Making Cents of LGBTQ Folks During Pride: For "Straight" Businesses

“Hey Ben, other than turning my logo rainbow, how do I truly connect more deeply with the LGBTQ community during Pride?” My five cents...

$0.01: Becoming Candy Colored Once a Year Doesn’t Make You Any Sweeter. Adding any layer of rainbow to your logo during June doesn’t help you “win” over LGBTQ folks, clients or financial gain. For one, it’s the color of the season - you’re not standing out. Also, if the first time we’re seeing you or your logo is when it’s rainbow, it’s a signal to look you over very very carefully. Why? Let me explain…

$0.02: Want To Seem Authentic? Then Just Be Authentic. It takes just as much work. Maybe less, actually. The LGBTQ community is not without it’s connections and resources. We know who is trustworthy and safe and who’s not. Yes, you read that correctly: trustworthy and safe. Every day we are slandered, fired, beaten, murdered and ignored because of who we are. So knowing if you’re a trustworthy or safe place to openly spend our time, money or attention all year round is authenticity, plain and simple.

$0.03: Learn to Speak Our Real Language, Girl. Stop calling all gays “girls” or throwing around “shade!” or “Guuurl, yass!” or trying to talk to us like a desperate step-dad trying to look cool to his teenage kids. By “real language” we mean, understanding that not every couple is a bride OR groom. Or everything is exclusively about him/her. Or any other gendered language that might work for everyone else, but its a clear signal that maybe we’ll be tolerated, but likely not welcomed or understood.

$0.04: Mirror, Mirror in Your Marketing. Looking over your own marketing. Do you have pictures of LGBTQ individuals or couples, year round? Will we see ourselves when we look over your website or materials? Will we see faces of diversity represented? Because—fair warning— LGBTQ folks come in all shades, sizes, types, colors and conditions and expect to see more than one insinuated gay white couple. For the record.

$0.05: Engage Back or First. Stop asking why we’re not visiting or patronizing you, and learn how to engage with us first. Join an LGBTQ community group as an individual or business ally. Attend our events, our fairs, our Chamber of Commerce, our fundraisers, our marches, our gatherings. You’re not being excluded, You probably only think that because you’re excluding yourself and passively laying blame at our feet because you don’t know better.

Well, you do now.

The LGBTQ community is like any other - wonderfully human and unique - just like every other community. We only seem foreign or confusing because you’re looking at us behind glass. But you’re not at the zoo, this is the real world. We’re everywhere, engaged in everything, spending time, money and energy in things we love that truly love us back. And that could be you too if you learn how to look beyond your experience to truly experience ours in return. But that’s just my $0.05.

[ ben bisbee ]

[ bit pithy ] blog

Ben BisbeeComment
Built to Fail

We’re so deeply driven to “success” as people and professionals.

But it’s so deeply evident we’re built to fail. From the moment we’re born, we’re helpless, dependent on parents, guardians or strangers to insure we survive for years before we even could survive on our own if we were forced to try.

Just about every action we’re expected to perform as a human takes approach, practice, or more. And that’s just the basic stuff!

And I think, one day, something inside of us says, “You should be able to do this by now. All of it. Any of it. Why does everything take so much work, so much failure, so much planning, so much intent, so much prep?

Because I’m not sure if we’ve ever owned the fact that we’re truly built to fail. Not succeed. Success is where we aim and where we strive, but by design, and with purpose, we were built to be able to even attempt success - even if we never achieve it.

There is something really, truly satisfying and wonderful with that belief in mind.

Because it means we’re allowed to try and try and try until we get it right, or until we change our minds and try for something else, or fail and learn from those failings, or succeed and learn from our failings and successes.

Each time, able to bounce back. Older, wiser, bruised but informed, more aware, possibly more determined or able to make better decisions.

It means we’re naturally resilient over time. We only lose that sense and acknowledgement of our resiliency when we falsely convince ourselves that we’re built to succeed. We’re not. Success is just a worthy byproduct of our real design.

