giving & getting apartheid
July 16, 2013

in his provocative TED talk, dan pallotta claims there’s an apartheid system between business and non-profits —separate rule books.  he encapsulates his perspective through 5 areas of discrimination:

*Compensation— how much $ professionals in the field earn
*Advertising & Marketing — how much of our donations/investment we consider reasonable for an organization to spend on these
*Risk in Pursuit of Revenue— our tolerance for/support of  taking risks with our donations/investments that include failure in the pursuit best practices
*Time— our tolerance for donating/investing over time without success (pallotta points out it took Amazon 6 yrs until it turned a profit, but investors stuck it out)
*Profits — providing a stock market, a mechanism to reward donors/investors on a significant and meaningful level

i will post about each of these individually. anyone want to request which one to start with?

gestures
July 4, 2013

my daughter belongs to a teen youth group. they meet once a week and also go on several trips over the year. the trips, which can involve  plane flights and hotels, are heavily subsidized. Even so, sometimes we can’t afford to send her without a further scholarship which the group always grants us graciously.

as parents we couldn’t be more grateful for this youth group. our daughter is having a great time in a safe environment. she gets to take fun trips that we can’t take as a whole family. we’re indebted to this youth group.

so every year, we make a donation. we write them a check for a piddling amount of money, not even $50.

why bother?

we do it because we want them to know we appreciate what they provide
we do it because something is better than nothing
we do it because even if we can’ always pay our way, we can at least add to the donors list when that number matters in their annual report and fundraising efforts
we do it because we would be ashamed not to

it’s a gesture. it has zero impact on their bottom line. one could even argue it’s self-centered on our part. nevertheless it matters to the organization, because we’re recognizing what they’re doing for our daughter as best we can. we’re saying what you do matters and thank you.

what is the value of a gesture?

giving what we need
June 10, 2013

my friend kim’s mother tells this story about her early days as a philanthropist going door to door in jewish neighborhoods to collect the contents of charity boxes for the local jewish Federation to use to help jewish communities at home and abroad. because she was going door to door, many in the neighborhood saw she was coming and had their donations ready. one particular neighborhood  included a home just before the outskirts with weeds growing in front, peeling paint,  and two cracked windows taped with newspaper. kim’s mother wasn’t even sure anyone lived there, so she turned around to leave. she hadn’t taken too many steps before she heard an old woman’s voice:
Young lady, young lady?
Yes, Mam, good afternoon, she replied.
Aren’t you the lady from the Federation?
Yes, Mam, I am.
Well then, come on in. I have something for you.
kim’s mom entered the woman’s home. she was frail and limping. it was clear from the state of things she was in need of assistance. she offered kim’s mother a cup of tea. they chatted for awhile, and then the woman gave her a handful of coins for the Federation. kim’s mom thanked her and added them to the others.
that afternoon, when she returned to the Federation office, she gave them the woman’s address so they could send a member of jewish child and family services to her to ensure she received the assistance she needed.
this is what kim’s mom says– we both got what we needed through the act of giving that day.

caught
April 6, 2013

the situation: three large trash bags filled with brand new, cozy, zip-up hoodies to give away

solution: bring them to the community college where i work and put them out on the free table in the student center

simple enough, right? it wasn’t. i hauled the bags into my office but didn’t have time to take them over until the end of the day. it was friday. hmm, not many people on campus. what if they were cleaned out by the weekend students? maybe i should wait until monday. but then the students who come tuesdays and thursdays might not get any. maybe i should put out one bag monday, one tuesday and one friday afternoon for the weekenders.

so there i was, trying to manage who got the hoodies i neither worked or paid for. because they were in my possession i felt like it was my responsibility and right to decide how they were distributed.

stewardship or control? there are important differences. either way, as givers we have power and with that power, however subtly, comes an assumption that we know what’s best for the receivers. unless we challenges our presumed authority.

you, me + legacy: 3 pillars of giving
March 31, 2013

here’s a simple idea to begin mindful giving. it became clear to me through a conversation with my friend and fellow philanthropy maven, arlene that started on our drive to the beach and was still going on during the ride home two days later. it  borrows from the model of managing one’s  money (i learned it as a formula for what to do with money i receive as a windfall):  a third in savings, a third to pay off debt (if no debt-towards a major purchase), a third to spend in the present.

these are the three pillars of giving:  a third to the most urgent causes in your community (or globally), a third to causes you care about, a third to invest in a legacy.

the first two thirds are straight forward. they give you the opportunity to support both what is personal to you and to remove your ego from the equation, to give selflessly acknowledging yourself as merely a vessel for contributing to the greater good.

the goal of the final third, legacy, is to seed the future of philanthropy. if you have children you might use the final third of your donation funds to engage your children in choosing where and how much to distribute. If you have no children you might create a managed fund that annually supports both your choice of organization(s) and the current  pressing needs of society once you die. You might also support  one of the  youth philanthropy organization that teach teens philanthropy through practice making choices and donating as a group.

getter
February 22, 2013

i’ve been a getter my whole life.

people who aren’t related to me have given me thousands of dollars, bought me a car, taken me on trips, done a great deal of work for me at no charge, handed me roses on the street, healing stones in a coffee shop, show tickets on lines, etc. none of these people were romantic partners or relatives.

i don’t know why i attract these generous gifts. i don’t ever ask for them. i don’t expect people i know to give me such things.

i do accept that getting, or “being gifted by others,”(the more spiritual/acceptable phrasing) is part of my nature and that like beauty, talent, and family money it is unearned.

i’m often blown away by these gifts, but i’m no longer surprised when they materialize.

they used to freak me out. sometimes i wondered if i was so pathetic that people felt sorry for me. other times some people had expectations that came along with their gift

now i think these gifts say a lot more about the amazing friends,colleagues, and strangers i know than about me.

and therein lies my first point; giving reveals much more about the giver than the receiver.

my second point nonetheless is; whoever is on the other end of the giving isn’t a passive recipient.

english isn’t the best language to talk about the relationship between the giver and the taker– with its subject/object construction– but it’s the only language in which i can write.

the receiver (or getter) is also having an experience, but it isn’t always the one the giver anticipates.

is it the responsibility of the giver to take this into account when giving?