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.”

Quiet moment

Can a day or a week be hectic and full of emptiness at the same time?

Of course it can. I certainly know that.

I’ve spent the last couple days balancing household chores, some obligations I volunteered to do, medical appointments and animals.

I really want a beer or a glass of wine.

I’m technically overweight now — my BMI is 25

But I am pleased with some of the progress I made on projects, primarily submitting an idea for a virtual book fair fundraiser for Mary Meuser Memorial Library (which the committee has responded very favorably to) and sorting through some old little girls’ clothes from the attic.

So in the midst of everything I noticed my front garden is a mass of nettles.

I pulled a bunch of weeds when I got home from the hospital but they grow faster than I can yank them out.

But then I saw this:

One of my roses

My roses need to be trimmed. Another casualty of my hospital stay. But I needed this glimpse of beauty.

And I cherish it.

In other news, I tried a stroopwaffel from Lidl. They were impressively gooey even without the obligatory coffee to warm the caramel inside.

Public relations and mini adventures

The last two days I have been hectic busy. But, yesterday, despite my activities and the sporadic heavy rain, I still walked about 9,400 steps.

Go, me!

Oz the Regal (random cat photo)

I started my day with a video chat with my fellow volunteers at Aspire to Autonomy, Inc. This anti-human trafficking organization helps connect underserved populations with services, while educating about human trafficking and looking for trafficking victims. It then helps victims rebuild their lives and get whatever help they need to reach autonomy.

They are also currently hosting monthly “Feed Northampton County” pandemic response food distributions at the Hispanic Center of the Lehigh Valley and in the West Ward of Easton. Using a pop-up food pantry model, Aspire and their network of ambassadors distribute food, masks and hand sanitizer.

The organization works with interns from Kutztown University’s Master’s of Social Work program. Currently I am working closely with Sarah, who has embraced the idea of learning more about public relations and how it can benefit her in promoting her future activities in her career.

Sarah and I were scheduled to have a video chat to strategize pitching the press release she had written the day before on a training session she and two other interns—Kayla and Sam—are facilitating next week on Pennsylvania’s Act 197. (More on that in a few paragraphs.)

Kayla and organization co-founder Darnell (and my supervisor) joined us to catch up on the list of activities we have going on right now.

I left the meeting energized and started pitching to my end of the media list, while Sarah handled the others. This morning, we noticed that The Valley Ledger had already posted our material. Thank you to them!

To read more about our upcoming training (please come!), click here: Act 197 training .

I hopped from there to a meeting for the fundraising committee of Mary Meuser Memorial Library. We had to cancel our annual book fair, due to Covid-19, and met to discuss future possibilities for fundraising. I floated what I felt was a good idea to use key space in the library (and facing a major thoroughfare) to promote local businesses. The committee like the idea and I am to prepare a proposal.

And the teenager made arrangements with Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab (FURR) to get our kittens fixed next week.

Fog, my office companion

The rest of the afternoon is a blur. But I know I helped with some correspondence for Aspire and pursued some networking opportunities on behalf of the group. I also asked my peers at the organization about an idea I had to promote the enforcement of Act 197 via a social media campaign.

Last night, I visited with my neighbors, watched Golden Girls with the teenager, went for a walk with “my other half,” Buddy’s mom who lives in the other side of my house, cuddled with my cockatoo and watched Indian Matchmaking on Netflix.

This morning somehow I slept until 8:30. And my email alerted me that it was National Drive Thru Day. I wrote a corporate sponsorship letter for Aspire and submitted it to the founders for review. Then, the teenager borrowed Buddy and we went to gather up cheap eats at the drive thru.

First I stopped at Dunkin as I still have more than $30 on my Dunkin gift card. They were offering 100 points on any purchase. I cashed in the free beverage I had on my card and bought the teenager hash browns. Then we stopped at McDonald’s as they were offering a free medium fry with any $1 purchase.

I bought her a $1 large Diet Coke and they kept offering me a $1 McChicken. The teenager told me to get it, so I did, but I had them make one without mayo and with lots of pickles.

There is still much work to be done in coming days as Aspire has several major happenings next week, but it’s exciting that between Aspire and the library board I have the opportunity to freely share my ideas and work to move both agencies forward.

Pre-Birthday Magic

Many years ago I bought a silk slip on clearance in a beautiful teal blue color that matches my current bedroom. Because it’s a full slip, and such a strange and rich color, I never found a dress I could wear with it.

Last night I decided to wear it as a nightgown. I felt so fancy.

I was so cozy in my silk slip I didn’t want to get dressed. I thought a good way to compromise would be to wear a dress. And I got a new dress from The Attic that I haven’t worn.

I did my make-up and everything.

Now to make things more interesting I managed to convince my dad that we should have a socially-distanced picnic to celebrate my birthday and my step-mom’s birthday which are both tomorrow. I really want to cook these on the grill, and I don’t have any charcoal for mine.

And I had to order these. They sound so good! And when I ordered them from Tucker Silk Mill, I ordered fresh dill, fresh ginger, fingerling potatoes, sweet potatoes, golden beets, cauliflower, and purple peppercorns. The Vietnamese purple peppercorns were a birthday splurge.

And I never had golden beets, but I don’t really note any difference between those and regular beets.

I hung a load of wash outside and noticed so many lily of the valleys. At the front of the house my roses are finally blooming. I can’t wait to bring bouquets into the house.

At work today we still didn’t come to any agreement on when I can take my vacation.

I was working on my laptop on the sun porch when two women starting taking photos of my flowers. I heard them comment how beautiful my roses and irises are. I said thank you and started them as they hadn’t seen me.

They had been worried someone would yell at them for being in my yard. I laughed. No, I said, you are welcome. They took photos!

The teenager arrived home with the lemon cardamom cake she baked at my request for my birthday.

Recipe from Spice TrainLemon cardamom cake (click photo for recipe) On my 30-minute lunch break, the teenager and I ran down to Tucker to get my impulse buy of vegetables and then headed to Dunkin’ Donuts for my free birthday coffee which they completely screwed up. The teenager got some more of her special Dunkin stones from the side of the drive through.

(For more on the teenager’s fascination with the magical uses of these particular stones… it started here: Thank You Tucker Provisions with our last visit to Tucker. Apparently each time we go to Tucker, I let my daughter pick up random rocks at Dunkin.)

But she has always valued the power in rocks.

And honestly, I’m glad they screwed up my coffee and gave me a smaller weaker drink because I submitted four grants to my executive director today so my nerves were shot. I had just enough time to bring these goodies into the house before I had to clock back in!
My provisions from Tucker

The kittens and big old Oz gathered around me while I worked. My mother-in-law gave me a birthday card with money in it and my dad sent a really cute cupcake card with a check.

Then the teenager and I walked down to CVS to get my prescription and my neighbor who owns Sobaka, the Maltese yorkie mix, joined us. This gave the teenager a chance to try the new dog training clicker I bought her from Petco.

And I got my free nail polish from CVS for my birthday.

I came home and roasted vegetables, are cake and watched Star Trek The Next Generation with my daughter.

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.