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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:

Philanthropy and the Destructive Illusion of “Leveling the Playing Field”

Image by StockSnap on Pixabay

A few months ago a program officer and I were talking about the lack of funding that goes to communities-of-color-led nonprofits (only about 10% of philanthropic dollars go to organizations of color). He shook his head in sympathy and frustration, sipping on his coffee. “There has to be a way to level the playing field,” he said. This was probably the third time that quarter I had heard that phrase uttered by a funder. 


20 Tips to Help You Dress for Nonprofit Success

Like other nonprofit professionals, I wear clothing. So every morning I wake up and immediately have to make an important decision: what to wear for the rest of the day. Now, this does not sound like a very big decision, but I have learned that how we dress in this field is critical to our work, determining how we and thus our organizations are perceived. Although I am not a style guru, I have worn clothing, so here are some tips I have picked up over the years that may be helpful for you. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comment section.  


Operations Professionals, You Are Awesome AF!

Last week, I sat down with a public notary to sign some papers to open new bank accounts for partner organizations in Rainier Valley Corps’s operations support program, where we handle the back-office tasks for partner orgs so they can focus on delivering vital programs and services. We were on a time crunch, and our bank’s new rules required signatories be notarized, which has been a huge hassle. It took days of RVC’s Operations Support Program Manager, Kristine, and me running around, sending endless emails, and strategically deploying chocolate: “So ... maybe this half-eaten bar of Theo sea salt almond 70% cacao might convince you shave a day or two off the paperwork turnaround time, wink ...”

In the middle of all this paperwork and failed attempts at bribery, I realized that we really do not appreciate our operations staff as much as we should.


Paradoxical Commandments for the Nonprofit Professional

Hi everyone. Before we begin today’s blog post a couple of things. First, please go write a review of a foundation on grantadvisor. (it’s like a Trip Advisor where you can anonymously review foundations). Second, if you’re an Executive Director or CEO of color, there is a Facebook support group for you, full of amazing colleagues: EDOC—ED Unicorns of Color, which stemmed from ED Happy Hour, which is open to all current and retired EDs/CEOs.

Speaking of amazing colleagues, one of the reasons I love our sector so much is the quality of the people we have. However, I’ve been encountering more and more professionals who have become increasingly jaded and cynical about the work.


Someone Wants to Start a Nonprofit? Quick, Grab the Torches and Pitchforks!

OK, everyone, sit down, we need to have a talk. Every once in a while, someone—usually from outside the sector—mentions their goal of forming their own nonprofit. “It has been my life-long dream to quit the rat race and start a possum therapy organization. It’s kind of like one of those equine therapy programs, but with possums instead of horses.”

From the online discussions I’ve seen, the response from us is often, “Hiss! How dare they want to start a nonprofit! Let’s burn their barn down! Let’s pour salt in their field so it shall remain fallow for seven generations! Let’s mix up the labels on their spinning spice rack so that nothing they make will taste good again!”

I understand where this anger might be coming from.


We Need to Change Our Unhealthy Attitude about Email before Civilization Collapses

If you are like me, your email inbox is an overflowing compost pile of festering guilt and existential despair. I get between 150 to 200 emails per day. Sure, half of them are stupid (although, can we really call a discussion thread focused on Netflix’ breathtaking animated series Castlevania stupid?) But that still leaves 75 to 100 messages that actually need a response or some type of action. It’s impossible to get through all of them. Then they multiply, including the “Did you get my last email?” and “Hey, just following up on the email I sent last week” and “The team noticed you’ve been tearing out your hair and cussing a lot lately when opening your laptop. Are you OK?”

No, I’m not OK. You’re not OK! None of us are OK, OK?! Email is out of control!


A Call to Inaction: Nonprofits, Give Your Staff a Break

Hi everyone. Once a while, I do a call to action. For example, if you haven’t written a review of a foundation on Grant Advisor lately, or encourage your grantees to do so, please do it! Grant Advisor is like a Yelp for foundations, and everyone who writes a review gets a basket of gluten-free mini muffins*! (*By gluten-free mini muffins, I mean the joy of advancing our sector by increasing transparency and decreasing power imbalance).

This time, though, I am making a call to inaction. I am giving my team and myself the entire week of Christmas off. If your organization can do it, I strongly recommend you to do that as well (or some alternatives to that, as discussed below). Here are several reasons why:


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.


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