Vital and invisible as air: An appreciation of nonprofit professionals

[Image description: A grassy hill, linted with pine trees, standing before a mountain. This was taken by me on a trip to Mt. Rainier. I had altitude sickness and could barely breathe!]

Hi everyone, last week was my kids’ first week of school. This always brings bittersweet emotions as I watch my little ones find their lines, reconnect with their friends, and increase a notch in their confidence and independence. I know the days of them holding my hands as we walk to their classes each morning are numbered, as are the moments when they turn around to wave to me before they disappear behind the walls and doors of their school. It’s beautiful. But also heart-wrenching, when I let myself ruminate about the unforgiving passage of time.

But this post is not about my kids. While dealing with the logistics of school starting, I was filled with appreciation for the nonprofits and nonprofit professionals in our sector. Kiet, my younger one, asked when his “art classes” will start up again. This is an after-school program run by a local organization here. Last year, I dropped by the program, and the wonderful staff were leading creative games and having the kids express themselves by drawing on little squares of paper.

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Unspoken words and unwavering actions: Lessons I’ve learned from my father

[Image description: The silhouette of an adult and a child, holding hands, walking toward the horizon, during sunrise or sunset. Image by Harika G on Unsplash]

Hi everyone, this coming Sunday is Father’s Day, so I thought I would write about my dad and what I’ve learned from him. The last few weeks, he has been staying with me. He had been living in Vietnam, and some health concerns sent him back to the US. Because of the pandemic, I hadn’t seen him in four years. Living with him the past three months, which I realized I hadn’t done in 20 years, has been fun, though I’ve had to make some adjustments. When he got back, the first thing he asked me was about a giant wooden beam he told me six years ago to guard. I had given it to someone else, I don’t even remember who. “You shouldn’t have done that. You’ll need that wooden beam someday.” I guess it doesn’t matter what cultures fathers are from, they will want to hoard pieces of wood and reprimand you for not doing so.

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Keeping the fire lit: Reflections from my trip to Aotearoa New Zealand

[Image description: Driftwood on a beach in Aotearoa New Zealand. Foam block letters attached to the wood spell out “DO GOOD.” In the background is the ocean and a lot of clouds. I took this picture with my phone.]

Hi everyone, this post may be rambly not not very deep due to my travel-induced exhaustion, so apologies in advance. But first, October 10th of this week is Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the US, and we should all be reminded that less than half a cent of every dollar in philanthropy goes to Indigenous-led organizations. So to all those funders out there who are releasing statements about this day, please give more money to Indigenous communities. Everyone else, donate to Indigenous-led orgs and mutual assistance efforts and read this article by an Indigenous colleague for more actions you can take.

I just came back from a whirlwind speaking trip to Pueblo Colorado, Halifax Canada, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Monterey California. It’s been three weeks on the road and I finally just got home. It’s the longest I’ve been away from my kids, and I had some irrational fear that they wouldn’t recognize me, and they’d be weirdly formal when I got back and be all like, “Hello, Father. Would you care for some crumpets?” I don’t know why they’re British in this scenario. Luckily that did not happen; they just hugged me and immediately asked for presents.   

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I love you, nonprofit colleagues. Please give yourselves a break.

[Image description: A bulldog, dressed in a Santa suit and reindeer antlers, lays sleeping, facing the camera. Floor and background are bright red. Image by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash]

Hi everyone, this will be the last post of 2021 (I’ll be back on January 3rd), and it might be a little more personal and disjointed than other posts, apologies in advance. As the year ends, I try to find time to reflect back on what happened these past 12 months, and what lessons we could glean so that we can improve ourselves and our sector. But I am very tired. I don’t want to learn anything, except maybe that sweat pants and pajama bottoms should be perfectly acceptable to wear to the office from now on.

This year was hell. The last several years were hell. A weird, surreal sort of hell. Amidst this pandemic, I was going through a divorce while supporting loved ones dealing with addiction and various mental health challenges. Rifling through my brain brings random memories, one of me trying to figure out how to help my seven-year-old with his remote math assignment while his four-year-old brother was standing on our porch screaming at strangers, “You’re not wearing your masks! There’s coronavirus! Put your masks on!”   

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14 things I would tell my younger self if I could go back in time

[Image description: An adorable grey-and-white-striped kitten with huge dark eyes, their head resting on someone’s hand, looking to the left. This is a cute little kitten. They look happy. Image by Manuel Rheinschmidt on Unsplash]

Hi everyone, happy December. I do a lot of speaking, and a question I get asked often is “If you could go back in time to earlier in your career, what would you tell your younger self?” This is when you know that you are getting old, when people ask you this question. It is a badge of hard-earned wisdom. So, here, in no particular order, are a few things I would tell myself, gathered from experience and failures in the field, and from working with much smarter people: 

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