Inspired by Vu Le, Nonprofit AF

I attended a Zoom Meeting today with Vu Le of Nonprofit AF hosted by The Gruvin Foundation. Now I know it seems odd for a writer and communicator from the Lehigh Valley to spend time with a foundation focused on Ocean County, N.J., but I had a hunch Vu Le would have a message that transcended geography.

But before I get how right I was, let me celebrate the fact that I attended the meeting in true 2020 remote work fashion—

My Zoom Face

While below the waist, I spotted pajamas.

Let me just say that Vu Le speaks the truth and boldly proclaims what those of us who rely on traditional nonprofit institutions to employ us cannot say.

It’s time for the nonprofit sector to be bolder and more assertive.

Vu Le, Nonprofit AF

He so eloquently described what could be improved about the nonprofit sector. From the basic concepts such as fundraisers should not be judged on how much money they bring in and we should reflect upon the greatest needs in the community versus pushing our own mission.

Le advocates for a change in the ecosystem so that nonprofits stop functioning in silos and foundations and philanthropists stop generating mistrust and wasting time and resources.

For instance, Le reminds us all that GRANT PROPOSALS are a WASTE OF TIME since most never get funded. He poses the question— what if nonprofits employed the same tactics as funders?

A hungry family comes to the food pantry. Before they receive food they have to prepare the following:

  1. Compose an essay detailing how hungry they are.
  2. Include a logic model of exactly how all food will be used.
  3. Prepare outcomes of how this food will benefit your children.

We don’t do that, right?

So, Le asks, why do funders do it to us?

He compares the current nonprofit environment to The Hunger Games and like the book series, he challenges those in the sector to end the game and take down the system.

Vu Le speaking, hosted by Gruvin Foundation

Some more of his simple but mind blowing, completely logical ideas to improve inequality in this country:

  • The “easiest” way to fix society is to elect more women of color. It’s the only way to balance the voice is old white men.
  • The wealthy need to pay their fair share of taxes.
  • Remove corporate influence from politics.
  • Change the two-sided narrative so it’s harder to argue.

Then he reminded us all of this fact: If most social injustice and issues that nonprofits seek to correct effect primarily people of color, why is it that typically…

Non profit boards are white

Non profit staff is white

Donors are white

So white people should allow more people of color decision-making capacity in programs to benefit them. To continue to paraphrase Le, white folks need to stop taking jobs as executive directors for programs that don’t have any impact on white people.

And if funders are only participating in philanthropy to receive the tax breaks, they need to accept that the money is no longer theirs. They need to allow those communities facing the issues at hand to make decisions on how it is spent.

And one of the best ways to promote change in the sector is to encourage funders to give general operating expense funds and let the people doing the work decide where it is needed.

Again, these ideas are not mine but belong to Vu Le of the blog “Nonprofit AF.”

This beauty and reaching the dark side

Tomorrow will mark two weeks since I started working from home due to the Coronavirus.

I have left the house six times in the last two weeks— three times for work: once to go to the office, once to go to Staples, and once to go to the post office. Once to take a walk and once to walk to CVS to get my prescription.

I reached my one year anniversary today in the small non-profit where I work in the development office. I was hired in a communications position, and four months later promoted to a more directly fund-raising/grant writing position. And for the first five months I was the only person in the department. And this field is new to me.

So the last year has been a whirlwind, stressful and exhausting before you even consider that my husband moved out nine months ago and I live with my teen daughter, two cats, two kittens, three parakeets and a cockatoo.

I’m relishing the stillness of the Covid-19 worth. I enjoy my home as the epicenter of my universe. I love seeing how the technology forces our creativity.

But today I did the unthinkable. Something I swore I would never ever do. Something entirely against my principles and completely disgusting to me.

I bought a laptop— and it wasn’t a Mac. My last laptop was a MacBoor Air 2013 that traveled the world with me. My first computer ever was a PowerBook 165 in 1994.

But now my boss has signaled that she anticipates us working from home through the end of April. And it’s not fair to continue to borrow my just-about-ex-husband’s laptop. And the child needs her MacBook Air to do her schoolwork now.

My mom offered to buy me a laptop for my birthday— so I ordered a refurbished HP Elitebook for $300. A refurbished MacBook would have been twice the cost. Honestly, for work, Microsoft Remote Server works better on the PC. And I know that if I leave this job I will never touch this PC again.

And that’s okay with my daughter, she already has plans for it.

Through tired eyes

I. Am. Exhausted.

March was shaping up to be an exhausting month at work before it even started because of all the grants I had to finish— I forget how many so we’ll round to ten. And a couple needed reports.

Then we added a couple last minute important government opportunities and dealt with some EITC issues… if you don’t know what EITC is don’t worry about it, it’s a Pennsylvania tax program for corporations that benefits education.

And then we hit the state emergency of Corona virus/COVID-19 shutdown.

My employer has the largest full-choice food pantry in the County and we serve hundreds of households every month. We educated about a hundred people daily in our classrooms. We serve students in the schools. Provide assistance to walk-ins, existing clients and referrals.

So this has changed everything. The CEO is scrambling. Meetings are going virtual. Our educators are looking at distance learning. Our food pantry staff and volunteers are bagging food instead of letting clients shop.

And now we need to design a schedule and a work plan to use our homes as offices.

Ideally, we no more than 3 people in our admin building at a time. (There are only six of us.)

Tomorrow I have to take the old MacBook Air into the office and hope I can get it to connect to the remote server. Otherwise, I am not allowed to work from home.

And I forgot my journal on my desk, and my planner, but my planner I can survive without. But my journal? Noooooooo!

Every morning, I get up, pour a cup of mostly decaf coffee and write in my journal while the cats eat. Not having this ritual will be upsetting.

To lighten the mood, here is a cat photo from the freshly cleaned room of the teenager:

And an unboxing of this months treats— a Universal Yums box from Brazil (featuring Nala, my naughty Goffin’s cockatoo):

Universal Yums March 2020

Slowing down

I did something I haven’t done in a while… I went to work on time. I had been going into the office an hour early every day.

I stayed home. Spent time with Nala. Packed a lovely salad for lunch. Balanced my budget. Did three days worth of dishes. Even vacuumed and cleaned the bird cages.

The teenager came home from school and did laundry.

And on top of all that, work went super well. My new colleague and I approach everything as a team. She has a strong background in non-profit development and I have a strong background in communications so we approach everything from our respective strengths.

And I think the result is ten times better than either of us could do alone.

That makes me feel so good.

I even did a pretty intense little weight training workout before my nail appointment tonight. Short but left me feeling it.

As for my nails… they are so brittle and short right now it makes me sad. But I can’t be sad because my nail polish color is happi.