Fundraising for Nonprofits

Inspiring Gifts that Transform

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Avoiding the flaws that doom your grant proposals to the reject pile

Bay Area readers who missed Susan Fox and Cheryl Clark's excellent presentation this past April on the top 10 flaws that doom your grant request to the reject pile now have another chance hear them live. Please join them Friday June 8, noon - 1:30 p.m., at Oakland's Preservation Park for the Development Executives Roundtable monthly luncheon. Learn proven techniques for transforming ugly duckling proposals into beautiful swans.

This event is co-sponsored with the CBO Center. For more information and to register, simply visit the DER website.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Steady but slow, slow, slow

Just a little update to my post of two months ago. Thought you might be interested in seeing how far construction has progressed in my neighborhood since then.

During this time the major freeway bridge to Oakland collapsed (in two places) and was rebuilt, all in just 25 days.


Monday, May 28, 2007

What is my gift to the family of the earth?

I'll be forever grateful to Marianna Cacciatore, Executive Director of Bread for the Journey, for introducing me to Wayne Muller's book How, Then, Shall We Live? Muller founded Bread for Journey some years ago to nurture neighborhood philanthropy. Today they have 20 growing chapters across the United States.

Through all his writing Muller shows how we can experience a greater sense of inner wholeness and guidance, living a life of meaning, purpose and grace. In this book he asks us to consider four simple questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What do I love?
  • How shall I live, knowing I will die?
  • What is my gift to the family of the earth?
Knowing me, I jumped forward and read the last chapters first, in which he writes:
"Some of us wish to wait until our gift is potent and comprehensive enough to solve all the world's problems. Seeing that our gift is does not stop all the suffering, we decide it is inadequate. But every gift is a drop of water on a stone; ever kindness, every flash of color or melody helps us remain hopeful and in balance. Each of us knows some part of the secret, and each of us holds our portion of the light. We can thrive on the earth only if we each bring what we have and offer it at the family table...

A gift is like a seed; it is not an impressive thing. It is what can grow from the seed that is impressive. Clearly, we do not always know our real gift. One way to name our gift is to pay close attention to what we love. Many are becoming aware that the that the clarity and courage born of their own healing can also be made available for the healing of those in need...

Many of us believe that giving somehow means we must stop receiving. When I am trying to protect my position as the 'giver,' this marginalizes (those who receive as a) client rather than a human being whom I spent time with, who now wants to give back to me. When I also become a receiver, the walls between us soften, the boundaries disappear, and I am simply one of the family...

Real joy is to be found in the balance between giving and taking. Like breathing, we must both inhale and exhale. Inhaling is not superior to exhaling; one is no more noble or good than the other. They are both necessary. To name our gift is to also to name our need...

So the question 'What is my gift?' is not about coercing us into giving more and more, but rather about becoming more mindful of how we already intimately connected with everything and everyone..."

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

I know what you won't be watching next fall

She's not quite Xena or Buffy, but Veronica Mars still gets high marks from me in the kick-ass television heroine category. The show went up another notch in my book by turning this week's episode into an hour-long fundraiser for Invisible Children, an international NGO dedicated to improving the quality of life for war-affected children by providing access to quality education, enhanced learning environments and innovate economic opportunities.

This week found Veronica trying to prove whether or not an African student at her college, whose recently published memoir recounted his time as a child soldier in Uganda's rebel army, is the son of a man who moved from to this country prior to the war. As the story unfolds we learn there is war still happening in Northern Uganda. Children are continuing to be kidnapped and forced to fight as child soldiers, and that in the displacement camps 1000 people die every week due to the horrific conditions.

The episode ends with an epilogue by actress Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) urging her viewers to "please go to and use your time, talent and money to become a part of this story's end."

You can watch the entire episode, I Know What You'll Do Next Summer, online at CW Video.

Unfortunately, two days after this episode was aired, CW officially canceled this series. It is set to be replaced by a show called the Reaper, about a 21-year-old slacker who ends up becoming Satan’s bounty hunter, retrieving souls lost from Hell. Which I guess is why I don't watch very much television anymore.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Remembering the past, recovering the future, and living for today

"What does giving mean? Who is the giver and who is the receiver? How can giving become a spiritual practices? How do we take care of all beings?" These are the questions that opened up Tuesday's excellent panel presentation Caring for Community And Self: Giving as Spiritual Practice, sponsored by San Francisco's Horizons Foundation.

