Getting into the Holiday Spirit

I love this time of year and all of the traditions that come with it. Baking cookies, decorating the tree – it’s one of my favorite times of the year. Even in the midst of my depression, Christmas/Hanukkah/New Years was always a shining light, a chance for me to not wallow in my problems and really get into the spirit of things.

This year, however, I experienced something during the season that I haven’t probably felt in over a decade – joy. The feeling hit me while helping my girlfriend’s mom make cookies, while my girlfriend and her dad were setting up trains underneath the Christmas tree.

What did it take for me to feel this way? The simple answer is that I’ve been actively working on my recovery for the past year and a half. Working on my recovery isn’t just about working on overcoming the biological obstacles; it has also been an acknowledgement of the environment I had been creating for myself.

There have been many toxic friendships and relationships that I have cut out from my life. I no longer spend my time on people and drama that is doing absolutely nothing to support who I am, the work I’m doing, and my recovery.

I have also welcomed new and accepting people into my life, and I’ve realized the importance of those people in my everyday life. My girlfriend’s parents have always been friendly and welcoming, and have accepted me as a part of the family. It finally hit me a couple of weeks ago, and that’s why I was able to fully immerse myself in Christmas.

Often the end of the year and the beginning of the new one means shedding things or cutting things out. Which I think is extremely important. But when we cut the toxic out of our life, we need to be open and accepting to the positive aspects that are new or that we haven’t noticed in our life.

I’m not where I wanted to be at the beginning of 2015, but I’m a lot closer to my goals now than I was a year ago.

May the new year be full of positive moments and full of strength and perseverance to overcome negativity and challenges.

Looking Inward at your Non-profit: Goals not Resolutions

I know it’s a little fickle for some people to think of how your organization needs to change at this time of year, or that resolutions seem like a flimsy transition into the new year.

I sort of agree, only changing and evaluating your organization at the end of the year is wasted opportunity and leaves minimal room for flexibility. I do think, however, that using this time to look back on what was accomplished (and what wasn’t) and how you want to grow and expand can be valuable.

Think of this time to create goals, not resolutions. To me resolutions seemed fixed and tend to focus on the negatives. Shaping goals into positives creates a better atmosphere for your non-profit. Stating that your organization needs to meet the fundraising quota next year with the implication being that you failed this year can create desperation and sloppy work. Instead, set a goal for a certain fundraising quota, including new ways to achieve it. While resolutions for an organization can see colossal or vague, goals are tangible and specific.

It’s important to remember the mistakes of the past but not to dwell on them. This year impacts how you move forward, but it shouldn’t constrain where you move from here. The most effective goals are the ones that are flexible and acknowledge what you’ve learned while focusing on the future.

Moving your organization forward with goals makes it adaptable to the unforeseen future and creates an infinite amount of opportunities to define success for your nonprofit.

You Probably Thought Me Coming Out Was About You

After dipping into a part of my coming out narrative last week I started thinking about all of the times I had to come out to friends, family, and co-workers and how they have reacted.

I’ve realized a long time ago that whomever you are coming out to tends to make it about them, but under further review I realized that every straight person I’ve come out to has gone through virtually the same process in reacting and dealing with the my gayness.
The process, in my opinion, is absolutely hilarious.
Step 1 – How does this make them feel?
Coming out has really never been about me, which by itself could be its own blog post. I tend to get “Oh I knew” or ” Why didn’t you tell me sooner, you didn’t trust me? “I’m totally okay with it”.
Well… yes I figured you are a decent human being and you won’t completely reject who I am. As far as the trust “issue” I also find that extremely entertaining. Straight people have no idea what it’s like to be afraid of that kind of hate and rejection… but yes it’sdefinitely all about you.
Step 2 – They are totally accepting of the LGBT community
I’ve only had a few bad coming out experiences, so I’m not even going to touch on those experiences. After they get over the shock of me coming out and telling me that they don’t suck as human beings,I get showered with pro-LGBT centered articles. “I saw that New Jersey got marriage equality, isn’t that great?” ” Did you see the article on Huffington Post about that gay House representative?”
 
