Ray Deck III

High-Octane Human

(2016) Day in the Life of a Non-Profit Executive Director


Woken by a phone call. Social worker. There’s a baby girl being discharged from the hospital right now. She wants to know if we can take her.

Because I’m still drowsy, I don’t think to ask, why on earth are they discharging in the middle of the night!? I tell her that I need to make a phone call to find out if we can care for another child.

Normally, I would just say yes. This is exactly the situation that Skookum Kidsis designed to help with — innocent foster child with nowhere to go, inconvenient time of day. This is our wheelhouse. But we already have 4 kids at the house from 3 different families, and one of them is a handful.

I call Abby, our Program Manager, to discuss our options. We check the volunteer schedule to figure out who could lend a hand if needed and decide to say yes knowing that I’ll need to move around a couple meetings to lend a hand at the house in the morning.

I write to our volunteer team explaining how we came to our decision to take in another one. I immediately get back several offers to pickup an extra shift to make it possible.

Since I’m awake, I may as well read a bit. I’m working through Huck’s Raft — A History of American’ Childhood. It’s fantastic.


Meeting with a Skookum Kids donor and (potential) business partner. I recently lost my day job in a round of layoffs, and have been exploring how to both keep Skookum running and continue to feed my family. There have been a lot of meetings like this. A lot of attempts to answer the question: So what are you going to do?

I know what want to do. Skookum. That’s where my heart is, and that’s where I want my time and my talents to be also. But we need to grow.

We need to nearly double in size before Skookum could pay a market rate for me. So we talk about a pretty interesting startup idea. It has potential, but it’s a ways off and it’s not Skookum.


I arrive at Skookum House. The baby has settled in, and the morning volunteers are overjoyed to be caring for her. One of the volunteers on this shift is a nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the nearest hospital. She’s been caring for this child for the last few days, and is thrilled to be holding her once again here at Skookum. The older kids are playing (relatively) calmly with the toy kitchen. They make sure that I try the bear-shaped pancakes from the real kitchen.

Abby and I gameplan for a moment and decide that I should take 2 of the kids — a 2yo. and a 5yo. — to the doctor. She gets the paperwork together while another volunteer and I get those kids changed out of pajamas and ready to go. I load them up in the van and we’re on our way by 9:30p.


How do you keep a 2yo and a 5yo occupied in a doctor’s office lobby? Animal noises, of course. We practice pigs, chickens, and cows. Pigs are the favorite though. While we wait, a Social Worker calls me to check in on the 2yo. He’d come to us under some pretty rough circumstances, and she wanted to check on us. We talked for 15 minutes or so while the little ones alternated between looking at the cars outside, playing tag under the chairs, and spitting at each other. When I realized that last one was happening, I politely excused myself from the phonecall and stepped in. Turns out, spitting is a natural next step from the pig noises.

Yeah I know. I’m still a childcare rookie.

The actual appointment was mostly painless. I did have to restrain the littlest one so we could get a blood pressure reading. He’d never seen a blood pressure cuff before, and you’d thought we were trying to kill him. He screamed, cried, and bit me. But no sooner were we done than he forgot all about it and was right back to having fun.

No matter how many times you have to do it, holding down a child who thinks you’re trying to hurt them is a very emotional experience. You know it needs to happen, but you still feel like a monster for having to do it.


Back home. I finally sit down for lunch. I’ve got 10 minutes before my next meeting — a board meeting.

We’re discussing Skookum’s 5 year plan. We talk about big, important questions like:

  • How soon can we expand to 24/7 coverage and declare the 72-hour problem officially solved?
  • Once we do, what is the next service gap we should take on?
  • How do we convert this scrappy startup into a community pillar?

There are differences of opinion and big feelings. But this is an important, interesting meeting with people that I love and trust.


2 phonecalls to make before I sit down at my desk to finally attack my task list. One to a Skookum Kids donor who would like an update, and another call to a prospective volunteer who missed our most recent interest meeting.

On my list for today is to fix a couple formating problems on our website, square away the insurance on our new van, schedule all of our marketing messages for the next week, and send a dozen or so thank you notes to folks who have given money to support our work. Every donor gets a hand-written thank you note from us, and I try to write notes to all the first-time-givers myself.

Luckily I don’t have to be back at Skookum until 9pm. That gives me a little time to eat dinner and relax before I ride back over.


Back at Skookum. The youngest (12 days old) and one of the toddlers have departed for what we hope will be their long-term homes. In their place, we’ve welcomed 3 new ones. There are now 6 children in the house. One of our interns is just finishing up the arrival paperwork on them when I arrive. 2 of the kids are already in bed, sleeping soundly. The oldest of the remaining 4 informs me promptly that her bedtime is 10:30p. We play Wii for an hour before she heads to the shower. One of the other volunteers point out a note in one of the files of the newly arrive children that they’re prone to wet the bed. We double-check that the mattress protectors are installed on their beds. They aren’t. We find them and install them. Crisis averted.

The oldest is true to her word, and gets in bed right at 10:30p. All is quiet. Finally.


I collapse into my sleeping bag and try to read, but let’s be honest — it’s not going to happen tonight. I’m out before I get past the first page. It’s a good thing, too. My alarm tomorrow is set for 5:15a.

(2017) Day in the Life of a Nonprofit ED

Everybody Wants to Change the World (Until They Find Out What It Costs)