The Nonprofit Serenity Prayer


[Image description: A light purple lotus, opened and with some yellow pistils showing, floating on a background of green leaves and dark water.]

Hi everyone. A couple of things before we start. First, NWB is changing its name. I’ve been thinking about it a while, having received some feedback from many of you. Most of it has been positive, but I realized that I’ve been preaching about impact versus intention, and while the intent of the name when I started this blog four years ago was light-hearted and humorous, the impact has not always been, and in light of everything happening currently, I want to set a good example. It might take a little time to find the right name, but just wanted to let you know this is happening. Thanks for your patience.

Meanwhile, my wife and I started sleep-training our kids this weekend. It has been rough these past few nights, with the anguished, tormented wailing lasting for hours. And that’s just from us. The kids are even worse! Anyway, because of that, I don’t know how coherent I’ll be for this post. Everyone in our sector has been on edge lately, so I wrote the Nonprofit Serenity Prayer. Here it is below. May it be a beacon to you in the bleakest of times.

The Nonprofit Serenity Prayer

O Great and Loving Unicorn of Equity (GLUE), give me the strength to be the change I want to see and the resilience to continue my work. Bless me with the wisdom to appreciate the people and the world around me and help me to see light when there seems only darkness, so that I may be an instrument of peace and community.

O Great Unicorn, move me away from fear and hesitance. Guard and renew my faith in humanity. Let me see the world as it could be, and let this vision guide me on days when the forces of hatred and injustice seem so much stronger than I can ever hope to be. Give me the courage to act, the patience to listen, the integrity to recognize my weaknesses, the grace to learn from my mistakes, and the humility to accept help from others.

But, since I have you here, please fill my heart with compassion so that I do not shank people in the coming days and years. Grant me the patience and the kindness to see the good in everyone, including most people on the internet. Let me be inquisitive in the face of cluelessness, serene in the face of mockery, assertive in the face of hostility, generous in the face of egotism, and forgiving in the face of ineptitude.

Give me the resilience and wit to deal with those who look down on my work without having any understanding of what I actually do. When these bizsplainers say things like, “So you’re a professional beggar, huh?” give me the quickness to come up with a clever reply so that I do not shank them with this pen I got at an exhibitor’s table during a conference.

When I must attend one more meeting that could have just been a freaking email thread, or do another stupid ice-breaker, let me see it as an opportunity for camaraderie and allow me to participate constructively instead of grabbing handfuls of hummus and flinging it at my colleagues and then run screaming to the nearest bar.  

Let me be understanding when there’s bad coffee, 7am meetings, reply-alls that should have just gone to one person, micromanagers, people who don’t wash their dishes, people who don’t fill out Doodle polls on time, delusional founders, gatekeepers, and others who seem to go out of their way to get in my way.

O Great Unicorn, give me the lumbar support to sit on crappy chairs while I work to get out of the scarcity and martyrdom mindset. Strengthen my wrists and mind so I can create yet another client file, donor letter, meeting minutes, blog update, program report, evaluation survey, and bespoke budget for a grant application without throwing my ancient computer out the window. And when I get one more rejection letter, scathing email, or insensitive comment, renew my clarity of purpose so I may pick myself up and continue my work.

Give me the audacity of ambition, even when the ripples I create seem futile against the waves that batter, relentless, against the shores of equity. Allow me the occasional moments of bitter jadedness without compromising my hope for what our community can be.

When the path is darkest, let me be the lantern. When rifts grow widest, let me be the bridge. Let me be a pita wedge for the hummus of justice.

I know that I am one person. I know there is only so much I can do. But I am committed to help build a world I know is possible. I will keep going until my body tires, until my breath gives out, until my heart breaks for the final time, if you will bless me with your strength and courage, O Great Unicorn, and 10 million dollars in endowment funding.

Make Mondays suck a little less. Get a notice each Monday morning when a new post arrives. Subscribe to NWB by scrolling to the top right of this page (maybe scroll down a little) and enter in your email address (If you’re on the phone, it may be at the bottom). Also, join the NWB Facebook community for daily hilarity.

Donate, or give a grant, to Vu’s organizationRainier Valley Corps, which has the mission of bringing more leaders of color into the nonprofit sector and getting diverse communities to work together to address systemic issues.

Also, join Nonprofit Happy Hour, a peer support group on Facebook, and if you are an ED/CEO, join ED Happy Hour. These are great forums for when you have a problem and want to get advice from colleagues, or you just want to share pictures of unicorns. Check them out.

Oh, and support the maintenance of this website by buying NWB t-shirts and mugs and other stuff.


40 thoughts on “The Nonprofit Serenity Prayer

  1. Holly McGregor Anderson

    I. Love. Nonprofit. With. Balls.
    I. Love. Vu. Le.
    I. Love. My. Job.
    Thank you, Vu, for making all of this a little bit better… because its hard right now. I have been mouthy on Facebook and it’s frightening to think that I must hold my tongue about human decency and our cheeto leader because, should I not, the funders/Board members, cheeto lovers, etc. will see my words and hear me roar and hold it all against my organization. I will not be quiet but, should they come after me, I have plenty of pens to shank them with. Not a single one of these shank-pens work so it’ll be worth the sacrifice. (If I disappear, please (someone) start a gofundme page for bail.)
    P.S. I love the name Nonprofit With Balls

  2. Paulette Lynch

    So many of the wonderful signs at the women’s march were in this same spirit: courageous, compassionate, resilient, resistant and hilarious all at the same time. Thank you, Vu!!!!!!

