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2012-03-30 10.44.32I’ve just signed up for www.tenthousandcoffees.com. I’ve known about it for a while and like many, had a certain opinion until I met the founder Dave Wilkin. He’s an earnest entrepreneur who, in this world that is oversaturated with social network platforms, has momentum on one whose mandate is rather simple, creating opportunities over a cup a coffee.

Shaping What’s Next, One Conversation at a Time.  The Ten Thousand Coffees movement exists to bridge the gap and create an equal playing field for everyone by embracing the newest technology and the power of conversation.

I am looking at platforms for mentoring. Ways to bring people together, to self-manage the matching and support conversations that can be one-off or ongoing: students with recent grads; recent grads with those who found a good job; those who want to transition with those who have; and entrepreneurs with each other. I am looking at ways to connect lots of people, something that is less structured than traditional mentoring programs, more like “unmentoring”, borrowing from the concept of an “unconference.”

un·con·fer·ence
a loosely structured conference emphasizing the informal exchange of information and ideas between participants, rather than following a conventionally structured program of events. (Google)

LinkedIn is a leader but lacks representation in certain industries and doesn’t talk to passion. Graduway is a platform that many schools are rolling out for their alumni but while my alma matter is huge, there are interesting people elsewhere as well.

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Cindy, someone wants to meet you for coffee!‏

So after meeting Dave, I thought wanted to know more about his platform. I filled in the forms, was automatically categorized as an expert and the next day I had my first request for a coffee date. A young woman, a graduate from my university, and we had a common focus on nonprofit organizations. An interesting topic was put forward.

I mentor a lot of people. They come to me from my volunteer activities. Some are referred by people who know me or have benefited from my advice. And sometimes there are chance encounters as I wander around the globe. But never have I felt so exposed as when that request for coffee came in. If you Google me, my blogs and profiles are online. I don’t hide. But putting my profile on a social platform that is expressly to empower people, strangers, to engage in meaningful conversations seems a lot like online dating. This is not a passive profile but an open door for a coffee meet up.

I have replied. We’ll see what happens. I am fairly busy so if the requests become too much I can switch to group meet ups online or in person, or I can make my profile invisible for a while.

Go for a coffee date

For those of you that want some input, have a question, or are challenged by your situation, sign up and take a look at the many experts that are already on the platform. I was truly impressed at who is available to you.

If you think you have something to offer, think of www.tenthousandcoffees.com as a knowledge-based volunteer portal. Put yourself out there and be surprised and delighted when someone approaches you for an unmentoring session.

 

FacebookImage-HolyCowI can’t tell you how good I feel, but I’ll tell you why.  Today I purchased a community bond from the Centre for Social Innovation. The traditional return is modest but the risk is low and the social impact is huge. CSI is raising $4.3 million to purchase an additional building to meet the needs of its expanding membership of social innovators and entrepreneurs. It is raising the money through the sale of community bonds, something they did successfully before, with the bonds secured through the property. Within a few weeks 84 investors have contributed $1.8M.

So there’s a lot to feel good about by supporting this award winning organization that is generating social good in new and sustainable models. There’s good in knowing that your money is being used well for a few years and then will be returned.

But what takes the feel good to an inexpressible level, is when you click “send” to confirm your purchase and within 30 seconds you get a call from the Director of Culture of CSI personally and genuinely thanking you for your support.

Pic-PostAs a volunteer I am focused on giving. I connect, mentor, take on projects, spread the word, listen and offer a point of view. I am always there and often with home baked cookies.

But maybe one of the greatest gifts I have learned to give is the opportunity for others to help me. I have been independent for so long and am such a good problem solver that no one thinks I need help and I don’t ask. Instead I spend hours trying to figure out how to get things done.

I think that my decision to go car-less has had the greatest impact on my independence. There are times, although few for an inner city dweller, that nothing beats individual transportation.  Sometimes transit and taxis just don’t make sense and renting a car for someone who doesn’t drive too often, doesn’t either.

So I have found the bright light in all this. I have discovered the joy of asking for help. I know the satisfaction of helping others and now I am allowing others to feel the same and to pay me back for the support I have provided them. It’s an exchange of equals.

And I have found a way to turn these favours into mini meetups where I can share my perspective, my city, my secret places and turn the task into an adventure. I make it fun.

I suspect that asking for help is what I needed to learn and it is with joy and appreciation that I accept the help whether that is a trip to the store, help carrying groceries or merely hanging a picture.

Came across coverage for this interesting Toronto-based start up that allows you to apply your loyalty points toward tuition. There are limited educational institutions signed up but congrats to the University of New Brunswick and Centennial College for being early adopters. And right now it’s only applicable to Aeroplan points, which is a big player and looking for ways to distinguish itself.

What’s most interesting is the concept that you can be a “Nice Person” and donate your points to any student. I’m sure this program will be used by parents and extends easily to other family members and friends but the concept that you could support a student that might not be within your family circle is what I find engaging.

