Vu Le has joined Blue Avocado as a regular humor columnist. By day: executive director of the Vietnamese Friendship Association in Seattle; by night: caped crusader for humor. We're calling his column: Point of Vu.
This morning, I woke up early and realized I was face-to-face with my son Viet, who has been sleeping in the same bed with his mom and me. Looking at our sweet little baby, who was still sleeping peacefully, one tiny hand under his soft and rosy cheek, I was filled with warm fatherly thoughts. Namely: "When is this kid going to get a job and help pay for his keep?" I was tempted to wake him up and say, "You do realize that childcare for you each month is literally more than our mortgage, right? You better enjoy this while you can, little dude, because when you turn 18, you're on your own."
And that makes me think about the issue of sustainability of nonprofit programs. In every grant application, there is the "Sustainability Question," which is basically, "How will you sustain this program or project when funding from the So-and-So Foundation runs out?"
This question seems absolutely reasonable at first glance, but . . .
Executive directors are problem solvers. That's why we get paid the big bucks. But why keep it to just nonprofit problems? We would make great advice columnists!
Dear Nonprofit Director: After a year of dating the girl of my dreams, I introduced her to my family and announced we were getting married. The reaction was warm but not enthusiastic. Neither set of our parents has offered to help with the costs of the wedding next year. How do we bring this subject up to them? --Anxious in Anchorage
Dear Anxious: Potential funders like your parents are . . .
Blue Avocado's humor columnist Vu Le dreams about restricted funding for cakes:
For the past few months one of our staff has an eye that's been twitching. "It's this grant!" she says. "It's for our after-school program. It pays for instructors' teaching time, but not their planning time! How can they teach when they can't plan?! How? How?!"
"Psst," I whispered, "Let's talk in the conference room. "Since the staff is so dedicated, they will plan anyway even without getting paid,” -- I paused, looking around -- "Why don't you just increase their hourly wages?"
"This grant capped the hourly wage, so I can't pay them more. The other grant might pay for planning time, but they don't pay for employer taxes!" She started pulling at her hair, and both of us collapsed on the floor, weeping and beating our chests in anguish and . . .
Our humor columnist, Vu Le, comments on the joys of meeting scheduling. But first, a cartoon about meetings from Planet 501c3:
As a field, we have a lot of meetings. And we totally suck at scheduling them. Each week, I get at least a dozen emails like this: "Dear Vu, my name is John, and I am from Unicycle for Guns, a nonprofit dedicated to replacing violence with the joys of unicycling. I would like to meet with you to see how our organizations could collaborate. Let me know what works best for you."
Now, this email is very sincere and courteous, but it makes me want to punch the meeting requester in the pancreas. Not at first, of course, . . .
We're pleased to announce that Vu Le -- who wrote last issue's hilarious and popular article about foundation site visits -- has joined Blue Avocado as a regular humor columnist. By day: executive director of the Vietnamese Friendship Association in Seattle; by night: caped crusader for humor. We're calling his column: Point of Vu.
In the past few years, the concept of Collective Impact (CI) has covered lots of ground, often with great results. Concerted efforts can kick some serious butts and do it more sustainably, too. Look at the examples such as Strive and others profiled by consultants and foundations. CI efforts are characterized by a common agenda, shared measurements, mutually reinforcing activities, constant communication, a backbone organization, and monthly happy hours.
However, like taking naps at work, Collective Impact should be done strategically and sometimes not at all.
Recently, I've started seeing it become more and more like the Borg in Star Trek, a species . . .
Executive director Vu Le writes with verve and humor about that peculiar, nerve-wracking nonprofit ritual known as the foundation site visit:
This week, Vietnamese Friendship Association (VFA) had a site visit: We're always telling people how cool our programs are, but to have funders actually come down and visit is affirming. And terrifying. It's a weird contradiction, like it’s your birthday -- yay! -- but you're also getting a colonoscopy.
Before a visit, we try to prep as much as we can. Making a good impression is important. This includes tidying up the place and putting away our fold-out cot, which staff use for naps during particularly long days -- and some weekends. I also gather up all the papers on my desk and shove them into the overhead bin.
The staff's personal appearance is also taken into consideration. The more funding is at stake, the better we dress:
< $10,000: we dress a little better than our usual shabby
$10,000 to $19,000: we wear button-down shirts and tuck them into our jeans
$20,000 to $49,000: we wear slacks and a nice shirt, maybe a tie
$50,000 or over: I might require some of the staff to get Botox