I was honored to be asked by Allowance for Good to contribute a blog post about giving back with our families. In it, we discuss why it’s never too early (or late) to start making your family’s giving plan for the year!
[Crossposted from Allowance for Good]
If you’re like many people, you likely do much of your charitable giving in the last quarter of the year, when you’re thinking about the holidays, the tax deduction, receiving donation requests or attending events and fundraisers that typically fall in the fall/winter. It’s no coincidence that World Gratitude Day (September 21), World Kindness Day (November 13), Thanksgiving and as of two years ago Giving Tuesday (observed on the Tuesday after the post-Thanksgiving deal days) as well as a host of other holidays that revolve around giving, thanking and gifting all occur during virtually the same time frame. It’s end of year, when school food drives and coat drives and other collections take place, when nonprofit organizations are doing their year-end appeals and you could essentially be out at a fundraising event every day of the week – it’s just the typical time of year that has come to be known for giving back.
Network for Good reports that a third of all online annual giving (through their system) occurs in December, and 22% of annual giving happens in the last two days of the year. And while most charities report receiving around 40% of their annual individual charitable donations in the last few weeks of the year [Source: Charity Navigator], here’s a push to start thinking about our philanthropy way before the traditional holiday season begins. How about committing to set our philanthropic goals at year-beginning and spreading out our giving over the entire year? We’ve all partaken in some form or fashion in making our resolutions, budgeting, travel planning, and setting work, sports or school-year goals as we ring in the new year. Doesn’t our philanthropy deserve the same planning?
Philanthropy, which quite literally means “love of humanity,” is sharing, helping, caring, showing concern and interest in the well-being of others. By starting the New Year with discussion of what we value as well as goal-setting, we prioritize our philanthropy for ourselves, for our families and for the causes and communities we care about. We intentionally make space for it in our lives. We are not rushed to identify organizations or balancing charitable giving and volunteering with budgets and schedules tapped out with holidays, travel, shopping and spending. Starting sooner and taking time earlier gives individuals and families an opportunity to explore and perhaps be more thoughtful about the practice of not only giving back but acknowledging the deeply critical role connecting, giving and appreciating have in our lives.
Introducing philanthropy – thoughtful actions, meaningful impact
In our family, we have taken the approach of utilizing teachable moments vs. one or repeated conversations about charity/giving back. Philanthropy is not something you can just teach with words, it needs to be demonstrated. I’m reminded of a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me and I’ll forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
At the beginning of last year, my family set aside a specific place for the kids to collect toys and clothes for donation throughout the year. This could include items they’ve outgrown, books in good condition, or unopened gifts. It’s allowed them to be mindful of what they have and what others may need. We taught them about the value of money and how it’s used and gave each one a save/spend/invest/donate piggy bank. They devised their own ways of utilizing the four options and methods for withdrawals. So that when Hurricane Sandy hit, for example, they were ready and able to draw from there. One of the most touching moments was watching my son figure out if he had enough in his spend or donate section to help his sister meet her Girl Scout cookie sales goal.
We added a few extra items to the grocery list to be donated at upcoming food drives. And we researched shelters, hospitals or churches where we could volunteer to help out throughout the year. Together, we joined other families and volunteers to participate in Be the Change National Day of Service canvassing the Devon area in Chicago with information about enrolling in the new health insurance coverage made possible by the Affordable Care Act.
We implemented the practice of keeping a gratitude jar. Throughout the year, we all periodically take a moment to jot down something we are grateful for and deposit the slip within the container. Notes have ranged from what we’ve given, received, achieved, shared and experienced. At the start of the New Year, we open the jar and read the notes together. It’s a chance to both reminisce and celebrate because so much of philanthropy is about being grateful and sharing.
A few years ago, the adult members of my extended family decided to make a family contribution to an organization in lieu of exchanging individual gifts. How enlightening it was to engage in a process of getting to know each other’s values and motivations and then to ultimately see a compounded gift go a distance further in achieving something good. Who knew — until we asked — what each of us was involved in, cared about and where we overlapped. It was an incredible experience to see how the simple “ask” to give turned into discovering individual family member interests and existing charitable giving initiatives.
It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself. – Joyce Maynard
Take time to explore and identify values together
What issues are important to everyone in your family, and why? We may have various personal causes, but what’s the common denominator? How much can we/do we want to give, and what might we want to achieve? What might it mean we let go of or give up? This dialogue is actually a quite critical piece of the act of charitable giving, whether you do it collectively as a family or couple or individually.
Other questions that have come up in our family discussions:
- In these tough financial times, why should we give (time and/or dollars)?
- How do we as donors decide which groups to give to or spend our time with?
- What information should we review to make sure our time and resources are well-spent? Where can we seek out good advice and guidance as we make decisions?
- And how do we evaluate charities and causes before and after our gifts?
- What tools exist to make giving back easier, more impactful and lasting?
[Coming Soon! Check out some research and planning tools.]
