my husband keeps contacting my coworkers about funding his nonprofit

A reader writes:

I work for a special district. My husband has been between jobs for several years and decided he wants to found a nonprofit. He has run them successfully before, and I support him.

The problem is he wants my agency to be the primary partner for his nonprofit, to the tune of a radically different partnership than we have ever done before and several hundred thousand dollars a year. I am not in an important enough position to make any of this happen, although I know the people who are.

I’ve tried to keep him in perspective about this (this is GOVERNMENT!) but he continues to write to my small group of coworkers in my department, and even my boss, trying to get them to engage with his idea. He’s now pressuring me to pressure them to get back to him. We all see each other socially, so he knows them, but not well. Meanwhile I’m panicking watching our savings disappear while he works on his plans.

Not only does this make me very uncomfortable and embarrassed, I think it is also wildly inappropriate. Do you agree, and how can I navigate this situation with him and my colleagues?

Yes, you’re right that this is inappropriate and putting you in a really awkward position with your coworkers.

It’s one thing if he wants to make one proposal, one time, and then leave at that — although even that can be fraught with potential awkwardness and conflict of interest problems. And really, if his proposal is radically different from what your employer would generally do, the chances of a government agency deciding to do that radically different partnership with the spouse of one of their employees is unlikely (because unless your husband has uniquely amazing credentials that would justify it — like if you are perhaps Michelle Obama — the optics would be so bad).

But one attempt at pitching it? Okay, sure. Not great, but not the worst thing in the world.

But continually writing to your coworkers and your boss? Trying to get you to pressure them to respond to him?


That kind of repeated contact and inability to read the situation (including inability to read their lack of enthusiasm, I’m guessing) is not okay for him to do with people you work with. It’s going to make you look bad too, unless you explicitly distance yourself from it with your colleagues (which seems to be the opposite of what he wants you to do).

What he’s doing — the repeated contact and not accepting what I’m guessing have been soft no’s — wouldn’t be great in any situation, but doing it in your workplace, where it can affect your reputation and your relationships, is particularly not cool.

It sounds like you’ve tried to manage his expectations, but I would take it further than that: Tell him he needs to stop now. Explain that it was fine for him to propose the project once, but that he cannot continue to contact people you work with about it, because it’s going to affect your reputation and the relationships you need to have to be effective at your job. He had his one shot, and now he has to move on.

(And for what it’s worth, if his plan only works if he can get this one specific agency to fund it and they’re not showing signs of interest, then it’s probably not a viable plan. And that’s before we get into how most people who want to start new nonprofits shouldn’t be doing it.)

Then, talk to your coworkers and boss and let them know that you’re not part of what your husband is doing and that you’ve asked him to stop contacting them. You can say something like, “Please don’t worry that it’ll cause any weirdness with me if you turn him down or even if you don’t respond. You can handle this just like you would if he were a stranger, and it won’t be a problem on my end. I’m sorry if it’s caused any awkwardness!”

Read updates to this letter here, here, and here.

{ 176 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    And a request to commenters: The letter-writer will likely be reading these comments and loves her husband. I imagine there will be some criticism of his actions here, but please keep comments kind and constructive.

  2. Jake*

    LW. Shut this down now. As is the case with a lot of advice columns, if you haven’t been direct, be direct. Use what Alison suggested above. If he continues in any way, shape, or form, conduct a serious evaluation of if this is part of a pattern of your husband prioritizing his career and needs over yours (if its not, great!).

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Yeah. This seems like he has hit on The One Path that is going to turn it around and establish his new career… and he is not picking up the signals that no one in your office is interested. I think you need to be very blunt in laying this out–that is, I suspect no one reading your letter thinks your office is remotely considering this, but he doesn’t seem to have picked up on that. Someone needs to tell him that, and if he doesn’t have a friend of sibling or mentor or someone you can appeal to to lay it out for him, that falls to you.

      If he wants to do this, he needs to come up with a long list of remotely possible partnering agencies and a short list of likely ones, and start running his pitch by them. Starting and ending at your office is not a viable business plan.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Yea – the thing is that starting a non profit should come from a place where you have a lot of money saved up – enough to be cushy and not have to worry about earning money for awhile. It should not come from a place of ‘I need a new job – I will make one!’. This should not be done as a career move – especially if your savings are draining.

        1. your mamma don't dance*

          Yeah, I had a relative who was facing “I can’t get a job, okay, I’ll make my own”, but his solution was to start a food truck. Much less overhead to starting a non-profit.

          It actually worked for him, although he’s not doing it anymore; he needed a job with benefits. But for what he needed it to do, it worked. But he had specific skills and he made a business to use/sell those skills.

          1. selena81*

            kudos to your relative: i think it’s amazing when people are able to ‘lift themselves up’
            he provided a service that people wanted to pay for, as opposed to the husband who wanted *someone else* to pay for services that may or may not have been welcomed by the recipients of those services

            as someone who has been pretty poor and in need of help i agree with every word of the ‘too much nonprofits already’ links that Alison put there: there are some organizations that do amazing work and everybody please go support them, but there are also way too much organizations and people that are only about fulfilling a savior-fantasy.
            the road to hell… and all that, and the worst part of it is that it are the poor and helpless that suffer the most from mr savior wallowing in self-admiration

            If this guy was asking for a singular $1000 donation or some such it would be one thing, but expecting them to fund the equivalent of several full-time employees? I am sorry that this is happening to you LW, it sounds like your husband is desperate and grasping at straws to sustain both his finances and self-image, which is not a pleasant thing for you to come home too.

        2. Aveline*

          Starting many types of business from scratch costs a mint. I live in a very inexpensive area but the average cost to start a law firm is over $20,000. That’s really, really prohibitive to any young person wanting to go out on their own. But it’s not atypical.

          I think husband needs some coaching from someone who started their own nonprofit about how to do so successfully and realistically.

          Maybe OP can reach out and help him find a mentor who will be able to tell him he’s being unrealistic and harmful by continuing to pester OP and her coworkers.

      2. Jack Be Nimble*

        Seconded, and the suggestion to prompt him to brainstorm other sources of funding is a lovely and supportive one.

    2. Psyche*

      Yeah. Especially when he has been unemployed for a few years, so they depend on her job. Her career should take priority right now and he should not do anything to jeopardize that.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I’m concerned about that savings depletion–it sounds like the OP’s household is built on a two-income expectation that’s turning out to be a one-income reality. Even if he stops bugging OP’s work, either household costs have to get lowered or income raised. And maybe this is all part of a bigger discussion that the OP is embroiled in and she just wanted to focus on the work piece, but I’m concerned that solving the problem of his bugging her workplace isn’t going to resolve the underlying issue.

        1. selena81*

          exactly: if they are still depleting savings after several years of ‘between jobs’ then it sounds like time to take a long hard look at finances.

          She is the breadwinner for the foreseeable future and that makes it his responsibility to make that easy on her (doing household chores and stuff, and not alienating her co-workers). If the situation were reversed i’d expect her to be the supportive one (and anyone who calls that misogynist can suck my ***)
          There is nothing wrong with him wanting to find a job also (it would be better for both of them to bring in some money), but he should accept the reality that this will not happen anytime soon and plan accordingly.

      2. tink*

        Yeah my first thought was “his incessant asking and refusal to take a no is going to put OP’s job in jeopardy too, and then what will they do???”

      3. No Mas Pantalones*

        My take as well. One isn’t “between jobs” for a few years; that’s “unemployed.” Your husband may want to start a non-profit, but he’s putting in jeopardy: your job, your income, your savings, and all future associated, which would thereby render you both non-profit in a manner of speaking, but not quite how he’s anticipating. This needs to be lassoed in last week. Good luck, OP.

