The Year of the Dragon and what it means for nonprofit and philanthropy

Written by Vu Le

Hi everyone, before we get to today’s topic, if you’re free next Tuesday, February 13th, at 10am Pacific, please join me and the ED of Future of Good, Anouk Bertner, for “Cutting through the BS so we can actually prioritize workplace wellbeing.” It’s free; captioning available. Register here.

This week, Saturday specifically, marks the beginning of the Lunar New Year, ushering in the Year of the Dragon, widely considered the most powerful of all the Chinese Zodiac animals. Dragons are apparently smart, creative, persistent, visionary, and talented. Which is why some people—don’t ask who—would consider me a Dragon, instead of my actual sign…the chicken, known for occasionally crossing roads.

The Dragon is, above all, strong and courageous, and thus Dragon years are fortuitous for bold, risky endeavors. What does this mean for us? As much as I love our sector, we are not always known for courageous actions and risk-taking. In fact, we’re probably one of the most risk-averse fields. Who can blame us, though? Decades of being told what we can and can’t do (“here’s my grant/donation of $12, don’t use it to pay staff wages”), and existing in a constant state of financial uncertainty (“maybe I’ll renew my $12 next year, maybe not”) and severe consequences for even actions that align with the sector’s expressed values (“your org publicly supports ending the murder of children in Palestine? We’re no longer giving you $12″) would lead anyone to play it safe.

But with everything going on in the world, we can’t continue that way. The lunar new year provides us a fresh start. Time to channel some Dragon energy. For this year, let’s:

Be visionary: The Dragon is the only mythical animal in the Chinese zodiac, and the only one that truly flies. Let’s renew and reawaken our vision for what the world could look like and our sector’s role in actualizing that vision. We can save our default pragmatism, realism, and incrementalism for another year. This year, let’s go all in on audacious dreams that people keep trying to tear down. I mean dreams like a society with minimal police presence, more just and equitable laws and policies, reparation, equity in wealth, fewer nonprofits and foundations because we won’t be as needed, and a free Palestine.

Be ambitious: Remember the old saying, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”? That saying makes no sense. The moon is much closer to Earth, and stars are much farther away. Do people not consider physics and astronomy when they come up with sayings? Anyway, the point is, we’ve been conditioned to think very small: In budgets, in grant requests, in number of people served, etc. In the year of the Dragon, have the audacity of ambition. Our grand visions for a better world can only be achieved if we have similarly grand ambitions. Increase your budget. Add a zero or two to your grant requests. Ask for what you need to solve a problem and not just scramble take care of its symptoms.

Read 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.