The events of 2020 have forced those of us who work in the non-profit sector to apply the fundamentals of good practice in new ways. At the ANU, where I work, every week my team and I ponder new ways to build and cultivate relationships at a time when we cannot meet in groups or even face to face.
The good news is that we have tools like Zoom, email, and Microsoft Teams to augment phone calls and snail mail. These help, but are not satisfying. People want to meet and they want to help. They desire to express their values through philanthropy. Donors seek to partner with institutions whose values are in line with their own to address the needs our world.
Our work as relationship builders is even more important this year. The need for a clear, compelling mission and vision is heightened. Actively and respectfully listening to volunteers and prospective donors to understand their interests and passions is critical to engaging their hearts. Attracting and building relationships with partners who share a passion for our mission multiplies the joy of giving.
Over the past year, Sandra and I have been anxiously awaiting for our book, and its joy of giving theme, to be printed. The wait is over and we are pleased to announce that The Art and Science of Donor Bliss will be ready to ship in November.
If you are a fan of e-books – your copy is now available on Amazon Kindle. You can find it here:
Last Sunday, I spent some time on LinkedIn looking for blogs or articles about how to respond as a leader, or non-profit to the COVID-19 Pandemic. There was so much about “uncertainty,” including messages from firms reassuring me that they still wanted my business. I only found one post from my friend Jennifer Harris on “Love in the time of Corona.”
Inspired, I started writing my thoughts and wrote about Certainty and how there are many things that remain certain in these times. This led to a list of Ten Things We Can Do to build relationships and community when we cannot meet physically.
A week later, a similar review of LinkedIn offered many great articles and blogs related to generous responses to COVID-19. For #example, my friend Jim Langley provides a timeless perspective about focusing on relationships. He advocates a long-term point of view to best enable an organization to deliver on its mission.
Now we see inspiring stories of national, global and local responses undertaken by individuals, organizations and even governments. Around the world, celebrities are pledging millions of dollars to addressing need. Motivated by a deep desire to help, not to make money, these responses represent the creative, instinctual, multifaceted and organic ways that philanthropy grows.
Big companies are shifting production to better meet needs for materials, ventilators, food, and other essentials. They are donating millions of dollars’ worth of product where the need is great and where what they have can help. In Singapore, the Ministry of Manpower staff worked around the clock for days to secure accommodation and defrayed costs for 10,000 foreign workers after they were stranded following a lockdown of borders with Malaysia.
Universities are focusing research to better understand COVID-19, its causes and effective treatments. They are developing and processing tests for better and faster diagnoses. Higher education has put course-work on line. University medical centres are on the front lines of treatment, diagnosis and research that can slow the spread, flatten the curve and keep more of us safe. These institutions are examples of decision making based on evidence and expert knowledge. Research on public and economic policy, and technology advancements will serve society as we emerge from this pandemic.
Community foundations are offering funding and grants to local non-profits who are caring for the most vulnerable in their communities. The community groups in small towns capture my heart for their efforts, and I want to provide a shout out to The Cass County Community Foundationand the work they are doing. This work is replicated in hundreds of communities around the world. I encourage you to find one in your community and support their efforts.
Arts organizations are responding by providing on-line content for free. It is possible to take on-line tours of many of the great museums of the world. Music organizations are providing free streaming of concerts since large gatherings are not allowed. One of my favourite examples is the Richmond Symphony Orchestra in Richmond, IN, whose leadership is finding new ways to deliver their mission.
People are looking out for one another. Freely streamed yoga sessions help with the stress of uncertainty and working from home; on-line music lessons keep children on track; and YouTube church services are ubiquitous. Those with sewing skills are sewing “designer masks” for care givers to use. A friend in Chicago has a number of elderly neighbours put together and delivered “care packages” with essentials, including toilet paper, to help them through this time.
Not all giving involves funding, but all giving is an expression of love, kindness, and encouragement. This is what Philanthropy (love of humankind) is all about. This is Charity (expressing unconditional love for others) at its best. It is thousands and millions of people recognizing our common humanity, doing what we can, with what we have, where we are. The needs of our world, our communities, and each person’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being are met by an outpouring of love.
Some donors will be recognized and praised for what they do. Their gifts will have a direct impact and will inspire others to act and to give with their example. Most donors will be unsung. Either way, the reward is the joy of making a positive difference. Together we are making our world a better place with our expressions of love for one another.