  3. Carrie Avery

    Thank you, Vu. This is wonderful. And thanks, too, for listening and deciding to change the name of NWB. Much appreciated.

  4. Naomi Foss Welsh

    Thank you! I may love the NWB name personally, but honestly it has been hard to get some others to look at the blog/ info because of the name. I’ve told some people it is just an edgy way to say “Nonprofit with Backbone.” We’re here and we matter! Thanks for all you do to help us remember that.

  5. Sherri R

    Nonprofit Conservative here…I’m the CFO at an awesomely fantastic, 100% sustained, positive-thinking, change-making, impactful community foundation, and we live in abundance every day. And because of that, I can’t follow this blog any more, and I’m leaving Happy Hour. I wish all of you the best as we look forward to a great four years! Maybe it won’t be as terrible as you seem to think it will be.

    1. Naomi Foss Welsh

      Well I dunno.. it was certainly disheartening to read that the National Endowments for the Arts and for the Humanities are considered “waste,” since they indirectly fund many of the organizations I work for and with. Hard to see how that wouldn’t be terrible.

  6. Lynne Brown

    “Let me be the pita wedge for the hummus of justice.” A rallying cry for the NP world! This is who we have always been…and the work we have to take to the next level in the coming years.

  7. cornflkgrl

    I like the name as it is! It’s a reminder to have a sense of humor and not take everything so literally or to heart.
    Love the blog! Thank you!

  8. DomusVols

    As Jimmy Carter said… My faith demands–this is not optional–my faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference. Amen to that.

    1. Patrick Taylor

      When you are trying to teach a baby to fall asleep on its own rather than have to be snuggled until they fall asleep, or trying to train a baby to sleep through the night/wake up at a decent hour/etc.

  9. Cynthia French

    Nonprofit with Teeth, with Fangs, with Bite, with Edge, Guts, with Super Powers. Lots of non gendered word choices. Thank you for reminding us it’s good to be inclusive.

  10. M Parker

    Thanks for the name change! I am CONSTANTLY recommending to colleagues in the funding and non-profit community to check out your blog, and there’s always an awkward moment when I share then explain the “with balls.” Lots of raised eyebrows, and not in a good way. There are some more conservative/old school folks that I haven’t shared it with – but would like to – simply because of the name. Staying tuned!

  11. Susan DeJarnatt

    I am going to put this over my office door: “I want to be a pita wedge for the hummus of justice.”

  12. Danielle Kempe

    Vu – Thank you!

    I shared on Facebook quoting “Give me the resilience and wit to deal with those who look down on my work without having any understanding of what I actually do. When these bizsplainers say things like, “So you’re a professional beggar, huh?” give me the quickness to come up with a clever reply so that I do not shank them with this pen I got at an exhibitor’s table during a conference.”

  13. Cheryl Slavin

    I really needed to read this today. Thank you! If you must change the name, at least keep the unicorn logo.

  14. bethkanter

    You know that I had an issue with my publisher about putting your blog name on the cover of the book because “balls” also has another reference. I love what you do and whatever you name your blog, we’ll all still love you

  15. S NV Nonprofit Info Ctr

    “Let me be inquisitive in the face of cluelessness”
    Reference “Li-berry-ians” have been doing this for years 🙂

  16. Next in Nonprofits

    I’m one of those folks that really thought the name (equating daring with only men) causes problems, and I’m glad to hear you’re going to change it. A comrade in the nonprofit struggle remembered my objections and let me know about this post. Thanks for listening to important feedback.

  17. JuliaR

    Vu – you would never know you were sleep deprived and on tenterhooks – your Serenity Prayer is very good. “Give me the courage to act, the patience to listen, the integrity to recognize my weaknesses, the grace to learn from my mistakes, and the humility to accept help from others.” Thank you.

  18. Arty Trost

    At first I wrote: “Don’t change the name! I raved about your weekly blog at a conference for nonprofits, and people loved the name!” But then I read some of the comments below, and I realize that if the name is really a turn off to many people, it’s not worth it, because what you write is so powerful. My vote goes to Nonprofit with Superpowers.

  19. Rick J Fritzemeier

    Another non-profit conversation (honest) here. The name is perfect. Irreverent, funny, sarcastic, but provoking (and yes I disagree with you a lot), but that’s how I learn, grow, stretch, and challenge myself. By way the way, you are wrong on most things. 🙂

  20. maurak

    beautiful, thanks! and as one of the people who contacted you about the name… thanks for changing! I absolutely have a sense of humor, but “with balls” is unhumorously sexist. 🙂

  21. Marlene Smith

    How about NonProfit with Balance as your new name? You do present both points of view from the organization and funder’s perspective very well. And you could also have your community make suggestions and vote on top picks that are open. Hoping you keep the unicorn too!

  22. Jeff

    Love the blog. Will miss the edge of the name, but understand why you need to evolve it. Love hummus. HATE unicorns, but understand they make many others happy, and will continue to tolerate the mythical beast in Happy Hour because I value the rest of the content.

  23. Julia C. Campbell

    Best of luck with the sleep training – I did it with both of my kids and the benefits outweigh the pain… and trust me, I feel your pain!!! I always love your posts. Thank you.

  24. Jill Gaulding

    I am coming really late to this party (the hummus is long gone…) but still wanted to comment. First, I wanted to say a huge thanks to you, Vu, for changing the name. Second, for commenters who are sad Vu is changing the name: please don’t be. Every time any one of us uses language that reinforces gender stereotypes, we make gender discrimination a little harder to uproot. Courageous readers (not limited to those with balls) may want to read up on implicit bias to confirm this.

Comments are closed.