non-profits

I Am Generic to Keep My Options Open

I am seeing a rise in generic humans. I am meeting them at events, they are connecting with me on Linkedin, they read my blog --they are everywhere. I used to spot this species mostly at undergraduate institutions where undeclared majors evolved into generics. But today I meet them in all stages of life. Apparently the current brutal  job search world squeezes out any differentiating attributes, any passion from their personalities. They are like walking dead who are indiscrimnate about their employment. And they are multiplying! 

Sorry let me back up and describe this human who is proliferating among us. 

Generic humans are brandless, non-commital, dispassionate, and directionless bags of protoplasm that are doing everything possible to be open to any and all jobs opportunities. It is FOMO for jobs. So they have become Spock like creatures devoid of their emotions, dreams, and passions. They are the cowardly lion on the yellow brick road of life. They are mercenaries who will work for any army. Free agents who just want dental benefits. Generic

Last week a thirty-something year-old guy, well dressed, well spoken was referred to me by a former colleague. He wanted an informational interview to understand my world. I always say yes to my former colleagues requests! Anyway, this guy has a good resume and is looking for a job. Unclear where he is going on his resume, but that doesn't bother me (especially if you look at my resume!) I learn a lot about him and his quirks in the first 90 seconds.

He started off like this: "So glad I am meeting with you because I really want to work for a non-profit. I want to help other people and when I have volunteered I have been the most fulfilled, so I decided that choosing non-profit work would center my life around what matters to me. But everyone keeps telling me that I have to have a cause or a specific issue to focus on. But I tell them that doesn't matter. I have decided to work for a non-profit--a good non-profit that is making a difference. With good leadership and management. A stable non-profit, not too big not too small. I have a lot to offer in terms of skills and experiences. The right non-profit would be lucky to get me. So am I wrong? Am I doing something wrong? Do you think I need a cause or an issue? What do you think?" Whew!

He is Generic with diarrhea of the mouth! It is like putting "non-profit job" in the Google search bar to find employment. So you have narrowed your search to 1.6 million non-profits in the US! 40,000 in LA!

I said, are you single? He said, "Yes, what of it?" Is this how you date?, I said. No preferences, no dimensions of compatibility, no emotions? 

He said "No way!" Okay, then why don't you look for a job the same way?! You have to express what you want and you have to have causes or issues that matter to you more than others!

If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything. 

ColaA 28 year old woman recently told me that the industry, the product, the service of her future employer was irrelevant. She winked and told me, "Well I wouldn't work for a firearms manufacturer." We laughed and laughed, as I screamed inside. 

These Generics think they are being smart and clever. Everyone except them knows that their pitch, elevator speech, or BIT leads nowhere. "If you do not know where you are going, every path will lead you there." And mostly in vicious circles where you end up at the beginning again. And no one can help a Generic because their search is undefined. 

Generics would not buy clothes, pick a restaurant, or buy a car this way. They would research what they WANT, what they PREFER, and what they DESIRE. They would shop and compare before they buy. They would have lists of prospective employers without regard to openings. In short, their search would be informed by their values, needs and wants. 

Generics say, "I just want to keep my options open." Like the open sea or deep space. Open becomes infinite. Yeah yeah we want options. But it makes you sound indifferent to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness! We have to link to things we care about. We always have preferred industries, preferred jobs, and preferred employers in mind. Then others can help you!

Today's job market actually requires the opposite. People who care about the product, service and or purpose are a better fit than generics. Competence and adaptability, and energy are a dime a gross. With fewer open positions , the new filters from the employer side is FIT. And FIT is directly linked with an emotional and intellectual connection with the organization's purpose. Someone who loves the work will be more engaged, more loyal, stay longer, and work harder. Non-profits, for-profits, public sector, private sector--doesn't matter.

As a Generic, you should be fired as your own brand manager!

Stop keeping your options open. Stop saying that. Start expressing what you want, what you care about, who you are and what you need. Stop being generic! And friends don't let their friends become generic.

If you were hiring wouldn't you always prefer an employee who cares about the work and the mission? Be that candidate!

 Thanks for reading. John

 


Give AND Get

We have all been told that it is better to give than to receive. I know as a kid this was never intuitive. We constantly wanted to receive. We had so many needs and wants. As a child, receiving was way better. But as we grew and matured we understood the wisdom in this maxim. You realize that you Get what you Give. That sharing is not an act of generosity but a necessity of the soul. Material things fade in importance and meaning replaces money. We understand that we have much more to give from our wealth, our wisdom, and our work. Guilt can motivate but gratitude sustains our generosity. We learn the intrinsic benefit of giving that redeems us as givers.

When you give, you feel generous, you feel powerful. When you think about others you strengthen yourself. While we may give to get these benefits, we need to always remind ourselves that we have the precious opportunity to give--we get to give.  Give-get1_11-282

For it is in giving that we receive. Francis de Assisi

As a country we are generous. We have been a model of philanthropy and giving of time and money for the world. But when we measure our efforts not as a comparison to other nations but to our own expectations we might come to different conclusions. 

The average US household gives about 4.2% of their income. Most of it goes to church , alma mater and to the hospital, about 67% of all giving. *

Wealthier people give less. Households making over $200,000 a year (top 5% of earners) who live in really nice neighborhoods give 50% less than the average American household. In fact only one zipcode of the top 20 wealthiest zipcodes (where average income approaches $500,000) is in the top 1000 zipcodes of giving %. *

So it is also surprising how little we give. Aren't you surprised? What should we give 5%, 10%, more? 

If we moved the needle to 5% fo all Americans individual giving would increase about $60 billion a year!

Each of us can give more. We can. 

But why do we give? What motivates us? 

In a newish book by Adam Grant, Give or Take, he details the benefits of giving. With decades of research he concludes there are three types of people. 

Givers: They give without expectation and make giving a priority. They look for giving opportunities not just react to them. 

Matchers: They keep track of the score. Who owes whom. They believe in full reciprocity and equity. I scratch your back......

Takers: They always make out  in all transactions even in giving. They are Me first.Only give if they gain.

Of course, few admit they are Takers, but we all know them. I meet gobs of them. They try to be subtle and sly but you spot them a mile away. Their favorite radio station is WII-FM. What's In It For Me! Giving to them is a deal where they reap the profit. Most people think they are Matchers, some are disguised Takers. Matchers see equity in giving. Matchers beleive in equity and that they should always get their fair share. Givers trust others intentions. They believe in giving first and last. Givers are represented at both ends of the barbell. Super successful and failures. People who give generously ascend their worlds or they foolishly give everything away without any self-interest. But givers who are not fools are the most successful.

Grant makes many surprising findings that basically reinforce the idea that unconditional giving to those in need, to a cause greater than themselves, builds a base of support and connects them to new worlds. In other words, it strengthens your network! A network that is diverse and "touches multiple domains and worlds."

Grant asserts that giving always helps the giver most. He describes many studies and cases here. Once the Giver understands the need, meets the people with need, connects with the need, then the Giver benefits more. Givers think of themselves as role models. They think about the consequences of not giving. Givers care. 

