Blue Avocado columnist Vu Le inspires us again with his ideas for nonprofit-themed children’s books. We should all be writing some!
Today, I want to talk about children’s books. I am so sick of these children’s books that my one-year-old makes me read each day. You try to see how charming “Guess How Much I Love You” is after the 80th time!
But then I got this great idea! I should write children’s books! They are short as hell! And if one becomes a best-seller, I’ll be rich, rich! The conventional wisdom is to write about stuff that you know. And what do I know? Nonprofit work, of course. I can write children’s books about nonprofit work!
Here are some that I’ve started working on. Just imagine parents reading these books to their kids each night. Maybe these books might even inspire some kids to grow up wanting to be nonprofit warriors. Read these texts below, and let me know what you think, and other children’s book ideas you have.
The Runaway ED
Once upon a time there was an executive director, and she wanted to run away. So she said to her board chair, “I am going to run away.”
Her board chair said, “If you run away, I will come and find you and bring you back, for you are my executive director.”
“If you come and find me,” said the ED, “then I will become a strategic plan and hide on the shelf.”
“If you become a strategic plan and hide on the shelf,” said her board chair, “then I will become an intern who accidentally stumbles on you.”
“If you become an intern who accidentally stumbles on me, then I will become a piece of raw cauliflower on a snack platter at a community gathering, which no one will eat.”
“If you become a piece of raw cauliflower on a snack platter at a community gathering which no one will eat, I will become a desperate hungry vegan and find you.”
“If you become a desperate hungry vegan who finds me,” said the ED, “then I will become an invited-proposals-only foundation that is like Fort Knox to get into.”
“If you become an invited-proposals-only Foundation that is like Fort Knox to get into, I will become the best friend of one of the trustees’ daughters and I will get through to you.”
“Aw, shucks,” said the ED, “well, in that case, I might as well stay here and be your ED.”
And she did.
“Can I have a raise?” she asked.
If You Give a Board Treasurer a Cookie
If you give a board treasurer a cookie, he may ask who’s paying for the cookie.
When you answer that you’re using funds he approved on the budget, he’s probably going to ask to see a copy of the budget.
When you give him the budget, he’s going to ask for the latest balance sheet.
When you show him the balance sheet, it may remind him of a training he attended about the importance of opening a line of credit.
He’ll ask you to open a line of credit. He might get carried away and say he’ll go to the bank himself.
When he goes to the bank, he might notice that your signatories are not up to date.
He’ll send out an email to the finance committee asking to discuss this at the next meeting.
You’ll have to coordinate the meeting and remind everyone. And of course, you have to get snacks.
And chances are…cookies will be on sale.
The Very Tired Development Director
In the light of a fluorescent lamp, a Development Director sat hunched over an organization’s fundraising plan.
On Monday, he organized one luncheon, but the organization still needed money.
On Tuesday, he applied to two employee giving campaigns, but the organization still needed money.
On Wednesday, he launched three crowd-funding initiatives, but the organization still needed money.
On Thursday, he wrote four grants, but the organization still needed money.
On Friday, he called five major donors, but the organization still needed money.
On Saturday, he wrote 10 thank-you emails, sent out 18 handwritten notecards, went to coffee with 5 potential donors, checked the grant calendar, looked at the annual event program brochures of 9 similar organizations to scan their sponsors, called 4 board members to remind them of their tasks, emailed 3 local businesses, and led a program tour. He was exhausted.
The next day was Sunday again. The Development Director stayed at home and spent time with his family, and he felt much better.
He was due for a much-needed vacation, so he left for Hawaii. A week later he came back and…
He was still an awesome Development Director who continued to keep the organization and its important work going.
The Giving Nonprofit
Once there was nonprofit organization, and it loved the community and the funders supporting its work. Every year, the organization would continue to serve the people in its community. And each year, funders would provide funding so it could continue its programs. And the community was happy.
But time went by, and the nonprofit and its programs grew older. The funders didn’t come as frequently, and the nonprofit was often left alone.
Then one day, a funder passed by, and the nonprofit said, “Come, funder, come to my programs and meet the kids we serve and let’s make the community better.”
“My foundation has shifted its priorities,” said the funder, “we only fund new and innovative programs. Do you do anything new and innovative?”
“I’m sorry,” said the nonprofit, “we have been building this program for several years. It is not new. But it is good, and it serves many wonderful people.”
And the funder left, and the nonprofit was sad again.
Then one day, another funder passed by, and the nonprofit said, “Come, let’s have lunch and talk about our community. Support our work and help kids achieve a brighter future.”
“We no longer fund direct service work,” said the funder, “that’s a Band-Aid solution. Do you do Collective Impact?”
“I’m sorry,” said the nonprofit, “we have been involved, but not significantly, since our community still needs direct service.”
And so the funder left and went far, far away. The nonprofit was now very tired and sad.
And after a long time, another funder came by.
“I’m sorry,” said the nonprofit, “I don’t have anything innovative, just good programs that serve people. My programs only target specific neighborhoods, not whole states, in case you want something farther reaching. The programs serve unique populations, so they might not be scalable, in case that’s what you seek. I am not sure I have anything that you might like to fund.”
“It’s OK,” said the funder, “we provide general operating grants focused on outcomes, and I heard you do some great stuff, so here is a grant so you can continue to serve the community.”
