Author Archives: Vu

Why art and music matter in the fight for social justice

[Image description: A beautiful spiral made up of stained-glass windows, depicting various scenes, likely from the Bible, since this looks like a dome of a chapel of some sort. Pixabay.com didn’t identify it. Update: It’s the Chapel of Thanksgiving in Dallas, TX. Thanks Marijana Ababovic for identifying it]

Hi everyone, before we dive into today’s subject, my organization is growing and hiring three new positions. I’m highlighting here our Capacity Building Lead position. If you are a capacity building geek who also loves using an equity lens to support organizations led by and serving communities of color, this may be your dream job. Check it out. Must be able to tolerate rain, transformative work, and the Oxford Comma.

Last week, I gave a keynote at the conference held by the Association of California Symphony Orchestras (ACSO), whose staff and board are some of the nicest people ever. And extremely talented, with everyone seeming to play one or more instruments. There was beautiful, moving music everywhere. At one point, I stood in the corner, sipping on a margarita and listening to a duo of mandolin and fiddle players whose virtuoso performances for a few minutes lifted me away from thoughts of the gradual apocalypse our country is going through.

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The ethical argument for foundations to increase their annual payout rate beyond 5%

[Image description: A lit candle in the darkness, being shielded by the wind by a hand. Image by Ai Nhan on Unsplash.com]

I know many of you are reeling from the domestic terrorism that happened over the weekend, committed by white supremacists, spurred on by the racist president of the United States, aided by coward Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who stopped two gun control bills passed by the House this year (HR 8 ad HR 112) from even being voted on in the Senate.

I wish I had words of comfort, maybe some inspirational quote by MLK Jr. or Gandhi about how Good Always Wins in the End, or something, but I don’t. I am just as sad and angry and heartbroken for all those lives lost as you are. My oldest child is about the same age now as the kids who were killed at Sandy Hook, and all I can do is send him off to his school each day hoping that some white supremacist won’t gun his class down. Same with the preschooler. I start having ridiculous thoughts about buying bulletproof backpacks for them, as if that would actually protect them.

This is where we are as a nation. The last few years have been hellish on all fronts, and things do not seem to be getting better, despite my best attempts at optimism. We nonprofits have been dealing with the increased challenges our communities, especially marginalized communities, have been facing.

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We need to talk about the handwritten thank-you note

[Image description: A note with the words “Thank You,” on top of a beige envelope. On the top right corner there’s a hand holding a pencil. This makes no sense. The note is clearly in ink, so why is this hand holding a pencil? Unless, the Thank You part is already printed on this stationary, so this person didn’t actually write that. But still, who would write a thank-you note in pencil? Unless, they’re planning to draw their gratitude. Maybe I should have stuck to the usual picture of a baby animal. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. Before we delve into today’s super exciting topic, in the spirit of ending the Nonprofit Hunger Games I am declaring this week to be Wear Another Nonprofit’s T-shirt Week. Let’s help promote one another’s organizations like the awesome unicorns of Equity that we are. Show love to orgs that you don’t work for and are not on the board of. Swap T-shirts the way that some professional sports players swap jerseys. Take pictures and tweet with the hashtag #NonprofitsSupportingNonprofits. At the end of the week, 10 winners will be randomly chosen to receive…the satisfaction of making the sector better.

OK, let’s talk about the handwritten thank-you note (HWTYN). First of all, I love them. I know many of you do as well, especially the fundraisers in the sector, who have turned the HWTYN into an art form. Some of the leaders I look up to the most have gotten so skilled at this that it seems they spend considerable time writing thoughtful and highly personalized notes—“Dear Vu, it was so lovely to have lunch with you today at Piroshky on 3rd! I am glad I took your recommendation and tried the borscht. You changed my mind on beets, and thus, you changed my entire life trajectory”—and YET are able to warp time and space so that their HWTYN arrives mere hours after I meet with them.

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How corporate foundations and CSR need to evolve to be more effective partners with nonprofits

[Image description: An orange cat, resting their head on the keyboard of an open laptop, looking bored or sleepy. On the laptop screen, there’s a person wearing a lab coat gesturing at a chalkboard or something. Not sure what this has to do with CSR. But the cat’s cute, so that’s something, right? Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, I am back from vacation in Vietnam (and now am on jury duty). It was not exactly a vacation. Keeping vigilance on two fussy small children was exhausting. Also, it is an ancient Vietnamese custom for the relatives you visit to be blunt and loudly assess your appearance whenever they see you. “You got really old since you last visited,” said one, “Sheesh, what happened? Have people told you how tired and haggard you look? Seriously, your face is like a bag of lychee shells that’s been left to rot in the sun.” I know, Dad! You don’t need to tell me! (This is why I only go back every three years.)

Anyway, I am back in the US, and only slightly jetlagged and delirious, so it’s the perfect time to talk about corporate foundations and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). I realize that I don’t talk much about this. It may be because larger foundations tend to give bigger grants and so they get most of the spotlight and also more of the criticisms.

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Vacation tips for nonprofit professionals who suck at vacationing

[Image description: A reddish daiquiry-like drink with a straw, standing on a beach in front of beautiful tourquoise water under a blue sky. Who would leave it there? How impractical is this? This is a great way for it to be knocked over, or for sand to be blown into it. Also, I hope that straw is compostable. OMG, this is the type of stuff I think about while I’m on vacation. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, I am still in Vietnam. This was supposed to be a vacation, but I realize that I suck at vacationing. So I went on to the NAF Facebook community, made up of witty and attractive people, to ask for tips. The community did not disappoint! Over 500 comments came in within hours. I’ve highlighted a few below, in no particular order. If you are terrible at relaxing and recharging on vacation, perhaps some of these tips may help. Or not! Thank you to the colleagues who provided them, some while they were on vacation. With so many comments, it was hard to pick and choose, and many good comments were left out. Please check out the NAF FB page for the full thread (and add your own #NonprofitVacationTips on Twitter)

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