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.”

Whirlwind Tuesday

I ended last night with a delightful (super super delightful) tapas of succulent olives, hummus, blue cheese and pita chips with my neighbor.

Cozy tapas

Tonight I’m ending the night with blisters from going for my evening walk while wearing flip flops and feeling a little guilty for taking advantage of my DQ reward points to get a free chicken strip basket at Dairy Queen.

I have gained 10 pounds since the pandemic started. I am happy to say that my daily steps have tripled, but I haven’t used my dumbbells for anything other than doorstops, and I suppose I should go ahead and cancel my gym membership. Because I’m unemployed and I don’t want to go pay someone for something I can do at home without a mask.

If only I could stop the junk food habit.

But that is not the point of this post. The point of this post is to touch on two topics. I’m going to briefly touch on what I love about the business and non-profit environment here in the Lehigh Valley.

Then I’m going to sing the praises of Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab and report that our adorable pseudo-Russian Blue kittens, now about nine months old got neutered today and are still stoned out of their fuzzy little minds.

Life in the Lehigh Valley

So, I grew up in the Slate Belt and then moved to Bethlehem for my college years at Moravian College. I’ve always loved the diversity of the Lehigh Valley region, the diversity of urban vs. rural, the infrastructure, the businesses, the farms, the corporations.

Today, I attended a meeting with the person in charge of corporate giving for a major corporation that has offices all over the world, and a huge influence historically and currently in the Valley.

I attended that meeting as a representative of Aspire to Autonomy, Inc., and supported one of the founders of the organization in this important private conversation we were having.

And suddenly I was awestruck again.

Periodically, I am annoyed with the Valley for the same reasons that I love the Lehigh Valley. But today I felt enamored.

The Lehigh Valley, in part because of its proximity to the ports of New Jersey and the cities of New York and Philadelphia, and the local highway infrastructure connecting it everywhere, attracts a wide variety of businesses while hosting some economic mainstays—like Air Products, Just Born Candy, Martin Guitar and Crayola.

We have two major hospital networks competing madly locally— St. Luke’s and Lehigh Valley Hospital.

But the region, despite having three cities just about touching (and Allentown, with its population of more than 122,000, is the third largest city in the state), is amazingly small. It’s not that hard to travel from one end to the other and people seem to know everyone, especially in the business world.

Or maybe it just feels that way to me because I spent 15 years as a local journalist.

So, here I am in the meeting, immediately recognized as the former Development Manager for ProJeCt of Easton, helping sell this two-year-old non-profit to a potential major funder.

I even dressed up for the Zoom— and then the person we were meeting dialed in, so I got to put on makeup for my stoned cats.

But because of the “smallness” of the Lehigh Valley, this very busy executive took more time than she had to to meet with us. As a result, we all left with an increased understanding.

We have a better fundraising plan regarding this corporation and this person learned more about how all the anti-trafficking organizations here in the Valley work together.

But what impressed me was the willingness of this individual to work with the “little guy.” That is something that makes me proud to live in the Lehigh Valley.

The rescued kittens have been neutered

I rambled quite a bit on that earlier bit.

Today, the teenager and I left the house at 7:30 to transport the kittens to FURR for a low-cost neutering.

Stephanie, the woman from FURR we have been working with, was even kind enough to place Fog and Misty on the backseat of her car with their cat carriers facing each other instead of in the big cat pile of carriers in the back of the car.

That made me happy. That the brothers could see each other.

On the way home, I stopped at Grocery Outlet as the teenager had announced that cheap instant coffee was garbage and we were going to need more Nescafé.

(For more details on this, see yesterday’s post: Nescafe Capers)

And then the teenager filled out an adoption/foster application with FURR on her phone in the parking lot.

Because we need more menagerie.

Oz enjoyed being my main baby today while the kittens were gone.

And I also did my nails.

Matte silver

And it seemed like it took forever until it was time to retrieve the boys. They are both about 9 3/4 pounds. They are Feline Leukemia negative. They have their shots now, nails trimmed, flea meds and deworming.

And they are ridiculously mellow and stoned right now. I think Fog fell asleep with his head in the water bowl.

And here’s some stoned cat videos:Fog doesn’t want to come out

Misty coming out

An easier Monday

I struggle a lot with my birthday and holidays. I always have the best hopes and best intentions but somehow my mood often sours.

My birthday is Wednesday.

And the fact that I have three major grants due this Friday doesn’t help.

And I’m disappointed that my boss hasn’t approved my vacation for next week.

But today took an unexpected turn…

I drank too much coffee, consumed too much sugar (a sour cream doughnut and too many jelly beans), and somehow managed to draft two of those grants today.

Now I’m sure I will be asked to redraft and revise five times by Friday… but part of me hopes maybe I could take my birthday off. Maybe I can have a vacation.

The teenager left for her grandmother’s this afternoon and I miss her. In part because I had a good day and I want to share my good mood with her.

Her grandmother and her father are really the only two people she sees with this lockdown so I hope she appreciates the change of scenery. She’s supposed to bake me a lemon cardamom cake.

After work, I reorganized some cupboards while watching the last season of The Great on Hulu.

I went for a walk with my neighbor.

I helped another nonprofit with their CDBG grant— the same one I wrote for my agency today.

I made myself this platter for a light supper:

And I received emails that my birthday purchases to myself have mostly shipped.

I also got a text from CVS that my prescription is ready which is exciting on many levels.

  1. I thought my prescription didn’t have any refills left. And I was literally staring in the bottle wondering if I had enough to make it to my doctor appointment scheduled for June 2.
  2. CVS sent me a coupon for a free nail polish on my birthday. A sexist notion really— but I like free things. And I should start doing my nails again since I won’t be able to get a manicure for a while.
  3. I have a $25 CVS gift card.

So, for a Monday, it was a mighty fine day.