Fundraising for Nonprofits

Inspiring Gifts that Transform

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Where ever you go there you are

"Why do people give?" has been the rhetorical headline seen round the world this holiday season. In the New York Times ethicist Peter Singer recently asked, "Why are the people who are giving doing so? Does it do any good? Should we praise them for giving so much or criticize them for not giving still more?" On Philanthropy 2173 blog maven Lucy Bernholz queried her readers , “If you give without giving, do you get anything?” Down the street at the Gift Hub the literate Phil Cubeta mused, “On what should giving be contingent? Who is the most appropriate person to see about your giving?”

By and large, the public response as been lacking. Across the country many have tried to position their communities as the most giving, or claim somehow there were errors in the reporting methods. Elsewhere, a few dozen grad students, running though a rat-like maze of choices, has resulted in the new oxymoronic term competitive altruism as a way to now explain our giving.

So while pundits across the blogosphere continue to debate the death of charity and the future of philanthropy driven by strategic planning, donor intents, for-profit investments, social entrepreneurism and measurable outcomes, I morn the loss of the simple joy of giving. For a gift that is truly given with an open heart transforms not only the recipient, but the giver as well, collapsing the artificial barriers that keep us all separated.

So during the waning days of this holiday season -- when we celebrate the return of light into our lives in a myriad of beautiful different ways -- I'd like to humbly share with you a simple exercise from Jon Kabiat Zinn's meditation book Where Ever You Go There You Are.
You might experiment with using the cultivation of generosity as a vehicle for deep self-observation and inquiry, as well as an exercise in giving. I am not talking solely of money or material processions, although it can be wonderfully growth enhancing, uplifting and truly helpful to share material abundance. Rather, what is being suggested here is to practice sharing the fullness of your being, your best self, your enthusiasm, your vitality, your spirit, your trust, your openness, and above all, your presence. Share it with yourself, with your family, and with the world.

By practicing the mindfulness of generosity, by giving, by observing its effects on others and ourselves, we are transforming ourselves, purifying ourselves, discovering expanding versions of ourselves. You may protest that you don't have the energy or enthusiasm to give anything away, that you are already feeling overwhelmed or impoverished. Or you may feel that you give, give, give, and that it is just taken for granted by others, not appreciated or even seen. Or that you use it as way of hiding from pain and fear, as a way of making sure that others like you or feel dependent on you. Such difficult patterns in relationships call out for attention and scrutiny.

Mindless giving is never healthy or generous. It is important to know your motives for giving, and to know when to know when some kinds of gifts are not a display of generosity, but rather of fear and lack of confidence. In the mindful cultivation of generosity it is not necessary to give everything away, or even anything. Above all, generosity is an inward giving, a feeling state, a willingness to share your own being with the world.

Most important is to trust and honor your instincts, but at the same time to walk the edge and take some risks as part of your experiment. Perhaps you need to give less, or to trust your intuition about exploitation or unhealthy motivates or impulses. Perhaps you do need to give, but in a different way or to different people. Perhaps first of all you need to give to yourself first for a while. Then you might try to give to others a tiny bit more than you think you can, consciously noting and letting go of any ideas of getting any thing in return.

Initiate giving. Don't wait for someone to ask. See what happens, especially to you. You may find that you that you gain a greater clarity about yourself and about your relationships, as well as more energy, rather than less. You may find that rather exhausting yourself and your resources you will replenish them. Such is the power of mindful, selfless generosity. At the deepest level there is no giver, no gift and no recipient, only the universe rearranging itself.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Experience you can trust

The expanded philanthropy press has been busy this last week tracking the activities of our newest power couple, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, better known as Biffett. Several headlines reported on the impending environmental crackdown in Washington that may end Biffett Jr.'s semi-legal Porsche supercar 959 midnight jaunts. According to one close associate, "What he really wants is his own racing track, but I'm not sure Melinda would go for that."

Out from behind the wheel, Biffett Jr. got a multi-lingual work out recently "in a promotional film produced by [Israel's] Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor. In the film, Gates praises 'Israel's unique human capital' in four languages -- English, French, Chinese and Spanish." Too soon to say whether such international outreach will have an influence on the "nearly two-thirds of Americans [who] believe that the next Bill Gates will come from China, Japan or India."

Back in Iowa, reports have begun to surface that in the fall of 2005 Biffett donated $1 million to introduce bridge to the nation's schools. John Gustafason, a retired doctor who occasionally plays against Biffett Sr., is not surprised that successful people like Biffett are bridge fanatics. "It's a good mental challenge, and it's a competitive outlet. [Plus] you always have a partner, so you can blame all the errors on that person."

