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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Live Your Dream: Two Questions

I had the privilege tonight of speaking to the Soroptimist International Awards Banquet in Flagstaff, a collaborative effort among the three Flagstaff area clubs. This is the second time I've spoken before this group, the last in 2011, and both times I've wondered what I could share that was as inspiring as the honorees themselves.

The women honored during this banquet include recipients of the Live Your Dream scholarships, granted to women who are the primary source of financial support for their families and want to improve their education, skills and employment prospects. The women honored this evening have overcome challenges and obstacles that I cannot even imagine.

Yet there I was, trying to say something inspirational.

I had no idea what I was going to say. I had three options in my purse of things I could say, but nothing really resonated with me. As late as walking in the door, I didn't know what would come out of my mouth when I stepped up to the podium.

Then, I spoke to Helen.

Helen Horstman was, technically, my assistant at my first director level job. She was Executive Assistant to the Director when I became only the second Development Director at Lowell Observatory in its 100+ year history. She was assigned, part-time, to the development program, and continued to be the only other staff member assigned to development in the four years I served in that position.

Since I was a mere 26 years old when I was hired, Helen terrified me for my first month on the job. I don't think Helen did this intentionally. She just wasn't willing to take any nonsense from a young newbie.

Now, 14 years after leaving the Observatory, in my short conversation with Helen at dinner, I was reminded why I was in this business.

It's about philanthropy. And what's philanthropy all about, anyway?

It's about love.

The word philanthropy comes from a Greek root, philos anthropos, "love of mankind." I have taught this numerous times in the CFRE Review Course and mentioned it when describing my personal philanthropic ethos.

But what made philanthropy top of mind tonight was the combination of "love of mankind" with a question: "Does this bring you joy?"

One of the blogs I read is "Hey Eleanor," by Molly Mogren Katt, who writes about doing something that scares her on a regular basis. A recent blog focused on the KonMari method of tidying up, and after reading Molly's blog, I immediately purchased the book and began my discarding journey.

The biggest evaluation question in KonMari? "Does this (fill in the blank item) spark joy?" Over the last week, I've applied this question to a boatload of clothes and books. clearing the way for a lot of newly discovered space in my home.

It's amazing how quickly this question filtered over into other things in my life.

I've been struggling lately with work and volunteer commitments. As many "type A" personalities, I say yes to too much.

So, I present the one-two punch: "does this bring you joy?" and "does this express your love for mankind?"

GoalBusters could be a larger company, We could make more profit. But ultimately, I don't think that expresses my philanthropy, and I don't think it brings me joy.

So I return to the GoalBusters manifesto. Making a lasting impact brings me joy and expresses my love for humankind. As I move forward, I will be taking a very thoughtful look at everything I do through these lenses, because if it doesn't bring me joy and doesn't help me express my philanthropy, why am I doing it?

I thank Helen and the Soroptimists for reminding me of that. You do amazing work in our community, and I thank you for helping not only the recipients of your scholarships, but also, me, who was supposed to be inspiring YOU.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Chinese New Year Traditions for Nonprofits

Chinese New Year Traditions for Nonprofits - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

On February 19, 2015, Chinese communities throughout the world begin two weeks of celebrations to mark the lunar new year, the year of the Sheep (or Ram), the culmination of many preparations and traditions that have been in place for generations.

As we begin this new year, here are some of the traditions that can be productive to apply to your nonprofit life:

Conduct a thorough cleaning. Start with your database and your paper files. Are you collecting useful information? Is it organized the way that is productive? Are your duplicate files running rampant? Consolidate your information and purge what you can. Then, move on to your calendar. What extraneous activities can be purged or delegated to make room for what you really need to do?

Reconcile old debts and grudges. Yes, this may be a time to look at outstanding pledges, but it's not just about money. Are there people to whom you owe follow up, or prospective donors that you should "bless and release?" In some cases, you're better to let a donor go than continue to pursue a gift that doesn't work for them. Reassess donors that are in cultivation and decide what you need to do to move them forward or to move them on.