I really do appreciate them sharing all of this information with me, but especially when it’s my family sharing, I have usually read the article two weeks before someone emails it to me. I would much rather get emails about Doctor Who news, I’m not so quick on that.
Step 3 – Proceed to show me how open minded they are by specifically talking about my love life / girlfriend.
This step specifically applies to my extended family and general acquaintances. Anyone who knows me really well knows that I don’t want to be specifically catered to because of my sexuality. I get told to make sure I bring my girlfriend, when none of my siblings or cousins my age have that reiterated to them. I’m not offended by it, but making my relationship a special snowflake compared to the rest of them doesn’t actually show acceptance.
I do understand I’m dealing with cultural and generational differences when I’m coming out and navigating through my family. I certainly know that most of them are trying their best since I’m the first openly out person on either side of my family.
I know I need to patient with their processes, but it the meantime, I’m just going to laugh at how ridiculous my family is.

I’m Thankful for My Non-Profit Community

Since it’s not that long after Thanksgiving, I wanted to focus on something I’m extremely grateful for – community. A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a non-profit panel hosted by my University. As an alumna, I was extremely honored to speak to former and current students about my experiences forming my organization and what it’s like to run a non-profit. Before I went, however, I wasn’t terribly excited. I had been dealing with some non-related issues and I just wasn’t feeling very passionate about anything in general. I had no desire to go, but when I make a commitment, especially when my organization is involved, I know that I have to suck it up and power through whatever I have to do.

I’m so glad I said yes to this opportunity, and that I went with an open mind. Speaking on of panel of former students, all of whom were women, was inspiring to say the least. We all come from different backgrounds and experiences, but we all have passion for what we’re doing, and know that despite all of the ups and downs, that we wouldn’t want to choose anything else.

It was comforting to hear that so many people struggle and overcome the notion that we need to work ourselves to the bone and without any compensation. I needed to hear how I wasn’t the only one who dealt with guilt over the idea of being compensated for work. That taking care of ourselves is taking care of our organizations and our constituents.

Without this experience I would probably be stuck in my angsty rut, forgetting that taking care of myself is jst as important as the work I’m doing. I’m so thankful that I have access to a supportive community which is passionate and willing to make sacrifices for those passions. I would not be able to do the work that I do without having the chance to voice my success and my frustrations within an open and understanding space.

We need community. I think sometimes I forget that I have this fantastic network, but I’m so grateful that I’m constantly reminded of its existence.

Missing My One Year Anniversary – An Accidental Hiatus

The beginning of this month I celebrated the one year anniversary of this blog. I had grand intentions of writing a very in-depth recap of the blog, and what it has meant to me the past year. Unfortunately life had gotten crazy over the past two months, and I fell out of writing.

First off, I got hired to a full-time position which is great, because money, but it’s not in my field. I know that I’m lucky to have any type of job as a millennial with a liberal arts degree who wants to work in a nonprofit, but nevertheless it has left me with not much to write about. Really, I just haven’t had the motivation to write. I know I’m in a good situation, but I have honestly lost some drive when it comes to finding a non-profit job or funding for my non-profit.

Very long story short – having an infected tooth and having potential employment burn you really puts you off from writing about anything positive.

Which in reality, is exactly what I have needed. Focusing on the positives in my life and the work (non-profit and for profit) I’m doing helps me keep my head in the game and maintain perspective.

My goal for this blog to continue on, and for me to keep writing about the good things about being gay and working in the non-profit world.

If anything has taught be about working in the non-profit sector,  it’s that if you get knocked down eight times, you need to stand up nine. I can’t give up on myself or my writing just because I’m not exactly where I want to be, and just because opportunities don’t work out the way I wanted them to.

So I guess this post will be an homage to the first year of this blog. There were road bumps, but I kept writing. I got busy, and I kept writing. So now after an unintended break, I will keep writing. I will keep trying. I will keep working at making the world a better place.

Valuing Myself Over My Non-profit: Struggling with Depression in the Non-profit Sector

As someone who has been dealing with depression for most of my adolescent and adult life, and now who is finally dealing with said depression, I’ve been realizing that my thought process on certain topics has been skewed, to say the least.

I have mentioned in a previous post that my organization can’t go on its annual trip because of health and safety risks. More specifically, we are concerned about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. There haven’t been any reported cases in the country we would be traveling to, but we are greatly concerned about the traveling to and from. It would most likely be a non-issue, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

That is what I keep telling myself: even the smallest chance of getting seriously ill isn’t worth it. That I could accomplish so much more staying stateside and postponing the trip.

