Reflecting my Values: Who I Give To and Why When I Make a Charitable Gift

Reflecting my Values: Who I Give To and Why When I Make a Charitable Gift

In my career, I have met women leaders and organizations who emulate my mother’s strong values for hard work, generosity, respect, and a cultivated curiosity. As a donor, board member, or coach, I'm attracted to opportunities when I resonate with a leader who mirrors these values.

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7 Practices to Focus on Individual Giving

A number of clients and colleagues understand the value of diversifying their revenue models.  Most of these organizations have been primarily dependent on institutional giving models (i.e., recipients of grants) and are starting to explore what success looks like in the individual giving arena.  Results in this arena take time, persistence and insistence on key practices.   Here are my top seven ideas for building sustainable and engaging partnerships with individual donors.   Good luck and let me know which ones are working for you!

  1. Stick to a relationship building rhythm. People give because they are asked to help.  Before inviting someone to invest in your work, one needs to build a relationship.  Telling the story in person over and over in a myriad of ways (one-on-one, small lunches, cocktail parties, etc.) builds rapport and comfort that people trust and want to be part of. Takeaway – Do you tape or rehearse your ‘story’ and adjust it to resonate with different audience?
  2. Explore prospecting opportunities.  All programs have ‘alumni’ who have benefited from the service provided by the organization, some of whom may have given and some who have never been asked.  As well, there is typically a parent (if higher education based), friend or other person connected to the beneficiary who saw the transformation created by your program. Takeaway - How often can you produce lists and share them with the leadership to determine who hasn’t yet been engaged or who they might like to know more about?  
  3. Set goals for meetings and conversations.  What gets measured gets attended to, what gets attended to gets done.  Conversations are always opportunities for the organization to learn about the donor or the prospect’s values and ideals. Takeaway – How much time do you allocate for downloading your meetings so they are put into a database record and/or utilized to determine how best to engage someone in the mission and work?
  4. Create a communications calendar to engage with key people.  Every organization has an ‘inner circle’ of long time donors (3-5 years or more of giving), program alumni, current or former board members, celebrities, planned gift donors, long term serving staff, major donors (at an amount that is relative to the organization).  For every trip, event or mailing, examine if you want to visit or pull this group list for a mailing and personalize in some manner.  Takeaway – Have you set up an inner circle query on your database and how do you uniquely steward this group?
  5. Formalize a ‘posse’ or advisory council.  With organizations that do not have a traditional fundraising Board or need to expand the work of their Board, harnessing the ideas and connections of an advisory board or other group of connected people to expand the reach of the work.  Takeaway – Is there a group of 5-7 people who you reach out to on a quarterly basis to get their ideas on strategies, opportunities and events and people to engage with?  
  6. Encourage leadership to ask for help and advice.  Often, long serving or highly competent CEO/ED’s feel they have arrived or see asking for help as a weakness.  To be successful, a good organization will have leadership that has at least 5-6 ways to invite a donor to offer their time, talent or treasure.  Remember the mantra, “Ask for money and you get advice; ask for advice and you get money.”  Takeaway – How many different ways can you invite input, ideas, connections, and resources?
  7. Conduct ongoing database analysis and research.  The database is the biggest asset of most organizations and the least invested in.  There are tools (donor research database overlays) that can be utilized to assess the giving potential of donors.  Takeaway - Is there a full-time position or allocation of at least 20-30 hours per/week of a staff member’s time who is continually doing queries, pulling lists and conducting analysis of records and the content in the records (not data entry)?


 

Jennifer Buffett: Concepts Worth Sharing

In 2011, I wrote this piece about Jennifer Buffett and her foundation, NoVo. Five years later, the organization improves women and girls’ lives through a variety of initiatives that support marginalized and oppressed women in girls in indigenous communities and communities of color. A few examples are NoVo’s development of a farm to table program for urban food deserts in New York City, impact in policies that addresses sex trafficking, and organization of spaces where indigenous women take the main seat at the table. Additionally, NoVo recently announced a $90 million dollar investment to expand the academic opportunities of girls, while also ensuring the safety of girls as they go to school. In reflection, this piece demonstrates the actions that organizations and individuals can take to grow and flourish. Because with that, even more individuals can be lifted and flourish.

Jennifer Buffett will change the world. You may not know her now, but when all is said and done I believe she will own the title, The First Lady of Women’s Social Change Philanthropy.  Jennifer is the life size symbol of NoVo – to alter, invent.  The NoVo Foundation she created with her husband Peter is based on the premise that if you give a girl an opportunity, she will become a successful woman who will in turn create successful communities, businesses, and families. Jennifer’s story is just that.

