Nonprofit professionals: You are each a unicorn



The more I work in this field, the more amazed and inspired I am by the people in it. You are some of the smartest people I know. You could choose to pursue work elsewhere for much better pay and prestige. But you are here in this field fighting each day to lift up our families and strengthen our communities. You are awesome because you know that awful things in the world do not stop happening when we don’t think about them. You chose this work and stick around because you believe that if we want to make the world better, we can’t wait around for Fate or other people to take care of things.

The work is never easy, and we put up with a lot of crap, and in the quest to help end homelessness, to make elders feel less lonely, to expose kids to art and music, to make the world greener, to change unfair policies, to undo the forces of racism and homophobia and sexism and oppression, and overall to make the world better, we sometimes forget to stop to appreciate ourselves and give ourselves and each other some credit.

So today, Valentine’s Day, I just want to say that you are each a unicorn to me.

To the program staff who are on the front line helping clients, who stay late in the evenings and weekends to tutor a student or serve a hot meal to the hungry or comfort the lonely, you are each a unicorn.

To the development professionals who stuff thousands of letters, make dozens of calls per week, write grants, lead program tours, coordinate special events, and generally keep the organization afloat, you are each a unicorn.

To the admin staff who spend endless energy herding cats and putting out fires, who wake up in cold sweat after having nightmares about the budgets and HR policies and being able to make payroll this month, you are each a unicorn.

To the social justice activists and advocates who stand on the sidewalks in the cold to gather signatures and to push for better laws, who sometimes get arrested for civil disobedience in the name of equity, you are each a unicorn.

To the office management staff who keep the lights on and file paper and manage people’s schedules and check the mail and pay the bills and answer phone calls, you are each a unicorn.

To the financial management staff who make sure we stay on budget and can answer questions about where we’re spending money, who understand and explain obscure concepts like unrestricted and temporarily restricted and balance sheets and reserves, you are each a unicorn.

To the volunteer managers who wrangle the best out of people, to get them to pull up blackberry brambles and pick up litter and mentor kids, and make them feel appreciated so they come back and do it again, you are each a unicorn.

To the marketing and communication staff, who are keeping the fires alight so others can see the importance of our work, so the world can see the people whom we see every day, you are each a unicorn.

To the community organizers and community builders who get people to talk to one another, to help them realize their individual and collective power, to get neighbors to be more neighborly, you are each a unicorn.

I know I might have forgotten some people. Thank you for all that you do. Today, take a moment to give yourself some credit. You are a unicorn. A smart and charming and good-looking unicorn who is helping to make the world better. Take a moment to tell your colleagues that they are a unicorn to you.

Then, go home early and try not to work this weekend. Injustice and inequity will still be there to do battle with you afterward. You deserve a break, you awesome unicorn you.


14 thoughts on “Nonprofit professionals: You are each a unicorn

  1. Karen Kirkwood-Whyte

    Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too, Vu … and thanks, once again, for sharing your incredible sense of humour!

  2. Robin Pfohman

    You are so right Vu! You are all unicorns. Thanks for all the love you generate in our community.

  3. Janell Parrish Watt

    You forgot to mention all the staff who work with volunteers and somehow make painting walls, moving junk, pulling weeds, cleaning god-knows-what, answering phones, and stacking lumber a meaningful part of their day… AND, somehow convince them to come back and do it all over again!

    1. Vu Le

      Thanks, Janell. I added that, and some others in the field. Thank you for all you do. I know managing volunteers is a lot of work!

  4. LongmontKathy

    Happy Valentine’s to you, Vu. As the only non-profit humorist blogger – with good advice behind it – you are truly a unicorn.

  5. Lillian Karabaic

    <3 This made me unexpectedly tear up. You're a sweetheart.

    I took Saturday off for the first time in a very very long time (after running a Valentine's Day volunteer evening) and watch House of Cards in a monster marathon. It made me feel a lot better about 16-hour days for good, not evil.

  6. Pingback: Self Care | Just Futures

  7. Pingback: 10 reasons nonprofit work is totally awesome / Nonprofit With Balls

  8. Pingback: Support Unicorns! | A Few Choice Words

  9. Pingback: SVP Seattle The courage for mediocrity: We nonprofit professionals need to give ourselves a break » SVP Seattle

Comments are closed.