We’re truly, build to fail. Own this? And you will probably be more successful than you ever imagined rather than if you resisted.

[ ben bisbee ]

[ bit pithy ] blog

Ben BisbeeComment
A Silent Choir

“Preaching to the choir!” She says.

The room nods their head in agreement.

I had just expressed something complex in a really simple way. It was about white privilege. Or was it about how poorly we treat volunteers? Or maybe the lack of diversity in the nonprofit sector? Then again, it might have been about how nonprofit professionals are always facing burnout… I don’t exactly recall the details.

But I expressed something complex in a really simple way. Suggesting we need to be different.

I didn’t explain how. I didn’t have a chance to.

“Preaching to the choir!” they yelled back, agreeing with me. Cutting me off. Hoping I’d move on, because the new norm is agreeing with the complex, horrible, difficult thing.

But no one has time to actually change, you see. No one is able to make room for growth. Or reflection. Or adoption. Or anything really. Because being agreeable is the new woke. Apparently it lets you keep your eyes open, but your brain stay on autopilot, your hands folded, your feet stationary.

“But…” I try to continue.

“Preaching to the choir!” they aggressively assure me.


I hear no one singing back.

[ ben bisbee ]

Ben BisbeeComment
Experiential Curation Culture

I get oddly fascinated by all sorts of things.

I’m a investigative, passionate creature of the universe.

But. Like. I’m also a nerd? It’s cool. I’m allowed to call myself that. It’s more than true.

For example. For years now, I’ve been fascinated by Experiential Curation Culture, or the culture of personalized opportunities based on preferences, experiences, backgrounds and interests.

We’ve all experienced it. That thing where the more someone or something knows about you the better it can support you, connect you, or supply you with things that you need, want, or would appreciate better.

Amazon does it. Dating apps like OkCupid and eHarmony does it. Experiential Curation Culture is showing up everywhere - in home chef kits, in home clothing shopping apps, and even how your grocery or favorite retailer issues you deals and coupons.

Why am I obsessed? …I mean, fascinated?

Because I think this culture of connectivity is something that could make us all smarter too. I think it has vast applications beyond retail and dating and could be the next evolution of networking and education. Imagine a world where what you knew or know can help support the next layer of your knowledge effortlessly. Or finding your peers based off a high-level of similarities vs one or two commonalities.

Imagine indeed. Because I am. I really, truly am. Just you wait.

[ ben bisbee ]

Ben BisbeeComment
Universal Nonprofit Skills

When cooking, there are 3 important layers to success: the tools, the recipe, and the technique.

Oh, and experience. You know, it’s funny. The experience part is often the part that’s more make or break, yet it seems like no one really talks about that part.

Its the same with the nonprofit sector. Everyday a peer, provider, consultant or company is pushing layers of tools, recipes and techniques. But at the end of the day, experience is key.

And I don’t just mean “experience” as a timeline. I also mean it as how we relate to things like leveraging creativity, technology, critical thinking, business insight, and wellness. I call these “universal nonprofit skills”

If we’re lacking experience in any of these universal nonprofit skills—no matter how good the tools, recipe or technique—we’re truly lacking essential elements of potential, overall success.

So. Who is talking or educating on universal nonprofit skills? Who is providing the nonprofit sector with education and insight on creativity, technology, educational development, critical thinking, business and management insights, self-care and wellness?

There are millions of places to go for hard nonprofit skills: fundraising, volunteer management, finance, administration, communications, etc. But nothing centralized around universal nonprofit skills.

For now. But just you wait.

[ ben bisbee ]

Ben BisbeeComment
The Upside Down

Talking to anyone outside of the nonprofit sector about the nonprofit sector is often vexing.

For example, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, and the new report, “Nonprofits: America’s Third Largest Workforce” reveals that America’s nonprofit sector ranks third in size among the 18 major U.S. industries (12.5 million people), behind only retail trade and manufacturing. And it actually outdistances manufacturing in 24 states and DC.

