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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10 Tips for Relationship Building

Whether you are running your own nonprofit, building a sports program or starting a new business, here are my suggested “Top Ten Methods for Success”. Please note that these are in no particular order although I personally value 1‐4 in people I work with! Success will come sooner when all are done well and consistently. 

  1. Grow and Engage with Your Contact List – ask your mentors and friends who they know that can help you with your product, plan, or passions. Keep in regular contact with key people and ask how you can help them. People are more apt to assist you later when you have offered aid for their projects/lives. Volunteer to be on committees or to help others. Send out meaningful updates and stories of your work on a quarterly basis. Identify key skills, supports and/or tangible donations you need and ask people who they know that could help you. Think now about who is on your ‘holiday card’ list.                                                                                                                                                                                         

  2. Ask Questions and Follow Through – in every communication, be mindful of how often you share your perspective versus asking what is happening in the supporter’s life and how they feel about what you are doing. Ask for money and get advice; ask for advice and get money. Asking for input and authentically inquiring about a person’s work, home or passions is key to building strong relationships. By listening, listening, and listening to what is said and not said, you can follow through with personalized and meaningful information. If you do this, people will ask you how they can help you. Then you can share with them the resources needed by your organization.                     

  3. Bring Forth a Strong Work Ethic – people invest in leaders who they see are ‘hungry’ and work for success. When they can see your persistence and authentic belief in what you are doing, followed up with personalized notes and/or customized partnership proposals, they are more apt to support you. Impeccable attention to detail with your work and sequential and coordinated engagement (meet with top contributors 2 times / year, e‐mail them monthly, call them quarterly, etc) with key supporters will deliver better results.                              

  4. Believe and Act in Partnership – if you are truly listening and engaged with someone, you will hear what their dreams and desires are. At the same time, they will hear yours. By asking for people to partner with you on your dreams, know that this will be easiest when you genuinely want to build theirs too. Know that this philosophy can be applied to co‐workers, investors, boosters, athletes you coach, etc.   

  5. Utilize Gifts / Sales to Secure More Funds– whenever a gift is secured or asked for, work with the supporter to ask how public they will let you be with their gift. Often their gift will allow you to seek a match or create a challenge for others, thereby doubling or tripling their investment. Always think in terms of a gift rate chart and share this with supporters (i.e. we need 10 gifts at $10,000 or $100,000 to do this project) even if you know the supporter can give you the entire amount. Ideally, you want them to give you the names of nine others who can help and the $100,000. Minimally, get permission to publicize the story of the gift with or without their name attached as people want to give to success.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

  6.  Build a Circle of Leaders and Experts – whether it is a nonprofit Board or Advisory Council to build your league, business or team, a trusted group of advisors from a variety of key fields (finance, legal, digital marketing, communications) will be critical for success. Be sure to give each person a specific request for help or assignment that the volunteer agrees is a way they want to engage. People want a way to use their talents and that also is considerate and efficient use of their time.                                                                                                                        

  7.  Focus Time on the Top 20% most nonprofits are funded with 80% of the money coming from 20% of the donors. Spending time and building trust and rapport with this top 20% should take 80% of your time. Their relationships, interests, businesses, and values will inevitably lead you to their peer group(s) over time.                                                                                                                                                                                             

  8. Build a List of Benefits for Exchange – prior to going into the marketplace for underwriters, compile a list of benefits that your business/nonprofit can offer in exchange for ‘sponsorship’. With a menu of opportunities for partnership, you can then customize a relationship that is meaningful. Never overlook the opportunity to provide something of value that ‘can’t be bought’ (i.e., an autograph item from a sports legend or behind the scenes experience with a leader or coach).                                                                                                                       

  9. Mimic Large Institution Practices to Build Brandanalyze the tools used by colleges and universities and model them where appropriate. Invite leadership (deans, coaches or top thought leaders) to speak at events or hosted parties (in campus settings or esteemed private homes) to engage with key audiences (alumnae lists or people profiled via technology sources on income or affinity) on a relevant topic. Know that all significantly funded organizations have people designated to doing research on prospects and donors and their ability to give and that in order to be mindful of their entire giving focus and life passions, this is absolutely essential.                                   

  10. Build Visibility via Technologyutilize new media to tell your story and make timely updates to your mission and team/product’s contributions to the community and society. Continually review your web site to insure relevant information is present. Think of your web site as your living room and you are inviting your investors to dinner. With this practice, you will have an impressive, elegant and impeccable first response by any web visitor. Master the art of storytelling on your web site and in web communications as an essential element in asking for involvement and gifts. 

Broader Thinking on Family Economic Security

After having the privilege of being part of several meetings with leaders in the field of economic security for families, I learned that this work has many viewpoints and challenges. This summary attempts to capture the breadth of opportunity for broadening the conversation of family economic security. 

Overall, the key components that encompass family economic security (FES) are identified as fulfillment of primary needs such as food and shelter, access to a health care system that serves both one’s self and family, ability to enter and navigate in a variety of markets (financial, employment, social capital) and opportunity for career advancement/education that is relevant to workforce success. 

Generally speaking, family economic security seems to have a qualitative texture for impacted individuals and practitioners working directly with them, and a more quantitative and numerically positioned flavor when policy people define it. Framing the conversation in poverty language versus economics language or referring to families versus systems also may bring forth differing perspectives. 

In a qualitative sense, FES success would be defined by a family staying together (children not placed in foster care), free from violence and addiction, and living with dignity and respect. True success would be a break in the generational transference of low‐income standing. Assessing success could also hinge on an individual’s having social capital and networks that offer varying choices and opportunities for work and learning opportunities. Finally, success could be seeing fewer disparities around income and education when looking across class, gender or race. 

Quantitatively, the metrics rely on index tools that have been developed to look at either what it takes to get and stay in the middle class on a continuum based on five economic factors, or measuring and benchmarking expenses based on a self sufficiency standard in their state (see Wider Opportunities for Women). These measures may or may not be universally acceptable as there seems to be a divide as to whether self sufficiency would be determined with or without public supports. Regardless of how it is measured, there is considerable demand for better government data to analyze. 

Sustained security is founded in the tools of early education and ‘talent development,’ literacy, relevant career training for ‘entry level’ workers, lifelong education around financial decisions and markets, and access to quality jobs that offer standards such as health care, paid sick leave, retirement, etc. Most people working in FES policy and/or programmatic delivery of any of these tools agree that we need to take a holistic approach (versus staying in silos), and that this alone will allow for a faster ‘movement’ towards the self‐sufficiency of low‐income families. 

Addressing the issues surrounding “asset‐based poverty” and debt is critical for FES success. Campaigns focused on predatory lending need to be offset with elevating the visibility of free opportunities for moving towards financial independence that are often provided by community based organizations. Providing practical learning experiences focused on financial decision‐making is happening in various Community Development Financial Institutions. Identifying, and elevating the role of entrepreneurs is also important as people often need ’to see it to be it.’

"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.