Nonprofit insights by way of the “Vanderpump Rules”
// By Jacqueline Brennan
/ By Katie Jones /
When my friends and I head to LA for Upswell, we’ll be sure to check out happy hour at a little restaurant called SUR (short for Sexy Unique Restaurant). SUR is the set for the Bravo television show called Vanderpump Rules. I have been thinking a lot about this odyssey and the lessons nonprofit organizations could learn from this popular show. Here is what I have come up with so far:
- Infrastructure matters. The SUR bathrooms are (allegedly) less than pristine. Notice above, I don’t say I am going there for dinner. I’m going for happy hour because my hope is the alcohol will kill whatever germs are there. I care about the infrastructure and cleanliness of the restaurant, much like foundations or donors care about a nonprofit’s 990s, ethics and accountability, policies regarding diversity, prevention of sexual harassment, etc. Is your nonprofit infrastructure clean? Is your organization ready in the wake of #MeToo? I tell you this, I doubt SUR is.
- Dysfunction is compelling. The protagonists of SUR seem to have no shame. They are honest about their vices and I watch every week, drawn to them. I also watch as great resources (i.e. access to power, money, etc.) are repeatedly handed over to them. Applied to the nonprofit context: How honest is your organization about its dysfunction? And if you were brutally honest, what are the chances of you getting more resources? It is certainly working for the cast of Vanderpump Rules.
- Choose your talent wisely. It is rare to find someone who is beautiful, compelling, and also a good server/bartender/manager, etc. When Lisa Vanderpump finds them, she retains them. The ones that continue to show growth and potential are provided additional opportunities (TomTom 2019!). When you think of your nonprofit staff, are you hiring for all of the capabilities a person needs to be successful at your organization? Or just the immediate need of a bartender? Do you find ways to make them business owners? Lisa Vanderpump cultivates her talent, is now making money hand over fist, and has moved a cast of people to beyond a living wage. #NonprofitGoals
So, happy hour at SUR during Upswell? Who’s with me?
Katie Jones is the director of sector advancement and convenings at Independent Sector.