So as a fundraiser, I have met all types with every conceivable motivation and angle. In the non-profit world there is usually a "Give or Get" requirement for members of boards of directors. Meaning you have to give or get money for the non-profit with some $ minimum. Even though this is a "requirement" many do not meet it. I prefer Give AND Get--meaning you must give something personally to have "skin" in the game. The amount is what you can afford, but you need to be personally invested. My experience is that few board members meet and exceed these duties. They refuse to give. I have watched hedge fund managers whine like babies. Super wealthy folks give more excuses than a tardy teenager. These are phony givers. They masquerade as givers but do not give. They are Takers who are not truly committed to the cause or the organization they brag about serving. 

Some jaded and cynical people tell me that rich people got rich by being Takers. But as Grant shows in his book, true Givers are the ones who go to the top. 

On the other hand, I have met so many truly generous people who I aspire to be like. To always help. To always give. To always personally invest myself. These giving mentors have shown me the way. Taking is short term, and matching takes a lot of effort to keep track.  I have learned that my capacity to give can grow with practice and exercise. I can and must give more. 

So in life you have to Give AND Get. We all want to be givers. The more you give proactively the more you get. Your giving and the way you give mentors your children and everyone else who looks up you. If you give more without an expectation, without listening to WII-FM, you will receive so much more than you imagined. 

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give. Winston Churchill

Thank you for giving me your attention. And for what you give to others. John

*Chronicle of Philanthropy study of giving 2013


Curate Your Network

I like cooking. It is like therapy for me. It is a chance to be creative and then you get to literally enjoy your work! :) I follow two basic approaches. I either start with a recipe that I have cut out of a publication that intrigued me. Or I look in the frig and see what is there. The first method requires me to plan, buy stuff, and take time to read and learn. The second is a challenge but is the lazier alternative. I enjoy both forms of cooking.

Life is like my cooking analogy. (stay with me). You can always rely on what you have, what you know, and who you know. Or you can add new learnings, new connections, and new ideas to your process. I know this is not an either or proposition. We all have our tendencies, our habits, and our default modes of living and cooking. Frig

I have seen that people network this way too. They have a few people they rely on for their career nourishment, their advice, and their direction. Not talking about your mentors now. I am referring to your network that is beyond your friends and family. These are people that may occupy your extended reference list, including former bosses, colleagues--people who you from time to time rely upon for advice and connections. How fresh or stale is this network?

This is the network that is in your frig. 

Now think about where you are going with your life and career. Your ambitions, goals, and career aspirations--(your recipes, if I have not overstretched this analogy already). How does your network relate to these thoughts? In other words, does your current go-to network have the experiences, background, passion, connections to help you get to where you are going?

If you have read any of my posts you know that you can never under-estimate your existing relationships--that you often don't know who you know. 

But I also want you to take an inventory of your current network. To see whether you need to add to your network or uncover your needs in your existing network.

The point is to design your network. Curate a network that has the dimensions and facets that reflect your interests, career objectives, and passions. 

I meet so many people who want to work in a non-profit. That is what they say. "I want to work for a non-profit." They might as well have said they want to live in Asia. The lack of specificity will engage no one in your quest. After I pummel them with questions about the specifics, I always ask them, "Who do you know that works in a non-profit (especially one they want to work for)?" Most tell me they do but HAVE NOT HAD THE TIME TO CONNECT WITH THEM? Hmmmmmm. 

Our networks have to reflect where we are going and certainly match up with what we tell others are important to us. 

Look in your frig. See what you need to acquire, learn about, read about---specifically who you want to meet. Is everyone in your network more or less like you? Then you need to add some variety to your cooking! Talking to yourself will only get you so far! You need new ideas, inspirations, and energy. Once you have a good idea about your goals then seek people with names you want to meet. People with certain titles. People in specific orgs. Which orgs are the leaders in this field/industry? Who are the thought leaders?

Are you following the people, organizations and publications that reflect your goals? 

Curate your own network. Not just by adding friends on FB or linking on Linked-in. Do it with intention and purpose. Not just to get jobs, but to deepen your understanding and your commitment to your goals--the ones you say to yourself and to others. Once you connect with others those words and thoughts will change but your path will become more clear.

Thanks for reading. John 


Philanthropy for the 99%

We make ourselves so crazy during the holidays that we forget important things. We get easily caught up in the giving season and forget to give of ourselves--we  forget why we give. Don't get me started on the commercialization of this time of year and how we have been trained to buy our way into and out of the holidays. We all know in our hearts that material things can never repair or advance our relationships. We know that a single time of year of superficial contact will not sustain our network. Yet we fall into this trap, into this mental deception, on a pavlovian annual basis.

Presents will never replace our presence.

Let's be more philanthropic. 

This fancy P word can seem foreign and inappropriate for us who occupy the lower 99%. But let me assert that if you understand its true meaning we all need to adopt it as part of our lifestyle and habits all year long. 

φιλάνθρωπος philanthropos, combined two words: φίλος philos, "loving" in the sense of benefitting, caring for, nourishing; and ἄνθρωπος anthropos, "human being" in the sense of "humanity", or "human-ness". 

When we care about each other, about our fellow human beings--when we love each other--this is philanthropy. 

Giving is not a chore it is a habit. It is not a list of things to buy. It is your readiness and willingness to help others unconditionally. 

It is not a task to unburden our guilt. It is the joy of loving another. Of responding to needs with openness and kindness. 

Here are four quick tips to become more philanthropic:

1.Write a note: One of my greatest peeves is the un-signed holiday card. The mass mailed card that contains nothing human--not even the label is hand written! Yes the photo cards are nicer than a card with a pre-printed name, but wow have we lost our humanity. Writing a note that is personal and thoughtful is a beautiful thing and a lost art.

The thought does count, but you have to act on your thoughts.

2. Give the gift of time: Where you spend your attention and time defines what is important to you. Make a commitment to spend more time with those you care about and love. Don't just say it to yourself, but make a commitment to them. You need this as much as those you care about. Don't regret time lost with others. It will be you who loses. 

3. Give to your passions: Align your financial and volunteer giving with your passions--with the issues that are most important to you. Don't get stuck with giving because you "always" give to them. Or because someone else asked you to. Make your giving reflect who you are and who you care about. You will give more and get more. Your giving will have meaning to you and others.

4. Give more: As a nation we give about 4% of our income to charity. Actually, the middle class is the most generous and gives almost twice the percentage of their incomes as the super rich. However, we all need to give a little more.  We can afford it. There is a growing population at the bottom of our economy that is really hurting and suffering. Pick an issue or cause that resonates with you and give! You can make a difference with any amount of money. Give what you can.

These are the most important investments into your network. Networking your passions and care for others multiplies your impact and your opportunity to make a difference.

