On Dreaming and Practice: Moments I’ve Been Personally Inspired by Gloria Steinem

On Dreaming and Practice: Moments I’ve Been Personally Inspired by Gloria Steinem

But there is something incredible about hearing an icon like Steinem state something as simple and powerful as “get her involved in sports.” This is a statement that hundreds of women’s sports activists, athletes, feminists, coaches, teachers, and researchers have said for decades. But here we were in 2010 and here was Gloria Steinem at a funky off-broadway theater in New York again stating the obvious…

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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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Why Moving Millions to Women and Girls Must Include Work on Embodied Leadership

Why Moving Millions to Women and Girls Must Include Work on Embodied Leadership

Embodied leadership is a way of being in the world that allows one to seamlessly integrate the lessons of the body learned through healthy movement and competition: risk, courage, anxiety, fear, the art of fundamentals, achievement and failure in everyday living, and decision-making. Girls and women who actively practice these lessons are more likely to successfully and graciously make “healthier” decisions—emotionally, relationally, and intellectually.

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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. 

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 audiences? 

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)?

Movement Building- What Can We Learn from Sports?

Few can deny the success of the women’s sports movement. Since the passage of Title IX in1972, the growth of girls’ and women’s participation in sports has been simply phenomenal. Within this movement are valuable lessons for those of us still working on issues such as reproductive justice, pay equity, legislative leadership, etc. For my wise colleagues working in these areas and others, I encourage you to consider the following metaphors and practices for success.

1. Utilize the entire playbook. Every movement needs a balance of planning and action, passion and reflection, creativity and hard work. Early in the game, women’s sports leaders created the Coalition for Girls and Women in Education with representatives from five or six national organizations to be the think tank and pulse reading organ responsible for developing and implementing strategies and responses. These organizations represented different skill sets. The National Women’s Law Center delivered “legal eagles”; the American Association for University Women delivered academic research; the Women’s Sports Foundation delivered celebrity athletes and Hollywood spokespersons, etc. There is no rule that states you utilize these skills in a linear fashion. Rather, to be game ready and successful, we have to practice and access all of these skills simultaneously with intense persistence and the division of labor makes this easier to do. If we are ready at every position, we are poised to seize every opportunity and able to adjust in the heat of the game to whatever ‘play’ or strategy is needed for victory.

2. Treat funders like teammates. A team is more than players in the field. A successful team is the sum total of the starting line “up, substitutes on the bench, coaches, owners and investors, all working together. The women’s sports movement kept investors informed every step of the way – celebrating victories and asking for more help to confront defeats and win the next round. When you are truly partnered for victory and you collectively have a goal of winning, people are working side by side and sharing their information, power and strengths selflessly. A great team communicates effortlessly and the leadership (coaches, managers, investors, owners) pat each other on the back to acknowledge great plays, creating places for each other to ‘shine’; honoring the individuality that each member brings to the team’s success and engaging with them to bring out their best selves. Being able to do this with all of the partners in the movement will build success faster. Rather than a ‘race’ to be the fastest and most successful organization, it is better to get optimal performance from multiple groups that result in the delivery of a team victory that is more fulfilling and happens sooner because of coordinated group effort.

3. Set goals and celebrate victories. Motivating people by instilling pride in the work and celebrating the small wins along the path is critical for momentum building and staying power. It is statistically impossible to win every game or make every basket. The women’s sports movement can best be described as persistent and consistent effort over time. The season is long (41 years long in the case of Title IX and women’s sports) and keeping everyone focused on the team goals as well as the individual goals will insure a place in the post season. Success is most often the product of individual best efforts coupled with critical team wins over the long term. Keeping every player motivated to consistently put forth their best efforts over the long term is the heart of successful teams.                                                                                                           

4. Headlines are important. Media coverage and spokespeople are key parts of building the brand and energy behind and inside a team. But equally important is the use of compelling, research supported facts. Women’s sports leaders were magnificent in their collection and dissemination of the facts that girls who played sports had better grades, were more likely to graduate from high school and matriculate in college, were at lower risk for breast cancer and other diseases affecting women, were more confident and resilient, etc. The message is that the headlines must be more than ‘the good work’ of organizations; they must be about the impact of such work and what happens to those who benefit from the team’s efforts rather than just the social justice problem being addressed. It’s fine to take advantage of a crisis or story of someone adversely affected, but it must be accompanied by the hope and help offered by the nonprofit organization – how victims or lives of the previously disadvantaged have been changed for the better. The team should not be sidetracked or lose focus on its goals amidst the media hype and attention. Good work must continue in the shadows as well as the spotlight.

5. Trust your teammates. No one player can ever carry a team. Everyone has something to contribute. The more talented players you can involve, the greater the possibility that these players will make a positive impact. Take the time to find out what likely and unlikely teammates can bring to the movement. Play to their strengths and share with transparency the goals of the movement and the playbook of strategies.

How to Get Athlete-Level Confidence at Work

Every time I lead a retreat, questions come up about embodying leadership. “How do I keep feeling confident when no one uses my ideas?” or “What do I need to do to have my presence as a leader felt?” Kathy Kay and Claire Shipman’s book The Confidence Code brought science and depth to the conversation on confidence. And some of the lines they share, many athletes know first-hand: “We have control over our confidence,” they write. “We change our brains and rewire them to be more confident. Confidence is essentially a kind of energy that allows us to move forward wholeheartedly. By taking action, we create confidence.”  ...

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.