Some tips to get started on giving back with your children:
- Talk to each other – Share what you see, what they see, what they hear, what they have questions about.
- Tell them about your job/career/extracurricular activities – Why do you do what you do, how and where does money come from and what it is used for.
- Share what giving back is all about – Why is it important and how it makes you feel. Your child may get an allowance or cash as birthday gifts. Consider having them set aside portions to save, spend, donate and invest.
- Start small – It may be your child putting a few of their coins into the collection tin. Eventually, she might choose to make a donation to a specific cause in lieu of birthday gifts.
- Identify interests, values and make a commitment – Giving back comes in many forms: time (volunteering), talent (skills/resources), treasure (money) and ties (relationships/connections) … Have a conversation about what works best for your child(ren)/family and decide on something specific.
- Volunteer together – Make it a family affair by selecting an activity together. While you may be interested in serving Thanksgiving meals at a food pantry, your child may love animals. Perhaps a visit to the local animal shelter would draw your child’s interest.
Whatever avenues you choose to bring your family into the fold, know that it’s an invaluable component to building stronger individuals, families and communities. Being philanthropic together is an opportunity to discover and learn about other people, other places, current events and important issues. It’s a way to understand the world and how to relate to others. It opens up possibilities to grow as people, to develop community and to foster change. Giving back is not only personally fulfilling (there’s research about how doing good helps us feel good and keep us healthy!), it generates an awareness of one as connected to something bigger and beyond. And that is the truest meaning of philanthropy.
Allowance for Good is a nonprofit organization developing the rising generation of global philanthropic leaders through education, civic engagement and leadership development activities.
Through seven years of People of Color Network programming, EPIP has compiled thoughts shared by more than 125 emerging professionals of color in the field regarding challenges and opportunities to move racial equity in philanthropy. Responses addressed identifying values, learning from the past, intergenerational mentoring, creating shared spaces for exploration and education, peer support across and beyond race, bringing a racial equity lens to grantmaking and the need for institutional and sector-wide awareness and commitment.
Key highlights include:
• The complexity of managing the power and privilege associated with working in philanthropy as an emerging leader of color
• A deep desire for mentoring by seasoned leaders of color
• A critical need for peer-to-peer engagement across race for emerging leaders of color
• Acknowledgement of the differences between addressing race with White colleagues and people of color colleagues in the philanthropic sector
• Desire for institutional conversations and commitments to addressing racial equity
• Recommendations and resources for advancing racial equity in philanthropy
As one young professional stated:
“The only time we talk about racial equity is [in the context of] how the organizations we support address those issues—how grantees are trying to reduce racial disparities. But we don’t talk about racial equity as part of our institution.”
And another shared:
“[Seasoned leaders of color] were fighting for rights and access. It called for a different kind of focus, a narrow and targeted journey that lasted for years. [Our generation] benefitted from that. But now, we are fighting for rights for more people [on multiple fronts] — which makes it different.”
Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy is a national network of foundation professionals and social entrepreneurs who strive for excellence in the practice of philanthropy. EPIP exists to ensure that emerging foundation professionals are effective stewards of philanthropic resources and all social entrepreneurs reach their potential as leaders.
EPIP’s People of Color Network (PCN), formerly known as the Professional Development Fund (PDF), focuses specifically on supporting emerging leaders of color interested in philanthropy. The PCN supports current and future grantmakers of color by building their visibility, networks, and knowledge by providing them access to professional development opportunities and placing them within a network of peers. Learn more here.
SAPP Blog Forum: Q&A about AAPIP Civic Engagement Fund’s new video on AMEMSA funder collaborative to build collective community capacity
A new video released today by Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) tells the story of how several Bay Area, California foundations came together to support organizations serving Arab, Muslim, South Asian and other affected communities in the wake of 9/11—and what other funders can learn from their experience.
We have with us Laila Mehta, director of the Civic Engagement Fund (CEF) which is housed at AAPIP and developed the video. Founded in 1990, AAPIP (Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy) is a national member-supported philanthropic advocacy organization dedicated to advancing philanthropy and Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. The CEF is a Bay-area based collaborative fund that emerged after 9/11 to build the capacity of new and emerging organizations that served communities most impacted in this environment. To learn more and view the video, visit AAPIP’s CEF Story. There, you can also click on two newly released reports – Widening the Lens on Boys and Men of Color: California AAPI & AMEMSA Perspectives and iCount: A Data Quality Movement for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Higher Education.
Now, to hear more about the video and the CEF initiative…
Why did AAPIP develop this video?
We all know the power of a good story. The Civic Engagement Fund (CEF) can be a complex and nuanced initiative to describe, with its multiple stakeholders, layers and phases. But ultimately it is straightforward: Funders came together to leverage their resources and networks to build the social and financial capital of community-based organizations that philanthropy knew little about or deemed too risky. We thought a video would visually illustrate this story line in a compelling way and would serve as a tool to draw people in, to learn more about the unique model created through the CEF, and about Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities that continue to face unprecedented challenges while also building community and local power.
