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I am a Unicorn

Posted on by Kristi Sullivan

Vu Le of Nonprofit AF, a keynote speaker at the Hartford Foundation’s Nonprofit Support Program spring event, compared nonprofits to unicorns during a very entertaining talk entitled “Unleashing the Full Potential of the Nonprofit Sector.” Vu calls himself a writer, speaker, vegan, and Pisces with a passion for nonprofits … and is the executive director of a Seattle-based nonprofit. Here’s a short video that showcases Vu’s great presentation mixed with humor.

Like unicorns, nonprofits are unique and awesome according to Vu, because we impressively rank 3rd as the largest sector, contribute $900 billion to the economy each year, generate about 6% of the nation’s GDP, and employ 10% of working folks. However, society’s belief of our sector is not so awesome (kinda like not believing in unicorns!). For example, most for-profits have an overhead of 30-40%, but nonprofits are expected to have below 10%. And as a nonprofit’s success goes up, expenses go up without equal increase in revenues (would a for-profit be able expected to do that?). Nonprofits are also expected to perform miracles on limited funds, and to be innovative without risks/failures.

To be like unicorns, we need to make several shifts in our nonprofit belief, according to Vu:

  • From risk-aversion to courageous actions
  • From strategic to adaptive
  • From donor-centered to community-centric fundraising
  • From suspicion-based to trust-based grantmaking
  • From being “color-blind” to having conversations about race, equity and intersectionality
  • From silos to alliances

His presentation was both thought-provoking and entertaining (kinda like this video).

Whether you work or serve at a nonprofit, or support or fund nonprofits, we all need to be unicorns.

Horns up!