Gospels of Giving for the New Gilded Age

Are today’s donor classes solving problems—or creating new ones? “We live, it is often said, in a new Gilded Age—an era of extravagant wealth and almost as extravagant displays of generosity. In the past fifteen years, some thirty thousand private foundations have been created, and the number of donor-advised funds has roughly doubled. The Giving Pledge—signed by Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg, Larry Ellison, and more than a hundred and seventy other gazillionaires who have promised to dedicate most of their wealth to philanthropy—is Andrew Carnegie’s “Gospel” stripped down and updated. And as the new philanthropies have proliferated so, too, have the critiques.” This is a quote fron a thought provoking article in the New Yorker that is worth a read.

Love Heals

I’ve just returned from two days at Thistle Farms in Nashville, TN, where female survivors of trafficking, addiction and prostitution heal, recover and gain economic freedom through job training, employment and the power of unconditional love. Thistle Farms is uniquely successful and powerful – beginning with a proven residential recovery model that informs a national network of sister organizations and then multiplies its impact by inviting survivor-led organizations worldwide to join in a shared trade marketplace. Shop for the freedom of women at their amazing online store and let the love heal you too.

 

 

Don’t believe it

There’s a lot of uncertainty about what is going to happen to charitable gifts in 2018 when fewer people itemize deductions on their tax returns. Much of the reporting about this issue has asserted that the nonprofit sector is headed for a big loss; as if America’s safety net sector needed more reasons to feel overburdened and under-appreciated. Perhaps these prognosticators are correct. But perhaps not. The vast majority of donors with whom I work give because they are committed to creating a more just and sustainable world. These generous souls will continue to invest in their favorite causes with or without a tax deduction because they believe in the work and receive value from being aligned with morally courageous endeavors. Let’s not contribute to the echo chamber prematurely spreading news of our demise. Instead, let’s be clear about our own narrative. Our nonprofit sector is uniquely American, uniquely powerful and uniquely positioned to be a force for good in 2018.

The triumph of gratitude

The past year has not been an easy one. From personal to political loss, most people I know have struggled at some time during the past 12 months to hold on to their optimism and ideals. I am no exception. Which is why I actively look for stories and organizations that renew my spirit, gird me for the hard work ahead, and fill me with gratitude. Here’s one of my favorites: a beautifully filmed four-minute video about the New Life Center, a safe and joyous home for children living with HIV/AIDS and their caretakers. Gratitude, hope, heart — it will inspire all of these, I promise.

To Kickstart or not to Kickstart

If you work for a nonprofit, I suspect you have been strongly encouraged by a board member, colleague or supporter to launch a Kickstarter campaign. But should you? The Denver Post just published an eye opening article, “The Smithsonian used Kickstarter for Armstrong’s suit and Dorothy’s slippers—was it worth it?” Among the highlights: most Kickstarter projects seek $10,000 or less, and about two-thirds fail…only 3 percent of projects with budgets greater than $100,000 succeed; the Smithsonian exceeded its very ambitious fundraising goals, but spent $38 of every $100 raised to implement the online campaign, far more than the overhead rate commonly considered reasonable by charity rating sites; and even with the starting advantage of 2.6 million Twitter followers and more than 530,000 Facebook followers, the campaign involved two public affairs officers, an Air and Space development officer, the Smithsonian central development officer, a conservator, a curator and a videographer.

Slide Ranch

slide ranchMy solace is found in nature. So it is with much gratitude that I accepted an invitation to join the Advisory Board of Slide Ranch in Muir Beach, CA, a wonderful nonprofit that sparks a love of nature in children of all ages. Through farming, cooking, caring for animals and exploring wilderness and the coast, Slide Ranch teaches the connection between health, a healthy food system and a healthy environment. Especially important to me is the fact that through scholarships and school programs, Slide Ranch hosts thousands of children each year who would otherwise have no opportunity to experience the unique beauty, joy and peace of mind found in nature. It’s a glorious place and its mission is more important today than ever before.

P.S. To help with its sustainability, the ranch now has a gorgeous new facility it rents for weddings and other special occasions. Check it out and let your friends know.

The Welcome Mat Project

WelcomeMatProjectI am so excited to be able to tell you about the Welcome Mat Project from Thistle Farms. In Partnership with I AM YOU and  Lighthouse Relief, this project helps women refugees gain economic freedom by creating mats woven from the life jackets worn by refugees on their journey to Greece. This project serves as a symbol of acceptance and solidarity with refugees and as a reminder that love is the most powerful force for change in the world. A small team of women from Thistle Farms will be traveling to Greece in April where they will work with the women in the refugee camps. The group hopes to return with finished products (which may look slightly different than the photo displayed) to be shipped out in the beginning of May. Show your love by preordering here.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

A_Thousand_Splendid_Suns_05I know. You can’t stop reading your social media feed, or thinking about the new Administration, or bailing out from the storm, or listening to analysis of today’s ruling on the immigration ban. I can’t either. But this is time sensitive because tickets to ACT’s production of A Thousand Splendid Suns are almost sold out. The performance is riveting, and centers on two women surviving domestic abuse and the oppression of the Taliban in Kabul, Afghanistan. Based on the novel written by Khaled Hosseini, the production has a hauntingly gorgeous original score written and performed by David Coulter.  Timely, relevant and beautiful, the play touches on many issues related to today’s news — refugees, violence against women, resilience, and most importantly, the power of love. If you go, please stop at the table in the lobby to learn more about The Khaled Hosseini Foundation.

What can I do?

peace childThis is the question I am asking myself a lot these days. Working for a nonpartisan journalism organization, I am bound to ethics guidelines that preclude me from expressing my political views publicly. So how do I express who I am at a time when free expression has never seemed more important? For starters, I am walking my talk. Saying yes to more opportunities to be of service. This morning at 6 a.m. I helped make and serve breakfast to women and children making the long and lonely journey from their homes in Southern California to Pelican Bay State Prison. On their way to see their sons, husbands and fathers, they stopped in my county and we showered them with love and nourishment. In return, I got to meet the incredible Frankie Guzman (National Center for Youth Law) and Dorsey Nunn (Legal Services for Prisoners with Children) — two amazing souls working to protect the human rights of children ensnared in the incarceration complex. Next month, I will be representing The Khaled Hosseini Foundation at one of ACT’s performances of A Thousand Splendid Suns.  I am looking to say yes to March and April so if you have an idea, please be in touch.

Help survivors in Aleppo

Aleppo gettyimages-487630077Looking to help the survivors of the Aleppo massacres? Take a look at International Rescue Committee (IRC). They are well established in Syria and as violence continues to escalate in the region, are focusing their efforts by: partnering with local and diaspora groups to ensure the uninterrupted flow of medicines, supplies, and equipment; supporting clinics and mobile teams to deliver healthcare and trauma services; supplying displaced people with clothing and emergency supplies; running counseling and protection services for thousands of children in camps and communities; creating safe spaces for women and girls that offer services for survivors of violence; and providing emergency cash assistance to help displaced families meet immediate needs. To help, click here.