Let’s Address the Elephant in the Room

So, here we are. Two full years into a global pandemic, a few months from a new fiscal year and a few days into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Anyone else feeling a little overwhelmed by it all? If you’re struggling with focus and enthusiasm at the head of this week, just know you’re not alone….I hope this month’s newsletter gives you a few minutes to just read and breathe…

Breathe Let It Go GIF by Peloton - Find & Share on GIPHY

I’m teaching again and I love it. My current students are nonprofit professionals committed to honing their fundraising skills and relationship-building acumen. I was waxing poetic about the experience to my Coach last week, telling him that it’s not the lecturing that I love, but the act of creating a safe space for people to explore ideas, admit failures, share embarrassing stories for the learning benefit of their peers, and engage in really uncomfortable, but necessary, conversations.

“What kind of uncomfortable conversations?” he asked (in that way a great Coach does when they’re about to walk you into discomfort with the intention of creating an ‘ah ha’ moment).

I told him that what was really lighting me up as of late were discussion about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts, and the frustration people were feeling about performative actions over real organizational evolution. Immediately following that statement, I began to list all of the reasons why – despite the fact that I keep finding myself facilitating these discussion – I wasn’t the right person to lead a group of professionals in an exploration of DEI initiatives and cultural change management, “I don’t have the right formal training…Hello, I’m a white woman”….I’ll spare you the full list, but you get the gist of my argument.

To which he calmly responded, “Hannah…facilitation is not ownership.”

Minions Mic Drop GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


This is what I love so much about Coaching, both as the person being coached and in my own practice with my clients. Yes, Coaches can be advisors and accountability and thought partners, but arguably the most valuable thing Coaches do is reflect and reframe your own thoughts and words so you can see your life/business/relationships/organization differently. It’s like getting a new pair of prescription glasses after squinting at everything for years. It’s game changing and it’s the kind of thing most of us can’t do for ourselves.

My Coach’s brilliant reflection is certainly applicable to me as a Consultant and Coach who has the honor of being a trusted advisor, typically hired when an organization is seeking an outsider’s perspective. But perhaps it also resonates with you in your leadership position. After all, nonprofit leaders are facilitators of connection, community, education, awareness building, and even healing. Those charged with fundraising are also relationship managers and storytellers with an awesome, and sometimes incredibly challenging, responsibility to address the interests of both those who have resources to give in the name of social improvement, and those who are in need of services, support and most likely have been systemically oppressed and historically under resourced.

We have ownership of our aspirations and assigned responsibilities, but none of us own the organizational relationships we cultivate, or the outcomes of our programs, or the stories – neither the strife nor the successes – of our organizations’ stakeholders. We are merely conduits, or perhaps catalysts, to mission delivery.

I want my community – current, past, future clients, colleagues and friends – to know that I’m here for the uncomfortable conversations, in addition to the tactical strategy sessions and campaign plans. As The Philanthropy Coach evolves, I’m looking for ways to offer regular, informal opportunities for peer discussion and learning; safe spaces to respond to provocative questions and gain valuable insights from our colleagues in the field. Because, in my opinion, everything is better in community.

In closing, I offer you a few self-coaching prompts and encourage you to take 10-15 minutes this week to reflect and respond. (Hint: If you read that and thought “I don’t have 15 minutes for reflection this week”, you need this exercise more than anyone!)

Self-coaching prompts:

  • What tough topics am I avoiding with my team? With my supervisor/s?
  • Am I able to be completely authentic while avoiding this topic? How does my response feel in my body?
  • If I chose to introduce a discussion on this topic, what would be the worst case scenario? What would be the best possible outcome?

Six Weeks to Greater Self-Awareness

Self-coaching can be incredibly powerful! Join us for a simple 6-week challenge that will put you on a more empowered path. Every week, we’ll deliver a reflection prompt to your inbox and a little something to kick start your motivation for the week!

All you have to do is: