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.”

Cheery dental Wednesday

It’s not everyday that starts with a 9 a.m. dental visit (in the middle of a pandemic where you end up getting some restoration work done when you thought it was a quick and easy crown adjustment) and you end up thinking— “This is a good day.”

My dental staff had a very gentle touch and it seems like (fingers crossed), I should have no more issues for a while.

The dentist was very optimistic as she set to work and I reminded her not to get too cocky, as dentistry has to be a lot like plumbing— the older the house gets the more you don’t know what you’ll find until you really get inside.

She liked my analogy.

I also told herself about the time they gave me so much Novocain, I went to blow my nose and almost exploded my ear drums because I couldn’t feel anything coming out because my nostrils were numb.

For more on my dental disasters, visit this entry: My dental past.

In other news, I took these cheap fish nuggets and made fish/cabbage tacos. I dressed them with bacon ranch.

I planned to use my lunch break today to host a business meeting with my supervisor from my new volunteer position. I’m helping a relatively new non-profit hone their grant-writing skills and work out some communications strategies. I’m hosting a meeting with their summer interns tonight.

The news that we would be hosting someone in our home sent the teenager into a cleaning frenzy.

When our afternoon guest departed, the teenager turned to me and said, “It was so nice to hear the two of you talking.”

Mango nectar and Diet Coke

I suppose I have to let go of my birthday and start referring to my time on vacation— but how awesome is it that my birthday bled right into a holiday weekend and then into paid time off from work!

For more on my recent birthday:

Kicking off my birthday

Pre-Birthday Magic

Feeling the love

The end of my birthday

Vacation Day 1; Birthday day 4

I’ve been with my agency for 14 months now. I think in that time I took off my daughter’s birthday, two days before my daughter went back to school (and to go the Iron Pigs baseball Game and see her marching band perform the national anthem—Warrior Band at Iron Pigs), one planned day when my daughter had surgery, and one sick day.

So this time is deserved.

And before I left I learned I got the PA Food Recovery Infrastructure Grant for our food pantry which will pay for a new commercial freezer for our food pantry.

So after my delicious burgers from Tucker Provisions (who with the generosity of their customers and via Easton Hunger Coalition donated cases of eggs from the Zimmerman farm to ProJeCt of Easton’s food pantry), I got home late last night and between the kittens getting wound up and myself feeling a second wind, I didn’t get to bed until 1 a.m.

Luckily the animals let me sleep until 8. Even Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo, was patient.

I got up, fed the menagerie, started dishes and laundry and my mom came down to help me clean. We gave the downstairs a thorough dusting, shining, vacuuming… and I’d like to say Mom and I made a good tag team. The teenager worked on her room.

I told her I’d buy her a pizza for lunch.

We ordered Domino’s. I got a spinach feta pizza with black olives, Parmesan bread bites, and since Mom was here a bacon jalapeño cheesy bread. The teenager asked for wings. We also ordered Diet Coke, which we mixed with mango nectar.

I’ve been drinking it all afternoon. If I had peach schnapps or vanilla rum, it would be even better.

I organized my closet— since I recently got some new clothes from White House Black Market some of the old ones had to go. I have a small wardrobe. And a small bedroom.

I took a 30-minute or so nap.

And Mom might be coming back Tuesday to have coffee and bagels and help me clean and organize my kitchen cupboards.

That sums up vacation day 2.

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.

Joy Is

Yesterday I allowed myself to eat my feelings—in the form of a Buffalo Chicken Specialty Pizza with spinach instead of onions (six slices), Parmesan bread bites (probably half the order), and sweet BBQ bacon specialty chicken (again probably half the order) from my good friends at Dominos. I’ve had the same “delivery specialist” the last two orders. And my last order was on Thursday.

And I washed it down with a big glass of Two Rivers Brewing Bankers Brown Ale. But I must say, my cockatoo, Nala, approves of my bad decisions. Click on the link under the photo to see Nala playing with the empty box.

Nala playing

That was not a healthy way to deal with stress. But it’s over and done and it felt so good in the moment.

Bad decisions often do.

But today was a new day and I don’t surrender. So, I bring to you a list of the things that brought me joy today.

1. My professional peer Lynn from another non-profit locally reached out to me today on Facebook. We had a lovely Zoom chat on my lunch hour and discovered in addition to our journalistic pasts, we also both have three-legged cats. Go figure.

2. One of my colleagues sent me a photo of the tree from the courtyard at our office.

On this dark, damp day (over the course of which my toes NEVER got warm despite my super thick winter socks), this photo put my day right from the get-go. Why?

Because it’s a magnolia tree. We had a magnolia tree in our yard when I was young— and as my work colleague observed—the extremely short life span of its flowers makes them somehow more special. I used to climb the one in my girlhood home and I love the silky feel of the petals as they tumble to the ground.

3. I’m working on a last minute state grant. A food recovery infrastructure grant that could buy our agency a new commercial freezer. The state representative I’ve been working with has been so nice and so responsive, I told him it’s truly been a pleasure to work with him and he told me I made his day.

From a grant I’m working on

I shared the proposal with the mentor my boss appointed to me, and he liked it and pointed out some areas where I could strengthen it. I also asked some connections for a letter of support and I received a truly heartwarming letter from one.

So, regardless of what happens, I feel good about the work I do.

4. My daughter spent the day helping her grandmother with yard work. I’m proud my daughter doesn’t mind physical labor. She sent me this text:

Mom.

Mom.

Mom.

Look what I got.

Yes, an old broom

Now, my daughter and I will bless this broom as part of her spiritual journey. A witch’s broom.

And finally, this one isn’t from today, but…

5. I found these jars in the garage. And they are really pretty.

That’s all I need to find joy.

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