It is exciting to see the sheer breadth and depth of generosity in action. The creativity, the myriad of needs addressed in ways that are bespoke to the need. This is the democratic nature of philanthropy, where each donor gets to choose where they want to give.
“There are those who give little of the much which they have…And there are those who have little and give it all. These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty…There are those who give with joy…And there are those who give…as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space….And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving.”
Sometimes we just have to brag a little and this is one of those days. Through the past three months we have been coaching a team of students who have big plans for making an impact on employment and waste management in Ethiopia. Their team leader, Bini, has been a part of our lives for the past two school years and we were happy to share our strategic planning expertise with his team.
Their journey included many hours of working out the business numbers and preparing for incremental presentations. Along the way, they created a professional level two minute infomercial video and made a mock “Shark Tank” pitch. Three of the team are devoted members of the track team. Did I mention that they are also full time students and none of them business majors? One is also a freshman.
On Saturday, we attended the final competition. Four other teams had great ideas in various stages of implementation. All competitors were passionate about their ideas for saving the world. We just about held our breath for the entire 20 minutes of our team’s presentation.
Please join us in congratulating the Quralew Co-op team on their win. They worked hard for it!
We are pleased to announce that we submitted the manuscript of our book, The Art and Science of Donor Bliss, to our publisher. It has been a 20-month journey of meeting many wonderful people and hearing their giving stories, many of which are featured in the book. Our thanks to everyone who has supported us, helped us and told their stories about the Joy of Giving.
Please celebrate this major step with us. We anticipate a release date sometime this summer and will let everyone know when the book is available.
A few months ago, a hand full of nonprofit leaders in
our town started a nonprofit book club. We meet once a month to discuss a book
that is either about nonprofits or has lessons that can be applied to
nonprofits. I agreed to lead the discussions and drafted an initial list of
suggested books for the year. It has been a very rewarding and fun experience.
Any given month we have between 5 and 15 participants.
We meet in the Sherlock Holmes room in Two Sisters Bookstore. Someone brings
snacks and wine.
The conversations are as much about sharing common
concerns as they are about the book we are reading. We have a wide variety of
organizations – environmental,
arts, schools, a couple funders and a couple consultants. I know I come away
encouraged from seeing our work with new perspectives.
My goal for this new year is to share the conversation
and books we discuss. Over the next several weeks, we will catch up on the
first three books:
Great for the Social Sector, Jim Collins
Spirituality of Fundraising, Henri Nouwen
Start With Why, Simon Sinek (this link for the book summary and meeting discussion)
Next month we are reading Give and Take by Adam Grant.
We hope those who read this blog will also gain
something from our conversations as well.
Donors who desire to make an impact with their resources are on a life-long journey that typically includes numerous interactions with nonprofit institutions. While describing this journey, Eric addresses the challenges institutions experience in engaging donors.
At each step of the journey, Eric offers tips to institutions to encourage them to create positive experiences for their donors.
Want to learn more about Millennials and nonprofit board service? Contact us to receive a copy of Eric’s recent paper: Millennials and Nonprofit Boards.
Donor Bliss Consulting is partnering with the Sewing Machine Project. A portion of each book sale will be passed on to this wonderful example of Donor Bliss! If you are passionate about textile arts or are looking for a cause worthy of your support, please visit the Sewing Machine Project website for more information.
We have recently completed training to become licensed affiliates with One Page Business Plan. We now use this Cloud-Based Planning and Performance Management methodology system to Focus an organization on achieving its Objectives. Along the way, the organization establishes a clear system of Accountability, develops its Leadership and gets Results from its Strategies.
One Page Plans are clear and concise for everyone in the organization to understand and implement. Through assessments, templates and interactive prompts, leaders and managers, team leaders and board members are able to focus on execution and results.
Before our wedding, we talked about the importance of being generous. At that time, our discussion was about tithing, although it extended into organizations and causes that were important to each of us. We agreed that we had a desire to impact the lives of others through our generosity. We believe blessings come from thoughtful giving and from developing a lifestyle of giving.
Both of us were taught how to give by our parents. Through the years, we have come to experience the joy that results from giving. For example, after 9/11 we were thrilled to be able to do something substantial (for us) that would help to address the very pressing reality and needs of people in the aftermath of tragedy with a gift to the Red Cross. Whether it has been buying a goat for a family in a third world country, sponsoring a child’s education in Africa, or supporting higher education, we have indeed experienced Donor Bliss as a result of our giving.