        1. WellRed*

          I just re-read the letter and agree there’s some softening language she needs to let go of, in her head if nothing else.

          1. No Mas Pantalones*

            I think it might help her perspective a bit, at the very least.

            I was unemployed for over a year. I wasn’t between jobs. I was straight up unemployed. And it sucked. I had to hustle my butt to make ends meet. Single, no kids, no savings. My collection of Fluevogs (that’s one in my avatar) actually came in quite handy, as they have excellent resale value among collectors. Kept my bills paid. I had plenty of big ideas in those months. I put them on paper for later. I’ve followed through on exactly zero of them and have exactly zero regrets about that.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Agreed. Being honest and direct is the only way to go here. It also sounds like he’s putting a financial strain on you both and that needs to be addressed as well. Supporting your partner is one thing, but it sounds like he’s taken it to another level that needs to be addressed.

      1. Nic*

        Yeah, the dwindling savings leaves me with a massive amount of uneasiness. I know these things cost money to set up, but combined with Husband’s intense focusing on LW’s job as the solution to his start-up problems rather than taking no for an answer and going on to Plan B (or C, or D)…it’s a worrying situation.

        Obviously the immediate problem is getting husband to realise that he’s edging into harassment territory, and not only is he antagonising LW’s employers and coworkers – thus ensuring that they’re even less likely to want to help out – but he’s also threatening LW’s working relationship with them.

        Beyond that though, I think LW needs (if she hasn’t done so already) to have a long talk with him, to ferret out the details of his plans and get herself as much knowledge as possible about what he’s envisioning and how it impacts on their shared resources. How much has he budgeted, what are his fall-back plans…and what are their combined hard limits. Because as a married couple with all the legal entanglement that involves, they need a mutual agreement on where the “this far and no further” point is, and what form it takes. Does Husband get two years, no holds barred, to make his dream come true? Or does he get until the combined bank balance drops to X amount? Or do they separate off a “seed account” to grow his non-profit, so that their family finances can’t be accidentally drained, and if that gets exhausted, it’s game over?

  3. Jack Be Nimble*

    Oh noooooooooooooo, please say something to your coworkers, apologize on your husband’s behalf, and tell them that you’re mortified by your husband’s pestering. I’m so sorry that he’s putting you in this awkward position, and I hope he is a wonderful husband in all other respects, and he’s just so enthusiastic about this new project that he’s blind to the faux pas he’s committing.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*


      Also, perhaps pointing out that if he continues to do this, he could be jeopardizing your job which would inhibit his ability to start his foundation.

    2. Marzipan*

      I mean, she can’t really apologise on his behalf until and unless he stops doing this, though. Otherwise it will ring rather hollow next time he gets in touch about his plans. (The mortified thing, fair enough!)

    3. MK*

      I… would advise against this, at least doing so in such strong terms. Frankly, I would be a lot more uncomfortable with a co-worker apologising for their spouse (not really their place) and having a conversation where they are essentially critisising their partner to me, no matter how justified (really not my place to hear it).

      1. Jack Be Nimble*

        Very fair! I was thinking something along the lines of “Sorry about Fergus – we’ve spoken about it.” I do think that stronger terms might be necessary, depending on the context. If it’s really disruptive to the work day, the LW’s coworkers or boss have expressed frustration, or the coworkers/boss have told him ‘no’ and been ignored, it might be worth it to use stronger language.

        1. Jack Be Nimble*

          Rereading this, “Sorry about Fergus – we’ve spoken about it” probably isn’t the best phrasing. Bibliothèque’s suggested language below would be a lot more appropriate!

    4. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      “Mortified” is a bit much. If there are coworkers who think this is a bit odd and a bit out of line but not egregious, she should keep their opinions on that level, not dial them up to 100. If she gushes about how horrible it was, they’re going to think “wow, at first I didn’t think this completely horrific or reflected on Coworker much, but I guess I was wrong.”

      It’s like when a little kid gets a bump. As a parent, I don’t fly into panic/comfort mode–because there’s a chance my kid will just get up and shake it off. If I immediately run over and start coddling, they’re much more likely to start crying, because if I think they’re hurt, it must be true.

      A relatively casual “I’m sorry, it’ll stop” is what I’d suggest to begin with.

      1. Jack Be Nimble*

        That’s an excellent point! I think that I assumed that the LW had already apologized casually, as you suggested, but if she hasn’t that’s the place to start.

      2. Washi*

        I don’t think Jack Be Nimble is saying that the OP should prostrate herself before her colleagues, but more say (calmly) “I’m mortified that my husband keeps pestering you! Please feel free to ignore him.”

        Honestly, depending on the level of contact from the husband, this could be pretty embarrassing for the OP. She doesn’t need to throw her husband under the bus, but I do think she makes it clear that she’s not egging him on behind the scenes to continue doing this.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          This only works if the OP actually puts her foot down with her husband. If she said that to me and then he kept pestering, I’d still be pretty annoyed. I know she can’t absolutely control what he does, but, yeah, it would look either like she can’t set boundaries with him or he’s a flake who doesn’t listen (in which case, why would I give him money?).

      3. pancakes*

        It is pretty egregious, whether the coworkers own up to thinking that or not, and the husband isn’t a little kid.

  4. Sloan Kittering*

    Maybe you can frame this to your husband as “not putting all your eggs in one basket.” If his idea depends on the contacts from your job, that creates a precarious financial situation – because problems in one area now affect both of your incomes. Strategically, it’s probably a better idea to diversify your sources of income as much as possible. If he’s super logically this may appeal to that more than trying to explain it’s creating tension for you at work.

    1. Artemesia*

      That would have been okay several pestering moves ago, but he isn’t ‘getting it’ and the time for tactful diversion is over. She needs to tell him that he is putting her career at risk, that he is clearly not accepting their answer is ‘no’ and he needs to rethink his plan and absolutely not contact her workplace again. He must cool it before they have no income.

      This whole plan makes no sense; you don’t start a non-profit when you are unemployed and don’t have money to burn before it is a going concern. And his behavior suggests he doesn’t have a viable route to success. He needs lots of pretty sure things and even more maybes as well as a cushion of resources to get something like this going. Counting on her connections to make it go is a very bad sign. Make sure he isn’t planning to put expenses for this on your credit cards or he will take both of you down. My husband used to deal with bankruptcies and the number of women whose financial futures were destroyed by husbands with bad business sense was legion; one stage was almost always wishful thinking and credit card debt ‘until things turn around.’

    2. pancakes*

      Surely even a super logical person is capable of understanding that pestering their spouse’s employer for money is not likely to result in receiving a pile of money.

  5. your mamma don't dance*

    Your husband is putting you into a really terrible position. You say you’ve tried to put this into perspective for him, you’ve probably tried to tell him why this is a bad idea for him, that it won’t work. You need to tell him straight out that this is a bad idea FOR YOU. It may not get you fired, but it will absolutely negatively impact you at work. He’s seeing your job and your connections as resources to be mined. But they’re not. They’re your actual job. This isn’t some networking hard sell. This is your career and also, incidentally, your family’s livelihood. He needs to stop this.

    1. ev*

      Also, the fact that’s he’s mining your joined savings is something that is kind of alarming. Regardless if this is a noble cause, repeatedly draining savings accounts and messing with a partner’s career relationships is not respectful of the overall partnership.

    2. your mamma don't dance*

      Also, I want to pull on “I am not in an important enough position to make any of this happen, although I know the people who are.” a little bit.

      You have a conflict of interest here. If you were in a position to make this happen, you wouldn’t be allowed to.

      That you know the people who are? Still looks very bad. Unless this is a very strict “pointing your husband in the direction he should use to apply for his grant” and kept to that level… well, frankly, it’s still a little bad, but at least it’s following procedure.