After deep examination of the focus of their philanthropy and a personal examination of her own expression of her values and influence, Jennifer is speaking around the world sharing her personal story and experiences. She and her husband Peter spent years examining the interrelation between systems, culture, and relationships to determine place of impact and opportunity for change before launching the largest foundation serving women and girls, the NoVo Foundation.   Jennifer has incredible perspective to offer activists, social change drivers, and philanthropists and after hearing her recently, I distilled these ten concepts that are worth sharing; 

  1. Look at the roots of the problems, examine patterns and themes and find the programs and the stories that rule the world and which ones make sense. When dealing with our indigenous women and girls’ program, it was imperative to look at the impact that colonialization and government intervention had on the community. Once this history is recognized and processed with the community, take stories and experiences to create create strategies for change.
  2. Acknowledge two conflicting truths:  1. Girls and women are the primary drivers of change.  2. Cultural attitudes and systems put girls in a vicious cycle; blaming them and affirming that they are not valued.   The girl effect demonstrates that if you invest in a girl, her family thrives, she contributes to her community, and eventually her country succeeds.
  3. Invest in places where value is held and not yet recognized.  Note: there are 600 million adolescent girls living in the developing world who are currently ‘undervalued assets’.
  4. Value balance and partnership and affirm feminine values. This is particularly important for our “Promoting Local Living Economies” initiative. Often times, skills women possess are feminized and hold no economic value. Creating value for these skills deconstructs the position of female work and gives women the income they deserve from this work. Additionally, sustainable local economies just ignite larger economic opportunities as capital and products are developed.
  5. Encourage women to use their voice, say what is want and needed, take credit, and invite men to join as equal partners and co-creators. The oppressor must claim responsibility and step back in their positions of power and privilege. NoVo paired with A CALL TO MEN to invite and encourage men to recognize their role in dismantling oppression of women and girls. We called on them to create solutions to problems such as violence against women.
  6. As a woman, choose to be seen and heard and work to change the course of the boat named Earth Community. 
  7. Improve gender dynamics by recognizing that the qualities in the masculine ‘toolbox’ - force, hierarchy, punitive, and a focus on head not heart - are learned, normalized, and internalized. 
  8. Honor and showcase the characteristics found in the feminine toolbox; listening, connectedness, experiential learning, honoring innate cycles and rhythms, and wholeness. 
  9. Establish learning environments that allow for inquiry and participation. Our “Advancing Social and Emotional Learning” initiative draws on the feminized characteristics (empathy, deep connections, etc.) that women often are demeaned for in society and academia. Normalizing these feminized actions in these spaces and applying them to both genders creates a more comprehensive education and stronger communities. Additionally, it breaks down the gendered stigma around behaviors and emotion.
  10. As conduits of feminine energies, allow the most precious qualities of clarity, strength, knowing and vulnerability of yourself to come into full light. 

Practices for Advancing a Culture of Philanthropy

1. At each meeting, one leadership member spends up to four minutes sharing their personal story of connection to the work.  The more details of the story and the stronger the person’s connection to women’s rights/ issues of focus, the better.  Feel free to tie into your story the words Advocate, Educate, “Genderosity” or other relevant brand themes.  

2. Consider a meeting dedicated to shaping an advocacy and/or programmatic goal.  The focus is on a defined action (i.e. address FMLA in the county, join a coalition on fair pay, research safety issues and their solutions for women and their families, etc) and developing a ‘case’ for support.  Attach a financial goal to the case statement that includes staff support to administer project and support for the Executive Director.  

3. In each quarter, find at least three forums / outlets (i.e, a newsletter, event, one-on-one appeal to a donor) to start talking about and ‘test’ your case for support/story about a larger vision for the work.  

4. Prepare lists and ideas for introductions to at least 50 potential new TrusteesSpend one third of each meeting discussing five of these names and possible action items that will engage them to ask for their advice in shaping ‘the case’.  

5. Prepare lists of new audiences to solicit for funding and prioritize these based on conversations at the leadership level and in one-on-one meetings with fellow trustees.  Such new audiences to pursue   might include men, federation allocation, project-based giving, people to sponsor young women to be trustees, donations from philanthropic foundations that focus on women and / or identified issue areas.   For each funding source area, set a goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.  

6. Utilize time with trustees or prospective donors to ask: What is the most compelling issue for you? What is your legacy?  What impact do you want your giving to have?  Start compiling these answers for use with capacity asks and collateral materials.  