Jk and yunusA few weeks ago I had the great honor of meeting Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Laureate, the creator of micro-lending and the founder of the incredibly successful Grameen Bank. He was asked what corporations could do to be more philanthropic--how could their corporate social responsibility be more successful? He said, "If every corporation adopted 50 or 500 families in poverty and helped them, we would end poverty. We need to help each other."

We can easily get caught up in complex campaigns, strategies, and efforts that yield little change. Helping each other, helping people in need--will always make a difference.

Who do we know that needs our help? Who needs our help that we need to know?

We change the world one person at a time. We do.

You have so much more to share and to give to others.

Let's be more philanthropic, in the true sense of the word-- during the holidays and through the next year and the next.

Thank you for all you do for others and what you will do in the future!

Thanks for reading. John 

PS: Interviewed for LA Magazine's website on trends in philanthropy in Los Angeles


7 Phrases That Should Be Banned

Obviously not talking about George Carlin's seven curse words. And if you have never heard of George Carlin, may he rest in peace--get with it!  George-carlin

I am talking about 7 career phrases that set me off. Seven word configurations that people blurt out with casual regularity that I find profane. These phrases push my buttons and require great restraint from me to not say something more offensive! :) They are toxic to networking and mentoring. They mask real issues that hold back careers and potential. 

These are robotic reflexive automaton utterances that mean nothing but say volumes about the speaker. They are symptoms of issues which are being denied or ignored.

Banned-stamp-clipartHere they are the seven career/life phrases that should be banned:

  1. I'm very busy- We hear this everyday, many times a day.You say:"How are you?" and we hear: "Very busy." Everyone is busy and we are busy all of the time. We breathe air, gravity keeps us put, the earth circles the sun, and we are busy? Anyone not busy?!! The question: What are we busy doing? My truly favorite is when a subordinate comes into my office and says, "Are you busy?" "Not sorry to interrupt." or "Do you have a moment?" I usually, say "So funny I was just napping. Doing nothing. What do you want?" We know in our hearts that busy-ness can not be the focus of our business. Stop saying this!
  2. I need more balance in my life--You don't. I know what you mean, you want more. You want more time for family, hobbies, and life outside of work. But you also want more from work--more money, more growth, and more fulfillment. Balance is a mythical pie chart of equal pieces. Never happens. You want a bigger pie! You need to prioritize and to invest more time to expand your life.
  3. My life is going according to my plan--Yikes! So you have a plan for yourself and the rest of the universe? Please share it. Because if your plan predicts the economy, world events, your bosses mood, and your employer's next re-org--then you have to buy lotto tickets! Your plan needs to be to become the best you can be and to adapt rapidly. To nurture who you are and to engage your talents with the world. A linear chronological plan that provides a lock-step map to your future is an insurance plan for self deception. Quit planning and start doing. 
  4. I am going to wait and see what happens--Confused by change and chaos? We wait for a calmer moment to make our move. "When the economy improves..." "After this new VP gets settled.." "When the company completes this restructuring.." Let me tell you a secret. If you want to be competitive, speed is the deciding factor. Unless you are Benjamin Button, you are not getting any younger. Waiting is for wimps and frankly waiting is a giant pile of procrastination. Not saying be impulsive and stupid, I am encouraging you to move and act on your instincts. Wait and you will miss the window of opportunity.  It's only your dreams that await you.
  5. I want more stability--See #2 above. I meet a lot of people that say they want stability. They say they don’t want change. They want to keep what they have. These people are lying to themselves. No one who is ambitious and wants a better life wants stability. No parent who loves their kids wants things to stay the same. Nobody who is alive, who is conscious of the needs in our community, of the inequities in our society wants things to stay the same. You want change.
  6. What's so tough about non-profit work?--I am so sick and tired of big shot execs de-valuing what non-profits do. I think the word non-profit hurts our work and our reputation. The non-profit sector is an essential economic engine in this country. Last year it was $1.4 trillion in size. Sorry for that rant, but I wish I could implant these facts into the minds of some of the arrogant people that I encounter. Having worked multiple times in both for-profit and non-profit. It is not a contest. Non-profit work is so much more difficult to be successful. You have a business model that can not scale based on demand. There is a nonsensical lack of appreciation for overhead for non-profits when a corporation can have 85% "overhead" in their product. If you want to transfer your skills to non-profits--humble yourself ---become a student. Lose your assumptions, learn the differences,  apply your talents and success will follow. Then I am all ears. 
  7. I am really not passionate about anything--You can't believe how many times I hear this. Young and mature. Exec and student. Men and women. All ethnicities. People who have devoted themselves to a "plan"--go back to #3 above--and thought passion would be delivered to them. The skies or their hearts would magically open up and they would get a healthy dose of the passion thing. So distracted by what they thought the formula for "success" is, they missed themselves and the world around them. No passion. New grads without a clue and retirees with nothing to do. You have to get lost to find yourself. Passion comes from your pursuit of happiness and the happiness of others. It comes from connecting who you are and the world around you. Never too late, but your time here requires you to find this.

Wow, do I feel better. I have vented and maybe you have understood. Now there is a possibility that you will not say these things and disabuse others from saying these phrases too. Thanks George for inspiring me. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Breaking the addiction to Zoloft for our souls

Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. H L Mencken attributed.

Used in the 1960 Oscar nominated film, Inherit the Wind, where a newspaper editor says, "It is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

I think this is everyone's job. This is why we exist. To care for those suffering and to make those not suffering to care.

Harvard released a study that shows that the protesters for the Occupy movement represent the top 1% of the world's population in wealth! We are all too comfortable!

More than ever we medicate our soul to avoid feeling for others. In order to focus on our needs we turn a blind eye to those in need.  

Nature abhors a vacuum. None exist.

Our  souls despise emptiness. Yet many seem to be.

We fool ourselves into to thinking we are caring and empathetic. We wear colored ribbons, and stand when the military is present, we buy products that support our causes, and we talk/complain about the needs of the poor and down trodden. These are all commendable gestures but we know they are insufficient. We know in our hearts that we should do more. We know that our actions are passive and not confronting the real problems. We make excuses that the issues are complex, overwhelming, and beyond our expertise. So we do nothing. It is zoloft for the soul. Each time we fool ourselves by doing or thinking something "good" we take a swig of anti-depressants to numb us from the reality. Numb is dumb. And we know it.Zoloft

We know that all problems are addressed one person, one family, one, neighborhood, and one community at a time. Taht one person can make a difference. But we can easily hide in the shadows of the enormity of the issue or problem. "My kid's school is bad, but it is the system that fails our children, so my involvement with the PTA will do nothing." "Homelessness is primarily caused by mental illness, so what can I do?" "I really do want to volunteer, but I am very busy right now." I remember asking a man on my board at Big Brothers Big Sisters, why he was involved. He said. "I am here for the kids." I told him none of the kids will ever be at a board meeting you have to come to our events, to the schools, or to our offices during the work day to see the kids. He told me he was too busy for that. Our soul cries out for a more fulfillment and more humanity in our lives and yet we pretend, procrastinate and hesitate.