      But that you are potentially close enough to influence a decision that would speak to your husband getting something that would financially help your family, that is a serious conflict.

      And your husband looks at this potential conflict and decides… what? That he’s going to push on that conflict to try to get the money? Leaning into a conflict isn’t the way to go here.

      1. Jack Be Nimble*

        Emphasizing that this would be a conflict of interest is a brilliant move. I’ve been in a lot of positions tied up in bureaucracy and red tape (research, finance, university housing), and sometimes it’s necessary to lean on Regulations in order to preserve the relationship. It’s not even an excuse, it’s just a slightly more delicate version of the truth.

        I think that being blunt still has its place, and is usually the best option! But it’s worth trying this other route, as well.

        1. JessaB*

          I cannot see how this is not a major issue conflict of interest. It can’t be something permitted, if I were OP I’d go with that. It’s impermissible conflict of interest you cannot pitch this where I work.

      2. Ama*

        Yes, if there are any conflict of interest rules around spouses for the OP’s branch of government that would be one possible way to get him to back off.

        A few years back my significant other was starting his own IT business, right about at the time my non-profit employer was looking for a new IT vendor. I asked the big bosses if he was allowed to submit a proposal and was told that unfortunately it was too big a conflict of interest for the partner of a current employee to enter into a vendor relationship with us. Which was fine! We both understood the reasoning (which is why I checked with the big bosses in the first place).

        1. No Mas Pantalones*

          I don’t work for the government, but I do work in the compliance department for a large company. This is a huge COI and were it happening here, there would potentially be serious reprocussions, whether the company-employed spouse was on board with her husband’s requests or not.

      3. Snark*

        Even applying for that grant would require him to disclose that his wife is an employee of the agency, and then any responsible contracting authority would want to know just what sorts of communications had gone to and fro, and boom: rejected.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This is what I was coming to say. OP, go further then telling him it’s a conflict of interest—tell him he’s jeopardizing your employment, because he is. Unless he thinks he can start up a nonprofit without any savings and the primary income earner in the household, he needs to back all the way off.

        And I don’t mean to be cruel, but a nonprofit pitch that relies on a partnership with a special district as its primary source of revenue and programming is not going to be sustainable. It’s not a strong pitch to begin with (even if his idea is brilliant), and it’s really dangerous for new nonprofits to try to rely on a single-funder… especially one who’s decidedly unenthusiastic. Do you live near a major university with access to a business or law school? If so, I would refer him to either for assistance in coming up with a viable business plan. If not, he still needs assistance, and he may want to invest more in his organizational infrastructure and planning before pitching to people like his spouse’s employer.

    3. Psyche*

      This is very true. You say that you also socialize with your coworkers together. You need to make sure that he does not see social events as another opportunity to hard sell. He has made his pitch and they heard him. Make sure he knows the ball is in their court now and there should be zero talk about his nonprofit idea around them.

  6. Jennifer*

    “Please don’t worry that it’ll cause any weirdness with me if you turn him down or even if you don’t respond. You can handle this just like you would if he were a stranger, and it won’t be a problem on my end. I’m sorry if it’s caused any awkwardness!”

    Perfect! Now the coworkers can either ignore him, block him, or be blunt with him just as they would handle any other unwanted solicitations without feeling weird that the OP will be angry with him. I think that should take care of it from the work side and I hope none of the coworkers have changed their opinions of the OP based on this.

    The rest is between the OP and her husband.

  7. valentine*

    OP, sit down with hubs and tell him you need to set boundaries. Freeze the savings, crunch some numbers, and see how much more your family can afford for him to use on this and whether there’s anything less risky or more realistic it would be okay for him to spend on. Tell him you support his nonprofit idea, but he needs to dial back to being the spouse of a colleague and stop trying to involve your colleagues or employer in his business ventures. Had he moved from a job directly to founding a nonprofit partnered with your employer, that might not be so bad. Now that you know the stark fear of depleting savings, however, it’s time to put the eggs in different baskets.

    When this crisis has settled, look at the bigger picture of how safe you feel creating and maintaining boundaries and discussing family needs and finances with him.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Yea. And this conversation has to be “you cannot keep doing this”, not “please don’t do this”.

    2. Maria Lopez*

      You should never start a non-profit with your own funds beyond finding a name, getting an EIN, registering with your state and filing a 1023-EZ . The rest should come from fundraising, so your savings should not be depleted at all except for the above. He is in essence using your savings instead of fundraising. He needs to get a job to finance this pipe dream, or find a job at a non-profit to fulfill whatever need it is he has to be in that sector. Having run non-profits in the past is NOT the same as founding one.
      In addition, the optics are SO BAD if your husband has a non-profit funded by his wife’s government office. Cronyism, anyone?

  8. Binky*

    OP are there any ethical issues that might be raised by your employer? I can see some potential conflicts from granting significant funds to the spouse of a government employee. If there’s an ethics officer you can speak with, and it turns out there are ethical issues, I think that would put paid to your husband’s idea of getting funding from your office.

    From your concern about your savings, I think it would also be a good idea to have a conversation with your husband about that issue, entirely apart from his solicitation of your organization. Maybe he can take on some temp or part-time work to help your finances while he works to get his non-profit going.

    1. Yvette*

      “OP are there any ethical issues that might be raised by your employer? I can see some potential conflicts from granting significant funds to the spouse of a government employee.” Exactly, I cannot believe this would not be a huge conflict of interest and potential ethical issue. This alone should be enough to shut it down,

    2. Clorinda*

      It really smells of self-dealing, or what would appear to be self-dealing to an unsympathetic auditor. Yet another in the long list of reasons that she needs to shut this down.

      1. Snark*

        At this point, the agency literally could not partner with this guy, because he’s hamfisted himself into a situation where the conflicts of interest are so gross and obvious no contract officer would even consider it.

      2. Jadelyn*

        Right – and even if it’s not quite a full-blown conflict of interest (since OP isn’t the decision-maker), the appearance of conflict of interest is still important. There’s a lot of ways that can go sour.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah–it’s almost certain that he couldn’t pursue a partnership at this point, in large part because he’s enlisted his spouse as his advocate. This would violate any nepotism or disinterested party policy and is a huge ethical red flag.

    3. 5 Leaf Clover*

      This is ABSOLUTELY a huge issue in a government job. Ethics rules about using one’s government position to obtain preferential treatment for a spouse are very strict. Look into the laws on this!

      1. Artemesia*

        I worked for a non-profit and we had pages of conflict of interest stuff to fill out every year; this kind of self dealing would have been absolutely forbidden.

    4. an infinite number of monkeys*

      Yes. This kind of situation is specifically spelled out as prohibited in my state agency’s ethics policy. We have mandatory biannual training on it and it’s published in our agency’s HR manual.

      Maybe your agency doesn’t push this as hard, but is there not an ethics policy written down in an HR manual that you can print out and show him? Where I work, none of my higher-ups could consider doing business with an employee’s spouse’s outfit even if they really wanted to.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        There probably is, but as OP said she’s not anywhere near high enough in her organization to be a decision-maker (or even influencer), which may be why this isn’t immediately on her radar. But was coming here to say this on the thread. There is almost certainly an ethics policy in place, and you probably are subject to it. You may want to ask your boss about what the specifics are (in the event that your husband goes through the right channels in seeking a partnership).

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          I’m a former state and local government worker; I was very low-level in both jobs, not a decision maker at all, but I still had mandatory ethics training. The whole time I read this letter I was thinking “oh no no no noooo.”

  9. Amber Rose*

    Time to shut it down with some facts of life. You can’t afford to burn bridges at your current job if you are the only one bringing in a paycheck right now. Aside from that, presumably you like your job and this is making things very difficult for you.

