If You Give a Board Treasurer a Cookie, and other classic children’s books about nonprofit work


Today, I want to talk about children’s books. I am so sick of these children’s books that my one-year-old makes me read each day. You try to see how charming “Guess How Much I Love You” is after the 80th time! All right, nutbrown hares, we get it, you love each other, great! And yes, brown bear, brown bear, you see a red bird, awesome, and red bird, red bird, you see a blue horse, wonderful.

But then I got this great idea! I should write children’s books! They are short as hell! And if one becomes a best-seller, I’ll be rich, rich! The conventional wisdom is to write about stuff that you know. And what do I know? Nonprofit work, of course. I can write children’s books about nonprofit work! Here are some that I’ve started working on. There is so much that children can learn from our field. Just imagine parents reading these books to their kids each night. Maybe these books might even inspire some kids to grow up wanting to be nonprofit warriors. Read these texts below, and let me know what you think, and other children’s book ideas you have.

The Runaway ED

runaway 2Once upon a time there was an Executive Director, and she wanted to run away. So she said to her board chair, “I am going to run away.”

Her board chair said, “If you run away, I will come and find you and bring you back, for you are my Executive Director.”

“If you come and find me,” said the ED, “then I will become a strategic plan and hide on the shelf.”

“If you become a strategic plan and hide on the shelf,” said her board chair, “then I will become an intern who accidentally stumbles on you.”

“If you become an intern who accidentally stumbles on me, then I will become a raw piece of cauliflower on a snack platter at a community gathering, which no one will eat.”

“If you become a raw piece of cauliflower on a snack platter at a community gathering, which no one will eat, I will become a desperate hungry vegan and find you.”

“If you become a desperate hungry vegan who will find me,” said the ED, “then I will become an invitation-only foundation that is like Fort Knox to get through.”

“If you become an invitation-only Foundation that is like Fort Knox to get through, I will become the best friend of one of the trustees’ daughters and I will get through to you.”

“Aw, shucks,” said the ED, “well, in that case, I might as well stay here and be your ED.”

And she did.

“Can I have a raise?” she asked.


If You Give a Board Treasurer a Cookie

If you give a board treasurer a cookie, he may ask who’s paying for the cookie.

When you answer that you’re using funds he approved on the budget, he’s probably going to ask to see a copy of the budget.

When you give him the budget, he’s going to ask for the latest balance sheet.

When you show him the balance sheet, it may remind him of a training he attended about the importance of opening a line of credit.

He’ll ask you to open a line of credit. He might get carried away and say he’ll go to the bank himself.

When he goes to the bank, he might notice that your signatories are not up to date.

He’ll send out an email to the finance committee asking to discuss this at the next meeting.

You’ll have to coordinate the meeting and remind everyone. And of course, you have to get snacks.

And chances are…cookies will be on sale.


The Very Tired Development Director

In the light of a fluorescent lamp, a Development Director sat hunched over an organization’s fundraising plan.

On Monday, he organized one luncheon, but the organization still needed money.

On Tuesday, he applied to two employee giving campaigns, but the organization still needed money.

On Wednesday, he launched three crowd-funding initiatives, but the organization still needed money.

On Thursday, he wrote four grants, but the organization still needed money.

On Friday, he called five major donors, but the organization still needed money.

On Saturday, he wrote 10 thank-you emails, sent out 18 handwritten notecards, went to coffee with 5 potential donors, checked the grant calendar, looked at the annual event program brochures of 9 similar organizations to scan their sponsors, called 4 board members to remind them of their tasks, emailed 3 local businesses, and led a program tour. He was exhausted.

The next day was Sunday again. The Development Director stayed at home and spent time with his family, and he felt much better.

He was due for a much-needed vacation, so he left for Hawaii. A week later he came back and…

He was still an awesome Development Director who continued to keep the organization and its important work going.


The Giving Nonprofit

Once there was nonprofit organization, and it loved the community and the funders supporting its work. Every year, the organization would continue to serve the people in its community. And each year, funders would provide funding so it could continue its programs. And the organization loved its funders and its community very much. And the community was happy.

But time went by, and the nonprofit and its programs grew older. The funders didn’t come as frequently, and the nonprofit was often left alone.

Then one day, a funder passed by, and the nonprofit said, “Come, funder, come to my programs and meet the kids we serve and let’s make the community better.”

“My foundation has shifted its priorities,” said the funder, “we only fund new and innovative programs. Do you do anything new and innovative?”

“I’m sorry,” said the nonprofit, “we have been building this program for several years. It is not new. But it is good, and it serves many wonderful people.”

And the funder left, and the nonprofit was sad again.

Then one day, another funder passed by, and the nonprofit said, “Come, let’s have lunch and talk about our community. Support our work and help kids achieve a brighter future.”

“We no longer fund direct service work,” said the funder, “that’s a Band-Aid solution. Do you do Collective Impact?”

