A Christmas Carol, Updated for Our Times

Written by Vu Le

Hi everyone, this will be the last post of 2022. I will be back on January 3rd.

Charles Dickens’s novella a Christmas Carol is a timeless classic. It was first published in 1843 and has never gone out of print. But 1843 is nearly 180 years ago. It’s time for us to update the story to be more relevant to our times:


The story opens at a large foundation’s headquarters on Christmas Eve. Ebenezer Scrooge is the president of the foundation’s board of trustees. He is a miser who hates spending money, Christmas, and people in general. Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s executive assistant, is looking at some documents. “Mr. Scrooge,” he says, “it seems we haven’t met our legal minimum for how much money the foundation has to spend each year. What do you say we give some extra money to a few nonprofits in the area? Look at this one. Tiny Dem. It’s a small organization working to end voter suppression, gerrymandering, and corruption in politics. This is the fifth time they applied to us.”

“Tiny Dem? Bah humbug!” grumbles Scrooge, “that is the most ridiculous name for a nonprofit! And their mission doesn’t align with the foundation’s main priority, which is teaching financial literacy to toddlers. If children learn early, they won’t grow up to be impoverished hornswogglers suckling at the udders of society. No, just put enough money into a Donor-Advised Fund to meet the legal minimum.”

That night, Scrooge is visited by a ghost covered in random papers. “Scrooge,” it whispers in a ghostly tremble, “it’s me, Jacob.”

“Jacob…my old friend. How…how are you here? And why are you covered in random papers?”

“Scrooge,” says the ghost of Jacob Marley, “We don’t have much time. Listen to me. I was a terrible philanthropist. I am covered for eternity in grant proposals, logic models, and budget templates as a reminder of the unnecessary burdens I inflicted on nonprofits. Tonight you will be visited by three ghosts. You must listen to them, or you will end up like me! Don’t end up like me! Even though I am a ghost, I still get papercuts!”


At the stroke of midnight, another ghost appears. It looks like a kid. “Are you one of the spirits who are supposed to visit me?” asks Scrooge, “You look like a child!”

“I am the Ghost of Philanthropy Past,” says the ghost, “I look innocent, but I am much scarier than most people think.” The spirit takes Scrooge back many decades. He sees a man hard at work tilling the land. “That is your great, great, great, great, great grandfather,” says the spirit. Scrooge beams with pride.

“Stop beaming with pride,” says the spirit, “your ancestors stole this land from several Native families. They cut down all the trees, polluted the water and air with toxic chemicals, exploited workers, and lined the pocketbooks of politicians to avoid taxes and regulations. That’s how your family’s wealth was built.”

“I didn’t know,” says Scrooge.

The spirit rolls its eyes. “You didn’t care to know. Few of you ever take time to examine where your wealth came from or what evil your family has unleashed on the world. Apparently one of your rich ancestors, bored from not having to work for a living, invented the aspic, which is that weird savory jelly thing that has meat and vegetables covered in gelatinized meat broth set in a mold.”

They both shudder.

…Read the full article here.

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About the author

Vu Le

Vu Le (“voo lay”) is a writer, speaker, vegan, Pisces, and the former Executive Director of RVC, a nonprofit in Seattle that promotes social justice by developing leaders of color, strengthening organizations led by communities of color, and fostering collaboration between diverse communities.

Vu’s passion to make the world better, combined with a low score on the Law School Admission Test, drove him into the field of nonprofit work, where he learned that we should take the work seriously, but not ourselves. There’s tons of humor in the nonprofit world, and someone needs to document it. He is going to do that, with the hope that one day, a TV producer will see how cool and interesting our field is and make a show about nonprofit work, featuring attractive actors attending strategic planning meetings and filing 990 tax forms.

Known for his no-BS approach, irreverent sense of humor, and love of unicorns, Vu has been featured in dozens, if not hundreds, of his own blog posts at NonprofitAF.com.