Nonprofit Executive Director Gives Advice on Love, Marriage, and Other Stuff

Executive directors are problem solvers. But why keep it to just nonprofit problems? We would make great advice columnists!

Nonprofit Executive Director Gives Advice on Love, Marriage, and Other Stuff
4 mins read

Life lessons from a nonprofit executive director.

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 not obligated to support your project. They may do so if it aligns with their priorities. For instance, you can present a clear argument with research and best practices; you can show you, too, are financially invested; and you can promise significant outcomes: grandchildren. Keeping your parents in the dark about your girlfriend was a mistake, as transparency is always more effective in engaging your donors. Given these circumstances, I recommend you postpone this project a year in order to build up your infrastructure and strengthen your relationship with your potential funders.

Dear Nonprofit Director:

My teenage daughter is incorrigible! I know all kids this age go through a rebellious phase, but she’s driving me crazy. She is sullen, lazy, disobeys curfews, gets poor grades, and neglects to do the one chore I ask her to do, which is to load up the dishwasher! When she’s not holed up in her room texting, she hangs out with her equally irresponsible friends. I’m at wit’s end! What should I do?

— Massively Overwhelmed in Minnesota

Dear MOM:

First, own up to your part in this. Did you give clear directions and expectations? Does she have a detailed chart with chores, metrics, and deadlines? Have you provided her with sufficient dishwasher loading training? When those things are taken care of, the problem will usually resolve itself. If not, ask yourself if this is a matter of fit. Sometimes it’s just not a good match. Have a talk with your daughter to see if this is the right family for her. Whatever you do, document her behavior and your actions in writing so that liabilities are decreased in the unfortunate event you need to part ways.

Dear Nonprofit Director:

My husband and I are thinking of having children. We are in our mid-30s and love to travel. How do we know if we’re ready to settle?

— Ambivalent in Kansas City

Dear Ambivalent:

Do a SWOT analysis to determine your potential strengths and weaknesses as parents, as well as opportunities parenthood might provide (tax incentives, having someone to take care of you in your old age, the chance to create a kid who might discover the cure for cancer) and threats (collapse of the Euro, zombie apocalypse, etc.). Sometimes a more extensive assessment, in which you solicit the feedback of key stakeholders (such as your financial advisor) may be helpful. It is important, though, that this new element aligns with your mission, vision, and strategic plan as a couple.

Dear Nonprofit Director:

I have a son who is not exactly the brightest, but he’s not all that dumb either. He’s just up in the clouds with bunnies and unicorns, wanting to make the world better or something. That’s noble, but I’m afraid he’ll never get anywhere. And he’s not blessed enough with looks or charm to coast by. How can I convince him to switch to a practical job like being a pharmacist? I hear they pay pretty well. The boy is kind of physically weak, too, and you don’t have to lift much as a pharmacist.

— Concerned in Seattle

Dear Concerned:

Leave me alone, Dad!

About the Author

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Vu Le is the Executive Director of the Vietnamese Friendship Association (VFA) in Seattle. His column, Point of Vu, documents the fun of nonprofit work. Vu also publishes regularly on his own blog, Nonprofit with Balls. He can be reached at vu.le at vfaseattle dot org.

Articles on Blue Avocado do not provide legal representation or legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice or legal counsel. Blue Avocado provides space for the nonprofit sector to express new ideas. Views represented in Blue Avocado do not necessarily express the opinion of the publication or its publisher.

34 thoughts on “Nonprofit Executive Director Gives Advice on Love, Marriage, and Other Stuff

  1. Love, love, love it — especially "Have a talk with your daughter to see if this is the right family for her." –Cate Steane

    1. Thank you. That’s so sweet. I also did horribly on the LSAT, so I think it’s also a loss for the legal field 🙂

    1. Hi Michael, the shirt says "Tiny stick figures." I found it in Vietnam and had to buy it. To this day, 10 years later, I still have no idea what it means. Maybe it's a profound message, like that we are all basically tiny stick figures, born into this world and trying desperately to find our significance in this vast, vast universe. Sometimes at night, I stay up pondering, haunted by those 3 simple words. Vu

  2. Vu Le always cracks me up. Thanks for the day brightener. (btw, I’ve had a talk with Dad, and he’s agreed to lighten up.) Love, Mom.

    1. Thank you for talking to my dad. For some wacky reason, “nonprofit” doesn’t translate into Vietnamese. They think of it as “volunteering.” We get hounded to be doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, or ideally some combination, like “phlawmacist.” Vu

  3. Loved reading this with my morning coffee today! Thank you for starting my day out with a laugh out loud moment!

    1. Aw, thank you for commenting. It's been a rough day (12 hours, and I'm still at the office after a board meeting), and these comments are really brightening my day. Vu

  4. From a recovering ED –
    Anxious also needs to clearly articulate their sustainability plan. Are there other funders that they can to to in year 2? year 3??
    Massive Mom should always make sure she has the right people on the bus. No room for slackers in our nonprofit world.
    Ambivalent will also need to engage in at least a 9 month process to update their strategic plan, since everything will have changed by the time they’re done.

    1. V u Le: How do you pronounce that name in American English? I need to know so that if I ever have the chance to meet you I will be able to say it correctly, as in Vu Le, I think you are one of most astute writers on nonprofit issues today…and funny as hell, to boot." Karen Aitchison

      1. Karen, what a sweet comment. I really appreciate it, and it's great to end my night on. "Vu" rhymes with "you" and "Le" is somewhere between "lay" and "leh." I look forward to running into you some time.

    2. lol. Thanks, Recovering ED. Those are all great advice, especially for Ambivalent. I have a 4-month-old son now, and I will have to develop a new strategic plan for the family. And a new development plan, since our expenses have increased greatly, with childcare being the most significant line item. and there's no increase in revenues in sight. Vu

  5. Dear Vu Le, having been a supervisor and now the mother of two teenagers, the letter and response about the dishwasher strikes home. Ididn't explain the task and the outcome expected so how can I be angry they didn't do tbe job? Tbat didn't fly 30 years ago, but for some lame reason it does now. Thanks for reminding me this is 2013.A@

    1. Dear A, I'm glad the letter was helpful. Clarifying goals and responsibilities is critical when working with teenagers. It is also important, however, to get the right teenagers on the bus and start their professional development early, keeping succession planning in mind. Regular one-on-ones to exchange feedback both ways is also very helpful, I find, as are occasional social activities.

  6. It’s been. a week of ups and downs. Your column and the comments that follow help keep it all in perspective.

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