25 beautiful and profound haiku about nonprofit work

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Hi everyone,

Thank you to all of you who participated in Unicorns Unite’s first-ever #NonprofitHaiku contest on Twitter. Apologies for being late in judging the winners. Here they are below. Co-authors Jessamyn Shams-Lau, Jane Leu, and I each picked our favorites. They varied a lot. I put those in a conference tote bag that has some weird sauce dried out at the bottom because I had been using it for grocery shopping. I pulled out five random haiku (which is also the plural), and they are the winners below; we’ll send a copy of our book, along with a bar of chocolate. Below are also some honorable mentions. Please do not be discouraged if you did not win or get mentioned. It was a random and arbitrary process. You are still a beautiful unicorn with the soul of a poet and worthy of love, respect, and chocolate.

Apologies for the formatting of this post (Thanks a lot, WordPress!). By the way, there are a lot of misconceptions about the haiku, including the myth that it must strictly be 5-7-5 in syllables. Read more here.

WINNERS (in no particular order):

This haiku, by Amanda Paveglio @AmandaPav1, captures the angsts of writing grant proposals, and the ingenuity of our sector:

Org’s mission doesn’t

Fit in fifty characters

Myb rmv vwls?

This one, by Jess Solomazing @jesssolomon, illustrates the level of intellectualization that happens among funders:

Harriet Tubman’s

“Project” would not be funded

No proof of concept

This gem, by Jennifer Iacovelli @anotherjenb, vividly crystalizes the dreaded terrible in-kind donation

Cole slaw donation

Left in a bucket outside

With soggy bread too

This one, by Chuck Brown @brookheart, may enrage some, but good poetry should spark emotions

Donor-advised fund

The gift that keeps on giving

Just not to your org

And lest you think everyone in our sector is cynical, here’s a beautiful haiku from Charlford House @CharlfordHouse, with this moving note “This one is from my heart, it’s my personal story and about as honest as I can get in 17 syllables”

I was a hot mess

I recovered at Charlford

Not a hot mess now

HONORABLE MENTIONS (haiku we loved but that were not randomly chosen as winners)

GiveGab‏ @GiveGab 

Spring is upon us

From giving to nonprofits

communities bloom

JohnaRodgers‏ @JohnaRodgersGPC

The Oxford Comma

A writer’s choice no longer

When I’m president

JacquiPatterson‏ @JacquiPatt 

Funder requests docs!

Drop all else, do all-nighter.

Oh, never mind. Thanks.

Julia Terry‏ @JuliaKTerry A

Imagine missions

Applied to employees too

That is Equity

MandisaRoutheni‏ @MCRoutheni 

“Program management”

Can you develop

metrics, objectives for last

year’s program today?

RosieOldham‏ @RosieGnome 

Explain how you will

transform lives, but remember…

we will not fund staff

Hawaii Pacific Parks‏ @HIPacParks

One year we funded

a bag of rice and a pig.

Nat. parks needs vary.

EvanWildstein‏ @wildevanstein 

Mission-drifting grant,

executive director

says we must apply.

Unsure of mission,

she thinks we are a food bank,

we teach piano.

anakarina‏ @anakarination 

Your old socks with holes

Are helpful to none; come on!

They’re old socks with holes.

anakarina‏ @anakarination

Want this major gift?

Easy. Just solve poverty.

Hmm no. Not like that.

Bonnie Schroeder‏ @bonnieschroed13 

Unicorns unite!

End nonprofit hunger games!

Share, don’t compete!

Jamie Tucker‏ @jt4prez28A

Food in the kitchen

From Board lunch; no sandwiches

But, there are brownies


Sun is shining bright

We fundraise for a van to

Drive us to the sights

Jacqui Patterson‏ @JacquiPattA


Do they really matter, though?

Too often not. Sad!

AmandaPaveglio‏ @AmandaPav1 

Our supply cabinet:

Scavenged paperclips, conference

swag, maybe raccoons.

JacquiPatterson‏ @JacquiPatt

Systemic traps, y’all!

Can we “program” our freedom

My heart says no way.

Dana Doan‏ @DanaDoan3 A

Charity is good

But the root causes remain

Justice is better

Todd Polyniak @Todd_Polyniak

The more good we do

The better the world becomes

So just do more good

Mary Tam‏ @mtamsf 

Office morale down.

Destroyed with a single blow.

Who broke the printer.