How to be a fake consultant to help a colleague deal with their stubborn board

[Image description: Two hands holding a glowing light bulb. The bulb seems to be filled with a string of fairy lights, which makes it glow. Image by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash]

Hi everyone. Kidney stones, along with filing taxes, have been giving me some trouble. At this point, the tax filing process has been much more painful. All that to say, I don’t feel like writing a Serious Post. Hence, today’s piece, what you are reading right now, will be nonsensical and poorly edited and possibly offensive. You have been warmed.

One of the questions people always ask me (besides “Vu, have you considered changing your hair and clothing and just…general style?”) is “How do I get my board to change? The staff are in sync with [disclosing salary range on job postings, three months of paid family leave, an office ball pit filled with 5,000 plastic balls, etc.], but the board keeps holding back progress.”

This is a very common problem in the sector, as common as the lack of retirement savings matching. We can talk about all sorts of solutions—including sending problematic board members a severed stuffed unicorn head, Godfather-style: “Henry, wake up. What’s that on your pillow? It’s dripping…ketchup?…TWILIGHT SPARKLE, NOOOOO!!!”—but the reality is that because of what I call the Outsider Efficacy Bias, internal staff will not be listened to. So one thing you can do is get a consultant to come in.

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Ask Vu: Love, Dating, and Romance Advice For Nonprofit Professionals

[Image description: Two hands holding, one with what looks like an engagement ring. Image by Belle Collective on Unsplash]

Hi everyone. Valentine’s Day is coming up next Monday, which means that many people are thinking about romance, love, and relationships. These are areas that can be complex and tricky. So here, in this week’s post, I am providing advice to readers who may need a little help in this department. Now, you may be thinking, “What does this guy know about love and dating and relationships?” The answer is that I don’t know much about it at all. But, I bet love and romance have a lot in common with nonprofit and philanthropy.

Dear Vu, I was recently asked out by someone I’ve had a crush on for a while. We are getting dinner at my favorite restaurant (with outdoor seating). Here’s the problem: It’s been a few years since I’ve been on a date, and I am nervous. What do I say? How do I not make a fool of myself? Nervous In Chicago.

Dear NIC: Dates often go awry because people just show up without doing any prep work. To ensure your evening goes well, create a simple survey and send it to your crush in advance asking what they hope to achieve on this date, and come up with an agenda. At the beginning of the date, start with an icebreaker. Then, review the agenda, objectives, and some ground rules. Brainstorm discussion topics and use sticky dots to vote on which topic you both would like to discuss. Also, write “parking lot” at the top of a napkin and jot down any topics that fall outside the agreed-on list of topics, so that you can circle back on the second date. Have fun! And remember to send a post-date evaluation survey.

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22 courageous things you can do during the Year of the Tiger

[Image description: A magnificent tiger, staring directly at the camera, looking calm and confident. Image by Mike Marrah on Unsplash]

Hi everyone. This week, February 1st, we usher in the Lunar New Year. In Vietnam, where I was born, Tết is a big deal. It’s like Christmas, Fourth of July, Superbowl, and Shark Week combined. The entire country is consumed with an air of festivity as people decorate with branches of plum and apricot blossoms, make sticky rice cakes and candied fruit, and clean houses and altars. Incessant Tết music plays everywhere as the intoxicating scent of sandalwood wafts through the air.

To be culturally respectful, you should take the entire day, if not week, off.

This is going be the year of the Tiger. The Tiger symbolizes courage and fierceness. It is the diametric opposite of the Monkey, whose strength is in thinking and strategy. This is not to say that Tigers don’t think. They do. But they are geared toward action. And that’s what this year will be about. Courage, however, can manifest in many different ways. Here are 22 that I’ve thought of. Pick a few and do them this year:

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12 New Rules for Virtual Meetings, Since We’re Still In a Pandemic

[Image description: a person sitting in front of a laptop, their hands on the keyboard. On the screen are six people in a grid. Image by jagritparajuli99 on Pixabay]

It seems that with Omicron and everything going on, we are going to be having virtual meetings for the foreseeable future. I’ve been reading through lists of guidelines for virtual meetings, and they are ridiculous, still stressing the standards of “professionalism.” One dude recommended wearing slacks or other work-related pants, even though people may not be able to see what we’re wearing below the waist.

We are in an apocalypse! Most of us are barely hanging on by a thread, and just getting out of bed, or even turning on the laptop while in bed, is in itself an accomplishment. The rules must change to accommodate. We should dispense with many practices rooted in archaic notions of professionalism. Most meetings should probably just be eliminated so we can nap or watch Encanto again, but if we must have them, here are a few new agreements I am proposing:

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Scary Nonprofit Stories to Tell in the Dark, 2021

[Two jack-o-lantern carved from orange pumpkins, their goofy/scary expressions lit up in the darkness, reflected in the shiny floor. Image by David Menidrey on Unsplash]

Hi everyone. Halloween is coming up next week, which means it’s time for this year’s crop of spooky stories set in our sector. Beware, these stories are terrifying and may keep you up at night. Share your own stories in the comment. Also, check out #NonprofitHalloweenCostumes on Twitter for inspirations like this one: Wear all-yellow clothing. Put on a brown hat. Say things like “In two years, we’ll triple the number of people we serve.” You’re a…Strategic Flan! (Shut up! That pun is one of my life’s greatest achievements!)

Anyway, on with the stories.

Clear

The fortuneteller sat across from Roberto, her slender fingers waving over the crystal ball. “Yes,” she said, her face distorted in the glass so that her eyes appeared unusually large from his perspective, “I can see now. Clear as day. What would you like to know?”

As he was about to speak, she interrupted him. “Think carefully,” she said, narrowing her eyes, “for it is better some questions remain…unasked.”

Roberto pulled out his laptop and turned it on. “OK,” he said, “this online grant application won’t let me know the questions in advance. I have to answer each question and save it before I can see the next question. Can you tell me what all the questions are?”

At that moment, lightning flashed and a peal of thunder shattered the evening sky.

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