    You support him and that’s great and you should, but he also needs to support you by not straining your work relationships and giving you unnecessary stress with what honestly sounds like a poorly thought out plan. I could be wrong. But. :/

  10. Temperance*

    LW, have you explicitly told your husband not to do this, and that he’s putting your job in jeopardy with his actions? As inappropriate as his actions are, it seems like he *genuinely* doesn’t get why this is a bad idea.

    You are supporting him, both financially and in his dreams. Can you have a frank discussion with him about appropriate goals, starting small, etc.? He’s not going to found a nonprofit org that is going to immediately be eligible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in government grant money.

    Also, a very gentle suggestion for you that you can take or leave: does your organization have EAP access? A few sessions with a therapist might help you figure out some ways to address the issues with your husband, beyond the scope of the blog.

    1. Washi*

      I am curious as well. Has the LW told her husband that she feels uncomfortable and embarrassed? It sounds like she’s told him that logistically, this isn’t a good idea, but it doesn’t sound like she’s told him that he’s hurting her, not just himself.

      LW, even if your husband’s pestering might actually get him somewhere at your workplace (which it sounds like it absolutely won’t) it would be ok for you to say that you are not comfortable with that! You don’t have to trample all over your own comfort level to support his dream if you don’t want to. If you’re feeling a lot of guilt about not being supportive, I very much second Temperance’s recommendation of a few therapy sessions to hash out what kind of support you can give and what will not work for you.

        1. Salamander*

          I think this is very, very possible. This does not serve either the OP or their joint finances well at all.

    2. WatchOutForThatTree*

      This. Does husband seriously think government agencies can just give money away?!?! In my location, it would be a multi-year process to obtain such a grant. Agency budget approval, legislative appropriations, competitive proposal evaluation (yes, even for nonprofit), qualifying the nonprofit’s ability to do the work, and contracting. Looking at a minimum of 2 years and more like 4-5. And, that clock only starts after the agency’s senior management is on board with the nonprofit’s idea.

  11. Anonymeece*

    I agree with everything the commenters and Alison have said, and will also say that you need to set firm boundaries about what he wants you to do to help him; pressuring you to pressure your coworkers/boss is not on. It might be a time to not only talk about the viability of his project, particularly if he’s focused on your organization, but also in general what you are willing to contribute to his project. My partner (who also has been out of work and has a lot of grand ideas) and I have an agreement that I will support him emotionally, I will cheerlead for him, and I will be his biggest fan, but I am not ever contributing monetarily to his ideas and I’m not willing to stake my professional reputation on him. It might be time to have that conversation with your husband, about what you will do, and what you absolutely will not do.

    1. valentine*

      I will support him emotionally, I will cheerlead for him, and I will be his biggest fan, but I am not ever contributing monetarily to his ideas and I’m not willing to stake my professional reputation on him.
      This is excellent and new to me. I have only seen “How much more can I give?”

      1. Artemesia*

        And we have no information and not trying to diagnose, but people experiencing mania very often launch new businesses and suck up all of the family resources, so she needs to be very mindful of protecting her savings, their credit card debt etc etc. And she needs to be alert to signs that his behavior is more than just bad judgment but perhaps disordered. I know two people who had to start over from zip after husbands with bi polar issues drained the family wealth and put them in debt during periods of mania that they didn’t recognize at the time. One in her 60s who had her own home and lots of savings, has basically had to start over building for retirement at a time she thought she would be retiring. In 4 years of marriage she was financially ruined.

  12. Jaz*

    My sister is married to a man who is energetic, enthusiastic, and entrepreneurial. He is often starting new ventures, and not all of them get off the ground. He’s a great person, and very fun, but his approach to his professional life can cause a lot of stress for my sister!

    I could be misunderstanding, but from what I read in this post, your husband sounds a lot like my brother-in-law. My sister’s marriage was saved by two ironclad rules:
    1) Their professional lives remain separate. This mostly means that he is never to pitch an idea, job, or product to anybody she works with.
    2) If their savings fall below a set point, he finds a regular job and stays at it for at least two years.

    I’m not saying those specific rules would apply, but maybe you and your husband could consider some form of Rule 1?

    1. No Name Yet*

      Those are very clever rules – I really like the balance on multiple levels. Speaks very well of both of them to have figured that out!

    2. Public Sector Manager*

      This is great advice. My wife is frequently like the OP’s husband, and Jaz, your post is very helpful to me. Thanks!

    3. Artemesia*

      In this situation, clearly deciding how to secure money is important. I know someone with a husband like this who came to an agreement that X$ was each of their to spend as they wished — he spent his on business schemes that mostly failed. She invested hers. He also worked a regular job ‘until the new business got off the ground.’ The key to their marriage was those boundaries around money since their personal style with that was so different. They paid their bills; they saved for retirement; what was left was split to us as they each chose.

    4. Rumbakalao*

      This is a great suggestion. I imagine even besides the husband crossing boundaries and pitching to her coworkers, the stress of wondering if his business will succeed or leave them in a terrible financial bind must be awful.

      OP- I sincerely hope your husband is able to see how inappropriate he is acting and that if things don’t work out, that this doesn’t hurt your relationship. Best of luck!

  13. Rainy*

    Yikes, OP, this sounds so rough for you!

    For the work stuff, I’d have an extremely clear conversation with him IMMEDIATELY in which you tell him flat out to stop contacting your team–and make it clear that if he continues he may be endangering your job! Then, as awkward as it is, tell your coworkers “Look, I’m so sorry about this, please feel free to block his address or just not respond. I’ve talked to him about how inappropriate this is and told him to stop. If he continues, whatever you need to do, I support you.”

    And…really, he needs to get a job. I think this is probably going to be another extremely difficult conversation, but you may need to just point out that your income alone doesn’t support your lifestyle and he has to contribute.

  14. cheese please*

    I wonder if OP’s husband is part of his endeavor alone or has a partner / team etc. On one hand, the others involved in the new non-profit may be pressuring him to get OP’s support on this through “connections”. On the other hand, if the husband is going at this alone he may need help in finding other sources of support / funding.

    If your agency works often in this related field and knows about grants etc, the best thing to suggest to coworkers would be to say “Hi X, Wife told us great things about your exciting new endeavor, but as of right now we don’t have the funds for your llama orphanage. However, I am passing along the contact information for Bill and Susan, who work in llama adoption and can be a good resource moving forward.”

    1. your mamma don't dance*

      This gets the coworkers even more enmeshed in it. If the OP wants to redirect the husband to other places, fine, but it shouldn’t be to other people who work in this agency, and the coworkers shouldn’t be involved at all.

      Also, I’m not sure the coworkers are in a place to be able to say “we don’t have the funds”, that sounds it’s declining an application. I don’t think they’ve received an application. They’re just getting pressured. This isn’t following process or policy, and the coworkers should not be involved at all.

      1. cheese please*

        You’re right. I was making assumptions about what coworkers can / can’t do. I wasn’t clear on the hierarchy of the coworkers. Because OP mentioned it being “a radically different partnership” a better response would be to say “we don’t fund X projects” or “we handle all our partnerships with non-profits through the Baby Llama Grant Site and only work with non-profits focused on baby llama health, not orphan llamas”. Whatever is factual and not to be taken personally by the husband (where he may feel if he could just meet with them he could change their mind).

      2. Liane*

        As others have pointed out, there are probably ethics rules making Husband’s nonprofit plans iffy enough without getting any of her colleagues involved more.

