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Nov 8, 2019
Posted Under: President's letter

I am reminded fairly regularly that nonprofit folks are not very good at celebrating. The reputation of our sector is to reach a milestone, then put our heads back down and get right back to work. The norm of celebrating small wins or even big wins is lost on too many of us. A handful of years ago, I was reminded that even among members of the Foraker team, pausing to celebrate needed to become more a part of our culture. With a never-ending list of ideas, and a sector always hungry for more, along with my own desire to get to results, I had to make celebration a conscious and authentic part of our work life. It is not uncommon now to see us do a happy dance in the office or stop and share a win with one another. We now build in moments for appreciation at our monthly staff meetings, and we recently reconfirmed for ourselves what it means to find joy in our work. This is not a finite checklist and is certainly not necessarily how you should celebrate in your workplace, but it is a nod to the idea that we can all create ways that honor and blend with our organization’s culture.

Creating space to celebrate may be easy for you, but others might need a little extra boost. So just in case you want some external motivation to prioritize celebrating, I did a quick and not very scientific Google search to find a list of holidays and appreciations for November. WOW. It turns out, in fact, that while every month might yield inspiring results, November is certainly a time for nonprofit board and staff to take notice. We have a lot to celebrate. Let’s take a quick look:

Month-Long Observances

  • National Novel Writing Month
  • Family Stories Month
  • Military Family Appreciation Month
  • National Scholarship Month
  • National Native American Month
  • Aviation History Month
  • Music Month
  • International Drum (Percussion) Month

Week-Long Observances

  • Geography Awareness Week – Always falls during the month of November
  • National Young Reader’s Week – Second full week of November
  • American Education Week – Week before Thanksgiving
  • National Family Week – Week containing Thanksgiving
  • Game and Puzzle Week – Third full week of November

Special days:

  • November 1, National Authors’ Day
  • November 1, Cookie Monster Day
  • November 1, Plate Tectonics Day
  • November 2, Look for Circles Day
  • November 3, Cliché Day
  • November 4, King Tut Day
  • November 5, Book Lovers Day (first Saturday)
  • November 5, International Games Day (first Saturday)
  • November 6, Saxophone Day
  • November 7, International Tongue Twister Day
  • November 8, National Parents as Teachers Day
  • November 8, National Young Readers Day (second Tuesday)
  • November 8, National STEM/STEAM Day
  • November 10, Marine Corps Birthday
  • November 10, Sesame Street Day
  • November 11, National Origami Day
  • November 11, Remembrance Day
  • November 11, Veterans Day
  • November 14, Loosen Up, Lighten Up Day
  • November 14, National American Teddy Bear Day
  • November 15, I Love to Write Day
  • November 15, National Philanthropy Day
  • November 16, International Day of Tolerance
  • November 17, Use Less Stuff Day (Thursday before Thanksgiving)
  • November 19, Gettysburg Address Day
  • November 19, Equal Opportunity Day
  • November 20, Absurdity Day
  • November 21, Military Families Recognition Day (Monday before Thanksgiving)
  • November 22, Start Your Own Country Day
  • November 23, Fibonacci Day
  • November 23, What Do You Love About America? Day (day before Thanksgiving)
  • November 24, Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday)
  • November 24, Celebrate Your Unique Talent Day
  • November 25, Native American Day (day after Thanksgiving)
  • November 28, Red Planet Day

For me personally, November is often a month of birthdays and cupcakes because I and a handful of my family and close friends are Scorpios. Still, this list of celebrations offers us all a moment to pause and both solemnly remember and purposefully celebrate the role of nonprofits in making this world a better place. By the way, it is likely that nonprofit activism is also behind many of these days, even the ones that don’t seem obvious.

Did you scan the list? I wonder what caught your eye. For me, some quickly invoke joy like Cookie Monster Day and Sesame Street Day. The math enthusiasts among us are likely already planning for Fibonacci Day. I think I speak for many in Southcentral Alaska when I say we wouldn’t mind celebrating Plate Tectonics Day just a little less often. And likely most of us would welcome a day that inspires us to Loosen Up Lighten Up. But if we are looking for ways to engage our teams, I offer a few highlights that as nonprofit board, staff, volunteers, and donors we can celebrate together. To be sure, many more on the list might inspire you to mobilize for your mission. Please do!

What so many of these days in November have in common is the opportunity to be thankful and to say thanks in meaningful ways. As an Alaskan, I am delighted that in November we can celebrate three important facets of Alaska life – Military Family Appreciation Month, National Native American Month, and Aviation History Month.