Its also a wildly passionate and diverse industry with a broad array of services impacting just about every other sector known, and a full quarter of the teen and adult population in the US volunteer within nonprofits each and every year.


Most folks—even if they’re casual donors or volunteers—still think of the nonprofit sector as small or vulnerable, or lacking the kind of importance or impact that allows for a viable conversation about growth and gain and exploration.

Why? Why is our sector seen like this?

In a world where the average person knows how difficult it can be to impact or change this world, why does an entire industry focused on this get thought of as a kind and noble, but essentially second class citizen?

I think so many things we’re prevented from accomplishing is because of these beliefs. And I think if often colors our own in terrible ways.

And so I want to end this ridiculous perception. I don’t have any major answers yet, but I have enough questions and know enough truth to begin to figure it out. Thus, the new Rhinocorn.

Intrigued? I hope you are and I hope you’ll join me.

[ ben bisbee ]

Ben BisbeeComment
Set Your Charity on Fire

Philanthropy is complicated.

When people give away their hard-earned money to a cause or organization, it can be for any number of reasons. The big ones are usually that they have big hearts or to affect change or even sometimes because giving is often trendy.

Really smart nonprofits and charities are often working overtime to try and keep a finger on the pulse of their donors and those specific reasons they donate. But sometimes you need to actually ask why.

My advice? Ask a very simple question:

If my organization was on fire, and you could rush in to save only one specific part of it, what would that be?

Be diligent. Invite them to pick only one thing. Just one.  Just for the exercise. Just for the conversation.

It can’t hurt and in fact, moreover it will truly help you help locate the motivational epicenter of their relationship with you. Anyone can say “I love your mission” but asking what they’d pull out of a fire?

That takes us far past philanthropic bumperstickering.

Knowing a donor’s motivational epicenter also allows you to talk with them in depth about how to deepen and strengthen the relationship. Its the gift within the gift giver. And who doesn't want that? 

But seriously? Take this advice. Use this question. Just do me a favor and don’t actually set your organization on fire. I’m not kidding. I will claim no responsibility. I will pretend I don’t even know you.

[ ben bisbee ]

Ben BisbeeComment
Left of Center

I don’t believe there is a true “center” to the nonprofit sector.

That is to say, I think we’re less connected than any other sector in reality when it comes to form, function, language and model.

At most we’re only connected at the 501(c) X status.

In fact, I would say we’re almost always far more like the sectors we’re tying to champion, change or challenge than we are anything like each other.

Take a moment. Your structure, your title, the governance, and language you use at your nonprofit is probably far more like the closest sector you’re working within - military, education, political, medical, animal welfare, etc. - than it is to the next nonprofit over.

We rarely agree what “volunteerism” means. What a “community” is. Or how to appropriately title employees outside of what we’re willing to pay in any kind of unified, centralized way.

How do we fix this? Can we fix this? Does it matter? I don’t know, but I think we can and I think it does.

What about you?

[ ben bisbee ]

Ben BisbeeComment
Diversity Isn’t Hard. Inclusion Is.

It’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And this is the first time in many years when I didn’t plan ahead to volunteer or offer event leadership for an organization I love.

A Day On, Not A Day Off, as they say.

So my mind was able to spend more time on Dr. King’s legacy and the purpose of his work. And I have spent most of today feeling fragile and vulnerable. So much of what Dr. King spoke and preached about touches my very soul, my instincts and my hopes. And I’m not alone.

But why does it feel like so many decades later we’re not nearly a far along as the dreams Dr. King set for this country. For you? For me.

In the pithiest way possible, I think we’re still focused on picking out crayons, but never getting around to coloring. And the truth is? We’re not even good at art.

I think we’re focused on the wrong element of sustainable change. Diversity is having the entire box of crayons. Inclusion is knowing how to color with every color in the box.

We’re still fixated on diversity, when the truth is we don’t even know how to effectively include others unlike ourselves.

