May I be even a little like her


Photo by Lori Barra

I am so grateful that I have, after 14 years as a volunteer and donor, been asked to serve on the Advisory Board of Nepal Youth Foundation –an organization providing freedom, health, shelter and education to Nepal’s most impoverished youth. It is a tremendous privilege for me to serve my role model, 89-year-young Olga Murray, and executive director in Nepal, Som Paneru. Thank you Olga for keeping me up all night all those years ago dreaming with you about your audacious plan to free 30,000 indentured girls and allowing me to be even the smallest part of your success.

Ford Foundation Kicks it Up for Ballet Hispanico

Darren WalkerFor years I have been wondering why Foundation staff, particularly those at large foundations, seem so reticent to admit that while giving can be hard work, it can also be a heck of a lot of fun.  Darren Walker, the new president of the esteemed Ford Foundation, has finally broken the “President’s Message” mold and expressed—in a video with a personal touch—the privilege it is to support great work that uplifts spirits.  Thanks for the nod to the joy your grantees bring to others Darren!

I’m a dreamer,but I’m not the only one

peace childToday, LinkedIn let me know that my consulting practice Wise Giving is having its 14th “birthday.” This is the first time I have been alerted to the age of my practice and I am grateful for the opportunity to express my gratitude to the incredible people who have helped me throughout the years and the hard working dreamers I’ve had the privilege to meet. When all seems lost, I think of the individuals and nonprofits I have met through Wise Giving and their tireless efforts to make the world a kinder and more just place. I can think of no better way to honor my own small milestone than by standing publicly in solidarity with the Parents Circle Families Forum, an awe-inspiring group of more than 600 Israeli and Palestinian families, each of whom have lost a family member or loved one to the conflict, yet continue to work together in support of peace, reconciliation and tolerance. My thoughts are with them and with all of you who have welcomed me into your workplaces and hearts these past 14 years.

Badakhshan Relief

(c) Mohammad Ismail/Reuters

(c) Mohammad Ismail/ReutersUNICEF

My dear friends at The Khaled Hosseini Foundation shared this three-minute  UNICEF video with me. It documents the recent relief efforts UNICEF began in response to the Badakhshan landslide in Afghanistan. I have to admit, I was stunned by this video. Whatever it was I was picturing when I read the words “landslide” in the news was far less devastating than this.If you watch it, you will see what I mean. Khaled’s foundation is raising funds for UNICEF through July 4 so if you or anyone you know might want to help, you can donate safely through his site.

For Mother’s Day, Save a Child

icantakephotos-embrace-infant-warmer-1The most dangerous day of a child’s life is the day of their birth. I learned this from Embrace, a nonprofit founded here in the Bay Area. Embrace explains that premature infants lack the body fat necessary to regulate their own temperature so even room temperature can feel freezing cold to them. In the developed world, these babies are typically placed in an incubator until they’re able to make it on their own. But parents and health care workers caring for hypothermic infants in developing countries are left with few options, among them hot water bottles, radiant warmers, hot coals, and light bulbs. In 2007, a group of grad students at Stanford were challenged to create an intervention for hypothermia that cost less than 1% of the price of a state-of-the-art incubator. Their solution was the revolutionary blanket seen in this photo. Embrace is saving thousands of lives by donating these blankets in some of the poorest countries in the world. What better way to celebrate mother’s day than by giving a little warmth to a newborn who would otherwise not survive? And as a gift to yourself, I hope you will watch this 2 ½ minute video of Nissima in Uganda.


Charity Ratings Suffer a Blow

on blackboardThe William and Flora Hewlett Foundation announced today that their eight-year, $12 million effort to support the “effective philanthropy” movement did not achieve its goals. This effort aimed to persuade individual donors to give greater consideration to financial and short-term metrics; it also de-emphasized harder to measure impact such as influence on social and political change, hope and joy, mitigation of pain and suffering, and even donor satisfaction. The foundation admitted that while the effort “succeeded at producing more information about charity performance [think Charity Navigator and Give Well], it did little to change donors’ decisions: They continued to give with their hearts, not their heads.” Commenting on the news, Jan Masaoka, Executive Director of California Association of Nonprofits explained that using Charity Navigator and other simplistic ratings never was “using your head.” She said, “Your head ought to tell you that unproven, inaccurately calculated metrics for the wrong things are an un-smart ways to choose where to donate.” To be clear, I always review nonprofit tax returns available online at Guidestar when performing due diligence. But given the large number of worthy charities that have been unfairly tarnished by simplistic assessments, and the misconceptions these ratings have fostered, I am relieved that the research about their inefficacy is now available and being acted upon.

Unsung Heroes of Compassion 2014


Dr. Jill Seaman


Wisdom in Action announced today the recipients of the 2014 Unsung Heroes of Compassion award—51 individuals from 18 countries who work tirelessly to ease the suffering of others, create opportunities for those less fortunate, and bring life-saving care to war-torn regions of the world.  Later this month, the “unsung heroes” will be acknowledged with a blessing from the Dalai Lama at a special event I am helping to produce. I encourage you to read a bit about these individuals in the short narratives I wrote and/or edited with D’Arcy Richardson and Lindsay Green-Barber. If time is short, start with Jill Seaman, Mazen Faraj, or Budd McKenzie, just a few of the many I cannot stop thinking about. The “unsung heroes” have made their lives shining examples of goodness, lighting the way for us in places where hope must overcome hopelessness and generosity illuminates the only path to safety. I hope you, too, will find inspiration in their stories.

His Unconquerable Soul

Nelson and HHDLWhile in prison, Nelson Mandela found strength in the words of William Ernest Henley’s poem Invictus:

“Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be, For my unconquerable soul.”

My deepest gratitude to Mr. Mandela for being such a generous teacher and soul. His passing makes me all the more grateful that in just two months, I will again be seeing my other great teacher, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Fueling Relief


Torn again about which aid groups to support following a major natural disaster—this time Typhoon Naiyan—I felt compelled by a story I heard tonight on NPR about Fuel Relief Fund, the only organization in the world that provides free fuel after a disaster. Launched in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, and tested in 2010 in Haiti, and in 2011 in both Japan and Turkey, the fund purchases fuel as close to the disaster site as possible and gives it away to any individual or humanitarian group that needs it. Without Fuel Relief Fund, vehicles that provide aid, food, medical attention and other services to people in towns and villages devastated by Haiyan cannot move, generators cannot run, and the most basic of emergency services grind to a halt. Because the UN, Red Cross, UNICEF, Doctors without Borders, and many others are relying on Fuel Relief Fund today, I thought you’d also want to hear of their work.

International Day of the Girl

intl day of the girlToday is International Day of the Girl, established by the United Nations to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. Inspiring stories and videos are arriving in my inbox from all over the world, including this op-ed about child marriage in Yemen by Rothna Begum, a women’s rights researcher for Human Rights Watch and this fantastic 1 ½ minute video from Krishna Chaudhary, a girl who was freed from child slavery by the Nepal Youth Foundation. The U.N. says, “The fulfillment of girls’ right to education is first and foremost an obligation and moral imperative…yet girls in many countries are still unable to attend school and complete their education due to safety-related, financial, institutional and cultural barriers.” Education is the one consistent positive determinant of practically every desired development outcome, from reductions in mortality and fertility, to poverty reduction and equitable growth, to social norm change and democratization. To learn more #dayofthegirl