  15. Antilles*

    The problem is he wants my agency to be the primary partner for his nonprofit, to the tune of a radically different partnership than we have ever done before and several hundred thousand dollars a year.
    I’m going to caveat this with the preface that I’m not in the non-profit world, so maybe I’m totally off-base here (feel free to jump in and tell me I’m dumb), but…this seems like a *really* bad funding plan.
    1.) It relies on OP’s agency providing a huge sum of money to an unproven non-profit. Maybe this is standard, but it strikes me as odd to expect an agency to provide an enormous commitment of funds to a brand new non-profit with no track record, no name recognition, and no ‘proof of concept’.
    2.) Similarly, if the agency has never provided this level of funding before, there’s probably all sorts of logistical and political hurdles – do they even have this much money available? can you convince the department that this is truly worthy of funding at a level way beyond what they normally do?
    3.) Is this even legal under ethics and corruption laws? Government agencies tend to have lots of rules and regulations about funding.
    4.) Even if you could get past issues 1-3, having most/all of your funding coming from one single agency source seems very risky since all it takes is one new director, one recession, or one funding cut and suddenly you’re stuck.

    1. Nonprofit Nancy*

      Yeah, I work for a foundation and it’s especially difficult to fund new nonprofits with any amount of public funds. We can’t make the case for our due diligence if they don’t have established financials, past audits, etc, which is in the funding restrictions. The best we can do is throw them a small amount of private money (like, 5K – not enough to pay the husband’s salary in this case) until they establish a stronger track record. The purpose of this is to protect public dollars from malfeasance.

    2. Yv*

      “The problem is he wants my agency to be the primary partner for his nonprofit, to the tune of a radically different partnership than we have ever done before and several hundred thousand dollars a year.” This also sounds just so very simplistic. Is that even something a government agency can do??

      I mean anybody can start a business if someone fronts them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    3. Auntie Social*

      And let’s say he’s given $200,000 with no track record, in a ‘good old boy’ way—what if Anderson Cooper were to investigate? Would you want to see this on 60 Minutes? It just reeks. Not to mention that you don’t want all your funding from one source, it can dry up too easily.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Oh, yes. I had vague thoughts of “how would this look in the news?” as well, but you verbalized them better. Maybe not even national news, but this is the kind of thing local presses are all over.

  16. Snark*

    In addition to the bad position this is putting you in, OP is a public servant. She works for the government, with apparent responsibility for, or a relationship with those with responsibility for, large, public budgets.

    See where I’m going with this? Somewhere, right now, there is an agency inspector general licking his chops, thinking of fresh meat, and not knowing why.

    Because even at this point, let alone if he did pester his wife’s coworkers and superiors into throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars at his fly-by-night, brand new nonprofit, his improperly leveraging her office in a way that creates an appearance (or a reality) of a conflict of interest that would be of intense interest to that IG. As someone currently being inspected by my agency’s IG, they are not boogymen out to get us, but they are thorough, and you do not want any obvious skeletons stashed in your file cabinets.

    OP: you must shut this down. Not just because it’s awkward, but because it looks so bad it might endanger your job, professional standing, and ethics for it to continue.

    1. your mamma don't dance*

      Oh yeah. If the husband ever actually gets any money and then the auditor finds e-mails that say “Hi, this is Anakin, I’m Padme’s husband”…

        1. your mamma don't dance*

          You know how it goes, one day you’re manipulating government contracts, the next you’re dueling with your estranged son in the bottom of a floating city. Just say no to the dark side! (Even though there are cookies).

    2. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      Yes I’m not a government worker but from what I understand this is a big potential conflict of interest and threatens her agency’s ability to acts a independent fiduciaries, and when one loses a government job over this type of thing it generally means for life. As a lot of these gov jobs require clearances or special tiers even for non-secretive/sensitive agencies, this could mean the OP is jeopardizing her whole career path and the way she supports their household. I think framed this way, perhaps the husband will understand the rules are a bit different and the consequences more severe than in the private sector (though this could also be a big no-no at my private corp). It’s considered solicitation in any case especially beyond any initial bid / open proposal.

  17. Dust Bunny*

    OMG no. This needs to end for so many reasons. One, he’s already asked. Two, I cannot imagine having a government agency support a private nonprofit looks all that great. Three, you two need to have independent sources of income! Four, he needs to take no for an answer and look elsewhere.

    Why the fixation? It seems like he’s picked what appears to him to be the easiest road to funding and won’t let go of it. If he’s serious about this, he needs to do it without your influence/contacts.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Actually, governmental funding of nonprofits isn’t really that unusual. There are for profit corporations who get governmental funding as well. Just depends on the field.

    2. Guacamole Bob*

      Governments contract with nonprofits to provide services all the time. When one of my kids was eligible for state-sponsored early intervention services, the actual care providers were employees of nonprofits who the state/county/city had hired to provide the services (the kid is totally fine now). Depending on the jurisdiction this kind of setup is common for all sorts of social services.

      Foundation-type grants instead of service contracts are less common but still happen – think of the National Science Foundation or National Endowment for the Arts, but on a local level. But for those kinds of programs there will be clear application processes, timelines, and rules. The sort of tactics OP’s husband is using would be inappropriate in that case.

      1. WatchOutForThatTree*

        Yeah, but a NP doesn’t just walk in the door and ask for the money. There’s a process that can take a few years to navigate. That’s particularly true if there is not an established funding stream within the agency for programs such as the one the nonprofit is suggesting.

  18. Marzipan*

    One way to frame this to your husband might be with the idea that sometimes, lack of response *is* an answer. He wanted to work with your organisation; fair enough. He reached out, also fair enough. Their lack of an enthusiastic response, though, isn’t an indication that he just needs to keep asking, and plunging ever further into gumption territory; it’s an indication that they aren’t interested. He needs to stop asking. A good parallel here would be with applying for a job – it’s easy to picture how great it would be and how good a fit you’d be, but after you’ve applied/interviewed, you have to move on and assume it won’t happen.

    Are there other viable plans for organisations he could partner with? Are there smaller-scale ways he could get started? If you can redirect his energies into something different, that might help!

  19. almost empty nester*

    It’s highly probable that what your husband is proposing is unethical at best for your employer and likely is contrary to their operating policies. My sense is that your family’s finances are the root of your letter, and rightfully so. I’d also consider that fact that he’s not between jobs for several years…he’s just straight up unemployed and apparently isn’t in a hurry to change that. After following Allison’s recommendation of telling him unequivocally to stop and also speaking with your coworkers, you may need to loop in a therapist to help you sort out the best way forward with him.

    1. alexa, set timer for ten minutes*

      I agree with this commenter re: between jobs vs straight up unemployed.

      With respect to the workplace, I agree with the advice of many other commenters – explain that you do not endorse his conduct and you’ve asked him to stop, and that they are under no obligation to handle it differently than any other inquiry just because you happen to be married to him.

      It isn’t clear from your letter if you’ve been very direct with him about this, but you need to tell him that this is embarrassing, inappropriate, etc – the language you use here. I understand that feels harsh, but you need to be clear that he needs to stop, because it is never going to happen. Explain that it is a conflict of interest if you think doing so will help him understand.

      The relationship issues are beyond the scope of this blog, but I would encourage you to get in front of a couples counselor, because there is a lot to unpack here. It sounds like a fundamental issue is that you are not on the same page about your financial needs and goals, and the responsibility for the financial health of the relationship has fallen solely on you.

      That is not fair or reasonable in the context of a partnership. I would imagine that even if you aren’t aware of it on a day to day basis, you are in fact very stressed by the role in which you have been placed re: finances. I absolutely would be.

      I would be fine supporting my husband working on a startup or nonprofit during his off hours, but he would absolutely expect to (and I would expect him to) have some sort of job to bring financial resources to the table until the side venture or other project became cash positive, or at least revenue neutral. I would not care if that job was retail or something else relatively flexible, as long as he was working.

  20. ArtsNerd*

    And that’s before we get into how most people who want to start new nonprofits shouldn’t be doing it.


