Tuesday, July 16, 2024



Nonprofit AF: It’s OK to feel like crap right now

July 20, 2020 Category: FeaturedLongPurpose


This guest post by Vu Le was originally published in the blog, Nonprofit AF.
I was looking at my list of topics to write about, and honestly, this week I’m just really tired. I know many of you are too. It has been a horrible year.

And now Congressman John Lewis just died, another light gone when the night seems interminable and our democracy so tenuous. I don’t know how much more we can all handle. At the beginning of the pandemic, I wrote “Things are not normal. It’s OK to not be OK.” I did not anticipate, though, how much worse it would get for the world, for our sector, for all of us.

Nonprofits are stretched to the limit. Census 2020 is underway, and we have the most important election in many of our lifetimes, where we determine if we will continue to head toward fascism, marked by disturbing things like federal agents in Portland kidnapping protesters and putting them into unmarked van, or whether we can reverse this horrifying national train wreck and get back on course. During this time, when we are most needed, nonprofits are continuing to face funding shortages and are furloughing and laying off staff still, and some will likely close permanently.

I’m trying to remain optimistic, to see the good that’s out there, but it’s been hard. So many of my friends, colleagues, and loved ones are in crisis. Many are dealing with severe mental health challenges. Those facing addictions have relapsed at increasing rates. So many people have lost jobs and may be evicted. Parents and educators are numb, not knowing what will happen in the fall, facing terrible choices whether the schools are open or not.

Last week, driving my kids past an empty playground taped up in yellow police tape, my 7-year-old asked when Coronavirus would be over. He longs for his friends. The Zoom play dates are not the same. The 4-year-old seems oblivious, but one day at 5am he crawled into my bed and whispered, “I miss school.” During the day, we blow bubbles in our yard and jump through the sprinklers, pretending this is a normal summer when it is in actuality a surreal and frightening point in time for billions.

I feel like crap most days. Sometimes, I am able to summon enough energy to remember all the good things that are coming out of this year. Many nonprofits continue to do incredible work. Some foundations are waking up and increasing their payout rates, and if they don’t, there are several efforts pushing for voluntary or legally-mandated increase in foundation and Donor-Advised Funds (DAF) payouts. Several foundations are funding racial equity work. People are still speaking out and protesting against state-sanctioned murders of Black people. Many nonprofits and corporations are being bolder in their messaging against racism. More women of color are running for office than ever. Racist sports team names are finally being changed. Racist monuments are coming down. Supreme Court made two crucial decisions to protect DACA and LGBTQIA folks. Trump is falling behind Biden in the polls. There is a slight, but hopeful, chance that McConnell might be defeated. There is a stronger chance the Democrats will take the Senate.

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However, I am in a constant state of hypervigilance, always on edge and expecting more awful things will happen at any moment. I am worried about Justice Ginsburg. I am worried that the polls are wrong. I fear we may make the same mistake as in 2016, when we were so confident of the victory of inclusion and community over fear and hate, that we became complacent. And on a personal level, I am worried for my friends and relatives facing poverty, addiction, mental health challenges, homelessness, or any combination of things.

Anyway, I feel like crap. And if you feel like crap too, that’s OK, let’s feel crappy together. One thing I learn about being a good parent is allowing our kids to feel what they feel. They are frightened, confused, in mourning. And we adults try to be strong, because that’s what we are supposed to be as adults. But the reality is that we too are affected. We are also frightened, confused, and mourning the death of the world we knew. It’s OK to admit it. There is so much awfulness out there right now, and we don’t know when or if it’ll get better, and whether all the people we love will make it through this period intact.

I’m sorry. I wish I could say something more uplifting and inspiring. I can only affirm that whatever you’re dealing with or feeling, you’re not alone. Give yourself time and space. Check in with your teams. Let’s all allow ourselves to grieve individually and collectively for the state of the world. Let us feel anger and frustration at all the injustice that is compounded by this moment. And if we feel numb, and just want to remain this way for a while, that’s OK too.

And at the same time, there is a lot at stake out there. Let us all be comforted and guided by the words of Congressman John Lewis, who always acted with courage even in the face of challenges many of us can only imagine. He said,

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

He also said, “You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone — any person or any force — dampen, dim or diminish your light.”

Let’s take some time to feel like crap. And then let’s pick ourselves up and continue getting into good trouble.


Thank you to the 2,700+ colleagues who attended last week’s Community-Centric Fundraising launch event, “Let’s Make Fundraising Less Racist!” The excitement was so much that we crashed several websites. If you missed it, here’s the recording. And check out the CCF website communitycentricfundraising.org. Meanwhile, this week on 7/24 at 12:30pm Pacific Time we have another free event, Data Says: What BIPOC Fundraisers Have Known for Years, where evaluator and CCF leadership team member Anna Rebecca Lopez will present the results of the Fundraising Perception Survey, which over 2,000 people took. See you there.

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