7. Start every conversation with an invitation to be a “partner of our work for life” and explain the need for long term support to affect deep systemic change.  Invite people to share their legacy and consider being a ‘member of a team’ that is serving their legacy and that of other like-minded people.  From the invitation for a legacy gift, encourage a multi-year ask as a first step towards a commitment.  

Powering Up for Women's Philanthropy

The Women Moving Millions Summit theme was “The story of power” and by the end I was fired up and also overwhelmed with the many ideas, facts and speakers all encouraging us to ‘power up!’ I was doing my yoga power pose, staying connected to my power posse at the Summit and beyond via social media, and finding new ways to get comfortable ‘promoting myself and my power’--something that seems to be a struggle for many women and is actually tied to our brain wiring! A fabulous new male member of WMM asked me at dinner one night, what is important about me? For the life of me, I was so fixated on what was important to me (advancing women and girls leadership) that I struggled to answer this question. I know for others and myself in attendance, we are truly #allinforher, the tagline for the new philanthropic tool launched by the host organization Women Moving Millions (WMM). Going ‘all in for her’ encompasses four key areas of one’s philanthropy: give big, give boldly, give with a gender lens, and work collaboratively. When I do my own assessment, here is what I know:

1. Giving boldly. This area needs work for me as I need to come out more about the organizations and leaders I invest in. I also have room to tell more people about my ability to give boldly via the deliberate purchase of a large life insurance policy I made in my healthy 30’s.

2. Giving with a gender lens. This is easy to do. As a lesbian feminist, this is just in my DNA. As someone who has studied successful nonprofits, I will make a conscious effort to publicly share the women leaders and why I invest in them.

3. Working collaboratively. This is a fabulous concept that I witness and promote in my roles as a Board member for Tides and Women Win. I find that in my giving as an individual, I haven’t yet sought out peers who might join me in my ‘invest in the women leader and her NGO’ model.

4. Give ‘big’. I give more than 15-20% of my gross income which is not a million dollars but usually greater than $20,000/year. Perhaps, soon we will have a Women Moving Percentages group. In traditional philanthropy, the giving formula that is typical is 1-3% of income as most large gifts come from assets. My three properties will be a wonderful gift upon my passing – right now the rental income I get allows me to be a ‘big’ giver now.

As the community was invited to step up and go #allinforher, myriad of questions floated around in my head and heart. These questions ranged from the micro to the macro of the women’s philanthropic arena: ‘what is so important about this movement to me? how do I adjust my own inner power relationship for success in the movement? what is the movement’s relevancy to new partners? what does a bold funding partnership look like and what makes it sustainable over time? and who else is a likely or unlikely partner to invest in girls and women?’

All of these questions intersect somewhere with at least one of the topics below that were raised during different sessions by the talented array of speakers. Most of these are not new messages or themes in the philanthropic sector, however, they were either supported by scientific data or delivered in a frame that allowed people to find new ways to easily enter the conversation. See the topic below and the link to the various speeches/presentations that support or go deeper on the topic. I invite you to go #allinforher and examine your own giving experience and visit www.allinher.org to learn more.

1. Powering Ourselves –use tools of meditation (scientifically proven – David Lynch Foundation), laughter (Theatre women)

2. The Youth Voice – relevant now, impact, personal (girl panel)

3. Meet our Allies where they are at – (Michael Kimmel)

4. Be Intentional and Purposeful – take the lead lessons and ideas (Gloria Feldt)

5. Gender Intelligence – brain data, impact on leadership models (Barbara Annsis)

6. Socialization of Genders – gender norms and philanthropy, feminism for all people (Riki Wilchins)

7. Money is Love – (Lynne Twist)

"Tuti the Tiger" on Money

Now more than ever we are thinking of resources in a new paradigm. Broadening the idea of our resources beyond finances is good practice as is reframing our relationship with currency. Here are some principles and practices that have worked for me in my personal life and as a professional fundraiser; 

Practice daily gratitude, forgiveness and mindful manifestation. Every night there is an opportunity for reflection on one’s day and thinking through the many people and things we can be grateful for, what we want to forgive ourselves for, and what we want to manifest more of in our world. By disciplining ourselves to this daily ritual of stating at least two items in each category, we will find ourselves framing a prosperous future. 

Give freely and with appreciation with a knowing that it will come back to you multiplied. This is a guiding principle of many teachers where the energy of money and the cycle of giving and receiving is continuous and powerful. Giving freely, one receives in bounty from another source. Trusting in this principle is the foundation of tithing. Saying to one’s self whenever making a gift “With gratitude and knowing that it will come back to me multiplied, I release this debt/give/donate…” As well, when writing checks and paying one’s ‘bills’, think of these as ‘gifts of thanks’ for having running water, communication, roads, place to live, warmth, etc. The framing of giving around gratitude and acknowledgement for the ‘source’ of what you have received allows for a broader opening for prosperity in one’s life. 