The map is not the territory.  Alfred Korcybski

We have to deep dive into these issues we care about to understand them. We have to pursue them with passion and compassion. We have to see and experience the issue first hand. What is the truth about my kid's school? Or about the homeless in my area? Which organizations are devoted to this issues? How can I help? What are others doing? Does my charitable giving follow my heart? We have to answer and pursue these questions with our network and our mentors. We have to advance our thoughts to test our convictions and our commitments.

We talk more about the next product we are going to buy, the video we saw,  complain about our dental benefits, or feed the rumor mill with our gossip. All of these diversions are part of the way we medicate ourselves.

Many people I meet talk about "helping others" or "changing the world" like it is a European vacation they will take upon retirement. They envision themselves having more time and flexibility in this utopian time ahead. That's when they will take the off ramp from the medicated freeway and put what they care about in the center of their lives. We know it is a lie. I get so depressed when I hear these false promises to become more altruistic and caring in a future time. It makes me want to take Zoloft, but  don't. :)

What people don't understand is we don't have much time. If you are 25 or 65, your time to define your life by your deeds and not just your thoughts is limited. You have to care AND act on those feelings now. Maybe you feel guilty. Maybe you are "doing enough". The truth is each of us can and should do more. We have to detox our souls from the comforting meds of avoidance and emptiness and replace them with heavy doses of the the realities of the opportunities to reduce the suffering that surrounds us.

The irony is once we do this, we fill our soul and we become more engaged in our lives. We meet people who share this lifestyle. We become more successful because our lives are more aligned with who we are, they become more reality based and less numb. We do it not just to comfort the afflicted but to afflict our souls with the comfort of truly being human.

 Thanks for reading. John


Networking by the Boards

When I was much younger, I got the good advice to get on a few boards--non-profit and for profit--advisory and fiduciary. I naively thought it was difficult to get on boards and further that it was some type of honor. Of course there are a select number of boards that are highly coveted, but the vast majority are accessible to the qualified and the connected.

I also made the mistake of thinking that well known people were recruited on to many boards to help the organization. I learned that many of those well known people are also intentionally building even more robust networks.

Networks snow balls. The more you do the bigger and better they become.

I ask most people I meet. "What boards are you on?" It is a wonderful conversation starter and anyone who has ambitions and a vision for their community is on a board or three. I am not saying that only board members are the ones changing the world or doing work of substance. But it is very telling about what they are doing with their lives, where their priorities may lie, and to whom they are connected. My point here is board members get connected and those connections multiply. And when warm close knit connections increase, then opportunities get amplified. It is very basic networking.Board meeting

People who are working together closely, who see themselves as peers, will help one another.

I estimate that 50% of the opportunities I have been given have come through my current and past board memberships. That makes it possible for me to stay on my 8 week interview diet!

Board members recruit their colleagues for other boards. This is even more true on for-profit boards. People want people with experience that they trust.

If you think a board is the way to increase your sales prospects, you are sadly mistaken. I have been on and staffed board members who are solely mercenary --only interested in their commissions. These are the worst board members.

The work of the cause, org, or company must come first. You have to show up (literally and figuratively) and become fully engaged. Your brand on the board is about your work on the board. Your great reputation and resume got you to the table, but they are meaningless potential until you deliver for the org. Yes then and only then, will opportunities for business and career follow. And your board work will enhance your resume and the cycle continues.

Find organizations you admire, deeply care about and support. That is your starting point. Among these groups you need to shop for the boards that are the most compatible with you and your life and goals. You may have to work your way up through committees or volunteering. Not always a bad thing to experience the organization from a different perspective. Test the organization before you are in charge of running it! You probably will need to be nominated--you can rarely just apply directly. There is usually a formal nominating process that will take months and in some instances years. Like all things in life you must be patient. There is no instant gratification here.

  • What do you have to offer a board? Do you have the time? Are you willing to raise money and give money? Do you have other skills, talents, and experience you will offer?
  • What orgs do you want to help define/direct and make more successful? Make a list of your highest priorities.
  • Who do you know on those Boards or people that know those people? Get introduced to have informational interviews to explore what the organization's status and culture. What skills, background, and perspectives does the org need?

Be prepared for the democracy of a board. The balance between staff and board for control and direction. A majority of the members not pulling their weight. And the dilution of your ideas and suggestions.

But in the end, being on a board will deepen your understanding of the realities of running an org, especially a non-profit. What it takes to solve complex and intractable problems. You will be shoulder to shoulder with a new network of fascinating people who will broaden your network and your view of the world. And opportunities will follow.

If you say, "I am too busy to be on a Board." We all know the best people to ask to serve are the busy ones. Who wants to recruit someone who is idle? ;) Maybe you are not busy enough!!

Thanks for reading. John

 


Purpose Driven Networking--Search Me

As the new year unfolds, I always get a flurry of requests for help. People get focused on their needs and wants and reach out. I try to help. Yet people think that I have THE ANSWER. Regrettably, it  is never that simple. Looking for a job, considering a return to school, contemplating a career shift, or finding a soul mate--all have one thing in common. What do you want? What would be meaningful to you? And therefore Who are you? What is your purpose?

I sometimes get treated like a Google search box. Put in your Boolean search phrase and get millions of options in 1 second. It don't work that way! The Kobara search box asks you the questions! By the way this is called mentoring. Some people call it a Jewish conversation--you know when a question is answered with a question :)

But poorly thought out questions always deserve a question. Quality questions get quality answers.

The questions I pose in paragraph one above are often met with disappointment. The look, body language, and inflection I get in return tells me they just wanted me to give them the answer. And I know the answer is within them.

You have greatness within you.   Les BrownWe_Have_Greatness_Within_Us_by_rvpdesignz

Here are a few inquiries I have had in the first week of this new year.

Like to volunteer for a non-profit in LA.  What organizations would you recommend? --Cold voice mail received from a friend of a friend

Huh? I'd like to go fishing in the ocean, what bait should I use? Yikes. Of course this simple, and I mean in all ways, question triggers a thousand questions. There are more than 30,000 non-profit orgs in LA, after you eliminate the churches, hospitals and schools.! We can not get away with using Rose Parade Themes to define our journeys! Our questions have to be driven by our hearts and our passions, read PURPOSE.

I always wanted to be somebody, but I realized I should have been more specific. --LilyTomlin

More queries:

I am applying to grad school, do you think having more volunteer experience will help?

 I want to meet new people to date, the online thing is not working for me. What should I do?

Here's the deal. When you pursue things you care about, good things happen for your career, your educational options and your love life. Not only do you gain more experience, and your social network grows in substantive ways, but you become more attractive. What do I mean? How interesting are people who have jobs they don't like or don't care about? We are drawn to people who are doing things they love. There is an infectious energy. They become a magnet for more opportunities.

The opposite never works. Do things to impress others or that look good to say a grad school or a potential mate.

Where is the purpose in your life? What is your greatness? Pursue it!