    1. valentine*

      OP, if hubs is doing this because he thinks being boss equals avoiding the trauma of unemployment, it may help to point out a new business is less secure than another regular job. And if you need to shore up the savings and turn that tide, he should be willing to take any job he can do, even part-time while still searching, to contribute to your family.

      If he really wants to do the work, though, he can start with someone who’s already doing it.

  21. WellRed*

    Time for a come to Jesus talk with your husband, first about the risk he’s putting you at, jobwise and second, about the risk he’s putting you both at financially. I realize the second part is a marriage issue, but you have a marriage issue. What is his timeframe to make this nonprofit work and what is his back up plan?

    1. EPLawyer*

      This is a marriage issue, not so much a work issue. You need to have a frank talk with your husband about your family’s future. He cannot put your sole source of income at risk and he cannot drain the family finances to fund his dream.

      Couples counsel is a good idea. If he won’t go, go alone.

      Best of luck.

      1. angrytreespirit*

        Hi. We were in counseling together for most of last year. We were seeing someone who was very generous with her discounts and we still can longer afford it, together or separately.

        1. WellRed*

          Oh dear. Counseling for most of the year and he’s still managed to come up with this idea and push this nonprofit?
          Big problems. I’m sorry.

          1. valentine*

            It’s okay to make counseling a priority and put business ventures on hold.

            If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you don’t have enough money to gamble. If he’s harassing other people or businesses, he’s not being a good steward of your money.

            If it’s true there’s a conflict of interest, I wonder why your employer didn’t invoke it to stop him, but don’t use it to let him down gently. There’s still a bigger picture here to address.

  22. AKchic*

    Oh yikes. Yikes Yikes Yikes.

    There are so many red flags here that I’m asking myself if I’m standing in an American film set in a red flag store in the middle of a white supremacist rally in the heart of communist Russia circa the 1980’s.

    This is your livelihood. This is your career. He is tarnishing your reputation by harassing your coworkers and boss (and everyone else associated with you and them) and not hearing “no”. This isn’t “gumption”, this is harassment. If he weren’t connected to you and were a stranger, everyone would be calling security any time he came around (and bar him from the worksite), would hang up on him when he called, would block his email address, and would be discussing options for a cease and desist or a restraining order. There is a point where you could end up getting laid off or fired because of him. Or less likely to be kept on if there are budget cuts.

    On top of that, he is using the personal finances for this venture. Nowhere does it say that he has actually gotten his 501(c)3, which means he probably has no business license yet, which means that none of what he spends of the personal savings could ever be tax deductible. That needs to stop. If his non-profit has merit, he cannot be a non-profit on his own. He needs to be doing this properly, which means he needs to take the steps *now* to become a non-profit. If he can’t do that, then the idea was never a good one in the first place and he does not need to be seeking funding from any avenue, let alone government agencies.
    (I have worked in non-profit agencies and co-founded a few of my own, so I know that this is not a whimsical idea).

    My husband once had a dream for his own business. Grand schemes, half-baked ideas, lovely plans once things were running… but he had no foundation. He had no way to secure funding, didn’t know how to secure funding, didn’t know how to write a business plan or model, and when I started asking him how he was going to do all of these things, his answer was “well, you can help me” and “you can show me how to do that stuff”. He wouldn’t even use the internet at his disposal to access the information himself. He wanted to be handheld and led (no, what he wanted was someone else to do the actual work while he played “business owner” and took all the credit).
    Calling out your own spouse is hard. Because they will get defensive. “What’s mine is ours, what’s yours is ours” and all that is powerful, but when they are throwing good money down a bad idea that won’t pan out because they haven’t actually laid a good foundation, it is a necessary evil to shut it down as quickly as possible, before your financial future is destroyed.
    Look to Captain Awkward and see if there are any good ways to say “don’t bring this idea up to my boss or coworkers anymore because I can’t risk my professional reputation, which is our only source of income right now”. He’s going to get mad and defensive because it is a slight against his idea, and it highlights the fact that he’s not actually bringing in money. He may even play the “you’re not supporting my idea” and “I’m doing this for us” cards. Don’t be deterred. He is unwittingly sabotaging your career, which isn’t doing you any favors.

        1. AKchic*

          You were far kinder in your words than I was to my husband. His ice cream truck turned into a roaming used video game store idea was a huge obsession for 9 months. 5 years later, he still talks about it wistfully. I had to be very blunt and tell him that until he put forth the effort to do the mundane, nitty gritty leg-work, all he had was a pipe dream and if he quit his job without having a financial guarantee in place I would make his childish fantasy a nightmare.
          He ended up looking for a different job. I get being burned out and stuck in a rut. I get being depressed and wanting to succeed. Doesn’t mean I’m going to let us lose all of our money in the process.

          1. Snark*

            So was it, like, a combo ice cream truck and video game lending library? Because my inner twelve-year-old is impressed with his business plan and would like to talk specifics.

            1. AKchic*

              Just video games, using an old ice cream truck as the method of movement. It was a good idea, until you factor in that we live in Alaska. It would be a strictly seasonal business. We also (at the time) lived in a terrible neighborhood with no garage, had absolutely no money to buy the vehicle he wanted, no money for it’s upkeep, and he wanted to do video game rentals to small children who came up to the truck like the ice cream man… which seemed impractical to me. All in our poor neighborhood. He had absolutely no plan other than what I just described. When asked where he’d get the truck I got “oh, my coworker at X place also has a side business as an ice cream man, he’s currently selling a truck”. Okay, where are you getting the money. “I dunno”. Do you have a business plan written up? “A what?” Do you know how to write one up? “you can show me how” Do you know how to get a business license? “you can help me with that” Where are you going to get the money for the business license? “I dunno” Where are you planning on buying your product? Exactly what are you going to sell? “oh, just games and stuff; and I’ll buy it wherever”
              Everything was just assumed I would “help”, and by “help” he meant do it for him or do the majority of it and then he could just put his name on it.
              I’d had a terrible “small business” venture that my first ex-husband ran out of our then-home where he stole my identity. I refuse to be a part of any business ventures with family. If you won’t do the legwork and can’t pitch your idea effectively on your own and actually sell it to me (or anyone else), then I’m not going to support it.

              1. AuroraNorth*

                In Alaska? Yikes. You were so right to shoot this down.
                Not sure where you’re located, but I can’t see this having been even remotely feasible anywhere other than maybe Anchorage. And even that’s a long shot. I grew up in Alaska, and there just isn’t the population density to make it work. Not to mention the premise being incredibly iffy. Ice cream trucks sell something that is consumed on the spot or carried off, not things that have to be returned and their condition checked (tell him to talk to a library about the condition videos come back in, not to mention the delight of getting things back in the first place! Fines are a thing for a reason.)

    1. Snark*

      He needs the Chair Leg of Truth. a) You are behaving inappropriately and being incredibly pushy with my colleagues, which is making me look bad and threatening our only source of stable employment and b) because you did, even if you started applying for funding through our normal channels, there is no potential of this becoming reality, ever. So whatever you end up doing to start contributing substantially to our family finances again, this is one dream that’s never going to get off the ground, and we need your head in the game.

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      “He is unwittingly sabotaging your career, which isn’t doing you any favors.”

      Frankly, I’m not even sure how much of it is “unwittingly,” and how much of it is resentment of her being employed while he isn’t.

  23. Flinty*

    LW, it’s clear that you really care about your husband’s dreams. But what about you? You might not phrase it as a “dream” but you sound like you care about your work, and what about your desire to have a job you like, with colleagues who respect you? Your husband sounds a little blinded by his enthusiasm, and it’s ok to remind him that you have career aspirations too, and it is not ok for him to torpedo your reputation there by making a pest out of himself and incessantly contacting your coworkers.

