The abundance mindset: what it looks like in everyday practice, and the equity implications around it

Written by Vu Le

Y’all, I have a confession to make. I am not sure I like the whole “abundance” thing. In many ways, this concept became prominent in our sector because of our ingrained scarcity mindset, where we are so freaked out about potential lack of funding that we underinvest in everything, leading to poorly paid, exhausted staff who sit on crappy chairs, typing on a 10-year-old computer, with 48 dollars and a dozen Beanie babies as retirement savings.

Because it’s trendy, so many people are using the term abundance all the time. But it’s not really defined. I’m not sure we all have the same common understanding of it. I see some colleagues sprinkling “abundance” in conversations like fistfuls of confetti who are some of the most scarcity-ridden people ever. Is abundance just about money? Is it about relationships? All of it? At the risk of oversimplifying, here are some thoughts on abundance, starting with a few different “spheres” of abundance: 

Abundance of money: Cash. Benjamins. Bread. Hummus. Being abundant in this sphere means you’re not constantly worrying about resources running out. That doesn’t mean spending carelessly and recklessly. It’s about making wise and thoughtful decisions, such as paying people decent wages, providing paid family leave, etc., knowing that these investments often lead to more resources coming in, not less. It means not hoarding donors or funders. It means foundations increasing their payout rates and giving out more money each year.

Abundance of imagination: Those who are abundant in this area strongly believe that things can change, that we can create a world that’s better, that this reality is not all there is. The abolition of the prison industrial system, the ending of the electoral college, the possibility of a just and equitable society—these are a few things we can make progress on if we don’t have a scarcity of imagination. This does not mean ignoring the current challenges plaguing society, or basic human inclinations. We can see the world as it is, and yet can imagine the world as it could be, and work toward that vision.  

Abundance of relationships: Think about kids who have “secure attachments.” They make friends easily, don’t get jealous when their friends have other friends, don’t cling on to their parents, etc. Similarly, those who have an abundance of relationships connect to people easily; are glad to introduce people to one another; aren’t afraid that their colleagues, supervisors, mentors, donors, etc., will abandon them if they meet new people. Those who have scarcity in this area become guarded and jealous; they become gatekeepers.

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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.