Don't be confused. I am not saying that you have to be passionate about your day job. Be nice but not a requirement. I am saying connect with an issue, cause, through a non-profit organization.  Not a popular or a trendy one. One that speaks to your possibilities as Eric Saperston says. One that makes your heart beat faster and makes you feel good. Something that resonates with your soul.

It has to be personal. Your pursuit of your goodness will attract good things.

The answers to these questions lie within you. It is not so much what you will do next, but why.

I am always looking for the why in these questions I get. How is their pursuit of happiness driven by who they are---their purpose. Lead and network with purpose, instead of ambiguity and generality. Very different to test, connect to, explore your purpose than to go though motions in the hope of finding one.

Of course, while the answers are deeply personal, you can not do it alone. That's why connecting with others to get feedback and direction on the purposes and passions that swirl within you is so important. Yes and the hard and fulfilling work is to let them guide you.

Google yourself. Search within. Nurture your purpose. Engage and test that purpose through volunteering. Then your mentoring and networking will introduce you to a spectacular world of answers and opportunities.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Networking Tips from Beggars

My boss has a little ceramic plaque in her office that she bought at the 99cent store.  Raisins
Life is about raisins:

Raisin children!

Raisin money!

Raisin hell!

The wisdom you can find for under a buck! Those of us who have had to raise money/fundraise for causes for a living and a lifetime, consider ourselves beggars. While we may not use a tin cup and squat on a street corner, the process of getting people to part with THEIR money to fund your organization and cause is one of the most humbling and challenging tasks in life.

I was invited to be part of a prestigious panel of "begging" experts last week to help provide non-profit fundraisers and leaders gain a few insights into the current world of fundraising that is dripping with economic uncertainty and a receding donor pool. Stewart Kwoh, the founder and head of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, the leading civil rights organization for Asian Americans in the US and winner of a "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation in 1998. Stewart is a big time beggar. Kafi Blumenfield who leads the very progressive and effective Liberty Hill Foundation, is a consummate beggar. And Gayle Yamada, who leads the fundraising for the Little Tokyo Service Center, one the region's most innovative local cultural preservation and development non-profits. She is a professional beggar. I know what you are thinking, what was I doing with them?!!

They shared some insights, how-tos, and ideas that seemed to be very helpful to the audience. I think these lessons will help fundraisers but also apply to anyone interested in deeper and more fulfilling networking and relationships.

  1. Not about you: Never forget that you are representing a cause and an organization that are bigger than you. Many people will reject your proposals and your requests, but you can not take it personally. Learning from each rejection is critical to get better at pitching and begging, but don't waste time with how bad you feel. Yes, people give to people. But you are not representing yourself but the greater mission of your organization.
  2. Listen! What do they want?: Find out what makes people tick, who they are and why they are interested in your organization. What triggered their first gift? Eventually, you might get to a story that is very personal that tells you more about them and their motivations. Don't just show up and throw up your latest and greatest propaganda, find out what they think.
  3. Not just when you need something: Cardinal sin of all networking but especially fundraising. Reach out only when you need money or help. Bad form. Contact "important" prospects and supporters to check in, for advice, to share an article on something they care about (not your newsletter), to congratulate them on an achievement and then listen!
  4. Treat everyone like they are important: Many of the largest donors start off very small. They often don't look wealthy and may not even think they are wealthy. People are also connected, related to, know other donors, foundations, corporations--ones you are cultivating now. The moment you decide to treat a person with less importance, is the moment you find out her uncle is a billionaire! A story was told where a quaint elderly gentleman was a volunteer janitor at this struggling homeless shelter. He overheard the Ex Dir worrying about meeting next week's payroll. To the shock of the staff, the old man wrote a check for $20,000 to help them bridge the gap. When he died a few years later, he left them an endowment of $10 million! You never know who can help you.
  5. Passion to passion: Have to assume that you are passionate about your organization, not just interested or supportive. When a passionate fundraiser meets a passionate donor and they can find their common ground, great things happen. Connecting passions is the soul of relationships and of fundraising.
  6. Your existing donors are your best donors: No better donors than your existing ones. Don't ignore them for the newbies. More than likely you don't know them and your some of your donors would love to give more. Start with who you know before you just leap to people you don't.
  7. Short term needs with a long term focus: Our jobs as beggars is to help our organizations have a better future. Yes, that means meeting payroll and keeping the doors open. But some relationships need to be nurtured for the longer term. Your job is to meet you goals but to also seed the path for your successors who follow you.
  8. Make the ASK!: Number one complaint of donors, "Nobody ever asked". I am serious. Most supporters of organizations have not been courted or asked to give more. No an e-mail or a direct mail solicitation does not count. There is no substitute for meeting your donors face-to-face and asking them for more help. The ASK is a conversation about support and matching the donor's interests with yours. It is a logical consequence of the relationship. Blurting out an ASK when you don't know them can freak out everybody. But once you make the ASK, be quiet and listen!
  9. Say Thank You: I know this is really basic stuff but make calls and write notes. Make it as personal as you can. Thanking people is a lost art.
  10. Keep track of your relationships: Even if you only have 100 donors you have to have a shared system to document the relationships. A database that allows everyone to input info, facts, that help the organization understand the status, experiences, and opportunities of each donor. People in your organization have different interactions with donors/prospects and you want the current and future organizational team to be understand what the latest info is. Great networkers also have a "database" of notes to remember things and events.

Life is about raisins! Great begging and networking have the same assumptions at their core. It's the relationship, stupid! The opportunity to get to know people, really understanding them, and what they care about, is a priceless opportunity. It will reveal things that will help advance your organization and help you.

Thanks for reading. John


Networking at the Conference

No matter what industry or professional association I have been affiliated with, I have heard this refrain: "best thing about the conference was the networking". While we hope to be inspired and informed by the sages on the stages, by colleagues on panels and or by well known speakers--it rarely happens. Truth is our needs as a conferee are unique. We represent organizations that are different sizes and shapes and in different ages and stages of development. So it is no surprise that the "general sessions" of a conference never quite meet our needs.Conferences

It is It the hallway conversations and informal exchanges that often yield the most value. "Networking" becomes the best source to answer questions, get recommendations, learn new and different ways of doing business that APPLY to our circumstances. Meeting colleagues from across the state or country also gives you resources that you can tap into later. Most important, networking can be fun. Meeting different and new people who care about the same things with interesting perspectives strengthens your sense of belonging to your professional community of work.

So if you don't actively network at the conference, save some money, time and angst--stay home.

The best networking and the easiest networking is at conferences. Conferences bring us together so that we can literally get out of our boxes, reflect on our roles, challenges, and opportunities and ultimately get injected with a bit of new fuel to keep our motors running.

Funny thing, is while "networking" is the consensus greatest benefit from conferences, only a small subset of the attendees develop and execute a networking plan---except the vendors and exhibitors ;)

You have to remember to stick your hand out and introduce yourself. You are in warm and safe waters. Jump into the conference networking pool with both feet!

