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Vu Le

Vu Le is a writer, speaker, vegan, Pisces, and the Executive Director of Rainier Valley Corps, a nonprofit in Seattle with the mission of developing and supporting leaders of color to strengthen the capacity of communities-of-color-led nonprofits and foster collaboration between diverse communities to effect systemic change.

Recent Posts by Vu Le:

14 Irritating Jargon Phrases, and Awesome New Clichés You Should Use Instead

Hi everyone. I’m trying to focus more on positive or just lighter stuff on this blog for the next few weeks, but people really need help in Mexico and Puerto Rico, so please click on those links and donate.

We’ve examined irritating jargon in two previous posts (“21 irritating jargon phrases ...” and “17 irritating jargon phrases ...”), but when all the rhubarb is harvested, there are still more. So here’s some more jargon, and new clichés to replace them with. Thanks to the NAF Facebook community and other colleagues for the suggestions, some of which are jargon, some just cliches. We’ll save for last the most annoying jargon we all use, but otherwise, these are in no particular order.


GrantAdvisor.org, a Site for Reviewing Foundations, and Why All the Cool People Are Using It

Hi everyone. I’ve been involved with a few awesome projects on the side, and one of those projects has now been launched. No, it is not the puppet show on the importance of general operating funds; that will come later. No, it is not Nonprofit Fight Club, because there is NO Nonprofit Fight Club, so stop asking about Nonprofit Fight Club, OK?

I’m talking about GrantAdvisor.org, a new website that allows all of us to anonymously review foundations.


Ending the Nonprofit Talent Hunger Games

Hi everyone. I just came back from speaking at the Blue Ridge Institute, a 90-year-old week-long retreat in the Tennessee woods for nonprofit leaders. It’s a combination of thought-provoking conversations and endearingly ridiculous hijinks, including an all-ages talent show, skits, hiking, dancing, a lot of singing, a softball game with equal-opportunity cheering and heckling from a designated group called “The Best Worst Cheerleaders,” a sarcastic daily news parody segment that roasts everyone mercilessly in good fun, and something called “moonshine cherries.” Basically, if I designed a retreat for nonprofit leaders, it would look a lot like BRI. But with more sock puppets (and Oxford Commas in the marketing materials). Check it out. It’s magical, and kids are welcome.


The Downsides of Linear Thinking, and Why We Need to Embrace Failure

The world is complex. Therefore, to put order to things, we try to become more organized and linear in many aspects of life and existence: In battle: first we send the scouts to check out lay of the land and our enemies’ strengths and weaknesses, then we send in the infantry. In marriage: First, we date, then we have the parents meet, then we get married. In going to IKEA: First we spend 30 minutes finding parking, then we get panic attacks in the lamps aisle, then we get into fights with our partner.

In the nonprofit sector, this linear sort of thinking is pervasive, seeping into every aspect of our work


9 Principles of Community-Centric Fundraising

Hi everyone. After last week’s post, I got a lot of comments, many in support, a few cautiously curious, and some strong disagreement. Which is all awesome, because we can disagree on many things, but I think the conversation around equity as it’s applied to fundraising is much needed. I also want to reiterate how much respect I have for the fundraisers in our field. I’ve said it before that I think you have to be pretty brilliant to be a successful fundraising professional, considering how complex this work is. I also want to reaffirm how much I appreciate donors, and that my critique of donor-centrism in no way precludes respect for donors, just like my critique of inequitable funding practices should not mean a disrespect for foundations or program officers, or my post on how data has been used to perpetuate inequity should not be seen as a dis on evaluators and researchers.


19 Tips for Making Your Job Posting So Amazing, Unicorns Will Weep Tears of Joy

We need to talk about a serious problem that’s been ignored for a long time. No, not the lack of gel pens given out by vendors during conferences. (Seriously, vendors, get better pens! Ballpoint is so cliché!) I’m talking about job postings—they suck. They have sucked for a long time. I bet when aliens dig up remnants of the human race, they’ll encounter our job postings and go, “……” which is alien telepathic language for “these documents suck; no wonder their civilization collapsed.”

We’ve been using the same format, the same tired language, and the same archaic requirements. We need to do better.


All Right, “Color-Blind” Colleagues, We Need to Have a Talk

In my work and travels I’ve met some really incredible people doing amazing stuff. Every meeting, every trip restores my faith in our sector, as well as replenishes my office’s supply of pens and chapsticks from various exhibitors at conferences.

But once a while, I encounter people who are “color-blind,” who say things like:

  • “Vu, I love what you say about nonprofits needing to be more inclusive. You know, I have a grown son who has diverse friends. And he has never once referred to his friends by their skin color characteristics. Not once. I think it’s wonderful that he just doesn’t see color.”

Why We Need to Stop Asking “What Do You Do?”

A while ago, while I was seeking input for a post on how we can all be more disability-inclusive, a colleague mentioned that we should drop the get-to-know-you question “What do you do?” because people with disabilities face significant employment discrimination, and this question is often a painful reminder of that. Another colleague of mine who is brilliant and talented and hilarious and wheelchair-enabled told me she spent seven years searching before someone hired her. I can imagine all the times during those seven years when people asked her “What do you do?” and how she must have felt. This has made me think of the “to-do” culture that we have and how it’s been affecting our work.


Foundations, How Aggravating Is Your Grantmaking Process? Use This Checklist to Find Out!

As we roll into 2017, there have been lots of articles about how philanthropy must adapt, including my post urging funders to increase payout and fund advocacy efforts, as well as this piece on moving away from “charity” toward “justice.” These conversations are critical and we must keep having them. While we figure that stuff out, though, let’s take care of a few logistical things foundations do that make us nonprofits want to roll up a printed-out copy of our tax filings and beat ourselves unconscious.


Grantseekers, How Irritating Are You to Funders? Use This Checklist to Find Out

Hi everyone. Last week, I unveiled the FLAIL Index, a tool that allows foundations to see whether or not their grantmaking process will unleash the demon-god Cthulhu upon this world. I’m now calling it the FLAIL Scale (#FLAILscale), since things that rhyme are always more worth our time. I will be updating the Scale this week, based on your feedback, to increase the aggravation points for certain items, such as requiring people to get anything notarized, as well as add some redemption points. Thank you to everyone who tested the FLAIL Scale, especially those who are actually using it to make their grant process better. You are amazing unicorns, and may Cthulhu spare you in the coming Apocalypse.

This week, for balance, we present the other side: Things that we nonprofits do that make funders want to punch us in the jaws—or worse, not fund our programs.