Ep 154: The Nonprofit Business Model is Broken (with Vu Le)

by Joan Garry

What does the ideal nonprofit business model look like? Does it bear any resemblance to the model we have today? Listen in as guest Vu Le and I paint the picture of an evolved nonprofit sector.


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What does the ideal nonprofit business model look like? Does it bear any resemblance to the model we have today?

In this episode, self-proclaimed rabble-rouser and founder of Nonprofit AF, Vu Le, stops by to talk about how we should address the deep flaws that are currently plaguing the nonprofit sector.

From dysfunctional power dynamics to the impact of white supremacy on fundraising to the lack of board diversity that runs rampant in orgs that are meant to serve marginalized communities, Vu has many innovative ideas on how we can evolve as a sector and make a greater impact on our world.

But first, we must address our current system.

According to Vu, nonprofits only exist due to the failures of governments and the market system. Meaning that if corporations and wealthy individuals paid their fair share, we might only have a handful of nonprofits…

Instead, we live in a world that is dependent on nonprofit organizations and the sector as a whole — which has created a system that is rife with competition for scarce resources.

So, where do we go from here? Do we fix the nonprofit business model we have or build something new?

Think of today’s episode as sort of a visioning exercise, if you will. Vu Le and I put our heads together and dig into these questions to discuss a series of alternatives to doing business as usual in philanthropy, including questions on what a successful nonprofit board of directors should look like (and if it should exist at all).

Listen in as we touch on the many ways in which we can bring this aspirational and impactful world into existence.

Click Play to Learn:

  • Who is Vu Le? (0:39)
  • What does the ideal nonprofit look like? (15:47)
  • What does nonprofit fundraising look like in an equitable world? (20:41)
  • In an ideal world, do nonprofit organizations need a board of directors? (27:44)
  • What does an impactful nonprofit board look like? (30:36)
  • What does leadership look like in the ideal nonprofit world? (37:46)
  • How do we get there? (48:56)


Contact Vu Le

About Vu Le:

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.