“I Can Write the Saddest Grant Proposal Tonight” and other nonprofit love poems

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heart-700141_640pdHi everyone. OK, I think I’ve almost recovered from the Seahawks’ Super Bowl defeat. I can now eat Skittles without bursting into tears. All of you were very helpful throughout this grieving process, giving gentle encouragement like “Get over it! It’s a ridiculous football game!” and “Ha ha, your team lost! Go Patriots!” (If you haven’t joined the NWB Facebook community, you’re missing out on daily hilarity and unicorn jokes.)

Valentine’s Day is coming up this week. Last year, I wrote “Nonprofit professionals, you are each a unicorn,” sort of a Valentine to all the dedicated, smart, and highly attractive people in our field. This year, I thought I would try poetry. Below are three love poems dedicated to various people in the sector. I hope they inspire you. Happy Valentine’s Day, you sexy nonprofit muffins, you.

Ode to the Bookkeeper

Shall I compare thee to a chart of accounts?
Thou art more complex than line items be
Numbers no mere mortals can surmount–
Yet yield to thine eyes but contentedly
Challenges more varied than flow’rs of May—
Within thine hands lay peaceful, benign
Nevermore frantic need I to pray
That items on budget and statements shall align
In board meetings gloomy shadows doth cast
Across our Treasurer’s face, solemn, intense
And still when thy reports arrive at last
Relief unspoken in revenues, expense
So long as thy hands can type, thine eyes can see
So long we’ll trust thee to do our 990

 

My Board’s Like a Red, Red Rose

O my board’s like a red, red rose
That opens in the morn
O my board’s like that same blossom:
Both petals and the thorns

As fair art thou, my bonnie boss,
No board is greater than.
As I will follow thee across
A dozen strategic plans

A dozen strategic plans, I wouldst
While our work needs be done
I will follow thee still, I wouldst
Till our coffer doth empty run

And fare thee well, my only board,
Fare thee till next meeting I pray.
And if my performance doth please thee so
Let us discuss my raise

 

I can write the saddest grant proposal tonight

I can write the saddest grant proposal tonight

Write, for example, the night is cold,
And a family shivers, huddled in the darkness,

An old keyboard rattles under fingertips and sings

I can write the saddest grant proposal tonight
I loved you, and yesterday you loved my org too

On a night like this, I held your award letter,
Reading it again and again under the infinite sky

You loved us at times, and at times we loved you too.
How could we not love your long, detailed RFPs?

I can write the saddest grant proposal tonight
To think we have failed, to feel we have lost

To see the immense hole in the budget, immenser without you
And the outcomes fall to the page like hummus to a plate.

What does it matter that we are an existing program?
The night is cold, and strong is the illusion of sustainability. 

In the distance, a program director weeps. In the distance.
You are not here, and my soul is not content.

My eyes, exhausted, scan your website
My heart continues hoping, but you are not with me

The same program yielding the same great outcomes.
Yet we of that distant site visit are no longer the same.

I love you, yet I hate you, yet I love you, yet I hate you.
Grants are so small, and the restrictions so large

Another. You will fund another. Like you funded us before.
Maybe our logic model was not strong enough, or our Appendix A. 

On a night like this, I think of what we could have done.
The night is cold, and my soul is not content

How I wish this to be the last pain you make me suffer,
and this the last grant proposal I write you.

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  • Nickie Wren

    Forget teeth tattoos – publish poetry instead! Awesome work Vu – you made me chortle. On a Monday! Have a great day 🙂

    • Aw, thanks, Nickie. That’s so great to hear, that I made someone chortle.

  • Oh hell yes. Can you publish a book of these, please?

    • Thanks, Betsey. I’ll work on it. After I finish Nonprofit: The Musical.

      • Rachel Slager

        If only I’d known about this site a year ago…

        Super-expe-ditious-data appends-are-a-trocious, Even by the sound of it the imports are atrocious, When you don’t review it first, you’ll later feel quite nauseous, Super-expe-ditious-data appends-are-a-trocious.

        Um dilly, dally dally, um did he die?
        Um dilly, dally dally, accurate? my eye.

  • Ron Ein

    Evaluation Summary: You demonstrate the necessary, but highly unusual, variety of skills prerequisite to suitable executive performance. Excellent. (But you still aren’t getting a raise!)

    • Thank you, Ron. I’ll take your evaluation summary as a compliment!

  • skyeschell

    Vu… this is amazing!! I had to learn Poema XX by heart in Spanish class in high school… and your revision of it is unbelievable. Better than I could even hope! If I had to pick, this would be my favorite line:

    To see the immense hole in the budget, immenser without you
    And the outcomes fall to the page like hummus to a plate.

    One of my favorite poems, combined with long-running NWB jokes…

    Made my day! Actually, made my year so far. So good.

    Skye

    • Skye! What a nice comment! Sorry this reply is so late! Your comment really made my day. I love Neruda’s work, and this poem of his is hauntingly beautiful. To get validation from another Neruda lover means a lot.

  • Lillian Karabaic

    Of course I read this while procrastinating while up working late on the saddest grant proposal…

    • Lillian, procrastination is Step 8 of the grantwriting process, so you’re doing it right

  • Amir Allam

    Ulosis

    Come, my friends,
    ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer job.
    Push back glasses upon a sweaty nose
    to touch brow furrowed; for my purpose holds
    To sail beyond the job talk, and the ads
    of all the west coast schools, until I die.
    It may be reviewers will smash us down;
    It may be we shall touch Science’s pages.
    And see the great Yehuda, whom we know.
    Though much mistaken, we much are right; and though
    We are not now that science which in old days
    brought heaven to Earth, that which we write, we write

    • Amir, thank you for the poignant poem. I have read it many times. Profound words you have there, sir.

  • Sue May

    These are wonderful and fun! I shared your blog poems with my non-profit friends. 🙂

  • Greatlakesian

    Wow, these are fantastic! The Poetry Foundation needs to give an honorary spot in their publications for such masterworks.

    Such poignancy:
    “To see the immense hole in the budget, immenser without you
    And the outcomes fall to the page like hummus to a plate.

    What does it matter that we are an existing program?
    What does it matter the illusion of sustainability?

    In the distance, a program director weeps. In the distance.
    The night is cold, and my soul is not content.”

    • Thanks, Ian. I appreciate your lobbying with the Poetry Foundation to give me some love.