Give "lucky money." The iconic red envelopes are given to children to insure that they have good luck for the coming year. In the same vein, think about your own philanthropy and consider a gift to a charitable cause that is not the one you work for. Was there an organization you missed in December? Is there a new cause you would like to support? Being a donor makes you a better, more aware fundraiser.

Look forward, not back. This is your second chance at new year's resolutions! Pick one thing that you'd like to accomplish this year and make a plan the steps you need to take.

Wear red. This has no translation to the nonprofit field. It's just good luck.

Celebrate abundance. The New Year's Eve dinner is traditionally a large celebration for the family to celebrate how much wealth they have, regardless of what actual physical wealth they hold, and carry over that optimism to the new year. Too often, development program staff do not have the time to celebrate the generosity of their donors and the successes of their efforts. Take a moment to be thankful for the support you receive. Gather those close to your cause and say, "We have so much!"

Wishing you, and your nonprofit, prosperity in the new year! Gong Xi Fa Cai!

(This was first posted in 2012. The original post is here.)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Outside Looking In - 6 Exercises for Finding Common Ground in Diverse Groups

A fundraising colleague, Dave Tinker, CFRE was asked to lead an educational session for refugee teens primarily from Nepal, Bhutan, and the Middle East to introduce them to fundraising as a profession.

He asked the #AFPeeps, an Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) volunteer Social Media group for recommendations for activities he could do with the refugee teens. I was excited about his project because it reminded me how often I work with groups that I am not, nor will ever truly be a part of. Alice Ferris, ACFRE and I have and continue to work with numerous culturally diverse groups; Native American, Latino, Rural, African American, Afghans, Iranians, and others. We find some of our greatest satisfaction working with people from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

I created the following list of suggestions for activities that I think can work for any group, but will be especially effective if working with a diverse group. I think they can build trust and relationships among participants while delivering insight about your audience that you can draw upon while presenting for both humor and education. 


1. "I Am, But I Am Not" (Defy stereotype exercise) Participants work in small groups to share what "other" people's stereotypes are of them, their culture or their country. They then share how they do not fit within those stereotypes. They report out to the group. This can be a verbal/written or drawn exercise.

2. "This is America?" (Cognitive dissonance exercise) Ask them to draw 2 things. What they thought America, Americans or other American students were going to be like and then to draw what they've learned "we" are really like. Goal: getting them to share their surprises and open up about their "American" experience.

3. "Good Heart, Bad Idea" (Critical thinking exercise) Ask them to draw or perform short skit about how they see people from other countries try to help through philanthropy in their home country but in ways that are misguided, clumsy or uninformed. Then ask them to provide solutions or advice for people who still want to help. This one will have to be delicately presented or they might be reluctant to share perceived criticisms.

4. "Sesame Street - One of these things is not like the other" (Breaking down barriers) Ask them to group themselves by different criteria; physical, demographic, geographic, cultural, religious, etc. They report out after each grouping about why/how they grouped themselves. The goal is to identify sub cultures that they share with "some" others but to finish the exercise where everyone is in the same group to identify that ultimately we all share some common culture regardless of resources, education or circumstances.

5. "The ONE Thing" (Self-awareness exercise) They work in small groups and explain to each other "The One Thing" they wish people understood about them, their country or their cultures that most people have a hard time comprehending. They report out why this is important to deeper understanding, trust and progress.

6. "Why Should I Care?" (Justify support exercise) Break them up in groups of 4-5. Try to mix them so they are with people they don't know. Provide a list of causes they can choose from. Make it about causes, not organizations. arts, education, health, social justice, animal protection, hunger abatement, clean water, etc. Do a random drawing after the groups are established to determine which group gets to pick their cause first from the list you create as a flip chart exercise. This will generate initial excitement and disappointment. Every person gets $100 in play money and 1 week of "virtual" volunteer time to give to a cause. They can give both to one cause or cash to one, time to other. Report out the winning cause and "You" make an actual $100 donation to a local cause in your group's name.

Regardless of the exercise you choose. At the end I encourage "You" to make a contribution to a cause that your group chooses and have them participate by signing a card that will accompany that gift. 

Be sure to provide a signup sheet and send contact information about how the participants can become more involved with causes they want to support either financially or through volunteer work.

Good luck! And have fun learning while you teach!


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