And the nonprofit was happy.
And its staff went to happy hour.
Vu Le is executive director of the Rainier Valley Corps, a start-up nonprofit with the mission of cultivating leaders to develop the capacity of ethnic-led nonprofits and create space for communities to collaborate to effect systemic change. He is the former executive director of the Vietnamese Friendship Association in Seattle; you can more of Vu’s work at NonprofitwithBalls.com.
Honestly love these. As a past and current member of 3 student councils, these are hilarious and on point. Thank you.
This is hilarious. Thank you for brighting my day and my own nonprofit/higher education crazy. I have found a lot of fodder for writing in my daily work, but comparing it to children’s books was brilliant. I am currently focused on the broader lessons and issues surrounding the drama at Sweet Briar College (from which I graduated). High drama playing out: President and Board tried to close; students, faculty, staff and alumnae have multiple suits fighting closure; national media attention… If you’d care to have a glimpse of the issues or participate in that conversation, please visit: www.beingunlocked.com
May you have a long life as a children’s book writer for adults, and keep your daytime job “just in case” the money doesn’t flow in right away!
Brilliant! How the last story The Giving Nonprofits resonates!
Fantastic !! Thanks!
“The Runaway ED” was my favorite. I liked that it had the rhythm of a typical kids’ story.. This, then this, then this, then this…and then it all falls apart [or becomes just fine]
Thanks for a great laugh and for being spot on. This is our life and you captured it beautifully. For this and other joys, I will become a paid subscriber.
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HYSTERICAL! Laugh out loud funny, and so astute. Thank you for brightening my day. Keep writing!!
GENIUS! THANK YOU!
Great stuff! How about… “The Annual Tax Statement That Hurried” & “Mike Mulligan and His Retiree Rarin’ to Go Volunteer”?
This was a delight! Speaks to me on both fronts– the exhausted non-profit professional and the person who is going to blow a gasket if she has to read about that rabbit, or that caterpillar or that TREE one more time!
Please pay special attention the story of the runaway ED… I want to make sure you know that kind of thing doesn’t work…
Excellent as always Vu! Thanks
Doesn’t this guy have something productive to do, instead reminding me of all the sappy children’s writers I had to put up with when my kids were little?
Thanks for the great laugh! Sharing with everyone.
Laughed and teared up (at the truth – and at the fact that my 4 y/o has moved on to new books) – dead on! I shared with staff, board, committees .. then I re-read it. – Tina, www.campholidaytrails.org
Hi from the gang here at Reach Out and Read Washington, Vu. This is totally hilarious. Love it, and by the way, we want you to know . . . you're welcome! ~ Karen
My husband is telling me to quiet down so he can sleep. Thanks for the laughs, Vu.
Great meeting you in person today, Vu! You really have a career in standup! Cheers, MJ
I want to send “Goodnight Funders” to a few I know…
These were right on target. The intern stumbling upon the strategic plan….I love it.
Absolutely hilarious! I wonder what Vu can do with “Is Your Mamma a Llama?”
Hysterical. What Can Vu Do with Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom is the next installment I want to see. Thanks for this great laugh.
so funny. we love Vu!!!
i had to post this for all my ED friends!! wonderful! thank you!
Thank you, Vu! I love Blue Avocado for all its great information, but whenever I see that you have a new humor contribution, I drop everything to look at it right away. And you never disappoint! If you write these children's books, count me among your first customers. Thanks for the many smiles. Susan J. Ellis, Energize, Inc.
Too perfect for words! “Loved The giving Nonprofit” Funders don’t want to support good work unless it is new and trendy. It makes it hard to keep feeding and sheltering people – nothing sexy in that.
Very fun – made me smile in recognition of our plights. Thanks, Vu!
Well done. Only a child will get it. Well, maybe some adults who haven’t forgotten.
<3 <3 <3
The Cat in the Hat: After the ED of a stodgy but effective family-services agency departs for a yoga vacation without Internet or telephone access, staff are surprised when the Board President moves to shake things up. At first, his new ideas to revitalize programs and leverage new resources intrigue the senior staff. However, the lowly staff bookkeeper urgently warns against moving too fast. He is ignored, and the Board President initiates a dizzying pace of program redesign unfettered by advisable steps such as a community needs survey or SWOT analysis. The BP oversteps when he hires two consultants whose implementation of the new programs practically shouts out “unsustainable even if we get a Gates Foundation grant.” With the entire staff now lined up against him, and the ED due to return soon, the Board President relents. Somehow, everything about the agency reverts to its previous status. The staff agree that the ED doesn’t really need to know about anything that has happened.
Absolutely pitch perfect!
Vu – thank you! While it is passion that drives most of us to join this amazing nonprofit world, reality oftentimes bites! Thank you for putting a humorous spin on it and providing us with a little reprieve. Thanks to all of those who dedicate their lives to this amazing work!
I agree. Really great!
omg who IS this brilliant person!?
My sentiments, exactly!
Absolutely love this! Thank you. Trish
Oh, these are good! Thank you. I can’t even tell you which one I love best.
Brilliant! I’m too familiar with both these nonprofit themes and the children’s stories.
You are a great humorist Vu.
This was awesome!
I have been a fan of Vu's writing, but now…well. Kicked it up. I just LOVE this article. I