Author Archives: Vu

If Game of Thrones were set in the nonprofit sector

[Image description: A grey and brown wolf, staring at the camera. I like their expression, which is a combination of boredom and maybe sarcasm. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, before we launch into today’s topic, please do me a huge favor and fill out this Fundraising Perception Survey. It’ll take you about ten minutes. The survey is designed by a group of fundraisers, including me, to gauge how folks are feeling about the way we do fundraising in the sector. The survey is by no means perfect; it is simply a temperature check on how the sector is perceiving fundraising in general. You do not need to be a fundraising professional, or live in the US, to fill it out. The survey will remain open the rest of this month, then will be analyzed and the findings reported this summer. Please help spread the word. Thank you.

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I always joke that the nonprofit sector is a lot like Game of Thrones, but with less frontal nudity. Nonprofits also have power struggles, scheming, manipulations, and an urgent need to unite everyone around the common threat of zombies. But what if it were the opposite, what if Game of Thrones were more like nonprofits? Here are some possible scenarios, in no particular order (and sorry, not all major characters are included). Caution: MILD SPOILERS AHEAD. Join in the fun on Twitter using #GameOfNonprofit

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The privilege to fail: How the benefits of trust and failure are not equitably distributed

[Image description: A little turtle balancing a bubble on their nose, looking upward. Wait, is this a turtle…or a tortoise? It’s on land, so I think it’s a tortoise. But aren’t all tortoises considered turtles? I am not sure, but Game of Thrones is on, and I don’t have time to google. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, as usual, Game of Thrones is back on, with the Battle at Winterfell coming tonight, so the quality of this post may likely decrease. Don’t @ me, bro. Or whatever. See, I warned you.

A while ago, I wrote “Is Equity the new coconut water?” which likened the concept of equity to the refreshing tropical juice, both coming out of nowhere and suddenly becoming ubiquitous. Well, over the past few years there has also been a rise in “Failure.” Failure is now the new kombucha. Everyone is drinking it. Failure, like the fizzy fermented tea, is supposed to be good for you; kombucha has probiotics that restore the natural balance of your body’s biome or something.

One way the embrace of Failure shows up is in events where people talk publicly about their fiascoes. Last year I attended one such event. I sat enraptured as one nonprofit speaker after another came up on stage and told the audience about their screw-ups, consequences, and lessons. At the end of each story, the audience cheered with enthusiasm and support. When we are so conditioned to only display our strengths and accomplishments in public, this “Fail Fest” was refreshing, like a big gulp of ginger-berry kombucha.

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If you’re feeling hopeless of late, remember that your work matters and you do too

[Image description: A grayish raccoon with white eyebrows, peeking out from a log or wooden beam or something. They look serious, with dark, piercing eyes that peer into one’s soul. Kind of cute though. Look at that one little paw! Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, the last few weeks have been rough. I was glad to end it with the #NonprofitHaiku contest to bring some levity and humor. A colleague on Twitter, though, pointed out the seriousness of all the challenges we face beneath the lightheartedness:

“It’s a cute joke that there are raccoons in our supply closet. It’s hilarious. […] The conditions we work in, the demoralizing chaos and the barriers to success is literally killing people.”

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25 beautiful and profound haiku about nonprofit work

[Image description: A little black and white bunny. They are nestled in some green plants and are soooooo cute, with little tiny ears and a pink nose. Pixabay.com]

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.

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Solutions Privilege: How privilege shapes the expectations of solutions, and why it’s bad for our work addressing systemic injustice

[Image description: A cute black-and-white baby goat. They are mostly black, with a large vertical white stripe down their face. This kid looks surprised, with wide-open big brown eyes and a slight smile. No, this image has nothing to do with this post. I watched Game of Thrones and then thought “You know what, let’s put a baby goat up on this blog post.” So I did. Image from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, quick disclaimers. Game of Thrones is back, and it runs on Sunday nights, when I’m usually doing my writing, so the next several blog posts will likely decrease in quality and coherence. The last few days also found my kids with food poisoning. I will spare you the gross details that involved multiple changes of bedsheets and 4am showers. Suffice to say, I’ve been behind on judging the #NonprofitHaiku contest and will post the winners sometime this week.

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A while ago I was giving a short talk to a group of donors (all with for-profit backgrounds) about the challenges we nonprofits faced, including the inane and harmful focus on “overhead,” the unrealistic and insulting expectations for nonprofits to be self-sustaining, the 5%-payout mentality that allows money to be hoarded away while society burns, and the pervasive inequity of the lack funding going to marginalized-communities-led organizations. Overall, a pretty standard speech, complete with metaphors involving baking.

Afterwards, a couple, I’m going to call them Bob and Sue, came up to me. “We really enjoyed your speech,” said Sue, “but I didn’t really hear any solutions.” “Yes,” added Bob, “I would love to hear what you think would solve these issues you brought up.” I took a nice long sip of my Albariño, a wine that I learned had a characteristic bitterness.

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