While it may be perceived as a bit edgy, the following article provides a tongue-and-cheek description of an important topic: helping nonprofit professionals keep boundary lines clear. This is a humorous reminder to both funders and those deep in the trenches in nonprofit work to be mindful about all that we ask of others.
Credit for this article goes to Vu Le and his website nonprofitaf.com. Vu's passion is to make the world a better place, often through the nonprofit community. His humor helps his readers to remember to take the work seriously - but that we don't always have to be too serious as we work.
An askhole, according to Urban Dictionary, is someone who asks for advice, but then completely ignores it or does the opposite, or someone who asks a lot of inane questions. However, I would say there are other ways to be askholes. Namely, asking people to do stuff for free or making unreasonable requests. Here are some ways you or your organization may be an askhole:
- You ask job candidates to go through more than three rounds of interviews: Before you think about hiring anyone, develop your process and spell it out in your job posting. Entry-level positions require fewer interviews, and more senior positions may take two or three interviews. There may be exceptions, but generally if you go beyond three, especially if that was not your disclosed plan, you’re a wishy-washy askhole who is wasting everyone’s time, frustrating people, and costing people PTO hours that they need to use to endure your hiring process.
- You ask job candidates to create a tailored piece of work specifically for your organization, like a development plan, or communications plan, or PowerPoint presentation. This is prime hiring askholism. Projects take significant time to do well. Accept work that has been done previously, or pay for it. If you pull this stunt, and then not hire someone, but still use their work that they created as part of their application, not only are you a major askhole, you are an unethical askhole.
- You ask for people’s salary history or salary expectations, instead of disclosing the salary on your job posting. The field is clearly moving toward all job postings disclosing salary/compensation information up front. It is the right and equitable thing to do. If you still resist this and instead ask people for their salary history, or even “salary requirements,” or you wait until someone asks you about the salary and then you might disclose on an individual basis, you and your organization are askholes.
- You still host unpaid internships: I’ve been there, both as an unpaid intern, and as an employer who has hosted unpaid internships. But this practice is definitely starting to be widely recognized as inequitable. If you’re asking folks to do work for free, especially when they are starting out their career or are in professional transition and thus are the most financially vulnerable, you’re being an askhole. Figure out how to pay them.
- You are paid, but you ask people to do work for free: If no one is getting paid, that’s one thing. But if you are a staff or consultant, especially if you work for a foundation, and you ask people to join a work group but you don’t put it into your budget pay them or their organization, you’re being an askhole. The time they spend with you means they’re not able to do their other work, including fundraising for their own organization, which means it’s costing them money to help you with your work.
- You give an org a grant, then ask them to do work that’s outside the scope of that grant. For instance, you grant someone $10,000 to run an after-school program, but you know their program director is runs amazing workshops on equity, diversity, and inclusion, so you ask them to do a workshop with your staff or board. That’s extra work. Pay additional cash for it, or you’re an askhole.
- You give an org a grant, but you require them to attend a ridiculous number of meetings. Sorry, giving a nonprofit a grant does not entitle you to anything except that the nonprofits does its work. I’ve heard now of a few funders requiring grantees to attend tortuous monthly meetings. Your grantees probably won’t tell you this, but those meetings are often a complete waste of their time. Make them optional, or you’re an askhole.
- You ask or demand people from marginalized backgrounds to explain stuff to you: This happens a lot on social media, where there are tons of arguments, but also in real life. Someone of privilege gets offended, and then they’re like “I’m sorry, how is saying that someone is articulate a microaggression? Please explain to me and back it up with five sources.” Sometimes people have the energy and patience for this. Most times, people are exhausted, both with having to deal with this stuff all the time, but also with the audacity of your askholism. Learn to use Google.
- You expect artists, photographers, poets, musicians speakers, etc. to use their talents for free: I get it, we’re nonprofits and we don’t have a lot of money and we’re helping people. Many of us rely on in-kind donations. But artists need to pay for rent and food and supplies, and if we’re going to be equitable, we need to pay them. I’m not saying don’t ask for nonprofit discounts, but be very thoughtful when asking, and be respectful when people say no.
- You ask partner organizations for pro-bono work or donate space: This happens to small grassroots organizations led by and serving marginalized communities a lot: “Oooh, you work with the Native community? We’re having a summit/survey/town-hall, can you spend twelve unpaid hours getting the word out through your network and wrangling your community members to participate? Also, can we use your community room for free?” If it comes from other equally struggling nonprofits, that’s one thing, but if your org is way bigger in terms of clout and budget, you’re an askhole. Put a line in your budget for outreach, translation, interpretation, venue, etc.
I am sure there are plenty of other ways people can be askholes. All of us are capable of being askholes; I’ve been guilty on numerous occasions. Just because you’re an askhole doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a terrible person, organization, or foundation. Just admit to your askholism and learn to do better, especially since like other nonprofit/funding shenanigans, it’s going to be the people from marginalized communities who will be most affected.