  24. MommyMD*

    Your husband is undermining your job, marriage and financial security. If your savings continue to disappear get an attorney to protect your financial assets. I feel very bad for you. This behavior is very extreme and you don’t want it costing you your job if he starts badgering your boss or coworkers. Tough situation.

    1. Snark*

      It’s my observation that there’s a certain type of dude (and it is nearly always a dude) whose psychological reaction to unemployment is to develop, and obsess upon, a business venture, nonprofit, or whatever. They’re entrepreneurs, not unemployed dudes who need to find a job to pay the bills, and it’s exquisitely difficult to talk them out of it. And they chase that dream like a great white whale, and we all know how that story ended.

      This is about OP’s ego and self-image, and I think that’d be a fruitful way to approach this.

      1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

        Oh man, isn’t that the truth. I saw this a lot amongst my friends’ partners during the recession. It rarely ended in a successful venture for those who didn’t have prior successful ventures.

      2. tinycat*

        And because this type of person is an ‘entrepreneur’, somehow they never have the time to work any kind of basic, boring, bill-paying macjob while they’re ‘working’ on their dream-fantasy. Or time for childacre or housework or diy/maintenance. Funny how that works

    1. Name Required*

      Yup. If this wasn’t your husband, it wouldn’t be your problem to solve. Your husband is either obliviously causing problems for you at work or minimizing the impact to you in his head. Either way, no amount of explanation to your coworkers is going to neutralize all the damage if your husband keeps contacting your org.

  25. kittymommy*

    Your husband may also be shooting himself in the proverbial foot by contacting you and your co-workers in this manner. Your agency may be under certain ethical guidelines with regards to financial partnerships/monetary issues that these emails and contact might end up excluding his non-profit should your agency decide to move forward with this idea. I know where I work in government this type of contact would be considered very unethical and if money was actually given, possibly illegal.

  26. mf*

    If your husband wants to start his own non-profit, it would be VERY smart to do everything in his (and your) power to protect your job security until his organization gets off the ground. Having a steady, reliable income goes a long way towards empowering your spouse to start their own business.

    Perhaps it would help to remind him (in strong language) that it’s in his best interest to stop jeopardizing your employment?

  27. pcake*

    I think the other posters have covered most of it, but I have a question and a suggestion.

    Shouldn’t your husband be contacting many companies for funding his non-profit rather than yours? More sponsors mean more financial stability in case one sponsor decides to stop supporting the non-profit.

    Start your own separate savings account. Chances are your husband won’t like that, but you both need the security of money in the bank, and he’s not apparently being realistic about your family’s financial needs at this time.

  28. Samesoi*

    It can be unfair that to make money you need lots of it already. A hard concept to take especially if someone otherwise is smart or has a good idea.

  29. Not All*

    As someone who has been an agreements officer for 3 different government agencies now (and in fact I’m on my lunch break from working on documentation for initiating a new agreement right now), your husband needs to STOP. Immediately.

    1) As others have mentioned, perception of conflict of interest would mean your agency at this point can’t fund him. IF the non-profit was already formed, had a DUNS number, all their tax stuff lined up, Board of Directors, etc then *maybe* the Agreements Office would let it through. *Maybe*
    2) There is basically no office (maybe DoD?) that has $200k a year to drop on an unsolicited proposal. If it’s anything under DOI, not only would the local office need to come up with the funds, those dollar amounts need approval from the Deputy Secretary.
    3) He can go on if he wants to look to see what is being advertised that might align with what he wants to do, but he will need a DUNS number, etc (see #1) in order to be eligible.

    Funding a new non-profit with government funds just isn’t really feasible unless a government organization has a line-item already to form such a group. (Congress sometimes includes things like this when they establish new parks or programs.)

    I don’t know a lot about state & local government processes, but I do know their budgets are generally even tighter than federal these days.

    I’m sorry…I’m sure he means well & it is no doubt something that would be in the public good but this plan just isn’t realistic.

    1. Snark*

      Even DoD isn’t rolling in cash unless it’s a procurement program for something that goes supersonic and/or explodes.

      1. Not All*

        I had figured that but since it is one Department that I’ve never even worked with as a partner agency I didn’t feel like I should speak towards it!

        I think people look at agency budgets as a whole in the news, and don’t realize that by the time that big lump sum is spread across individual offices/sites/programs there just isn’t much there. I’m working on an agreement right now for $35k and that has taken a LOT of work to get funded and we only can do it because we have a vacant position that won’t be filled this year.

        1. Snark*

          Ayup. I’ve got a project that needs a measly hundred grand, for work that has needed done since around the time I graduated high school and which would not need doing again for a decade, and sorry, Snark, that wasn’t covered by the President’s budget this year. Again.

  30. your favorite person*

    Thank you Alison, for the last bit about not starting another NPO. I won’t go on a tangent, but the whole sector needs more collaboration, not competition. There’s likely another org who is better set up to do what he wants to do. He could try to partner with them to start a new program or frankly just listen to them about what issues need addressed in the community. Unless he is uniquely qualified to address those, he really should consider what his impact will be, and it will have the intended consequences he wants.

  31. pcake*

    This has really been bothering me since I made my previous post. Your husband doesn’t seem to get that even if all the potential legal and ethical issues were dealt with, every company and person has the right to decide IF they even want to support a non-profit and if so, they have the right to decide which non-profit it would be. That means most non-profits won’t be the one(s) they choose, and contacting them repeatedly isn’t likely to change their minds; it will just annoy them and make them more sure that non-profit wasn’t the one to support.

    1. Snark*

      Absolutely. As a contractor or grantee, there’s nothing protecting you – even if you get the grant or contract, it may evaporate next year. When I was a contractor, our entire task order of 19 people got laid off when someone decided, impetuously and at the last possible moment, to not exercise the final option year. If he’s under the impression he can just badger them into shoveling money his way and then he’s on easy street, he’s….charitably, confused.

  32. some dude*

    I work at a grantmaking organization. You have to be able to take no for an answer, and you have to realize that, while your idea may be great, there are 100 other organizations out there that are equally great and also need the money, and may be a better fit with the funder’s priorities. Also, unless an organization is doing something really unique, tapping into an un/underserved population, and/or delivering services in an innovative way, it may be rough to get grant funding early on (although I haven’t applied for government grants before and don’t know where/how/what he’s planning on doing). Most foundation I know want at least some track record. And desperation can be a big turnoff.

    I don’t know what type of nonprofit/mission your husband has, but I would recommend volunteering/working at an established nonprofit doing work in similar circles if he hasn’t already. Know the ecosystem, know whose doing what, whose funding what, etc. Barring that, I’d get at least a part-time jobby job so that he can bring in some income while he is working on his nonprofit idea, which will take some of the pressure off you and him and allow him to be less desperate in his fundraising, which will allow him to be a better steward and take more time to correctly build relationships with potential funders.

  33. Beth*

    OP, I know this is a work advice site and not a relationship one, but…is everything ok between you and your husband?

    Just reading what’s written here, it sounds like he’s disregarding your fears over your savings vanishing, ignoring your concerns over his actions damaging your work relationships (which is your only income), and generally prioritizing starting this nonprofit over your needs and stability. I’m not saying he’s a bad person or even a generally bad partner–I’m sure you married him for a reason!–but if he’s so caught up in chasing this dream that he’s willing to throw away not only his own stability but also your personal and professional wellbeing, that’s concerning.

    Have you told him (directly, not hinting) what you told us in this letter? If you have, how did he respond? If you haven’t, why not? It’s not ‘unsupportive’ to bring up concerns like this; on the contrary, sometimes it’s necessary to help a partner ground their dream in reality in order to make it into something they can actually accomplish.