Be open to prosperity and stating affirmations about how you want to be ‘held’ in the world. If one spends time with Catherine Ponder’s books – The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity or Shakti Gawain on Creative Visualiztion or any of Sananya Roman and many others –the opportunity to absorb powerful readings and affirmations will arise. “I am a child of the Universe – all of my needs are met and sustained.” “I am open to prosperity in all forms.” “It is easy for me to generate wealth in my life.” Their philosophy about being open to the miracles of the world and having divine support for whatever your personal journey may be works if you practice it. If you speak, write, and state your spiritual, emotional, physical goals in a way that is connected to your spiritual source in the world and is true to what you really feel, money will come forth. 

Have discipline around knowing what your budget looks and feels like. Understanding what you need to manifest each month for your standard of living is important. After establishing your goals and understanding your living needs, one has a financial goal to aim for. This will allow you to work to manifest whatever is currently ‘short’ in your monthly financial life (pay off debts, save more, buy an important piece of equipment for your work, etc.). 

Celebrate and share your prosperity with people in your life. By validating and speaking aloud to others in your life what you want to attain and why helps you frame your vision with all your spirit and emotion behind it. “I am a prosperous artist with a dedicated and appreciative fan base that financially supports my music.” “I am a voice and an instrument for philanthropy and financial empowerment for women.” By positioning one’s work in a way that puts out into the universe what you wish to create and sharing this aloud and in writing with others, this will help to manifest your new reality. By speaking with power out loud with gratitude for the wealth (in all forms) when you receive, it will connect you to more resources

Speak with affirmation around what you do with your money. A great sense of pride can be framed in how you state how you use your gifts. “The gifts I have received have been transformed into a car for my work and life, gifts for people I love and art to share with others.” Stating this in the positive versus saying, “I am not sure where my money went this month”, gives you more power with how you have used your prosperity to do good in the world. 

Work to reframe any negative learnings you have around money from your parents or upbringing or have made up about your relationship with money. All of us have inherited some of the language of our family around money and examining these words, emotions and repositioning them is critical. As well, we have decided certain things about ourselves that we state as reality when, in fact, they may be internal fears that keep us from truly having all that we need and want in life. If we were told “you are not good with numbers” or “you will never amount to anything”, then this is what we will believe of ourselves until we decide to have a new affirmation and release these worn out ‘stands’ about ourselves. If our parents agreed that living financially day to day was OK for them, we get to decide if this is OK for our emotional psyche. If we think that people ‘blow’ money versus buy valuable things and celebrate life, then how would we ever have a great vacation? Taking the time to really look at these stands and reposition them with positive affirmations is important work to truly understand and live a prosperous life. 

Eight Principles for Systemic Change

Philanthropists and leaders take on issues that they want to change.  Using our time, talent and treasure, we want to make a positive impact on people’s lives and society.   We have witnessed the years  it often takes to better the world whether it is to addressing the trafficking of children, lifting up the economic power of women,  building a culture that accepts women athletes, allowing anyone who loves another to marry who they choose, etc.  These victories (albeit some of them still a work in progress) are stellar to witness done well.   Serious change happens for the good when people focus on these key principles. 

1.     Be persistent and passionate.  Find as many ways to restore and renew your passion as possible.  Energy for the long game is a necessary ingredient. 

2.     Remove the ego and attack the issue.   Focus on the issue and not about any one organization claiming the victory.  

3.     Use the legal system.  Oftentimes it is the laws and policies that are written and/or enforced that need to be upheld that will have the broadest impact on the highest number of people.  Investing in advocacy and policy work is a game changer for most issues.. 

4.     Collaborate and play team.  Find likely and unlikely partners who will share in the work and are willing to keep the focus on the change you all seek to make. 

5.     Hire top level experts.  When necessary, outside researchers, policy leaders or spokespeople can shape and craft messages and garner new audiences. 

6.     Gather hard data to share.  By using quality research and facts that can’t be dismissed, the emotion about the issue can be dampened.  Let the numbers tell the story and now with infographics, the images can bring the data to life. 

7.     Leverage every outlet for storytelling.  Social media gives ample opportunity to showcase the ‘stories’ and people who make the issue you are addressing come to life.

8.     Use your wealth and “clout”.  Be willing to invest for the long term and find funders who understand this.