Inside Wells Fargo's Penthouse suite, far above the San Francisco skyline, those in attendance were treated not only to lunch, but words and wisdom from Zen Buddhist Priest H. Ryumon Gutierrez Bladoquin, Episcopal Minister David Norgard, Jewish Rabbi Camille Shira Angel, and Muslim Community Leader Urusa Fahim. I was happy to learn the workshop was organized by my friend Rajat Dutta, and moderated by my mentor Lisa Hoffman.

The common theme throughout the day's discussion is the fact generosity is seen by many spiritual traditions as how we nurture our community and ourselves. Acts of giving create compassion, connection, and have the power to change people, relationships and cultures. Those who give and those who receive are transformed, whether the gift involves food, service or money. Hearts open and lives expand when the welfare of others is valued. Key teachings include:

  • Buddhism
    Generosity is the heart of the Buddha's teachings. It is more than a kind gesture: it is an embodiment of wisdom. It liberates the mind and heart. Dana is a Pali word meaning "generosity" or "the act of giving." Dana is the first of the ten paramitas, or qualities of character to be cultivated in our lifetime (or lifetimes). The Buddha emphasized dana because it is a gateway to compassion and wisdom.

  • Christianity
    The earliest disciples of Jesus recall him saying that "Happiness lies more in giving than in receiving" and this insight has resonated with his followers ever since then. Believing that all that we have is a gift from God, Christians understand that their own spiritual growth is partly a function of their stewardship of what they have been given -- responding with gratitude and generosity being the ideal.

  • Islam
    Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam and is compulsory for every Muslim. It is necessary to give Zakat in order to fulfill the basic obligations of being a Muslim. Zakat is a tax of 2.5% paid on the savings and capital for the year.

  • Judaism
    For many, tzedakah is considered the highest moral obligation of the Jewish people. Tzedakah sets a "just base" for giving since you're given the opportunity to help provide for the poor. Tzedakah can also be understood as a more broad "philanthropic" mission -- to make the world a better place/repair the world/help people in need.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Can you imagine contemporary philanthropy practices based on the above principles? What would it look like? As social entrepreneurs, philanthropists and fundraisers alike call for the "end of charity," urging market-based solutions and measurable outcomes in return for their financial investments, is there any hope that the principles of generosity and compassion that have been at the core of giving for many millennia have any chance of surviving?

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

A gift consists not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer

"Among the numerous faults of those who pass their lives recklessly and without due reflection, my good friend Liberalis, I should say that there is hardly any one, so hurtful to society as this, that we neither know how to bestow or how to receive a benefit. It follows from this that benefits are badly invested, and become bad debts: in these cases it is too late to complain of their not being returned, for they were thrown away when we bestowed them.

Nor need we wonder that while the greatest vices are common, none is more common than ingratitude: for this I see is brought about by various causes. The first of these is, that we do not choose worthy persons upon whom to bestow our bounty, but although when we are about to lend money we first make a careful enquiry into the means and habits of life of our debtor, and avoid sowing seed in a worn-out or unfruitful soil, yet without any discrimination we scatter our benefits at random rather than bestow them.

It is hard to say whether it is more dishonorable for the receiver to disown a benefit, or for the giver to demand a return of it: for a benefit is a loan, the repayment of which depends merely upon the good feeling of the debtor. To misuse a benefit like a spendthrift is most shameful, because we do not need our wealth but only our intention to set us free from the obligation of it; for a benefit is repaid by being acknowledged.

Yet while they are to blame who do not even show so much gratitude as to acknowledge their debt, we ourselves are to blame no less. We find many men ungrateful, yet we make more men so, because at one time we harshly and reproachfully demand some return for our bounty, at another we are fickle and regret what we have given, at another we are peevish and apt to find fault with trifles. By acting thus we destroy all sense of gratitude, not only after we have given anything, but while we are in the act of giving it.