    1. NewNameTemporarily*

      +1. Husband ran through all our savings and retirement funds and all resources (including borrowing from family and future debt), chasing dreams and refusing to pay attention to the long term impact. It was enormously selfish and ultimately disastrous.
      Lots of good advice here, but protect, protect, protect yourself first. A good wife is not your only role in life. You have value and need to protect yourself and your future (put your oxygen mask on first).

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yeah. Like, on the one hand, I’m sure she loves him, but on the other, the world is so full of women that have had their finances destroyed because their men just *had* to chase that new business idea at the cost of everything, and she felt she had to be supportive. It’s almost a cliche.

      2. boop the first*

        Yeah… OP doesn’t want to turn out with the situation my mom got: last-resort divorce with minor child, a few years before retirement age, with two mortgages overdue. Just to keep up, she works two fulltime jobs (one daytime, one overnight, I have no idea when/if she sleeps). I would expect more from loved ones than to have piles and piles of debt shoveled on with zero forethought. That’s not acceptable love.

  34. GreenDoor*

    It might be worth it to the OP to check into the bidding and contracting policies of her government unit. I work in the government sector and we not only have a strict process for potential partners/vendors, etc. to propose formal relationships, but there’s also a requirement that potential partners disclose whether any family members are employed by my governmental entity. Close relationships are often a reason for NOT enering into a partnership because it puts undue pressure on the employee and may also lead to rule breaking, bias, etc. If the OP’s workplace has such policies, well, there’s an easy out.

  35. Aunt Piddy*

    I’m an attorney that specializes in local governments and political subdivisions. I don’t know what state you are in, but in Louisiana a government agency entering into a public-private partnership or CEA with a nonprofit run by an employee’s family members would likely not be allowed by the Code of Governmental Ethics. It’s an inherent conflict of interest.

    So let your husband know this might be something your agency isn’t even legally allowed to do. It wouldn’t hurt for him to start looking into a backup plan (and stop bugging your boss!!)

  36. Not A Manager*

    @LW – I’m concerned about you. You say that you “support” your husband’s idea, but why? He has no viable funding and apparently no idea of where to look for it, and he’s depleting your savings. There’s a difference between supporting your spouse, and actually providing support for your spouse’s every project.

    This, combined with your hesitancy about naming how VERY damaging and inappropriate your husband’s behavior is, AND your apparent timidity about telling him to cut it out, makes me wonder if your ideas of love and being a loving partner might be a bit skewed.

    Please don’t tell yourself, or let your husband tell you, that if you don’t allow him to drain your savings and get you fired, then you don’t love him properly. If anyone is telling you this (including your inside voice), then please get some therapy.

  37. angrytreespirit*

    Hi, all, OP here.
    I appreciate the kind and constructive comments (and the funny ones too)!
    This discussion brought much needed perspective to my position. I actually think my question, and the answer to it, is quite simple in retrospect, so I worry about muddying the waters with more detail, but I’ll clarify a few things anyway:
    -Husband is currently working, bringing in roughly the same income that I am, neither of which allows us to put any money away. Where we live we can barely make it on two salaries, making it on mine alone is out of the question and not on the table. Apologies for being obscure there.
    -Our “savings” consists of what’s in our bank account, which is not enough to take steps to protect. Think the cost of the average economy car. Not having any money to lose doesn’t necessarily improve the situation- it’s just living in a constant state of anxiety about money.
    -He has successfully launched a similar program before, which is still in existence despite him no longer being involved in it. This is a big reason I support him and believe that with the right partners he can absolutely do this.
    -I don’t worry about my job being actually in danger. Our positions are rock solid stable, just don’t pay that well. I am great at what I do and an asset to the agency. I do have aspirations to move up and be able to bring in a better salary when the opportunity arises. That said, I still want to minimize the awkwardness here, which I now have the script for, thanks to Alison and you all.

    Thank you all again for caring enough to spend time to help a total stranger. :)

    1. Snark*

      May I be really blunt? If he thinks this is the way to go about securing your agency’s partnership, even if he has launched a similar program before, I really question his ability to do it now. Because his instincts in this area are not good.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Also, just because he can start one doesn’t mean he can run one. Who’s to say he won’t run into the same problems again?

    2. Beth*

      Hi OP! Please remember that his behavior might impact you at work even if your job isn’t at risk. For example, you say you’re hoping to move up in your agency; if your boss starts developing concerns about your judgement based on your husband’s behavior (and your failure to curb it), that could impede you in that. Or, if his pestering is causing tension between you and your peers, your boss may feel like you’re not the right person to promote into a more authoritative position over those peers. You have good reason to tell him to back way off, even with your current position being safe.

    3. That Redshirt.*

      “With the right partners he can absolutely do this.”
      Okay, that’s great news. Now he must find those right partners. Elsewhere.
      As many people have pointed out, your work place is so not The Right Partner to approach for this.
      Good luck.

    4. Sarah*

      Hi, I work for a public agency in California. There are very strict laws in California about conflicts of interest. You should find out if there are government ethics rules in your state that would pertain to this situation. Just because it is a non-profit, it doesn’t mean that you and your husband wouldn’t receive a financial benefit from a relationship between your agency and your husband’s foundation; for example, if your husband intends to take a salary from it. The consequences of violating these rules can be very serious. If you have access to legal counsel for your agency, you may want to check in with them about this.

    5. WellRed*

      Thank you for updating. I am so glad to hear he is actually working. I do encourage both if you, though, to stop acting if this is a temporary ” in between jobs” thing and consider it may be his new normal, despite his past experience, etc.

      1. WellRed*

        Also, please consider the environment in which he previously launched such a program compared to the current environment. For starters, I guess there’s already his previous program which maybe he needs to compete against? What’s in it for the funders? Also, the state of basically everything regarding gvt or gvt programs.

  38. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

    It sounds as though your husband is also overlooking that experience running nonprofits doesn’t mean he knows how to set up a nonprofit. If he was hired to run an existing nonprofit (either hired from outside, or promoted from within), that was at organizations that were stable enough that they could afford to pay a full-time director/manager as well as spending money on the organization’s day-to-day work. That implies things like a board of directors, and probably several paid staff who were doing the work that the nonprofit was created for. I suspect it would be somewhere between difficult and impossible to convince a funding agency that what the world (or Lower Slobovia) needs is yet another llama-tutoring agency, with a single full-time employee whose job is to supervise volunteers and raise money to pay his next-year’s salary and publicize llama education.

    1. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

      (I think the OP’s clarification of her and her husband’s situation was posted at about the same time as this comment; given that, while I still don’t think this is a great idea, I seem to have underestimated what he knows how to do.)

  39. Indie*

    It can be a really loving act to put your foot down. One half of a couple only has 50 per cent of its perspective. Sometimes you’ve gotta say: “This is my half of the horizon, I can see a bunch of rain clouds heading for your parade and you need to either listen to my warnings or I will drag said parade into the warm and dry myself”. You may support him, but you dont have to support a method you know is flawed and damages you both.

  40. Elizabeth West*

    It sounds like he’s really excited about his new thing (and maybe a little desperate?), but Alison’s right; it’s just not appropriate for him to keep contacting his wife’s coworkers.

    As uncomfortable as it will be, OP, you’re going to have to put your foot down on this one. It’s non-negotiable. If you want to, you could offer to help him research a different source of funding. Regardless, he’s putting the only source of income in your household in jeopardy and that has to stop, now.

  41. Elbe*

    It sounds like he’s worried about his lack of a job and has decided that this is the thing that’s going to Fix His Problems.

    The LW’s husband needs a better way of managing his stress and worry than harassing her coworkers for money. The LW can shut this down by being emotionally sympathetic, but also firm about expected behavior – “I know that you’re disappointed that this didn’t work out. I am, too. But, they’ve given you their final answer and you need to accept that and move on.”

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