With the recent closure of the magazine FHM, many are asking "Could it be that the [men's] magazine genre is keeling over on its way to middle age?" In an apparent attempt to woe older readers, the January cover of industry-leading Maxim features Biffett Sr.'s "ways to become mega-rich.” Elsewhere, the recently published Tao of Warren Buffett features collection of Biffett Sr. truisms like, "you can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant."

Unfortunately, not everybody seems to love Biffett. Some conservatives are decrying Biffett Sr.'s pledge of $6 billion to the foundations of his late wife and children as "destined to promote radical environmentalism and population control, abortion, embryonic stem cell research and perhaps other causes." And while a few others may grumble Biffett is old news, most Americans still turn to them for trusted advice on how to turn one dollar into one billion dollars.

Water cooler fun fact: Biffett Sr. "bought a small farm at age 14 with savings from delivering newspapers."

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Reach out and touch someone


Sunday, December 24, 2006

The daily diary of the American dream

"The Supreme Court agreed [earlier this month] to decide whether private citizens are entitled to go to court to challenge activities of the White House office in charge of the Bush administration's religion-based [funding] initiative." While "the Holy Land Foundation, one of the charities designated by the United States government as terrorist supporters, sued this week for dismissal of more than half of the 42 charges lodged against it." Elsewhere, "the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Foundations and a group of more than forty U.S. charities, advocacy groups, and advisers have called on the U.S. Treasury Department to withdraw the latest version of its anti-terrorism financing guidelines."

The impact of Blogging for Chickens has gone far beyond the money raised. This holiday season, over 100 websites joined forces Blogging for Cows and other barnyard animals. Vegetarians everywhere are looking forward to Blogging for Pigs and Blogging for Apples campaigns.

If you have put off your seasonal shopping to the last minute, you maybe seeing more red in the check out aisle, though some you are buying presents for may ask for a little less pink in their stockings. Next year, it might all look very different.

Across the country membership in giving circles is increasing, but the same can't be said for the Shriners and similar fraternal organizations. I'm sure this would make good material for someone's gender studies thesis -- or may it just proves that if smoking doesn't get you, old age will? In either case, maybe it's time for us to do a little organizing? I think Phil would look great in a fez, don't you? As long as I don't have to dress up like a clown, you can count me in.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

New way forward

Last week when accepting the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Dr. Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh's Grameen Bank declared that, "Peace is inextricably linked to poverty. Poverty is a threat to peace."

According to recent Justice Department figures with over 7 million people imprisoned, on probation or on parole, the U.S. has the world's highest incarceration rates (1 in 32 adults). The 2005 U.S. Census reported that 37 million people in this country live in poverty.

Also last week, Wall Street giant Goldman Saches announced $16.5 billion in year-end employee bonuses, including several individual bonuses of $100 million each. Unfortunately, voting for the Naughty or Nice Awards is closed.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Walkers put heart into fundraising

My Mom's the best! Here's how she spent her last weekend. She's the one who taught me the value of community service, and I am forever grateful for that.


Friday, December 15, 2006

There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else there’s capitalism.

Across the country, a slew of new magazines are attempting to join People, US Weekly, and Good Housekeeping on grocery store end cap displays. Targeting the growing “philanthropy lifestyle” market are Benefit, Generosity, Good and Contribute.

Following their sister publications proclivity for nicknaming celebrity couples, such as TomKat and Brangelina, perhaps it won’t be too long until philanthropy’s newest couple, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, are known as "Biffett." No reaction yet from Melinda on this turn of phrase, but here’s a quick sampling of the kind of news you might come to expect.

The Biffett Jr. for President campaign got a boost when Dilbert creator Scott Adams publicaly nominated Biffett Jr. for president:
"For my president I want a mixture of Mother Teresa, Carl Sagan, Biffett Sr., and Darth Vader. Biffett Jr. has all of their good stuff. His foundation will save more lives than Mother Teresa ever did. He’s got the Carl Sagan intelligence and rational mind. He’s a hugely successful businessman. And I have every reason to believe he can choke people just by concentrating in their general direction. You can’t tell me that wouldn’t be useful at a summit."
President or not, "there is no sex appeal in being Biffett Jr.'s granddaughter. Girlfriend may be rich, but we all know the younger Biffett's conscientious kids will marry a relief worker in Africa or the valedictorian at MIT in the year 2026."

