The Boat: A Millennial Curmudgeon’s Letter To Management


<This month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival was dedicated to nonprofit leadership. I’m far too smarmy to be professional on this one, but I wrote a little letter to some fictional leaders, the likes of which to varying degrees I’ve encountered over the last decade. You may recognize them. They’re assholes.This is certainly by no means an attack on leadership in general – I have been blessed to have some incredible leaders, bosses and mentors. This is just my way of expunging all the little ways some of the not so great ones have tried to break me down. What can I say, I likes me a good rant.>

Dear Capitaine, and distinguished board of crapbags,

I can’t say I blame you.

I mean, look at me. I’m 30. I’ve had more dumb haircuts than you could shake a stick at (you guys still shake sticks at things, right?) I enjoy the rap music and have synergized the twitter and the google and the iPeds. I’m the kind of girl you really hope your son wouldn’t bring home because she’d probably argue with you that fiscal conservatism doesn’t actually exist and that Jesus was a pretty rad dude but his disciples missed the point.

I also have a vagina, which for some of you seemingly puts me at a disadvantage, because apparently that specific human resource is great for babies and pies and making “stuff” look “pretty” but not so respected in the realms of strategy and monies and thinkings and punchings and making eyebrows at you when you make politically incorrect jokes at the Christmas party.

I ALSO come from a humanities background, which is far from any kind of real education in your opinion. I’d be ever-so-slightly more useful if I had focused more on being hot-to-SWOT and less on writing twenty page arguments about the role of Medieval storytelling on the development of community.

I also just called you crapbags.

Look. I know I am outspoken, inappropriately funny, indiscriminately analytical, annoyingly matter-of-fact and obstinately precocious for someone your granddaughter’s age.

I also happen to care. A lot. Like, an inordinate amount. A ridiculously easy to take advantage of amount. My parents did a great job of raising me to give a shit about the things and people around me, even when the things are completely broken and the people are total crapbags.

I also don’t think I’m all that different from a lot of people working in this field. Or people who are thinking about working in this field. Or people who SHOULD think about working in this field.

It may not seem like it, but I respect history. I respect your history. I respect the work that goes into every aspect of a nonprofit, even if in your opinion I don’t begin to understand it. I have studied it. I dove in head first to your mission, your vision, your backlog of crappily-done annual reports and the strategic plans that sit gathering dust because no one even knows where to begin. If it’s one thing I learned from my humanities degree it’s how to throw myself deep into my subject.

I dislike when you say things like “no one has time to rock the boat if they’re rowing.”

I happen to think that’s a real jackass thing to say. Because let’s face it, the boat is headed for a waterfall. And at the bottom of that waterfall are hundreds of hungry alligators. And on the shores watching are the communities we’re supposed to be serving.

Or worse perhaps is the fate of the boat that rows in perpetuity with no direction. Your rowers, dutifully rowing, are getting tired, Capitaine.

Don’t try to out-metaphor me either. I have a degree in metaphors, remember?

I have no real advice for you that you’ll likely ever heed. Indeed, you likely stopped reading after the first time I called you crapbags, and maybe that’s why I have the balls to be writing this in the first place.

Shit is broken. Including the same old way of doing things. Those ways haven’t fixed things yet. The new ways might not either.

But you’ve got a whole generation of young thick-headed pricks like myself who are so very hungry to help, to think, to explore, to figure out new ways of steering the vessel.

So maybe it’s time to turn off the yacht rock, stop rowing, and listen.


The silly girl with silly words who made silly things pretty for a little while.

PS – Yes, my tee shirt does say “The Citizen Kane of Buttheads” and no I won’t be wearing it to the donor meeting tomorrow. What am I, some kind of crapbag?