Inclusion isn’t always “beautiful” but it’s essential to the process of the art. In ways that allow every crayon to be expressed, engaged and leveraged. We have to get more comfortable coloring with the full pack, and not just avoiding it because we know that yellow and blue make green, so why use green?

Its not a perfect analogy. Nothing ever is. I just believe that Dr. King saw all the colors of the rainbow in his dreams. And all we can recall is the black and white photos of his legacy, it seems.

We all deserve better.

[ ben bisbee ]

Ben BisbeeComment
Stop Hoarding Your Best Ideas

I have a nice little notebook app on my iPhone where when an idea or tagline or story or restaurant concept or creative endeavor strikes me, I write it down. Safe. Stored. Often forgotten. Essentially hidden. Functionally worthless.

I'm hording. We all do it.

Will I ever really open that international sloppy-joe restaurant called Uncommon Ground with over 10 sloppy-joe variations? Probably not. Will I ever create a comedy web-series called Loose about a chatty masseuse who massages famous people and asked them extremely odd and invasive questions? Doubtful.

But is it just me? Are you holding on to a great invention or concept that will forever be locked in a closed book or notebook app? I don't think any of my ideas are bigger than me, but many of them might be better than me. At least as their conceptual parent. I'm raising them all wrong. Maybe someone could do better. And it’s all about finding the right parents.

So in 2019, I say we put more of our untouched ideas up for adoption. Some of your ideas are great - imagine what someone could do with them! Otherwise they’re just sitting in the dark. Alone and unfulfilled.

And that’s no way to treat something brilliant.

[ ben bisbee ]

Ben BisbeeComment
Virtual Employment: Kindergarten Edition

Ah, Kindergarten. A time of innocence filled with little nuggets of truth that will stick with you forever. It’s now been 5 full years of working entirely virtually. And upon reflection, the funniest thing is that much of the advice I learned in Kindergarten keeps resurfacing in new and amusing ways. 

Wear Some Pants! Whilve virtual employees always hear “I would kill to just work in my pajamas all day!” Um, I wear pants. And a shirt. And I shower. And even comb my hair. Because I’m often I’m on camera and I’m an adult.

Eat Your Lunch! When you work from home you’re almost always snacking or you constantly miss lunch. And lunch isn’t only a good thing to eat but it helps break the day up. Reminds me to get up, stretch my legs, walk around the house.

Do Your Chores! You work at home. Take advantage. Take a moment and clean off that dining room table. Put in a load of laundry. Wash your bologna sandwich plate. It take no more time than bugging a co-worker at their cube, walking to the water fountain or making copies at the printer.

Stop Squirming! Invest in a nice office chair for your home. Don’t settle exclusively for your couch or your recliner or your hard, wooden dining room chairs. You have 16 hours left in the day to sit at those. You’re still at work. Sit like it.

Be Patient!! Technology isn’t perfect. Email can stall, files can still get lost, and webcams break. Everything needs to be scheduled. Not everyone answers their phone right away. Time slows down a little bit when you work from home. Accept it and work within it.

Working from home is a mixed bag—some great things, some weird things— but as long as you rely on some age-old wisdom? You’ll be just fine.

[ ben bisbee ]

Ben BisbeeComment
Own Your Social Science

Social sciences are the scientific study of human society and social relationships as it impacts fields such as economics or politics.

What does your nonprofit do that results in a community change? What are the social sciences that both govern your sector space and are applied by your own mission and vision?

I think we’re so busy raising funds and telling stories and recruiting volunteers that the real social science of our work - the study, the inputs, the impact, the outcomes - are not just getting lost, they’re not even being tracked or studied.

We need to make owning our social sciences sexy.

Yes. Sexy. I think nonprofits that know who they are, who they’re helping, why the problem exists and how it truly gets addressed or solved is as sexy as it gets.

Everything else is just posturing. It probably looks good, but it’s not as real.

[ ben bisbee ]

Ben BisbeeComment