At this year's Atidim fundraising gala “the only disappointment was the no-show of megabillionaire Biffett Sr., who called in sick.” Fortunately, "as master of ceremonies, actor Michael Burstyn kept the action moving and concluded the evening on a high note by leading guests in singing 'Jerusalem of Gold.'"

Biffett Sr. may have been at home wearing his favorite sweat suit recovering from recent financial losses. "It took less than 45 minutes for the elder Biffett, billionaire investor and avid bridge player, to go broke in a charity poker tournament ... 'It’s different than bridge,' said Biffett Sr., 76, the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. 'I was confused. I thought the low score won.'"

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Yet another holiday season year end solicitation

Dear Sir or Madam,

My name is Mr. Fawaz Hafiz, the President & CEO of Liquid Petroleum Import & Export Trading Co., Ltd. Plot 1980, Broadway Ave, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria. My company exports raw materials such as non-metallic minerals such as Break fluid, Fuel Pump Cleaner, Super Oil Treatment, Engine Oil Treatment, Radiator Rust Preventive, Fuel Injector Cleanser, Motor Engine Flush, and other products for world trade.

We are searching for a reliable and sincere representative who can help us establish a medium of getting to our teeming customers in North and South America, Europe, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia as well as making payments through this representative to us. Please if you are interested in transacting business with us we will be very glad. You will be entitled to 10% of every payment made through you. Our customers will make payments to you via will be made via bank draft, personal certified checks and bank wire transfer.

Kindly contact us for more information. Subject to your satisfaction you will be given the opportunity to negotiate your mode of which we will pay for your services as our representative. You will not be financially committed to this transaction.

It is pertinent to let you know that you will not expend any of your resources in the course of this representation offer, if you decide to assist my company. My customers will call you to ascertain your representative status with my company before making payment through you to my company.

Please, feel very free to contact me with any question.


We look forward in working with you, as you send your response back to me.

Mr. Fawaz Hafiz


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

All the philanthropy that's fit to print

Did you hear about Audrey Hepburn's iconic black dress from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's? It fetched over nine hundred thousand dollars at a recent charity auction. "A model displaying an imitation of the famous dress, complete with pearls, but bare of the gamine charm and elegance of the Belgian-British actress, kept her composure throughout tense proceedings."

Holly GoLightly I'm sure would have been aghast to learn galas aren't necessarily the best way to raise money. Wonder how they compare to nearly naked fundraising? Say, why is there no good fundriasing wiki on the net? Maybe you could change that?

At least Darth Vadar is not the only one who's unafraid of exploring the shadow side of philanthropy. And think about it, Batman's "escapades would never have been possible in the first place if there had been an estate tax." Tell that to Warren Buffett!


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Giving on your side

Have you heard that social justice advocates are targeting the next generation of philanthropists? Perhaps they have given up on us already? Well, this hasn't stopped Greenpeace activists from continuing to get themselves arrested. Hmm, do you think that perhaps donating to the Gates Foundation might be an easier way of influencing public policy?

Now one of this year's most talked about fundraising philanthropy books is Peter Frumkin's Strategic Giving, which Phil and Madmunk, amongst others, have reviewed. If you ask me, it won't be too long until Tactical Giving the book is published.

Say, do you know how rich you are? If you live in the U.S. and are reading this blog, I bet you are among the top 1% in the world. Guess what? You can now cleanse your guilt by trading away your carbon. Better than a trip to weekly confession for sure.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

No bull. Just fundraising.

Thanks to you who voted for this humble blog in the recent Fast Company and Chronicle of Philanthropy “Best of Giving Blogs” awards. Maybe I should have shown a bit more leg? Do you think Tinsley Mortimer is available for consultations? Oh well, maybe next year. But seriously, congrates to Lucy and Jeff for their well deserved place on both lists. How they and Will find the time to create such great blogs -- yet alone hold down day jobs and families -- is beyond me. Kudos.

Now if I had been asked, one of my votes would have gone to Jeff Trexler of 4nonprofits, which is at the top of my blogroll. (Okay, it is in alphabetical order.) Here's an advocate of corporate social responsiblity, who is not afraid to examine if today's CSR jargon is BS or not. An expert in nonprofit law, he's very good at separating the wheat from the chaff, while keeping it fun. We're all very lucky he's teaching our next generation of leaders. Though clearly, if he doesn't understand why Johnny Depp pulls in bigger bucks than Jack Bower, he's still got some schooling to do himself.

