Category Archives: Funder Relations

Time inequity: What it is and why it’s no-good, very-bad

[Image description: A black-and-white photograph of two hourglasses standing side-by-side within a black box frame overlooking an indecipherable background (it might be a city, out of focus). The hourglass on the left has white sand, and the one on the right has black sand. Both seems almost full and are trickling sand, culminating in small sand piles in their respective bottom chambers. But the black-sand hourglass seems to have less sand in the top chamber.]

People have been asking me, “Vu, how do you manage to write a blog each week while running a nonprofit and parenting a toddler and a baby, and yet still retain your youthful good looks?” The secret is simple: I don’t sleep, and also, personal hygiene and nutrition standards have been lowered. Having a second kid, especially, has sapped our time so much that we tend to eat over the sink in five-minute increments; I don’t mind, because it allows me to rinse pureed peas and quinoa from out of my hair.

I can’t blame the baby for flinging food at us though. We haven’t been paying nearly as much attention to him as we did with his brother. He just turned one, and I think half the people we know aren’t even aware that we have a second baby, so little have we mentioned him. One person seemed irritated; he cornered me one day and said, “Hey, I heard you have a new baby? Why didn’t you tell me?” I felt terrible. All I could reply was, “Sorry, Dad…” Continue reading

Why we need to stop asking “What do you do?”

[Image description: A right hand is in focus, extended toward the viewer, as if this person is offering to shake hands. The person is out of focus, but appears to be wearing a grey button-down shirt with a black blazer. The composition is focused on the hand and torso, so we don’t see the person’s head.]

A while ago, while I was seeking input for a post on how we can all be more disability-inclusive, a colleague mentioned that we should drop the get-to-know-you question “What do you do?” because people with disabilities face significant employment discrimination, and this question is often a painful reminder of that. Another colleague of mine who is brilliant and talented and hilarious and wheelchair-enabled told me she spent seven years searching before someone hired her. I can imagine all the times during those seven years when people asked her “What do you do?” and how she must have felt. This has made me think of the “to-do” culture that we have and how it’s been affecting our work.

I learned a few years ago, through my participation in the German Marshall Memorial Fellowship, that the US has a default “To-Do” culture. The first thing we ask someone we meet is about what they do. Actions, in our culture, define us. For other cultures, though, are more of a “To-Be” culture, and you are defined less from what you do, and more from who you are:  Your relationships, your family history, your beliefs, your passions, your haircuts, etc. Continue reading

Funders’ role in protecting marginalized communities during the next four years

[Image description: Green stalks of wheat. It looks to be a closeup of a wheat field. The wheat flowers are silvery green, and the leaves are light green.]

Last week, my organization, in partnership with several other orgs, called for an urgent meeting between funders and nonprofit leaders. “Protecting Marginalized Communities During the Next Four Years.” It was just a few days of notice, and I was nervous people wouldn’t show up. Over 100 did, half funders and half nonprofit leaders from diverse communities. For three hours, we checked in with one another, shared stories and ideas, and discussed actions.

There are certain days in my career where I return home exhausted and drained, but simultaneously grateful to get to do this work, and to get to do it with brilliant and passionate colleagues. This was one of those days. Although many of the stories shared were painful and alarming—a Muslim colleague detailed the fear and danger she experiences every day taking the bus; two Native colleagues discussed the challenges their communities face at Standing Rock—the energy and support and sense of community were palpable. Continue reading

4 poems by Richard Porter, Nonprofit Poet Laureate of the Milky Way Galaxy

[Image Description: A white and light pink apple blossom, with five petals, in full bloom, contrasted against green leaves. It has several purple pistils with orange tips. The composition places the flower to the left of the picture and in focus. On the upper right, in the background ad out of focus, is another apple blossom in bloom.]

Hi everyone. Today is the third day of the Lunar New Year, and the return of Spring, and according to traditions, one is supposed to avoid stress and arguments, as whatever one does and feels on these days sets the tone for the rest of the year. So I’ve just been stuffing my face with hard cider and dark chocolate and avoiding the news.

So, instead of writing a serious post today—several serious ones are coming—I had asked Richard Porter, our Nonprofit Poet Laureate of the Milky Way Galaxy, to write some poems that capture the essence of our sector. Richard, you may recall, won the first-ever Nonprofit Poetry Contest. His poem, replicated below, with its heartbreaking earnestness and yearning, captured the hearts of the judges. He follows it with three more poems. 

Our field is full of talented individuals, including many artists. Thanks, Richard and other artists, for illuminating our world.  Continue reading

The Nonprofit Serenity Prayer

[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. Continue reading