For non-profit industries and conferences there is a huge advantage and difference from the for-profit world. Many years ago I was on the national board of CASE, the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. When I first learned about CASE, I asked a colleague what it stood for. He told me, "Copy And Steal Everything!" I laughed, but realized quickly that in non-profit land we really were not competitors that had secrets. In fact it was the exact opposite, if you asked people they would give you everything. I learned that if you reciprocated in sharing, people would open up their minds and their hard drives! One of many reasons I have returned to the non-profit world.

Let's assume you are reading the trade publications, you follow the industry trends, you know who the leaders are (both individual and organizational), and of course you know well what you and your organization needs. And you are not one of these conferees who just goes to "see what happens." As in everything, "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, as Coach Wooden would say.

Here are a few tips on how to maximize the networking benefit from your next conference:

  1. Shopping list: Write down a menu of items you are shopping for. Things you need to understand better. Trends you want to learn about. Solutions to challenges you face. Use this menu to evaluate your session attendance. Evaluate this list while at the conference and certainly when you return.
  2. Your BIT: Your brief introductory talk--your BIT--how you introduce yourself matters. Yes, name rank and serial number, but it could also include your needs and interests. For example, "Hi I am so and so from such and such." (firm shake hand and smile) "What were you hoping to get from this conference?"  "I am really trying to find out who could help me with (subject), do you have any suggestions?" At the very least it will start a conversation. Engaging people in your quest and listening to theirs is always beneficial.
  3. Help others: The copy and steal everything world for non-profits or the sharing of great insights in for-profit circles only works if you reciprocate. You share and others will. The marketplace of meaningful networking exchanges depends on your willingness to assist.
  4. Benevolent stalking: These are thought leaders, innovators, achievers, or just plain interesting people you want to meet and or pick their brains. First, are these folks speaking/presenting? Who do you know who knows them? Ideally you would introduce yourself BEFORE the conference through a colleague or even a cold e-mail, to say you want to connect at the conference. You will be surprised how few people do this kind of prep and how receptive people are even to coldish e-mail intros. So you might even attend a session where the topic is less interesting than the speakers to hear what they have to say and possibly connect before or after they speak.
  5. Out of your comfort zone: Don't just mingle with your colleagues from your shop or people you already know. While there will always be benefits from that type of easy socializing, you could do that at other times. Meet people at every session you attend. Meet people at every event. Don't get so caught up in your list and menu that you don't connect with the person next to you. Make it a point to meet new and different people along the way.
  6. Take notes:Write down the names of people you meet and what was discussed or promised. Use the business card as your notecard or your smartphone to record a few words to jog your memory. Nothing worse than a pocket full of cards you don't recall. I refer to this as the cardboard network!
  7. Three foot networking: Meet anyone within 3 feet of you! I have learned over and over and over again, that you don't know who you are standing or sitting next to. Greet people, say hello and introduce yourself. Serendipity is powerful. Remember the object is not quantity it is always quality. Take some time to listen and connect. And if you click or find some commonality, you can reconnect later.
  8. Follow-up: Don't just collect cards and file them. Inevitably you promise people you will send them things. Others made promises to you. You heard several great speakers that piqued your interest and you could contact them to chat or get more info. You met a few interesting and nice people with whom you hope to stay connected. Send them a quick e-mail note. Do all of this in the first day or so when you return, before the work world you left gets its revenge! 

So yes, conferences are great places to network, IF you network! If you do a little planning, focus on your needs, help others, and also push yourself to make connections, then the conference will deliver on its networking promise.

Thanks for reading. John

 


The Habit of Commencements and Graduations

Tis the season where perfectly reasonable people put on gowns, funny hats with tassels and sit through processionals and listen to great attempts at inspiration. Yes, it's graduation season! You know that special time when we congratulate loved ones and friends for enduring blood, sweat, tears and financial debt to complete a degree. We witness the "commencement"-- the beginning of a new chapter where greater opportunity awaits. All of us know someone who is graduating from some school at some level. They may the first in their families to.......There are so many great stories of triumph, overcoming obstacles, and sheer determination that reinforce the value of education. Its a wonderful moment! The value of education, especially higher education or post secondary education comes to light. The research is conclusive that education can be the great equalizer and the ticket to the American Dream.Grad2

The ritual of graduations give meaning and importance to a specific milestone in our lives--the completion of a formal portion of our education. Celebration and congratulatory words and gifts are exchanged. The future seems brighter and yet daunting. Armed with a new sheepskin, some great courses, and experiences, the new grads have more confidence and a renewed sense of purpose. There is pomp, circumstance, and reason for celebration. (although I am not a fan of this "gap" year to "find oneself" or to "rest" after their educational "hardship" and tribulations. The whole idea of education is the opportunity to think--something few of us get to do in the "real world"!!)

It is just so weird how we stop our process of marking and celebrating our educational milestones once we have stopped our formal education. Some of you are still contemplating a run at graduate school. Well if you are in your 30s, chances are slim to none that you will. However, after we graduate from school and have our degrees, we abandon "graduations" and "commencements" for ourselves. Education becomes something we chase in the corridors of our busy lives--it's called keeping up! We might take an occasional class or read a book. We see a youtube or a Tedtalk and feel invigorated. If we are fortunate, these are moments of enlightenment and/or inspiration but usually not education.

Our thirst for learning is unquenchable. Yet, our forays to the pool of knowledge are intermittent and brief. We become complacent. We learn everyday how much we don't know and the obsolescence of our education becomes more apparent.

I may have been to 50 commencement ceremonies so far. Most of them I have been sitting on the stage in my silly mortar board listening to the speaker and watching the audience. A couple of times I have had the opportunity to address the graduates. Once I was asked to discuss "The relevance of a PhD" to 800 new doctoral grads, but that is a different story. A friend of mine is preparing a commencement address and asked my advice. I told her that the message is "You are not done". May sound trite, but education is a process that never ends.

I truly believe you have to treat every chapter of your life as a graduate degree. I often say as an MBA, because of the popularity of the degree. Every job, promotion, new opportunity is a chance to choose "courses", "professors", and "majors". Take 2,3,4 years to earn your next "degree". Use your time at work and while you are awake to focus your post-college educational journey. Its a mindset. Otherwise time marches on, and while we feel like we are learning everyday, we have nothing to show for it. We stay at a company for 6 years, the equivalent of 2-3 graduate degrees, and our resume looks hauntingly the same! The question is always, "What will you learn from whom and by when?"

I know I have stumped more than a few of you, so let me give you five ways to do this.

