasn’t. They were rude to her, they tried to rush past her, she encouraged them to give, they told her how they didn’t want to give because their company bought a table, and she brought up the point that their company paid for the table, they didn’t, so they should still have money to spend at the event. They didn’t like that. They didn’t like being told what to do by a nonprofit worker who should be kissing their feet.
I say, why go to a fundraising event if you aren’t going to spend money? Isn’t that the point of being at the event?
It strikes me that there’s an assumption often on the major donor’s part and board part that just because the nonprofit staff don’t have a lot of money, that they are also stupid and kiss-ups.
Well this time, the joke was on them, because my friend happens to be fairly wealthy, outspoken, and aware of oppression and privilege. She’s working at this nonprofit for the experience. There is an assumption that people who can afford to work at nonprofits are trust-fund babies, but I assure you that most nonprofit people that I’ve met are very poor. I hasten to add that has nothing to do with their intelligence.
At this event, there was very much an attitude of “Don’t You Know Who I AM?!” and she thought it was funny and also kind of sad. Imagine if she had no other option but to stay in that job.
Do you trust your donors?
Do you think of them as compatriots in the fight for your cause? Or are you harshly treated by them? If so, do you have to smile and pretend they’re not being mean to you?
Are there assumptions on the board’s part that you don’t know what you’re doing?
Are there snide remarks made about other staff members when staff aren’t at board meetings?
Are there rude comments made about your garments?
Are there people sneering at you when they come into your nonprofit because they think you need to be so grateful for their presence?
How do you deal with this?
How do you build a relationship with the donors who turn out to be assholes?
Do you calmly tell them how you prefer to be treated, and that you will not accept that kind of treatment?
How can we nip this terrible attitude in the bud?
Do you have any suggestions?