Love story

I’m a big fan of StoryCorps, and I found this love story very moving (thanks Katya).

Really, what more to life is there than love?


The weathermen are always wrong

They’re not, actually.*  For most days when no one is paying attention they’re usually right.

The thing is, we only pay attention when the stakes are high (“BIG STORM COMING!!” or when we’re planning for a vacation) and then when the forecast is wrong we remember that, hang on to it, and share stories about that day we prepped for the storm, canceled a meeting, stayed home from work…and the storm didn’t come.

Sure, sensationalist weathermen competing for viewer eyeballs play into this, so it’s fun to have them be the scapegoats.  But that’s not the point. The point is that people may talk louder about your failures than they do about your successes; or, worse, the naysayers speak up first and loudest, just when you’re getting going.  That’s the risk in showing up every day and putting yourself out there.

Don’t let the fact that the critics talk  – sometimes loudly – become an excuse for you not to show up in the first place.

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*NOTE:  here’s the chart (original analysis here) on the accuracy of weather forecasts.  If forecasts were 100% accurate, the solid blue line would lie directly on top of the dashed line.  Pretty accurate, actually.

Sign everything you send out

I was trading emails with a nonprofit CEO when the question of newsletters came up.  Specifically, who should his organization’s quarterly newsletter come from / be signed by since it’s not written by him?

We’re all busy, there’s a lot to get done, and really what people want is to hear what the organization is up to, right?

Well, no, actually.  That’s wrong.

The temptation not to sign and not to write your own communications is huge, but signing emails from “Us” instead of from “Me” is just a way of hiding from real work, real narrative, and real connection.  It’s an excuse to strip out all personality and tone and opinion and controversy, to iron out the bumps and smooth over the edges, because it feels safe to do so and you’ll offend no one.

How many times have you seen this one?

Dear Sasha,

Thank you so much for applying for this job/school/prize.  We received thousands of applications for this position, and while we were very impressed with your application and experiences, we will not be proceeding with your candidacy at this time.


The Place You Wanna Work / Go to school / Whatever

But a person rejected your application, right?  A person made the decision not to grant the interview.

Same story with your newsletter – written by a person, and received by a person (probably an important one to your organization).

You can pretend that it’s somehow OK to impersonalize it because you’re not willing to do the hard work of standing out and speaking in your own voice.  You can pretend that people have a box in their lives called “newsletter” or “updates” and somehow by sending this out you’re checking that off for them.  But I suspect you’re doing that because on some level you’re not convinced that this thing can be really valuable – for you or for them – or because you’re afraid that it will be worse to stand out and fall on your face than it will be to blend in.

It turns out that all that smoothing out and ironing out only guarantees that you’ll fade into the dull background noise in someone’s inbox, that you’ll never create something worth sharing.

So sign everything you write with your name, with a real return email address to which you will respond (or if that’s not practical, to which another human being will respond signing his name).

I bet that simple act of owning up force you to make a cascade of good decisions.

The future of impact investing

I’ve now spent four years in the impact investing space, and nearly three years as a blogger on philanthropy, generosity and social change.  The landscape looks radically different than it did just a few years ago.

On the upside, JP Morgan is now saying that impact investing might be a $1 trillion market; “impact investing” and “social entrepreneurs” are two of the top 10 philanthropy buzzwords of the decade; and we’ve seen a flourishing of philanthropy, especially by mega-donors, both in terms of total philanthropic dollars committed and in more visible and more public talk of results-oriented approaches.

At the same time we’ve seen the limits of markets: the global economy nearly collapsed in late 2008; microfinance, wunderkind of new philanthropy, was shaken to its core by a wave of suicides in southern India late last year.  No wonder that some are calling 2011 the year of reckoning for social enterprise.

Here’s my take on what this all means, from my talk at the 2010 NextGen:Charity conference.

(You also don’t want to miss these other great talks from the conference: Scott Case, Scott Harrison, Scott Belsky, and Nancy Lublin.)

Enjoy, and please share you reactions.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Which conversation – addendum

I’ve heard from a few readers that yesterday’s post – Which Conversation – was a little opaque.  So here’s take 2:

There are two models of how you build yourself up professionally, how you grow your visibility and responsibility.

The first model says that you do what’s asked of you, (over) deliver, and then ask for/be given more responsibility. That’s the school version of life – do your homework, get good grades, advance to the next class.

What I was getting at is that you’re holding yourself back if you always ask for permission.

Why not be indispensable instead? Go ahead and DO all those things that seem like the next step, the thing you’d like to do next year or someday.  If you do that well, if you’re already delivering like crazy AND handling a bunch of other important stretch opportunities, then you’re no longer going to your boss asking for permission, you’re going to her with a full list of things that you’re already doing and just asking her to formalize your role in whatever way will confer the official authority you’re looking for (but may not even need).

Of course this requires you to figure out a way to nail your current responsibilities and to make time and space for all the new stuff.  It forces you to think hard, confront your fears, do things without formal authority or blessing from above.  It forces you to do real work.

If you’re up for it, then you’ll find yourself having a very different conversation with your boss a year from now:

1. School version: “I did well. Is it OK if I do these new things next year?”

2. Indispensable version: “Here’s everything I’m doing, all the ways I’m going above and beyond.  Anything I should stop doing?  If not, at some point we should formally acknowledge that I’m doing a lot more than the job I was doing before.”

Hope that’s more clear.

Make Europe yours

I’m looking for a stellar self-starter who makes things happen to join my team.

Success means that a year from now, Acumen Fund will have a higher profile, deeper relationships, a stronger and more engaged community, and significantly more funds coming from Europe to support our work.

This is an opportunity to represent Acumen Fund across a major geography and be at the heart of the evolution of our sector – and if you’re really good, to help define how the sector evolves.

I don’t care if you’ve done not-for-profit fundraising before, but you must have sold things, created things, and gotten people to take action through your ability to build genuine relationships and your powers of persuasion.  You must have real working experience in the developing world – ideally India, Pakistan or sub-Saharan Africa.  You must have a demonstrated commitment to and understanding of our sector.

This is a unique opportunity for the right person.  All the details are here including the link to apply.

Applications close on February 6th.

Which conversation

I bet you had a great year last year.  You hit your goals and then some.  You checked all the boxes and now you’re thinking about the coming year and ways you’d like to grow as a professional.

Which conversation do you want to have with your boss?

One version goes like this: Hey, boss, great to see you.  I’ve been thinking that since I delivered so much last year that I’d like to take on these new projects and be given such-and-such new responsibilities and this new job title.

It might work, but wouldn’t you rather have this conversation?

Hey boss, not only did I ship like crazy last year, but as you know I also was leading up these projects, I’ve been taking responsibility for these relationships and these other initiatives that are underway, and I’m also the point person for this big idea that’s going live in March and it’s going great.

So, boss, which one of these things would you like me to stop doing?

Your choice.

Really, it’s up to you.