My depression made me believe that it was better to risk my life to do something that would just maybe make me feel better. Even now, I finally admitted out loud (to myself and my girlfriend) that if we weren’t together I would be extremely tempted to go ahead and just go, ignoring all the obvious risks and leaving it entirely to chance. Why does it seem so easy for me to think that my life could be expendable for the sake of my non-profit? That everyone involved, including myself would be better off if I took the risk? I understand that it’s important to be self-less at times in our line of work, but when that crosses over the line into self-destruction it’s terrifying. I never saw myself cross over that line; I can’t pinpoint when the notion that my non-profit appeared to have more value than my existence.

Sometimes I honestly don’t know whether I’m actually being selfless, or just not valuing my own person. Looking back, it’s much easier to see the times where I was chipping away at myself “for the sake” of my organization, all in the name of being passionate and hard working. I don’t think there is anything wrong with working hard and making sacrifices, but when that becomes a part of everyday life, when you are constantly forsaking your mental and physical health for the benefit of your organization, it’s too far.

We owe it to ourselves to take care of ourselves first, and our organization second. It might seem selfish (it definitely has to me in the past), but your health and safety are worth so much. Throwing it away isn’t going to make yourself or your organization better. It’s just increases the chance of pain and burnout.

It’s even hard for me to write this, but my life is more important than my organization. My health is more important than my organization. My safety is more important than my organization. I will keep saying that to myself, over and over and over again, until hopefully it becomes as natural to me as breathing.

It’s Just a Numbers Game

The ALSA’s Bucket challenge has taken the internet and country by storm and has become one of the most successful online fundraising campaigns to date. When an organization has huge success like this there comes more scrutiny. Which there should be; after finding out that some organizations allocated more funds to branding than projects or research, all non-profits need to rise up to the cause and be responsible how donations are used.

Recently I read an article discussing how the ALSA is “only using 34% of funds for research”. The idea of an organization using a third of their funding for programs would be extremely disappointing. However, it took me approximately 30 seconds to find out that, actually, other funds are allocated to education and various programs, and that their administrative costs are only .24 out of every dollar. For an organization like the ALSA, that is very reasonable.

All non-profits try to maximize donations, but without the oil the wheels don’t turn. If no one is paid within a non-profit, the work doesn’t get done. If ink isn’t bought, flyers and materials aren’t printed for the education program. The administrative costs may not be pretty or make you feel better, but they are crucial for the continuation and furthering of the mission. I’ve been told by several donors that they don’t want their donation to cover our shipping and logistics. This is fine, because shipping is completely free to us, but if we didn’t have the logistical part of our programs financed, we wouldn’t be able to operate without fundraising for shipping costs. Sometimes your donation won’t go to a meal, a book, or a vaccination. However, without the money to the operational or logistical needs, those materials wouldn’t get to where they need to, and those programs would at worst not exist, and at best be nowhere near as impactful as they could be.

In a perfect world, 100% of all donations all of the time would go directly to constituents. Organizations like the Red Cross or UNICEF can show these numbers because of the plethora of large and small donations that keep constantly pouring in. Medium or small-sized organizations, especially those who work with specific populations like ALSA don’t get that luxury. People who don’t work within the non-profit sector might think that 24% of funding going towards administrative costs may be high.  The way that materials or salary get allocated within a budget greatly impacts what is technically called administrative.

Administrative costs will always exist, and it isn’t fair to chastise and dismiss an organization who keeps their administrative costs to under 30%. Should the ALSA work to make that number smaller? Of course, as should all of us who work in the non-profit sector, but don’t expect every organization to have 99-100% of donations go directly to programs.

Numbers can be easily manipulated, and numbers most certainly can lie. Before you donate, I encourage you to research how an organization uses it’s funds. A critical eye is important , but criticizing without understanding is dangerous.

We Need Gay Spaces

This weekend my girlfriend and I attended a bachelorette party of one of her friends which involved going to a club, a very stereotypical straight club full of dude bros. My girlfriend and I understood that the club wasn’t designed to cater to us, but we couldn’t help feeling uncomfortable when overly aggressive men tried to hit on us or try to touch us. I know I’m not a club person in general, but I have no idea how this type of setting would be appealing to anyone.

