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.

Back to School

Last week, I was at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University for the beginning of what will be a yearlong course of study. For five days, my cohort and I were immersed in academic study, skill building, peer learning and radical self-inquiry. Among the many professors who taught us was the legendary community organizing “guru” Marshall Ganz, who worked alongside Martin Luther King in 1964, devoted 16 years to the United Farm Workers led by Cesar Chavez, and is credited with devising the grassroots fundraising model used in 2008 by Barack Obama. I am so grateful for my new community of worldwide leaders and their generosity of wisdom and warmth.

Justice Department to end use of private prisons

privateprisonsLong overdue news yesterday from the U.S. Justice Department saying they plan to end use of private prisons because research shows they are  less safe and less effective, do not save substantially on costs, and do not maintain the same level of safety and security.  To truly grasp the enormity of the problems at some of these profit-driven facilities, read Shane Bauer’s exposé of his four months undercover as a private prison guard in Louisiana or The Nation magazine’s story about deaths in privately operated facilities, both of which were cited by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in her announcement. (You can also hear great podcasts about these stories on Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.) This is a big win for the power of investigative journalism to shed light on secrets others want to keep hidden and hold the powerful accountable. The push must continue to end profit-making private prisons still used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Marshals Service and states.

Do you have a $100 million idea?

MacArthur logoA new competition launched by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation will award a $100 million grant to a single proposal designed to help solve a critical problem affecting people, places, or the planet. The Foundation’s competition, called 100&Change, is open to organizations working in any field of endeavor anywhere. Applicants must identify both the problem they are trying to solve, as well as their proposed solution. Every three years, the foundation will award $100 million to help make one of these solutions a reality. To learn more about this extraordinary opportunity visit the competition website or check out the foundation’s press release here.

Too young to wed

ChiefThanks to Huffington Post, I have a new hero. Theresa Kachindamoto, senior chief in the Dedza District in Central Malawi made 50 of her sub-chiefs sign an agreement to end child marriage in her area of authority. She also made the leaders annul any existing underage unions, and send all of the children involved back to school. Last year, Malawi’s parliament passed a law forbidding marriage before the age of 18. But under customary law of the traditional authorities, and the constitution, Malawian children can still marry with parental consent, and 1 in 2 girls in the country is married before she is 18. As in many nations, impoverished parents marry off their young daughters in exchange for a dowry and see no alternative to doing so.  “I talk to the parents,” Kachindamoto said to U.N. Women last year. “I tell them: if you educate your girls you will have everything in the future.” Over the past three years, Kachindamoto has annulled close to 850 marriages. Hers is a beautiful example of changing the world by acting where you can–with as much conviction and power as you can muster.