Author Archives: Vu

Actions we can take to end the inhumane policy of separating immigrant kids and families

[Image description: Picture of a person holding a child. Only the adult’s arms and child’s legs are shown. The adult is wearing a short-sleeved dark-blue button-down shirt, and the child is wearing a dark blue denim dress, light blue leggings, and blue and shoes with pink lining. Image from Pixabay.com]

After last week’s serious take on mental health, I was hoping to write something more light-hearted this week. But it was Father’s Day, and all I could think about were the children separated from their families at the border under this administration’s cruel, inhumane policy. So my apologies; we’ll get back to funnier stuff soon, I promise. For this week, I implore each of us to learn more about this atrocity and to do something.

Two years ago, after the election, I wrote “I am fearful not so much for myself and my family, but for our friends who are Muslim, who are Latinx, who are Black, who are LGBTQ.” Since then, so much of that has come to pass as protective policies are rolled back to make way for a wave of policies based on fear, racism, and xenophobia.

I never once thought, though, that we would reach a point in our nation’s history where children as young as 18 months old or even younger are ripped screaming from the arms of their crying, desperate parents, after they have made grueling treks to flee from poverty, violence, and death. We now have an administration that defends the abuse and torture of innocent children. Continue reading

Nonprofits, we need to talk about mental health and suicide

[Image description: A bunch of flowers with yellow centers and white petals, likely daisies, resting on a metal railing of some sort. Blurry brown and beige background depicting land and a small patch of light blue sky. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, this post is going to be a little serious, but I hope you will read it and discuss with your team. The recent suicides in the news have made me think about our sector and our responsibility to one another.

Ten years ago, a friend of mine took her life a day after calling me asking to hang out. I would learn later from her mom that she had been dealing with bipolar disorder for a long time, and hid it from her friends and coworkers. I wished that I had been a better friend, that I had known what she was going through, that I had supported her more.

My friend’s suicide made me realize that we have a long way to go when it comes to mental health awareness, even among those of us who are in the nonprofit sector and thus are supposed to be more attuned to the people around us. Because mental health conditions are mostly invisible, our colleagues, friends, and family members may be going through challenges, and we may not be aware of it. Or we may be unintentionally creating an environment where mental illness is stigmatized, leading to further isolation. Continue reading

When you base pay on salary history, a unicorn loses its horn

[Image description: A tan and white horse in a field of wheat. The horse looks pensive. Maybe it’s actually a unicorn who just lost its horn because someone asked for salary history. Image by Donna at Unsplash.com]

Hi everyone, we need to talk about salary history. Imagine you are hiring two fundraisers for your growing development team: Edna has had nine years of experience raising money, and has a record of bringing in over $10 million dollars. Joe has two years of experience fundraising and has brought in $300,000; before that, he worked for a bank. Because Edna is more skilled in fundraising, you have her supervise and mentor Joe. Things work out well for a while, until Edna found out that Joe is paid 10% more than she is. The reason: Joe had worked at a bank, so he had a stronger salary history. So now we have someone who is more qualified, with a better track record, and who is doing more work—supervising and mentoring in addition to fundraising—getting paid less than another person who is less qualified. Continue reading

Operations professionals, you are awesome AF!

[Image description: Two grey koalas sitting together on a tree branch, their heads turned to look to the right. There is a big koala on the left and a smaller koalas holding on to the big koala. These koalas have nothing to do with operations, except that koalas and operations professionals are both awesome. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Last week, I sat down with a public notary to sign some papers to open new bank accounts for partner organizations in Rainier Valley Corps’s operations support program, where we handle the back-office tasks for partner orgs so they can focus on delivering vital programs and services. We were on a time crunch, and our bank’s new rules required signatories be notarized, which has been a huge hassle. It took days of RVC’s Operations Support Program Manager, Kristine, and me running around, sending endless emails, and strategically deploying chocolate: “So…maybe this half-eaten bar of Theo sea salt almond 70% cacao might convince you shave a day or two off the paperwork turnaround time, wink…”

In the middle of all this paperwork and failed attempts at bribery, I realized that we really do not appreciate our operations staff as much as we should. While EDs get all the credit, program staff get warm fuzzies, and development peeps get leftover gala wine and accolades when they bring in money, operations folks often operate like clockwork without much fanfare. And in fact, the better they do their work, the less they are noticed, because we only tend to notice operations when they don’t go well—payroll didn’t run on time, bank accounts are not up-to-date, etc. Continue reading

Philanthropy: Whose money is it anyway?

[Image description: A pink piggy bank, staring directly at the camera with its small, dark, mysterious eyes. Beige background. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. This post may be a little serious, due to one more mass shooting. As a parent, I think of death a lot, but mainly in the context of who would take care of my kids if my partner and I unexpectedly died. It should not be the opposite; no parent should ever have to contemplate whether their kids may survive the school day, much less endure the agony of losing their child. I am thankful for those of you who are working to advance responsible gun laws and other relevant policies and programs. Our sector needs to flex its advocacy muscles more. While we’re doing that, though, there are other challenges we need to take care of. Continue reading