For me, one of the most frustrating parts of the night was knowing that there really aren’t that many spaces for my girlfriend and I to go and dance and not be a harassed by men who ‘accidentally’ grab my ass . The city that we live in doesn’t have many LGBT specific safe spaces, and the number that is specifically for lesbians is minuscule.

Why is it so difficult for us to have safe spaces? And, for those of us who work in the non-profits, finding a safe space within our sector, organization, or country could be near impossible. There aren’t that many safe spaces online either (that’s why I started this blog in the first place). It’s frustrating that there are so few spaces outside of our apartment that I feel safe talking about my girlfriend, holding her hand, or being able to dance with her. I should be able to talk about her on my organization’s trips or in other situations where people get to casually mention their heterosexual significant other. It’s frustrating and it’s saddening. Denying my orientation and denying my girlfriend are two very big parts of myself,I always feel like I have to pretend I’m someone I’m not .

I want there to be club where I can dance with my girlfriend. I want to travel the world and tell everyone how amazing she is. I want to not be afraid of  mentioning her or looking ‘too gay’ when I talk to donors or constituents.

For now, I hope that this blog can serve as that, and hopefully we can work towards more safe spaces online and offline, and having fun and working within the organizations we feel so passionately about.

I want all of us gay humanitarians to be able to band together, and at least create a space online where we can be safe, and be ourselves.

How To: Make a Program Budget

When creating a new program, the budget is essential for understanding how much money will be needed to launch and maintain the program.  According to the Foundation Center, “… the budget may be a simple one-page statement of projected expenses, or an entire spreadsheet including projected support and revenue and a detailed narrative, which explains various items of expense or revenue”. The budget is a way to tell the program’s story through numbers, in a way that is tangible and concrete to funders, donors, and constituents.

Revenue

How are you funding this project? Are there going to be multiple funding sources? Will these sources last throughout the program, or will you need to supplement the revenue later on? Revenue can include: Individual Contributions, Grants/Institutional Donors, Program Fees, Membership Revenues, Sponsorships, Special Events Revenues, and Government Contracts. Listing out all of these sources can show that your organization is capable of acquiring multiple sources. To a potential donor or sponsor, it would mean that their investment is worthwhile and sustainable.

Expenses

Be as detailed and realistic as possible when listing out expenses.  Expenses can include: Staff Salaries, Payroll Taxes, Employee Benefits, Travel, Training/Education – Staff, Meetings & Conferences, Rent and utilities, Insurance, Advertising, Website Development & Service, Public Relations, Telephone/Fax Equipment, Office Furniture, Postage, and Printing. Grantmakers or sponsors want to see whole funding picture; they also want the program to succeed if they invest. Don’t surprise funders with new expenses in the middle of the project.

 

Good luck!

 

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

In my quest for finding a paying non-profit job, I’ve been luckily enough to be one of the few selected to come I for interviews. This has happened several times, and has not result in successful employment. I know that this is significantly more progress than my peers are experiencing, so a part of me feels guilty for being frustrated.  Then there is the part of me that wants organizations to see how freaking awesome of an asset I would be in their non-profit. I know that I have a good amount of experience, and I’ve knowledge of a wide range of things that are necessary in a non-profit office (everything from website management, event planning, and everything in between). What do these other people being interviewed have over me? Probably experience, which in reality, I really can’t do anything about. There are always going to be people who know more than I do. I just wish that I was given a chance to prove myself.

Honestly, constantly getting my hopes up and then having them dashed is the worst part about the job hunting process. For me to present myself in the best possible light in an interview, I need to feel excited and passionate about the position. How else will employers get that I’m serious about getting hired? But with that excitements leads to huge disappointment after I don’t get the position. I feel like this job hunting process is like a terrible roller coaster that I got bored with 3 months ago, but can’t get off of it.

I know I need to be grateful for the opportunities to go into these interviews and network with people I wouldn’t normally get a chance to interact with. I need to be grateful for getting farther in the job process than a lot of people.  I know I need to stay positive because even as I’m writing this, I am getting emailed about possible positions.

I just need to take deep breaths, and keep doing what I’m doing. Because really, there isn’t an alternative.