National Native American Month is specifically recognized in Alaska as Alaska Native Heritage Month. Over the years a small, dedicated group of people have looked for specific ways to recognize Alaska’s first people during this month-long celebration. Even if you miss one of their events, you can still spend time this month, and really every month, acknowledging the extraordinary contributions of our indigenous communities and recognizing that it is their land we live on. The Anchorage School District just released this helpful piece to inspire daily action, too. In addition to the thousands of indigenous Alaskans we can celebrate, know that there are Alaska Native led and Alaska Native serving nonprofits who are dedicated to advancing life in Alaska and beyond. Let us each take more than a few moments and thank those nonprofit board and staff for their service and leadership for all of Alaska.

Aviation History Month marks a more recent history in Alaska. I heard a factoid once that one in four Alaskans owns a plane. I don’t know if that is right, but it’s true that Alaskans and aviation are closely intertwined. Mail, food, life, safety, leisure – Alaskans depend on air travel for it all.

Nonprofits like museums and business leagues that serve as connections for pilots of all types abound in Alaska. This is one of many industries that are partners with the nonprofit sector. While we might just think of the air carriers, remember the backbone of nonprofits that stand with them every day.

Veterans Day on November 11 marks an opportunity for recognition and appreciation and reminds us to remember and honor Alaska veterans. But the whole month also offers the time to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of our military families. There are nonprofits statewide that focus on providing peer and other forms of support for veterans and their families. I encourage you to find time this month to pay tribute to veterans, those currently serving, and their families for all they have and continue to do for our state and country.

Equal Opportunity Day reminds us of the steps we have taken and the work ahead. While I can’t offer you a new piece of data yet, know that we are working on an exciting project with great partners to bring you fresh data on gender pay in 2020. In the meantime, if you haven’t checked out our current gender pay study, I encourage you to do it this month. Equal Opportunity Day is also a reminder that we have a long way to go in other areas of equity in both our board and staff. Foraker remains on this journey with you and we continue looking for ways to engage nonprofits in creating and fostering more welcoming places to engage diverse communities. This is a journey with no end. However, beginning is essential to truly serve our communities in the best and most equitable ways.

National Philanthropy Day is one more way to show our gratitude this November. From day one, Foraker has been committed to building a culture of philanthropy in Alaska. We show that commitment daily with our efforts to train board and staff, to promote donor-centered planning, to provide current research about philanthropy in Alaska, to partner with like-minded efforts and organizations, and to celebrate. There are many organizations and philanthropic nonprofits who are also dedicated to this cause. We are thankful for each and every effort and partnership. Of course, you can celebrate philanthropy every day by being a donor and investing in causes that matter to you or by taking time to truly thank donors who give to the mission you steward. Too, you can advocate for public policy that validates the role philanthropy plays in this country and around the world. And don’t forget Pick.Click.Give., which starts January 1. I hope you do all of that.

Finally, there is philanthropy day, which is led at a national and international level by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). According to AFP, “National Philanthropy Day is a special day set aside on November 15. Its purpose is to recognize the great contributions of philanthropy – and those people active in the philanthropic community – to the enrichment of our world. NPD was originally conceived of and organized by Douglas Freeman in the 1980s, and the first official events were held in 1986 after President Reagan signed the official NPD proclamation. The day provides an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of giving and all that it has made possible. NPD celebrates the endless daily contributions individuals and organizations across the world make to countless causes and missions.” In Alaska, this special day is led by the Alaska Chapter of AFP. If you happen to be in Anchorage, mark your calendar for November 15 and check out the many ways to celebrate the day with AFP Alaska.

If you are in or outside of Anchorage, consider:

  • Using this day to send a special note to your donors and board members telling them how much you appreciate them. (Need help – check out our class on Donor Recognition or our whole fundraising series).
  • Sharing the Donor Bill of Rights to let everyone in your network know that your ethics and practices are right where they need to be.
  • Making a personal plan for your own giving through the end of the year or to take you through 2020.
  • Committing your organization to a clear donor-centered plan that matches your mission, values, and goals to that of your donors.
  • Ensuring your team gets the training it needs to foster a culture of philanthropy inside and outside your organization.

To be sure, November is a month of many ways to celebrate. Big or small, within your team or out in the world, taking time to remember what we have achieved, what we aspire to, and the people who inspire us, engage us, challenge us, and bring us together is worth every moment it takes.

To each of you I say, thank you for all you do every day to make this world we live in a better place.