So if you have student you want to support at one of the partner institutions and you collect Aeroplan points, you too can be a “Nice Person.”

http://www.higheredpoints.com/how-it-works/

Fundraising has been the topic of the week and in addition to my salon I took in a webinar put on by Cfccanada.ca and thestop.org called Stocking the Pantry: Fundraising in the community food sector.

What’s a good ask (for money)?

For corporations and foundations there’s usually a clear process so follow it. For major gifts – build relationships, ensure alignment, have a good plan and articulate what you’re about, do research on target, don’t ask on the first date, be ready with an answer; be clear about the impact the donation will make.

More from the experts

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask and be clear about what you want. But make it a two-way dialog, not just about your organization; ask what the donor wants to accomplish
  2. Persistence and stewardship of leads/donors is key. Expect it to take 1-2 years to develop major donors
  3. Alignment is important – what’s the connection of donor and cause. Long term relationships are based on trust and common interest
  4. Don’t forget the 80/20 rule, 80% your funds come from the 20% so focus on that – usually major donors and foundations
  5. Practice relentless storytelling (about talking about your cause) and be on the lookout for allies
  6. Your desk has a gravitational pull; schedule moments to talk to someone about the cause; be on the road
  7. Every board should have at least one member who will fill the ambassador role, you need at least 2 who will ask for money. Always be on the lookout for board members that will fill this. Committees good way to groom new board members.
  8. You need unrestricted funded in addition to program funding, diversified funding; flex money is like R&D money. Ongoing donors where you have earned trust may be open, and you can challenge “is this the best use of funds”?
  9. Funders come and go so you need to diversify; relentlessly be on the lookout for other folks; juggle, keep and find new ones
  10. Use volunteers in fundraising; for events they are a key work force; as ambassadors; volunteers are donors in another form and you need to steward them. Segment your volunteer list according to the roles they want to fill.
  11. There are probably more time/cost effective ways to make money than events. With successful events, what’s your goal? Getting donors, cultivate potential donors, build your profile, get more folks engaged…good reasons. Measure the results. A big part of the event is the follow up; capture names and then follow up 1-2 days after (say thank you, offer a tour, sign up for newsletter)
  12. 3rd party events are less effort. Need to be clear about what you are willing to do. The Stop has guidelines online with expectations and how they engage.
  13. Marketing platforms easier for getting corporate funding than programs. Businesses need to entertain clients anyway so an interesting event would work – it also makes them look like good corporate citizens. What are your assets to leverage? The Stop has chefs and farmers.
  14. Measure the costs of each campaign (all costs), measuring soft costs (opportunity costs, could we have raised more with less time/effort, event vs. grant proposal)
  15. Research shows that a big reason donors stop their support is because of a lack of effective communication with the organization

Cool thoughts

Strategic planning process might be a way to get funders involved – they talked of a senior exec at a bank who got involved in the planning process, offered great insight and ended up a lifelong supporter

Plan-passion-persistence:“Money grows on the tree of persistence”

You are the link between the needs of your organization and the philanthropic desire of the potential donor that wants to have an impact; needs to be aligned

They had a couple of cautions

  • Be cautious about social enterprise. Only do it when you have the other pillars of fundraising solid – it is not the quick cash answer for charity. (By this I presume they are cautioning traditional charities that are looking for a snap on business that generates funds, not the new generation of social entrepreneurs.)
  • There is a new breed of volunteer/funder, angel investors, that come with a big sense of how you should run your organization. The advice is to stay true to your plan, be strong – don’t let them take you off course.

Lots more info in this webinar which is available online at http://www.learningnetwork.thestop.org.
Just register (it’s free) and you’ll get access to this session and many more valuable presentations.

So what did we learn?

Mostly we learned that everyone knows a piece of the puzzle and that coming together with open sharing of ideas and knowledge is good for everyone.

Questions: What’s the best technology for online donations, how do you best handle back office, how can you manage following up leads when your internal team is too small, how do you handle the new social media, what kind of pitches turn on a national chain, how do you inspire a community, how do you make it easy for a funder to say ‘yes’?

Answers: Yes, CSR is often a barrier; employee giving programs are often coercive; online donations providers take a big chunk but they offer a trusted environment; outsource cookies and chocolates as there are specialists that handle this well; work with millennials and participate in social media to understand it; draw the line that connects the business success and support of your cause; technology is an equalizer; everyone in the organization should be a cheerleader but you have to provide the brand message.

What did I learn? These types of salons are valued.

I am truly honored to have been accepted as a new trustee for Awesome CSI.

If you haven’t heard of the Awesome Foundation..