  1. Your employer as teacher--Fully utilize your employer's support for professional development, tuition reimbursement, conferences, and classes. Even if they do not have a policy, ask your boss about specific relevant opportunities and get her support.
  2. Volunteer work--Most of you give your time to important charities and causes. Be more focused on how to intertwine your educational goals with your generosity. If you want to learn more about say marketing, then volunteer to be on the marketing committee. People don't volunteer for the committees and if you show up twice you will be the vice-chair! Then you are vice chair learning about marketing for your favorite charity and your resume just evolved!
  3. Start-up something--One of the great advantages of being part of a start-up organization is you can do everything and anything. Job titles are irrelevant. There are enormous opportunities to take on functions and areas of responsibility. You have to learn and educate yourself because the team is limited and small. By the way, same goes for most non-profits as well.
  4. Josh Kaufman's Personal MBA--I really like what Josh is doing. His idea is you don't have to enroll in a formal program, take out huge loans, and make the sacrifice of trying to justify the cost benefit of interrupting your career to retool. Check out his blog and his bestselling book. There are many alternatives to a degree.
  5. Find mentors in specific subjects--You want to advance your understanding of an area of interest, a function or methodology. Find experts who will spend time in their "office hours" to coach you and answer your questions.

More than a couple of times in my career I realized I was stagnating. That I was shielded from learning new things by my routines and habits. That I could just go through the motions and be successful. These were the signs that I had to take action to alter and augment my experience. I usually ended up pursuing a new "degree".

Little will happen without purpose and intention. What do you want? Where are you going? What "degree" will you earn in the next 3-4 years? Set commencement and graduation dates.

Once you do, your network and mentors have to be evaluated for their ability to help you. You reconnect with people with a new perspective. You help people around you continue their educations, because the best way to learn is to teach!

 Happy graduation!

Thanks for reading. John

 


Flash learning, Lightning talks, Fast pitches, and You

Our ability to communicate quickly and effectively is more valued than ever before. If you use twitter, you know the limit of 140 characters and that all texting and social media require brevity--Driven by our shorter attention spans and our multi-tasking lives. We can futilely bemoan this inexorable trend toward speed and all of dire consequences. But we all agree on one thing, we want people to make their point. What are you trying to say?, and spit it out! :) We want people to articulate their thought with a bit of substance and a little style, right?Blah

The issue here is not just attention spans, it is our choices. As I say all the time--we have more choices and less time. So if you do not say something interesting quickly, people will shift their precious bandwidth to something that is more engaging. Imagine the challenge facing older middle school teachers today who don't have a Facebook page and never played a video game since Pac Man--and their up hill attempts to sustain interest in the curricula from a group born and bred on social media--WHEW!

All learning is going through massive change, especially outside of the ivy covered walls. More content on college campuses is delivered online than face-to-face. In other words, students can take more of their classes from their dorm room than in a lecture hall! The real and interesting change is occurring in training workshops, presentations, conferences, and informal education. Generically called "flash learning". Delivering interesting and compelling content in very compressed and often structured chunks. There are many movements, organized systems and events that feature and celebrate this form of learning. Consider the following:

  1. Ignite--5 year old global event where you have 5 minutes to present your thought/idea/theory. 15 seconds for every powerpoint slide, auto advanced. You have a max of 20 slides and you have to be well rehearsed.
  2. TEDtalks--My primary addiction :) TED may have been the inspiration for much of these changes. Started in 1984, TEDtalks have become a worldwide phenomenon with over 11,000 events. In a Tedtalk you are roughly given 3 minutes, 8 minutes or 18 minutes to make your presentation with or without slides, no auto advance requirements.
  3. PechaKucha--Developed in Japan by architects and designers to share ideas. Literally translated as "chit chat". Like Ignite you have 20 slides and 20 seconds, auto advanced. So, thre are 6 mins and 40 seconds max to do your thang.
  4. Fast pitches--Los Angeles Social Venture Partners and others developed this program to coach and mentor non-profits on how to pitch their stories to raise money and support. The winners get cash prizes for their orgs. Non-profits are notoriously poor at concisely communicating their mission and their need.
  5. Lightning talks--Developed in 1997 for techies to share ideas, speakers were given 5 minutes max to convey their newest project or solution.
  6. Speed Challenges--Just learned about these and I love the idea. This is a timed brainstorming exercise to help individuals in a group. Person with idea, problem, goal gets no more than 2 minutes to say their piece. The group has a max of 2 minutes to clarify and understand the concept. Then the group goes for 5 minutes in generating help, resources, and further ideas. So in 10 minutes you get great feedback and support. Brainstorm 

We all understand that the brain can only endure and absorb so much. Brain scientists have shown that 5-7 minutes is our ideal attention span. Think about the length of a song or a poem.

We have heard of, maybe even participated in, speed dating and other networking events that try and accelerate opportunities. Ice breakers are one of these old school devices.

My work on live tv and radio taught me quickly how being clear and fast is essential. Because the opposite is deadly. It always is.

So what does this mean to you and to networking. Everything!!!!

We all have heard of the elevator pitch that originated with the venture capitalists to engage and secure investors in the span of an elevator ride. But today every organization and everybody needs a brief, well thought out message. No matter what you are selling, trying to get a job, pushing a cause, raising money or just trying to make a point.

As Mark Twain said:

"It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech."

“I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

Nothing replaces preparation, brevity and putting a little of yourself into your communication. It takes a great deal of work to say something that makes a difference.

What is your ignite, PechaKucha, fast pitch, or TEDtalk about yourself or your cause or your idea or your organization?

All of this has to start with knowing who you are and what you want?

I developed the BIT, (brief introductory talk) to focus us on how we even introduce ourselves.

I love flash learning opportunities. I have long believed that if we pay attention and assert ourselves there are moments, events, and people that will teach us and change us in an instant. Life is so fast and we have to see the choices and the chances we get everyday.

Yes, we should slow down. We should savor long walks on the beach, enjoy a good book, and smell the roses along our meandering journey of life, as long as we know what we want and how to articulate it. And did we meet someone on the beach, learn something from the book, or did the sight and scent of the flowers make us think about someone else? How will our experiences advance our learning and our goals to help one another.

Thanks for reading. John


Reality check from Haiti and the power of networks

Do you remember the 1985 story about the $5000 of relief aid that was sent between Mexico and Ethiopia, which was enduring great suffering. Drought and war had ravaged the Ethiopian way of life. I remember thinking that the $5000 was such a pittance given the urgent and widespread needs. However, I realized I had mis-read the article. the financial aid went from Ethiopia TO Mexico to help with the huge earthquake in Mexico City. Then I learned that in 1935, a half a century before, Mexico had sent aid when Italy invaded Ethiopia and they never forgot. Ethiopians who remembered reciprocated, they fulfilled their sense of mutual obligation to their brothers and sisters in Mexico.

We help Haiti now and in the future because we are connected to them. Because we have an obligation  as humankind to help one another. I just hope that our focus on Haiti and the needs there will not fade too soon. 2 weeks into the devastation and our attention spans are already strained.

I was formally introduced to the International Medical Corps(IMC) last week. It was sort of embarrassing because IMC is based here in LA and I really did not know them. They provided a small corporate briefing to raise money and awareness. IMC is a very impressive organization that provides medical aid as their name implies. They were on the ground in Haiti 22 hours after the earthquake was reported. In fact they are most often first in where medical assistance is required.  By the way they are the ones who helped save Monley the 5 year old who was pulled from the rubble and is now doing fine. In brief here's what separates IMC from others:

  1. IMC engages the local population to train and sustain their efforts. 96% of their team members are from the local country.
  2. IMC stays with the hard work of getting through the crisis and then moves into the necessary transition to public health and rebuilding. IMC is among the few humanitarian agencies still in Darfur and Iraq for example.
  3. IMC spends 92% of its gifts on their programs! Amazingly efficient.