Who has ever thought it enough to be asked for anything in an off-hand manner, or to be asked only once? Who, when he suspected that he was going to be asked for any thing, has not frowned, turned away his face, pretended to be busy, or purposely talked without ceasing, in order not to give his suitor a chance of preferring his request, and avoided by various tricks having to help his friend in his pressing need? and when driven into a corner, has not either put the matter off, that is, given a cowardly refusal, or promised his help ungraciously, with a wry face, and with unkind words, of which he seemed to grudge the utterance.

Yet no one is glad to owe what he has not so much received from his benefactor, as wrung out of him. Who can be grateful for what has been disdainfully flung to him, or angrily cast at him, or been given him out of weariness, to avoid further trouble? No one need expect any return from those whom he has tired out with delays, or sickened with expectation. A benefit is received in the same temper in which it is given, and ought not, therefore, to be given carelessly, for a man thanks himself for that which he receives without the knowledge of giver.

Neither ought we to give after long delay, because in all good offices the will of the giver counts for much, and he who gives tardily must long have been unwilling to give at all. Nor, assuredly, ought we to give in an offensive manner, because human nature is so constituted that insults sink deeper than kindnesses; the remembrance of the latter soon passes away, while that of the former is treasured in the memory; so what can a man expect who insults while he obliges? All the gratitude he deserves is to be forgiven for helping us.

On the other hand, the number of the ungrateful ought not to deter us from earning men’s gratitude; for, in the first place, their number is increased by our own acts. Secondly, the sacrilege and indifference to religion of some men does not prevent even the immortal gods from continuing to shower benefits upon us: for they act according to their divine nature and help all alike, among them even those who so ill appreciate their bounty. Let us take them for our guides as far as the weakness of our mortal nature permits; let us bestow benefits, not put them out at interest. The man who while he gives thinks of what he will get in return, deserves to be deceived.

But what if the benefit turns out ill? Why, our wives and our children often disappoint our hopes, yet we marry and bring up children, and are so obstinate in the face of experience that we fight after we have been beaten, and put to sea after we have been shipwrecked. How much more constancy ought we to show in bestowing benefits! If a man does not bestow benefits because he has not received any, he must have bestowed them in order to receive them in return, and he justifies ingratitude, whose disgrace lies in not returning benefits when able to do so.

How many are there who are unworthy of the light of day? and nevertheless the sun rises. How many complain because they have been born? yet Nature is ever renewing our race, and even suffers men to live who wish that they had never lived. It is the property of a great and good mind to covet, not the fruit of good deeds, but good deeds themselves, and to seek for a good man even after having met with bad men. If there were no rogues, what glory would there be in doing good to many?

As it is, virtue consists in bestowing benefits for which we are not certain of meeting with any return, but whose fruit is at once enjoyed by noble minds. So little influence ought this to have in restraining us from doing good actions, that even though I were denied the hope of meeting with a grateful man, yet the fear of not having my benefits returned would not prevent my bestowing them, because he who does not give, forestalls the vice of him who is ungrateful. I will explain what I mean. He who does not repay a benefit, sins more, but he who does not bestow one, sins earlier."

From On Benefits by Lucius Annaeus Seneca, 4 BC–AD 65, a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist and humorist of the Silver Age of Latin literature.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Creating dialogue fearlessly: Media relations overview

Tickets are still available for next Friday's DER luncheon, featuring nonprofit public relations expert David Perry. I'll be at the front door assisting with registration. Would be great to see you there.

David is one of the first people whom I met when I moved to San Francisco nearly 10 years ago, and I'm grateful to call him a friend. He's is a firm believer in the philosophy that there are only two forces in the world -- fear and open communication. He mirrors this concept by fostering dialogue between his clients, the media and the community at large. For his efforts, his firm was named the Exceptional For-Profit Arts Related Business by the Business Arts Council in 2006 for its stellar work with nonprofit arts clients including the San Francisco Girls Chorus, the Museum of Craft and Folk Art, Asian American Theater Company and others.

David's presentation will provide you a guide to basic public relations, including examples and instruction in the use of standard tools (news release and pitch writing, database management, media relationship building) and how to set up a basic campaign for your organization that will get the attention you need.

Friday, May 11, 2007
12:00-1:30 p.m.
Location: Lighthouse for the Blind
214 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco
Cost/Registration: DER members = $12, non-members = $20
Reserving your space by Wednesday at the DER website.
Lunch is included in your fee.

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