Author Archives: Vu

Imagine if we talked to other professionals the way people talk to nonprofit folks

[Image description: An irritated-looking lemur, white with grayish fur, with brown eyes, starting directly at the camera, surrounded by some leaves. This lemur is me when someone who has no nonprofit experience gives me advice on running a nonprofit. Image by Michelle Phillips on Unsplash.]

Happy Monday, everyone. Before we get into today’s post, a quick announcement: My organization is now accepting applications for our first-ever Green Pathways Fellowship program, which we are launching in collaboration with our awesome partner Got Green. This cool new program will diversify the environmental movement by finding awesome leaders of color and supporting them as they work full-time at environmental organizations. Check it out!

Nonprofit work is great, but we do deal with all sorts of headaches. But many of our friends and families and even board members may have never worked at a nonprofit before, which means it’s hard sometimes for them to understand what we go through. Here is what it might be like for other professionals if they got the nonprofit treatment.

Apologies to Shannon Reed for forgetting to credit her hilarious article in McSweeneys (“If People Talk to Other Professionals the Way They Talk to Teachers”) in the earlier version of this post.

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10 measurable New Year’s resolutions your nonprofit or foundation can totally achieve in 2019

[Image description: An adorable little squirrel with puffy cheeks and big eyes, staring directly at the camera. They have mixed orange-gray fur, with a white tummy. Their paws are touching, held in front of their chest. This squirrel has nothing to do with this post and is only here as clickbait. It worked. You clicked. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. If this is your first day back from the holiday break, make some coffee and read last week’s pep talk “Welcome back to work, you stunningly brilliant and attractive world-changer, you!” followed by “12 tips to ensure you don’t stab anyone on your first day back from break.” (Tip 9: Take a short walk. To your car. Drive home. Watch Netflix.)

It is 2019, a brand new start! Take a deep breath. What you smell is the aroma of change, of possibility, of hope! Or maybe leftover food or rotting compost that should have been thrown out before the weekend, but I’d like to think it’s the former. As many of us make our personal resolutions to improve ourselves, so should our organizations. Unfortunately, many resolutions fail because they are either too lofty or too nebulous or involve exercise.

Here then are some tangible, relatively straight-forward resolutions all of us, whether we are nonprofits or foundations, should make to ensure that we and our sector have a kickass 2019. They are in no particular order, do not encompass everything we need to do, and I might expand on some of them in future posts: Continue reading

Welcome back to work, you stunningly brilliant and attractive world-changer, you!

[Image description: A beautiful grey striped kitten peeking out from a pink box. This kitten thinks you are an amazing person who is making the world better! Pixabay.com]

My friends of the nonprofit sector. For many of you, this is your first week back at work after a much-deserved but all-too-brief period of rest. It is not a fun feeling, and not helped by the perky morning people in the office who probably should not talk to me until noon unless they want to get their faces splashed with lukewarm coffee. I don’t even drink coffee, but I will make some coffee and keep it nearby just to splash on perky morning people. I don’t care what your resolutions are, Neal!

You may feel the same way I feel, which is basically the way your office plants currently look. Your heart may too palpitate in thinking of the list of all the stuff you have to do—if you have a list and it’s not just a bunch of things you wrote on your hands days ago and are now desperately trying to remember. Continue reading

How to quiet your overthinking brain enough to enjoy your holiday break

[Image description: Close up on the face of a sleepy light brown chihuahua that’s lying down. Their eyes are half-closed, looking at the camera. This looks like one tired puppy who needs a break. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, before we begin, check out this delightful video made by the Human Services Council in New York City. Similar to this NAF post, the video envisions a for-profit, here a pizza place, being treated the way nonprofits are; it brings to light the absurd stuff we have to deal with (NAF gets a shout-out in the end credits).

Many of us are preparing to take some time off for the holiday break. I wrote about the importance of giving your team and yourself some time to recharge in “A Call to Inaction: Nonprofits, Give Your Staff a Break.” Giving people time off, now or later in the year, is a relatively inexpensive way to boost morale, increase effectiveness, and make it more likely that you’ll get one of those coveted “Best Boss in the World” mugs that I’ve only heard about. 

For many of us though, even when we are not at the office, we’re not exactly on a break. This is due to several reasons. Our field tends to attract people who care a lot about others; nonprofit work does not end when we go home; and the complexity of the work combined with the fact that we care about people means we’re always trying to read up on the latest research or model or thinking of new strategies or whatever. There are always more things we could and should be doing. Continue reading

10 things progressive funders must learn from conservative ones, or we are all screwed

[Image description: A black-and-white close-up shot of the head of the Statue of Liberty and part of her arm. Image by Fabian Fauth on Unsplash.com]

Hi everyone, this post is going to be very serious. Before we begin, though, RVC is hiring a Director for our Operations Support program; if you love the intersection of equity and operations and want to work with an incredible team, this job may be for you. Please forward it widely. 

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The last few weeks have been difficult. The images of women and kids being tear-gassed at the border haunt me. It makes me think about how effective we nonprofits and foundations are, and what’s keeping us from being able to stop these horrible things from happening.  

I know many of us are having similar thoughts. Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Edgar Villanueva, the brilliant author of Decolonizing Wealth, a critical book that highlights something we actively avoid talking about: the history of philanthropic dollars, which is rooted in the genocide of Native peoples, slavery, and other abuse of and extraction from marginalized communities. I highly recommend the book. And it is an encouraging sign that foundations have been at least willing to engage with the topics that Decolonizing Wealth, along with Anand Giridharada’s Winners Take All, have been courageously bringing up.

But there is a potential challenge that I can see: The public embrace by foundations of these two books—and other forms of criticisms—is at danger of being another form of intellectualizing, with the reflection generated by these important books serving as a self-congratulatory proxy for actions, as has happened over and over. How many more books need to be written? When will we see fundamental changes to how philanthropy operates? Continue reading