Appreciation for all the nonprofit professionals working this week

[Image description: A heart made out of about twenty small, tan-colored pieces of wood or stones of different sizes. It is hollow in the center, like a ring. There is a piece of string at the top, suggesting that this may be an ornament. The heart is on a very light blue, almost white background]
Hi everyone. This message will be short, because I am off all of this week. Also because I stuffed myself with dark chocolate and hard pear cider. Many of us are taking a break this week, and if you can, I hope you are too. The work we do is unrelenting, often heartbreaking. But we cannot be our most effective if we do not take time to recharge. If you have the authority, and it is possible, give your team this week off. It costs little, and the return to the organization in morale and future productivity is tenfold.

All of us who can, let’s lay down our burdens for a few days. Let’s watch our favorite shows. Bake cookies. Sleep. Let’s spend time with the people we love and remember why we do this work.

I know, though, that that is easier said than done. While many of us are resting this week, there are lots of you out there working. You run food banks and shelters and emergency services. You answer calls on suicide hotlines. You check in on seniors who may not have family nearby. The need for these services often increases during the holidays, and not only do you not get a break, but you may be working even harder than you normally do.

Some of you are development professionals, and this is a busy time for you. Remittances are coming in. Acknowledgements must be sent out. Final pushes for donations during the last few days of the year. You stuff envelopes, write personal notes, and wait anxiously to see if goals are met.

And some of you have other pressing duties to attend to, reports and grant proposals and other critical duties to ensure the organization functions.

I just want to let you know, that if you are working today, I am thinking of you, and I am grateful for all you do. It makes a difference. Today, I watched my children open presents, the nine-month-old fighting to eat bits of wrapping paper. And it makes me appreciative of the people in our sector.

27 years ago, my family came to the US. It was around this time of the year when we arrived, and the cold of the city of Philly reflected the feeling of loss and loneliness we felt. We didn’t speak much more than a few words of English, and everyone we knew was thousands of miles away. It was a rough time for my family, trying to rebuild our lives, desperately cobbling together some sense of community. People gave us food. We got clothing and toys. We got coats and pots and pans. People helped my parents learn English and find jobs. They hooked us up to a sponsor family, who fed us our first pizza and took us to see The Nutcracker.

I did not know then, but I know now, that many of the people who helped us worked in the nonprofit sector. I don’t even know any of their names, or the names of the organizations where they worked. I don’t know how to thank them.

Instead, well, let me thank you, especially those of you who are working this week. Because what we do is so relentless sometimes, you may not have time to consider just how much of an impact you have on the world. You restore hope for those who may have lost it. You build community. You help kids and families. And maybe one of those kids will grow up and be inspired by your actions to go into this sector and become a sexy vegan nonprofit professional, who knows.

If you can this week, take a guilt-free break. You deserve it. If you can’t, find some time later to rest and recharge. Either way, you have my appreciation for all the work you do. It matters more than you may know.

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Donate, or give a grant, to Vu’s organization, Rainier 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.

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