Excerpts from romance novels set in the nonprofit sector

[Image description: A red-framed glass window or door with two red hearts drawn on the glass. One heart is big, and the other one is smaller. There are also the initials MC, but they are backward, as if someone had drawn the hearts and initials on the other side of the glass.]

Hi everyone. It’s Valentine’s Day, so time to revive #nonprofitpickuplines (One of my favorites, from a colleague: “Did you forget to file your Form 990? Cause you got FINE written all over you.”)

Recently, I discovered that a couple of my ED friends write romance novels on the side. It made me realize that we have so few books set in the nonprofit sector, and certainly romance is no exception. Our sector, with all its volatility and interesting characters, would make an excellent setting for steamy tales. Here are excerpts from a few potential stories. Thanks to the EDs who came to last week’s EDHH-Seattle meeting for all the great ideas, some of which we could not put down in print.

Disclaimer: The following excerpts are steamy. You have been warned. Do not read further if you don’t want to get all worked up and unable to concentrate the rest of the day.  

The Cardinal Rule

They knew The Rule. Two nonprofit professionals dating, much less two Program Directors, was forbidden in their circles. If they were found out, it would bring shame to their organizations. But Stella, who had tried to stay coy throughout the gala, could no longer care. Jose’s graying hair; the stress-induced twitch in his left eye; even his scent, the combination of hummus and printer toner—it was all too much for her sensibilities.

He wore the suit she had recommended when he called earlier that day, ostensibly to get her professional opinion, but she knew he yearned to hear her voice. And when he delivered his speech on stage, his voice quavering with emotions as he spoke of equity and cultural responsiveness, she decided she had to get some of that. As he stepped down from the stage, she grabbed his arm and pulled him into the closet and shut the door.

“Stella!” Jose said, surprised, “Someone might see us!”

“Kiss me! You know how much equity turns me on!”

“Oh yeah?” he said, pulling her face toward his. His lips tasted of wine and social justice. They fumbled, unbuttoning each other’s shirts, both bought at Ross Dress for Less at 30% discount.

“Oh my,” she said, “looks like paddles aren’t the only things getting raised tonight…”

“Oh, sorry,” he said, pulling out a rolled-up copy of his organization’s annual report from his pants pocket and throwing it aside.

50 Shades of Dismay

He could not see anything, and there was barely any sound he could hear except his own shallow breathing. He was blindfolded. It was all dark, except for the slivers of light he could make out on the sides of his nose when he looked down. Red light. The room must have been bathed in red. The door opened. Footsteps approached.

“So, you again.” Her voice, gravelly and smoky, like a bag of smoked gravels that had been thrown into a sexy blender, cut through his thoughts. His heart raced. “You want to feel pain, huh? Pathetic.” He felt something landing on his chest. A stack of paper. He instinctively reached for it and immediately felt the restraints binding his wrists.

“You want pain? That’s your cash-flow projection for the next six months! Your biggest source of funding is not renewing. You can barely make the next payroll!”

He tensed up.

“That’s right, your payroll schedule is every other Friday, about two per month. Well guess what, next month there are FIVE Fridays, so you actually have THREE payrolls to run!”

“No!” he screamed. Yet he wanted more. He ached for more.

“You want more?” she asked, as if she had read his mind. “Your board hasn’t had quorum for four consecutive meetings. And you and your staff forgot to establish baseline data for programmatic outcomes, so now you will only have self-reported surveys to measure your impact!”

He started whimpering.

She leaned over and whispered, “Your e-newsletter open rate is only 12%.”

Unrestricted Desire

Francine felt a little sheepish, but it had been a rough day. A major donor turned her down; in fact, had laughed at her request for a multi-year gift. She felt like a failure of a Development Director. She was also a bit curious. Her friend, a Major Gift Officer, had recommended it, though he blushed profusely.

She dialed the number, then quickly hung up. She breathed, then dialed again. It rang.

“Welcome to Unrestricted Desire,” said the sultry woman on the other end of the line, “What’s your name?”

“Uh,” she stumbled, “Maxine.”

“Maxine,” said the woman with a cute laugh, “that’s a beautiful name. I’m Jillian. Everyone calls me Jill.”

“Hi, Jill…I’ve never done this before.”

“It’s OK, honey. I’ll take care of you. You have nothing to worry about. So, how much funding are you trying to raise?”

“I still have $300,000 this fiscal year.”

“Maxine, your organization does such important work. I just inherited a gazillion dollars from a rich uncle and I want to give a big donation. $100,000 per year for 5 years!”

Francine started breathing heavily.

“And I know how helpful it is when funding is flexible, so there are no restrictions on this gift.”

“Tell me more.”

“Yes, I’d like to give you a multi-year, general operating funds gift of $100,000 per year. Can we get lunch to talk about it?”

“Yes, of course. I’d love to!”

“May I also bring a friend along? She is a tech billionaire and wants to give back to the community!”

“Absolutely, I’d love to meet your friend!”

“At some point, we should also talk about planned giving.”

“Yes, yes, please, more!”

“I know an organic, fair-trade chocolate factory and winery that just started their CSR program and wants to donate a million pounds of dark chocolate and lots and lots of wine to local nonprofits to use however they see fit, including simply for the staff to consume!!!”

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  • Cindy T. Rizzo

    I’m a foundation staff person who also writes romance novels. For a great romance novel set at a foundation check out my friend Heather Blackmore’s novel, Like Jazz. It’s great!

    • LTJaeger

      I hired Heather Blackmore at a non-profit I used to work at about 25 years ago. I always like it when her name pops up in different arenas~

  • Chris Miller

    Best valentine ever.

  • Carol Clarke
  • Looking forward to the third story 🙂

  • JL_Laurie

    OMG the 50 Shades of Dismay made me LOL – especially the newsletter bit at the end….

  • Patti Lazarus

    I so need a good giggle these days – thank you so much for this!!

  • Patricia Garza

    Yes! When can I buy the extended versions of these in book form?!

  • Kelly

    “His lips tasted like wine and social justice” may be my favorite sentence of 2017! Though, how sad is it that the major donor chat line fantasy was ruined at the end by my thinking “how much does it cost for climate-controlled storage for a million pounds of chocolate? if we find a way to monetize (sales, incentive for donations) how do we distribute?”

  • LTJaeger

    “Looking at your audit, I can see you have a very tight bottom line”

  • LTJaeger

    “I love your unrestricted assets.”

  • Mark W.

    Those are great! Unrestricted desire, indeed…

    A friend of mine has a novel set in the nonprofit world that’s part romance, part intrigue, and a really fun read. Look for “Charitable Getting” at extribulum.com.

  • Lisa Daleiden-Brugman

    Hilarious! I’m going to be smiling all day. Thanks… (:

  • Helen Lakeru

    As always, hilarious! Vu, you are a gift to all of us who love and work in this sector. (Ooh, isn’t the word sector just so steamy?)