All these recognitions are just one sign that philanthropy blogs are coming of age. Another is that court plaintiffs are now fighting out their cases out amongst us. Another is the Blogging for Chickens campaign got the nod for one the year's best Internet Marketing for a Cause Awards. It raised $830.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Philanthropy strong

Microfinance money trees continue to sprout up all over Second Life, but apparently not in front of the NBC-sponsored virtual Rockefeller Center where a "bedaraggled looking avatar sleeping in a cardboard box with a crude sign asking for donations" lives. Fortunately, we can count on Mia Farrow and the MacArthur Foundation to set things digitally right.

Speaking of Microfinance, apparently one reason it hasn't become as popular in the U.S. as it has abroad is not only are operating costs typically very low in other countries, but here businesses are prohibited from charging the double-digit usury that they commonly charge the poor overseas. While Grameen Bank Noble Prize winner Muhammad Yunus calls the growing for-profit small loan trend loan sharking, others complain he is simply "doom(ing) a promising movement to failure." Do you think a course in Maimonides' 8 Levels of Charity, the less well known 9th Level, or the gifts of first fruits would help quell the profitable philanthropy debate?

Speaking of tasty treats, too bad Peace Oil doesn’t come in 55 gallon drums, for the Iraq Study Group's report this week recommended that U.S. troups remain in Iraq until that country’s oil reserves are privatized so oil companies can “get what they were denied before the war or at anytime in modern Iraqi history.” No one seemed to notice though.

Question of the week: What is the difference between Selfish Giving and Savvy Giving?


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I report. You decide.

According to the Wall Street Journal, there is a growing trend amongst some nonprofits to ask their benefactors to sign prenuptial agreements, but it seems some donors are threatening to take their bad debts elsewhere. Fortunately, children everywhere can continue to count on the biggest philanthropist of them all, Santa, who came through on his pledge to raise a few dollars for charity (and a can of beer).

Speaking of Wall Street, as more nonprofits are putting their faith in the stock market and more businesses are putting their faith in nonprofits, it seems more grifters are putting their hand in the cookie jar. Perhaps they should all be investing in real estate?

Was saddened to learn recently that not everyone loved Oprah's recent Pay it Forward challenge -- including the majority of her audience participants -- but most of her viewers still do. I wonder, how big will virtual volunteering become? And have you heard about the new viral fundraising campaign asking cat owners to stop buying their pets advent calendars?

Finally, at the recent Nackey S. Loeb First Amendment Award Dinner, Newt Gingrich called for a new set of rules to control free speech on the Internet in order to quell possible dissent before it happens. The Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives reports he is contemplating running for President. I guess peace is still too controversial.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Transform your grant request from no to yes

I'm very grateful to call two of the San Francisco Bay Area's top fund raising professionals, Cheryl Clarke and Susan Fox, my friends. Today I'm happy to tell you their new book, Grant Proposal Makeover, has just been published by Jossey-Bass.

As you may already know, nine out of ten grant proposals are rejected. Grant Proposal Makeover shows how to transform lackluster proposals into excellent ones, ones that have the potential to be funded. This book stands out from other traditional grant writing publication, because it illustrates common flaws and problems in proposals and shows exactly how to fix them.

It also includes helpful tips and quotes from foundation program officers and funding community insiders taken from an international survey of foundation professionals. Stephanie Roth, Editor of Grassroots Fundraising Journal, calls it "one of the best tools for grantseekers I’ve seen in a long time."

Copies of the book are now available at all major online vendors, or if you are located in the Bay Area, come meet the Cheryl and Susan at one of the following book signings:

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

News of the week you can use

Though hunger may have been eliminated in the United States just in time for Thanksgiving, Catholic Charities reports that requests for help are up 76%. While idealistic Buy Nothing Day organizers may have longed for a larger turnout this year to protest our consumer culture, others are calling for increased consumer philanthropy and local shopping, as well as rebranding Black Friday the more inspirational sounding Giving Day, a special day when we "might want to buy something for somebody else." What did you do for this year’s Your Donor Day?

In response to increasing calls for transparency, the Gates Foundation has sent out a release stating, among other things, it would create three new advisory panels and begin conducting anonymous satisfaction surveys with grantees. Another leading philanthropist, Candidia Cruikshanks, CEO of Wealth Bondage, has informed the press corps she has generously agreed to fund Gift Hub for another year.

God may have started offering donors a money-back guarantee, but the Christian Coalition’s focused commitment to restricting the rights of gays, lesbians and women everywhere has lost it an Executive Director, and most stunningly, maybe even its donor base. Perhaps they could use the help of God's Publicist?

Question of the week: What does successful fundraising smell like?