Things That Are Trifling

Thoughts on Food, Gender, Race, and Popular Culture

Nonprofits

spend way too much money on conference calls, grantwriting, and “meetings” while corporations continue to rule the world and buy out the government. Despite these epic failures, every day I get more and more emails of job positions where I can make $20,000 a year continuing this cycle of mediocrity. TRIFLING! I will elaborate on some of the unfortunate aspects of the nonprofit sector, below.

Conference Calls 
Conference calls are an epic waste of time. Open calls usually are an hour long and are advertised excessively via listserv or email, with an exciting sounding topic (why else would you be tricked into listening in the first place) like “How to fight Federal Budget Cuts” or “Rebuiling Local Food Economies in Socially Just Manners”. They also take place during the work hour (sometime, but not always during lunch- deceptive!). Everything in the conference call description suggests this turn of events:

1. Listen to conference call
2. Become supremely educated on awesome topic you want to know more about
3. Walk away with knowledge and ideas for your current project

In reality this is what a conference call breakdown

10%: Hearing “Welcome to the conference” about 20 times for all the people who logged on/got disconnected
5% People reintroducing themselves over and over because the conference call software tells them to do so/ and the requisite “WELCOME! From the overly enthusiastic “moderator”
5% Background static from people who don’t know how to mute their calls/forgot to mute
5% People asking for other people to start talking, said person is unaware they are currently on mute
20% Moderator thanking everyone for being on call and reading the introductions to organizations/bios of speakers (Which you already read in the email they sent you)
20% Speaker(s)thanking everyone for being on the call and talking about what their organization does (Which you could read on their website, which you have a link to in the email they already sent you)
10% Discussion of topic at hand, often not logically progressing. (This is the part you should listen to)
5% Interruption of topic at hand with background static/dropped calls
10% People asking questions. Static continues
10% Response to questions: “That’s a great question. We need more research on that. I would check out X website for Y information.”

Somewhere in the last 20% I would put in the new information gained. That was probably gained from listening to someone else’s question, oddly similar to your own question when you started the call. You probably won’t be able to hear the question, since you’ll either have muted the call, started multitasking during the call, and/or got logged off and are frantically trying to log back in.

Efficiency! We loves it.

Grantwriting
I honestly don’t have that much experience with grantwriting, except to say that A) Grants all claim to be “highly competitive” and yet B) Most organizations seem to get the grants that they usually do to keep running – except if they went out on a limb for a new grant every once in a while. Grants seem to take up lots of time. Usually an organization has one or two dedicated grant-writers. It is their job to spin the BS of what the organization is doing into “results” that will please the almighty “grant-givers” (all too often known as ‘Corporations’). I often wonder what goes in the results section. Sometimes I think it is things like “We distributed material!” or “We talked to people!” Not “we changed X and Y institutional practice, using Z means!” But I am sure some nonprofits are successful at that. Somewhere out there. Grant writers must also answer the grant-givers’ questions and be able to perform well under pressure talking to someone with lots of money asking you why your organization deserves it.

Meetings
Meetings are like conference calls, except that you have to see people in person, which makes it harder to pretend like you are not listening. Good meetings will have an agenda, goals, and a semblance of order. Bad meetings will devolve into a 10 minute late start, 15 minutes of meeting leaders’ rambling, 10 minutes of going to find new copies of materials, 20 minutes of arguing about tiny details of meeting subject, 5 minutes of discussion, and 10 minutes deciding when the next meeting will be.

Meeting subsets include but are not limited to:

Pre-meeting meeting: In which you meet to plan a future meeting, in the hopes that it will be executed efficiently. (It won’t).

Non-meeting: In which the agenda is derailed at every turn by a non-sequiter and nothing is decided on OR there was never a point to the meeting to start with. Also known as weekly staff meetings, held for no ritual other than sometimes we are welcoming new staff and must greet them with catered breakfast and generically awkward introductions as a ‘welcome’.

Epic meeting: In which the conveners of the meeting have failed to note that two people in the meeting are at complete odds with one another and a showdown ensues. At least one person must live tweet/facebook/text message another person a play-by-play for this to qualify as an Epic meeting.

Awkward meeting: In which half the meeting takes place in person and the other half via conference call, thereby converging all types of awkwardness into one clusterf#*$ of inefficiencies.

However, Meetings > Conference Calls in that meetings often have free food. Thanks in no small part to a grant which talked about the need for meetings and food to “Get things done.” TRIFLING!

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