Greek Myths if They Were Set in the Nonprofit Sector

Written by Vu Le

Over the past several months, my kids have been obsessed with Greek Mythology, thanks to a podcast they listen to called “Greeking Out.” Greek myths are awesome, and there’s a lot they can teach us. Actually, many of the terms we use in this sector have Greek origins. For instance, the word “philanthropy” comes from the Greek “philos” which means “love of” and “anthropos” which means “burdensome and pointless grant applications.”

Anyway, while listening to Greeking Out with the kids, I couldn’t help but imagine these iconic stories being set in the nonprofit sector, so I wrote some of them out below. Enjoy. (And stop judging. Like your Saturday nights are so much more interesting.)

The Punishment of Sisyphus:
Sisyphus was a king and a clever and cunning man who always played tricks on the gods, so Zeus sent Thanatos, the god of Terrible Management, to chain him up. Sisyphus was like “Whoa, these chains are amazing! Can I try them out on you?” and Thanatos, who was clearly not the brightest, was like “sure!” and Sisyphus chained him up. Then Sisyphus walked away. This angered Zeus, so he decided to punish Sisyphus for all of eternity. Until the end of time, the poor man has to lead a nonprofit, forced to perpetually apply for small one-year grants, his org never financially stable.

The Trojan Horse:
The war between Greece and Troy lasted a decade and everyone was exhausted. Finally, on the Greek side, strategist Odysseus had the brilliant idea of building a giant wooden horse, which they left at the gate of Troy with a note that said “We give up. Please take this completely solid horse statue as an offering to your gods.” The Trojans were overjoyed and not at all suspicious, so they took the horse in and had a giant celebration. That night, while they slept, the Greeks soldiers hidden inside the wooden horse came out. The following days, they joined the boards of directors of several organizations in the city. They never read board packets, always stopped much more knowledgeable staff from taking bold actions, caused missed quorum, insisted on golf tournaments, and gradually ruined morale. And that was how the city of Troy fell.

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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.