The Nonprofit Serenity Prayer

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[Image description: A light purple lotus, opened and with some yellow pistils showing, floating on a background of green leaves and dark water.]

Hi everyone. A couple of things before we start. First, NWB is changing its name. I’ve been thinking about it a while, having received some feedback from many of you. Most of it has been positive, but I realized that I’ve been preaching about impact versus intention, and while the intent of the name when I started this blog four years ago was light-hearted and humorous, the impact has not always been, and in light of everything happening currently, I want to set a good example. It might take a little time to find the right name, but just wanted to let you know this is happening. Thanks for your patience.

Meanwhile, my wife and I started sleep-training our kids this weekend. It has been rough these past few nights, with the anguished, tormented wailing lasting for hours. And that’s just from us. The kids are even worse! Anyway, because of that, I don’t know how coherent I’ll be for this post. Everyone in our sector has been on edge lately, so I wrote the Nonprofit Serenity Prayer. Here it is below. May it be a beacon to you in the bleakest of times.

The Nonprofit Serenity Prayer

O Great and Loving Unicorn of Equity (GLUE), give me the strength to be the change I want to see and the resilience to continue my work. Bless me with the wisdom to appreciate the people and the world around me and help me to see light when there seems only darkness, so that I may be an instrument of peace and community.

O Great Unicorn, move me away from fear and hesitance. Guard and renew my faith in humanity. Let me see the world as it could be, and let this vision guide me on days when the forces of hatred and injustice seem so much stronger than I can ever hope to be. Give me the courage to act, the patience to listen, the integrity to recognize my weaknesses, the grace to learn from my mistakes, and the humility to accept help from others.

But, since I have you here, please fill my heart with compassion so that I do not shank people in the coming days and years. Grant me the patience and the kindness to see the good in everyone, including most people on the internet. Let me be inquisitive in the face of cluelessness, serene in the face of mockery, assertive in the face of hostility, generous in the face of egotism, and forgiving in the face of ineptitude.

Give me the resilience and wit to deal with those who look down on my work without having any understanding of what I actually do. When these bizsplainers say things like, “So you’re a professional beggar, huh?” give me the quickness to come up with a clever reply so that I do not shank them with this pen I got at an exhibitor’s table during a conference.

When I must attend one more meeting that could have just been a freaking email thread, or do another stupid ice-breaker, let me see it as an opportunity for camaraderie and allow me to participate constructively instead of grabbing handfuls of hummus and flinging it at my colleagues and then run screaming to the nearest bar.  

Let me be understanding when there’s bad coffee, 7am meetings, reply-alls that should have just gone to one person, micromanagers, people who don’t wash their dishes, people who don’t fill out Doodle polls on time, delusional founders, gatekeepers, and others who seem to go out of their way to get in my way.

O Great Unicorn, give me the lumbar support to sit on crappy chairs while I work to get out of the scarcity and martyrdom mindset. Strengthen my wrists and mind so I can create yet another client file, donor letter, meeting minutes, blog update, program report, evaluation survey, and bespoke budget for a grant application without throwing my ancient computer out the window. And when I get one more rejection letter, scathing email, or insensitive comment, renew my clarity of purpose so I may pick myself up and continue my work.

Give me the audacity of ambition, even when the ripples I create seem futile against the waves that batter, relentless, against the shores of equity. Allow me the occasional moments of bitter jadedness without compromising my hope for what our community can be.

When the path is darkest, let me be the lantern. When rifts grow widest, let me be the bridge. Let me be a pita wedge for the hummus of justice.

I know that I am one person. I know there is only so much I can do. But I am committed to help build a world I know is possible. I will keep going until my body tires, until my breath gives out, until my heart breaks for the final time, if you will bless me with your strength and courage, O Great Unicorn, and 10 million dollars in endowment funding.

Make Mondays suck a little less. Get a notice each Monday morning when a new post arrives. Subscribe to NWB by scrolling to the top right of this page (maybe scroll down a little) and enter in your email address (If you’re on the phone, it may be at the bottom). Also, join the NWB Facebook community for daily hilarity.

Donate, or give a grant, to Vu’s organizationRainier Valley Corps, which has the mission of bringing more leaders of color into the nonprofit sector and getting diverse communities to work together to address systemic issues.

Also, join Nonprofit Happy Hour, a peer support group on Facebook, and if you are an ED/CEO, join ED Happy Hour. These are great forums for when you have a problem and want to get advice from colleagues, or you just want to share pictures of unicorns. Check them out.

Oh, and support the maintenance of this website by buying NWB t-shirts and mugs and other stuff.

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