Why I Work for Nonprofits

In my real life, when I’m not playing with my kitten or making delicious things come out of my kitchen, I split my time between a small nonprofit that serves disadvantaged youth through music and a large grant-making foundation. I always knew I wanted to work for organizations whose mission it was to improve our world, but it took me some time to finally come to where I am today. I could probably go on and on about why I love working for these organizations, but I’ve whittled it down to these 4 reasons:

  1. It’s a community.  At least here in the Triangle, nonprofits are supportive of one anothers’ missions. There are listservs and Facebook pages dedicated to connecting nonprofit professionals and their organizations to one another, resources, volunteers, you name it!
  2. Women rule. The nonprofit sector is dominated by women. I found statistics from 2009 saying that 73% of workers in this sector, 45% of CEOs, and 43% of board members (WomenMovingMillions.org). Granted, the wage inequalities between men and women CEOs still hold for the nonprofit sector, but the fact that there is a near 50-50 split between men and women CEOS is impressive. At the two nonprofit organizations I work for, one of my bosses is female, the other is male. The board members are about a 50/50 split between men and women at the small nonprofit I work for while the large organization has more men on its board (but to be fair, it’s a family affair and they only have sons). It’s pretty empowering to be in an environment where you’re  likely to be working with a room full of women.
  3. Transparency. Ok, technically by law nonprofits are required to make their financials public, but still, the fact that there can be open conversations about how your workplace spends money and what they value is refreshing. Plus transparency means accountability; when organizations or businesses must be accountable for producing results based on what they spend, you get better results.
  4. A little goes a long way. Nonprofits have limited resources which means they have to do their research and get creative. This can be a great thing for innovation, especially for techies and development nerds. Plus, you get to really focus on where the organization needs to spend money, not on where it can spend money. This reduces waste (which is good) and paves the way for long-term financial responsibility for one day when a little organization becomes a BIG organization.

At the end of the day, I feel more fulfilled working for a not-for-profit entity because I know the hours I worked don’t just contribute to my company’s bottom line or my boss’ ego, build up something larger than myself or my organization. They’re hours spent making a better community, and ultimately a better world.


Rushing Goes to Ft. Sumpter

Last month the boy and I went to a wedding in Charleston and while there, righted a wrong in the boy’s life. Somehow, despite being a (nearly) life-long Civil War buff, he had never been to Ft. Sumpter. I did the research beforehand, got us up early on a Saturday morning, and we jumped on the ferry out to Ft. Sumpter!

Looking out from the ferry toward the bridge over the Charleston harbor.

The fort, in case your history is a little rusty, is actually an island in the mouth of the Charleston harbor. It was built following the war of 1812 (thanks Wikipedia) and switched hands twice during the Civil War.

The fort!

The fort was hammered by Confederate bombardment on 3 sides during the opening battle of the Civil War, destroying sections of the fort. After the war, the fort was partially rebuilt to serve during the Spanish-American war, and of course to preserve it as a historic landmark, you can see the different stages of construction from the brick, to the early cement, to the modern reinforcement.

Matt arrives!

Because the boy is such a history buff, we opted out of the museum and guided tours and went around on our own. I learned more about canons than I ever thought I would know in life.

Canons: more interesting than one would expect.
Canons: more interesting than one would expect.

The ferry schedule gives visitors about 1.5 hours on the island, which was just about the perfect amount of time to leisurely walk around the entire fort and take some pictures. They warn you going out that the fort is about 10 degrees cooler than in Charleston and they. are. not. kidding. Not only is it 10 degrees cooler, but the wind is twice as strong. So an hour and a half is just about all you can take temperature-wise as well.

Note the jackets. In Charleston. In late March.
Note the jackets. In Charleston. In late March.

One more check off the bucket list, achieved!

Cabbage Wraps

I get tired quickly of my lunch options. I also hate when leftovers go to waste. Consequently, I end up eating a lot of reimagined leftovers for my lunch.

My most recent innovation is Shrimp Cabbage Wraps, and they are AWESOME.


Assemble your desired fillings.
Assemble your desired fillings.


I started with rice as the base, and topped with shrimp and peas.
I started with rice as the base, and topped with shrimp and peas.


The trick to these is SOY SAUCE. Throw some in now, save some to dip your rolls in later.
The trick to these is SOY SAUCE. Throw some in now, save some to dip your rolls in later.


Fold the bottom up like a pocket
Fold the bottom up like a pocket
Close one side of the pocket
Roll over!
Roll over!


I microwaved mine for 1-3 minutes in a tupperware with a little water in it to stem the rolls.

Just dip in soy, or any sauce, and enjoy!

A Weekend in the Mountains

Spring has sprung here in central NC. The jonquils are coming up, the mean temperature is above 50 degrees for the week, and there is just the tiniest touch of humidity in the air. Basically, it’s beautiful. And what does one do when it’s beautiful? Spend as much time as humanly possible outside!

And that is exactly what I accomplished this past weekend with the help of the boy and a couple of friends. We met in Asheville on Friday, and had dinner at Jack of the Wood while a couple of great bluegrass bands played. After a round over at the Bier Gardenit was time to turn in and rest up for the day ahead.

