Author Archives: Vu

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 by quincemedia.com, 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

“The White-Paper Princess” and other children’s books about nonprofit work

[Image description: A watercolor of a grey dragon hovering over about six trees, with yellow, red, pink, and purple blended background. Image from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. Before we begin today’s post, I created a page on Patreon, where artists get monthly financial support from their community so they can do their creative work. This is something several colleagues have recommended over the years, but I was squeamish about asking for money unless it’s for my organization. However, since I dropped my schedule down to four-days a week (so I can write on Mondays instead of Sundays and spend more time with my kids), it also dropped my salary down an equivalent amount. It’s worth it. I’m sure my board would allow me to keep my pay the same, but I need the separation between my job and the writing. Mainly so I can continue to say the things I want to say.

So thank you for pledging a buck or so a month to keep NAF going. (Pssst: Once we reach 250 patrons, I’ll remove all the random ads from the blog).  

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A common complaint we have in the nonprofit sector is that kids don’t dream about going into nonprofit as a career. Well, that’s because there are so few children’s books about our work! Just imagine how inspired our kids would be if only there were more books about being an ED, or raising money, or running programs, or filing tax forms. Here, read these classic books re-imagined and tell me they wouldn’t inspire children and maybe a few adults to do what we do.   Continue reading