“I’m sorry,” said the nonprofit, “we have been involved, but not significantly, since our community still needs direct service.”

And so the funder left and went far, far away. The nonprofit was now very tired and sad.

And after a long time, another funder came by.

“I’m sorry,” said the nonprofit, “I don’t have anything innovative, just good programs that serve people. My programs only target specific neighborhoods, not whole states, in case you want something farther reaching. The programs serve unique populations, so they might not be scalable, in case that’s what you seek. I am not sure I have anything that you might like to fund.”

“It’s OK,” said the funder, “we provide general operating grants focused on outcomes, and I heard you do some great stuff, so here is a grant so you can continue to serve the community.”

And the nonprofit was happy.

And its staff went to happy hour.


For more nonprofit kids’ books, read “Where the Sustainable Things Are” and other nonprofit children’s books.

And also part 3, “Green Eggs and Strategic Plans” and other nonprofit children’s books.


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30 thoughts on “If You Give a Board Treasurer a Cookie, and other classic children’s books about nonprofit work

  1. Amy Hanauer

    My children are too old for me to read them these books anymore (12&16). But I’m not too old to choke on my coffee laughing at your rewrites. Grazie.

  2. Trisha Matthieu

    These were awesome!! Provided some great flashbacks (my kids are just 6 & 8, so it hasn’t been too long ago, and apparently I still have these classics memorized). LOVED your renditions and yes, I think you could make some big bucks on this. I can just hear these narrated by Samuel L. Jackson now…

    1. Vu Le

      Thanks, Trisha. I have memorized a bunch of them. They are very catchy. Maybe this could be my organization’s new earned-income strategy…

  3. cpetersky

    When I read, “The Very Tired Development Director” I burst into tears. I guess I need to be “on break” a little bit longer.

  4. Beverly Speak

    OK. I cried too. And I laughed too. Now I can’t tell which tears are which! Maybe it doesn’t really matter…

    I’m raising my grandchildren, and these books are all very familiar right now. Vu, you are an amazing friend who “gets” my life in so many ways, even though we’ve never met… Thank you!

    1. Vu Le

      Beverly, what a sweet comment. It made my day. I’m feeling a little sad because this is my last week as ED of my org. I love my team and my board. It’s the end of an era. Your comment made me feel better 🙂

  5. JonStahl

    Brilliant! As the parent of a 4 year old, and an 8 month old, I totally relate and can recite these all from memory, too!

    1. Vu Le

      Thank you, Jon. You have a 4-month-old AND an 8-month-old?! How do you even manage to read this blog at all?!

      1. JonStahl

        Four *year* old and 8-month old. I’m pretty sure having 4 and 8 month olds is biologically impossible unless you are adopting. 🙂

  6. Mary Cahalane

    I miss these books, and reading them.

    But not Bartholomew Cubbins. That thing was evil, especially when your kid figures out it’s 3000 pages long and will delay bedtime until morning.

    1. Vu Le

      Thanks, Mary. I’ve never heard of Bartholomew Cubbins. I’ll have to check it out. If you miss The Very Hungry Caterpillar, let me know. I have three copies! The baby loves eating them…

    1. Vu Le

      Thank you, Peter. It’s great to see your face in the comment section. We should grab lunch or coffee as soon as our schedules calm down (ha!)

  7. Jonathan

    As a parent AND a former children’s librarian AND a former treasurer of a non-profit, I laughed my ass off! Thanks very much!

    1. Vu Le

      Thank you, Jonathan. I love it when people laugh their asses off. (For treasurers, maybe that should be “laugh their assets off”…)

  8. Coleslaw McGraw

    This is so awesome. Are you still going to update this blog when you stop being an ED? I hope so…

    1. Vu Le

      Thanks, Coleslaw McGraw. I will continue updating this blog as long as you send me the occasional picture of a cute baby animal.

  9. Janice Marks

    So funny and so true! I use “If you Give a Mouse a Cookie” as the basis of my planning and development work with my nonprofit clients. Works every time.

  10. Pingback: 7 Annoying things funders say, and what we wish they (you) would say instead / Nonprofit With Balls

  11. Lkay

    This is just so very inspired!! Thanks…both for the insider laughs, and also for being reminded of these very special stories

  12. Matt Eldridge

    Brilliant. As a parent of two kids (now 13 and 11), the books you satirize in this post are indelibly etched into the very grey matter of my brain. Or possibly tattooed.

    Can’t wait for the forthcoming Young Adult versions you referred to in Comments – vampires and wizards and dystopian angst, oh my!

  13. Alexandra A Stephens

    Just stumbled upon your blog for the first time – just wonderful! Especially love the Runaway ED – very thoughtful and witty! Let’s be friends! Kind of kidding but not really.

  14. Lisa Cleveringa

    This is my very favorite of your blog posts. Thank you for brightening my evening…

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