Saturday morning we drove out to Hot Springs, NC which is 45 miles northwest of Asheville. Hot Springs is a really adorable little down that sits right on top of the Appalachian Trail and, as the name suggests, natural mineral springs. We camped out at a site maintained by the Hot Springs Spawhich turned out to be a lot more secluded than we originally thought. We were right by the French Broad river away from the RV hookups and other campers.


We took some time to set up camp before setting out on our first hike:

The Unsinkable Molly Brown makes her NC camping debut
Zach and Maria get their tent up
Zach and Maria get their tent up

Our hike for Saturday was Max Patch, a large bald hill off the Appalachian Trail about 18 miles from Hot Springs. The Patch has spectacular views and we were told it would be the perfect spot for a picnic, which it was!

We were not informed, however, that you will be completely convinced you are lost on your way to Max Patch and turn around approximately 2-3 times while on your way to the trail. So there went one hour of potential hiking time. Once we made it there, Max Patch and the surrounding trails were a great first day’s hike.

A great view form Max Patch
A great view of the Blue Ridge
Matt playing in the snow on our way up to Max Patch
Matt playing in the snow on our way up to Max Patch

Saturday night was spent around the roar of our excellent campfire  which we used to grill kielbasa, bake potatoes and of course roast marshmallows.

Matt and I slept late Sunday, while our campmates had gotten up earlier and greeted us with granola and coffee from the only coffee shop in Hot Springs. After packing up the campsite, we followed a hunch to the other side of the river, where we hiked up to the Lover’s Leap lookout, which offered amazing views of the town.

Our view of Hot Springs
Our view of Hot Springs

From there, we hiked a while longer on the section of the App Trail heading out of town, away from Max Patch, and doubled back when it was time to go for some ice cream.


If you ever find yourself in Hot Springs, you will undoubtedly go, as we did, several times to the ArtiSun Gallery & MarketplaceThey supplied us with our morning coffee, afternoon ice cream (made in Asheville!) and overall good advice about how to get where we needed to go. We LOVED them.

Book Review: Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits

The book I’ve been reading this week could just as easily find its place in a classroom as my bedside table. It’s called Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits and is published by legal information company Nolo.

This book is set up just like any textbook; each chapter has a case study or example, breakout boxes with tips and warnings, and includes worksheets for specific topics. I really like this setup because you can flip to the chapter on whatever you happen to be working on (major gifts campaigns, social media, etc) and review the tips and strategies that chapter outlines.

Another really useful part of this book are the worksheets. They are included as an appendix as tear-out sheets and in each chapter so you can get a feel for the planning as you’re thinking about that chapter’s theme. I made copies of a few since I was borrowing this book from my library such as the “Grant priorities summary chart” and the “Grant prospects research overview” sheet.

Since the book is written by a lawyer, the book includes some handy information about the financial laws which govern nonprofits. If you are starting your own nonprofit or just don’t know much about nonprofit tax laws especially, this can be really information to think about when learning about fundraising.

Taken as a whole though, I wouldn’t recommend sitting down and trying to read the entire book. It’s written like a textbook and should be read like a textbook- in focused chunks based on the subject you are trying to learn about.  Effective Fundraising is a great reference for any nonprofit bookshelf.

The Nolo website has both E-book and paperback versions available for purchase.


4/4 Epic Mountains


My Meal Planning Secret

There is a secret to how I get anything and everything done in the kitchen. It’s actually quite simple: I’m a planner.

At the beginning of each week or grocery cycle (and I try to arrange life so the two coincide), I conference with the boy and figure out what we’re eating each night that week. We have this great chalkboard which makes it easy to remember everything:

Menu from a couple weeks ago.
Menu from a couple weeks ago.

Usually we have just returned from the grocery store where we’ve picked out our proteins and veggies for the week, and writing it out on the chalkboard keeps us organized. That way one of us will remember to thaw out the chicken and no one gets home at 7 from working out asking,”What are we having for dinner?”

Weekends, except for Sunday, are more relaxed so  we don’t usually plan those out. We never know what last-minute plans we might encounter, or there’s the off chance one of us will be gone for the weekend, leaving the other to fend for themselves.

This week’s menu was dictated by leftover pot pie makings, and some finds at the farmer’s market this weekend:



It takes some time to get organized and even more time to make this little ritual a habit, but we’ve found it is totally worth it. We can regularly have meals that look like this:

Roast turkey breast with mushroom risotto

Or this:

Spicy shrimp & noodles
Spicy shrimp & noodles

Instead of this:


Happy Planning and Happy Eating!

Ashby’s Busy Week

This past week has been full of activity for Ashby! It was the boy’s birthday, so I dressed Ashby up in a little ribbon.

What handsome boys!
What handsome boys!

Ashby however was not amused and immediately worked to take off his ribbon.



Then it was signing day! Ashby and I watched ESPN during my day off while Ole Miss racked up a ton of great recruits. Hotty Toddy!



On Friday, Ashby had his first follow-up trip to the vet’s office. He was very well behaved…until he figured out that poking in his leg was a shot. Oh well.

Blissfully unaware of the scary shots to come
Blissfully unaware of the scary shots to come

After all of the vet drama, Ashby still had energy to help out with chores around the house!

That's much better help, thank you Ashby!
That’s much better help, thank you Ashby!

But with such a crazy week, Ashby needed to calm down with a little cat nap.

20130212_143045Good night Ashby!