But IMC leverages their donations by serving as a hub of a powerful and experienced network of resources. They use the power of multiplication to amplify their impact. They match every dollar with a minimum of 20x in aid and support. In fact I was told that it is now closer to 59 to 1! But it is their philosophy to not be a foreign aid team that parachutes in and leaves that impresses me most. They train locals to grow their reach from thousands to millions and leave a legacy of a self-reliant infrastructure.

The power of networks are known to all of us. And if they endure because they are self sustaining then the ripple effect really happens. Networks that are not dependent on one member or one resource are powerful and replicable. IMC responds by engaging its growing worldwide network that now spans 50 countries.

Nancy Aossey has headed IMC for the last 25 years. Like all great leaders she is brimming with energy and passion for her work. She is charismatic but not flashy. She is very much like IMC -- substantial. More about effectiveness than ego. Probably why their brand is not a household name. Nevertheless they continue to do their magic where they are needed.

After learning about them my family decided to give them most of our 2010 charitable contributions. Please consider helping them too. 

Our lives are truly changed by the people we meet. If we spend a little time understanding who they are, why they do what they do, our own trajectories and paths are altered. We glean little bits of sanity and rationality, and comfort from these encounters. And sometimes these conversations open our brains to new ideas and thoughts.  It shows us the power of the human spirit. It redefines us. We get mentored in these moments of enlightenment and reconsider who we are and where we are going. Learning about IMC had that impact on me.

Yeah I am a bit of a pushover, my heart and maybe my own guilt lead me too often. But I think these moments are after shock reality checks. They are the speed bumps that get us to decelerate a bit and consider what we are doing to make a difference. We could all quit our jobs and join IMC. Not suggesting that. But we need to learn from IMC's wonderful model.Reality checks

We all volunteer, donate, and empathize--that is the baseline of humanity. We do that because we are upright and we have hearts. But how do we leverage the good we do? How do we use our talents and networks to multiply that good? As I am fond of saying, even the lone ranger did not ride alone.  Never be discouraged by "I am just one person". The power of networks, of working with others is empowering and powerful. Re-committing ourselves to our own passions and engaging our networks in that work has to be a priority. And one person can make more of a difference.

So give money and or time to Haiti. It will make a difference and make you feel good. But use this time to consider the IMC model of leveraging goodwill through your network. Think about how we make a bigger impact or change. And like Mexico and Ethiopia, we will also build stronger bonds to help one another now and in the future.

Thanks for reading. John


True Selflessness and Humankindness

For me meeting and reconnecting with people nearly always presents opportunities to see the world and myself differently. I am constantly inspired by networks driven by the desire to help each other and others. This week was no different. I had the chance to spend a few hours with a group of non-profit execs and leaders from around the country. Incredible leaders who selflessly devote themselves to causes and issues that will transform lives. J0439384

Some were just starting their roles, others were veterans, and still others were private sector refugees.  But they all decided to work in arenas that they care about and where their work has impact. First of all the non-profit sector is blessed to have so many talented selfless people working tirelessly and out of the lime light providing the safety net for the less fortunate.  But the world of non-profits is so much worse off than the general economy.  Consider a “business” where the demand for service far exceeds the supply—sounds  like a winner, right? No way. The challenge is how to pay for increasing the services, when your clientele is defined by need.The non-profit  business model  requires donations from individuals, corporations and foundations. Those sources are depleted. And donations to non-profits has never followed the economy on the way up and always lead the way down. So there is a serious, and probably invisible to you, disintegration of the infrastructure for the poor.

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When you listen to the economic prognosticators you hear that the stock market has rebounded 60% since March, housing prices are up ticking, consumer confidence is leveling off, and corporate profit forecasts are improving. Contrast that with the beneath the radar hidden basement of the poor and uninsured. This is where the trifecta of cancerous challenges lurks: unemployed, uninsured, and poor. This population now represents tens of millions of families! It grows like a hidden tumor delivering great  pain and suffering-now and will continue well into the future. And so the cavernous abyss between the haves and have nots also grows despite the economic improvements. The burden and cost of our poor will continue to undermine any long term sustainable growth.

One critical fact is being submerged in the uncivil war of words over health care, non-profits are the backbone for health services for the individuals and families that need them most. It is a special and vital network that is being washed away by the after effects of the financial tsunami. But all hope has not been extinguished.

Recently I had the chance to visit UMMA, the University Muslim Medical Association in south LA. UMMA was founded in 1996 by a bunch of Muslim students at UCLA, who wanted to carry their university experience into the community and pursue their faith by serving others. The followed their hearts and their minds and their religious teachings to build a clinic in one of the toughest and most under-served parts of Los Angeles. In what appears to be a small storefront office that looks more like a used car lot than a medical facility from the outside,  but a state of the art clinic that will serve more than 16000 people this year on the inside. The staff is majority Muslim, almost all of the doctors are Muslim, who volunteer their time and expertise, but the clients are whomever in the neighborhood needs medical treatment - few if any are Muslim. They have quietly and consistently grown their clinic into a model for the country and today there are 26 similar Muslim clinics across the nation. So hundreds of thousands of non-Muslim Americans receive free or low-cost health care because of these clinics.

Umma docs

As the health care debate rages on and there is so much dis-information and misunderstanding. But standing in the waiting room of UMMA, you see the overwhelming need, you see diverse faces of people who have no other choices. Who probably do not know or care that UMMA is run by Muslims. They are grateful that there is now a facility in their environs which is devoid of hospitals and other medical facilities. Here is a side of the Muslim community that gets no visibility. Stereotypes and sensational newscasts hurt this community and its ability to become equal participants in our country. But like all pernicious stereotypes, the truth is massacred. The real people have to live amongst these vicious half truths everyday. It hurts their self esteem, it hurts their identity as Americans, it hurts their connection to us all. Yet at UMMA, Muslim Americans tirelessly work to carry on their deeply held religious belief in service of others. They seek no publicity or accolades, although they deserve our appreciation and support.

What we learn over and over again is that ignorance and prejudice ominously stand in the way of our ability to work together and find solutions to common problems. Regrettably, we think we get along with everyone else. We wrongly think we do not stereotype others. We are all colorblind. Racists are other people. Prejudice lives in other places. Once we face our own inner ignorance and ethnocentricities we can begin to embrace our human bond and the majesty of our interconnectedness. And recognize that differences are necessary to survive.Then we can truly leverage and reap the benefits from our humankindness.

We rely on an invisible network of non-profits, often  managed by and funded by people we do not know and in some cases we do not respect. Should we care? Absolutely.

Thanks for reading (and enduring my sermons) John