Created in the long hot summer days of 2009 in Boston, the Foundation distributes a series of monthly $1,000 grants to projects and their creators. The money is pooled together from the coffers of ten or so self-organizing “micro-trustees” and given upfront in cash, check, or gold doubloons. The chapters are autonomous and organized by the trustees around geographic areas or topics of interest.
The Foundation provides these grants with no strings attached and claims no ownership over the projects it supports. It is, in the words of one of our trustees, a micro-genius grant for flashes of micro-brilliance.

While all the chapters have a great mandate I feel particularly at home with this chapter created out of the Centre for Social Innovation a home for start up non profits and social enterprises. And I did feel the hand of fate at play as it was less than 48 hours from expression of interest, to an exchange by email of the current trustees, to the vote of support. Amazing!

As I struggle to add value as a strategic volunteer and quest to find volunteer models relevant for today’s head set, it’s experiences like this that give me hope.

PS They could use a couple more trustees so if you can spare $100 a month and believe in awesome things check out…
http://awesomecsi.ca/awesome-trustees/ or email csi.the.awesome@gmail.com.

My network is getting a good workout these days and we are all a little better for it. One of the benefits of getting older is that a) your friends end up in interesting roles and gather lots of experience and networks of their own and b) over the years you can collect a rather large and interesting mix of contacts. By the time someone asks “do you know someone that does …”, chances are, you have someone in your network directly or just one referral away.

I’m not here to state the obvious but instead to posture that the value of a Boomer’s network is probably larger that they will ever need and that the true value is in sharing it.

I do a lot of mentoring or coaching or chatting with folks that are looking for pathfinders. They are looking for their first job, their first meaningful job, a new career or a volunteer opportunity. Generally they are looking for validation and direction, and this is where my network comes in.

I started something called Dates with Destiny

It’s where I provide someone with a starter set of introductions and encourage them to follow up, creating 60 Days of Dates with Destiny to explore industries, roles, organizations and opportunities. The dates are given in sets of 4 or 6 contacts representing a wide range of experience or perspectives.

Those contacts are open to introductions and generously share their time and knowledge. In fact many of my contacts are grateful for the opportunity to share and some asked outright when I was going to match them for a date.

One recipient said that the first date spurred her to reexamine her own network and set up additional dates beyond my first set.

So my point is – Boomers have great value in their networks, much of which is untapped. If you are a Boomer, do share your network with those who are worth investing in. For those of you who need help or direction, don’t be afraid to ask for a Date with Destiny.

I’ve been keeping busy with my volunteer work and will add a post for that, but today I can truly say I was inspired and my commitment to meaningful volunteerism was reignited.

I was asked to sit in on a special presentation supporting University of Toronto’s Boundless campaign. It’s a campaign that puts the stories of UofT’s great faculty, students and alumni forward to showcase their contributions and make the case that they are worthy of your support.

With the launch of Boundless: The Campaign for the University of Toronto, we are celebrating this tradition of leadership, community and generosity. boundless.utoronto.ca

Instead of an executive recounting facts and figures, we were treated to 4 of the many scholars and educators at UofT that are making a difference in the field of public health. Representing a cross section of study areas and expertise, their perspective ran from innovative business models, to frugal medical equipment in Africa, to working in our far north, and integrating student health right into UofT itself.

Many of the stories were inspiring, the photo’s either breathtaking or tragic. To see their minds in action as they passionately shared their work was a privilege.

It inspired me to think about the great partnerships of philanthropy and innovation that happen when a person passionate about their vision meets a person who is equally passionate and commits to make it happen.

So can we take the concepts of eco-tourism or volun-tourism, and create experiential journeys for potential partners (donors) where they can be a part of innovation when and where it happens? Exclusive opportunities to see the needs, travel with the experts, be a part of the conversation and invited to make their own contribution.

Talk about Boundless Opportunity!

The fastest growing way to give

I thought having a charitable foundation was the domain only of the super rich but not any more. It happens to the be the fastest growing method of giving and I suspect it’s going to skyrocket in popularity as the economy recovers, portfolios go positive and boomers once again focus on their next phase.

So yes, a totally self-directed foundation is still out of reach for many of us but individual or family foundations (sometimes called donor-advised funds) are now a packaged offering available through financial services firms. A similar offering is also available through many foundations. Start it up with $10k-$25k depending on the program.

See examples:
http://www.mackenziefinancial.com/en/pub/products/charitable/index.shtml
http://www.tcf.ca
http://www.canadagives.ca/about_canada_gives

Your name is on the foundation, you can direct where the proceeds go, you may select how the funds are invested and the perk on top of all the good feeling you get is that there’s a big tax deduction that comes with the investment.

Get the kids involved

Some families are using it as a way to involve kids in the giving process. It’s a family fund and the family decides together where proceeds go.

When you’re ready to think about this you’ll know it

When you’ve taken care of yourself, your partner, and your kids, and there will be a time when that happens, if there’s a little extra leftover then maybe it’s time to think about setting up your own foundation. It will add structure to your giving and even leave a legacy that continues to give even when you’re gone.

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