What is the takeaway message?
After providing multi-year investments in organizations and facilitating convening spaces for AMEMSA communities we learned these lessons that apply to philanthropy as well as for policy makers and community advocates:
- Partner with funders for deeper engagement and to mitigate risk
- Resource new and emerging leaders who address unique or persisting challenges
- Keep up with changing demographics & issues to stay relevant and be effective
- Engage in conversation with community organizations from the start
- Build capacities, relationships and collaborations
- Commit to long-term investment that will empower the community
- Facilitate dialogue and build bridges within AMEMSA communities
- Include racial and religious profiling in the immigration conversation
What have reactions been so far?
We showed the video to a limited audience prior to today’s public release, and it has received very positive feedback, being described as a remarkably powerful way to tell the story. We hope that the video will open up doors to talk about lessons from the Fund, and spur thinking about how other regions and foundations could invest in these communities that are still so little known or misunderstood.
How are you getting the word out?
Since AAPIP is a philanthropic advocacy organization that engages the field of philanthropy to be more democratic, justice-oriented and inclusive – both institutional and individual – we partner with a range of networks, foundations and organizations.
We are working with our current Funding partners: The San Francisco Foundation, the Whitman Institute, the Y&H Soda Foundation, the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation; and previous supporters include the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the Hewlett, Packard and Irvine Foundations through the Community Leadership Partnership. We’ve also shared this with our board who are encouraged to share the video through their networks.
Grantee partners who are featured in the video include the Council of American-Islamic Relations-SF Bay area Chapter, the Sikh Coalition, Arab Resource and Organizing Center, and also ASATA, 3rdi Films, and Narika.
Some of our philanthropic network partners and allies include: National Center for Responsive Philanthropy, Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation, Grantmakers for Effective Organizers, Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, Resource Generation, D5 Coalition, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, Center for Arab American Philanthropy, and the Council on Foundations. We are also in touch with some California-based regional associations of grantmakers, such as Northern CA Grantmakers and San Diego Grantmakers.
What action do you expect folks to take after seeing this video?
Ultimately, we hope the video spurs conversation and dialogue about how funders, advocates and policy makers can come together to find out more about communities that have a stake in this country yet are so often left out of philanthropic and policy discussions and decisions. We are planning targeted follow up to help get that conversation going.
About the CEF – What was AAPIP’s role?
AAPIP convened the funding partners, the grantee partners, and also facilitated interaction and learning between the funders and the grantees. AAPIP brought funders together to invest in organizations that they knew little about or were not able to fund directly. The pooled fund model worked to leverage dollars towards the CEF, but also to encourage direct investment in some of the participating organizations. CEF facilitated a process of deeper learning about the constellation of AMEMSA organizations in the Bay Area – from arts and culture to policy advocacy to immigrant and social services to community organizing – and developed a model for shared learning and joint action among the organizations themselves. CEF also created opportunities for the funding partners and the grantee partners to come together to demystify philanthropy, and to hear how AMEMSA organizations are building bases of support, leadership and collective capacities.
AAPIP does not want to be a “go-between” among funders and community organizations. But until the time when foundations will effectively and responsively fund diverse and underserved organizations and communities directly, we will play a role to leverage, facilitate, encourage and arbitrate resources in that direction.
Ultimately, the true value of the Civic Engagement Fund isn’t in the dollars distributed, but in the capacity built and relationships developed. AAPIP is proud of our role in helping to introduce the members of the cohort to the funders and to each other—building on strengths already present in the organizations and their communities to help build bridges and build power for AMEMSA communities here in the Bay Area. We hope that other foundations around the country will build on our experience to support similar organizations in their own communities.
Why the ‘civic engagement’ lens?
Almost every AMEMSA organization, no matter what programs or projects they run, promotes or encourages their communities to become engaged through a variety of ways: attending community or arts events, volunteering, donating, organizing, voting or other ways of becoming involved and active in this country. There are multiple reasons why AMEMSA communities in particular are not civically engaged in the U.S. These organizations are striving to build an inclusive, diverse and democratic society where AMEMSA voices are included and where they themselves can reframe the narrative that has been imposed on them.
So, while some people might assume that civic engagement means becoming politically involved, we actually wanted to have a broader framework that references the goals of building public voice, leadership and community involvement.
How does this work you are spearheading address this? What is your model?
The design of Phase 2 of this initiative allows the organizations to come together three times a year to discuss common community challenges that they might not realize they have in common. They also share ideas and strategies that build a common vision in key issues: immigrant and refugee rights, civil rights, and political participation. As mentioned before, the lack of civic engagement of their communities is a consistent barrier, which makes it difficult for organizations to grow their bases and ultimately build power to change critical issues of concern. Therefore, it is a central theme of the discussions and strategizing for change.
The grantee convenings create a unique space to share more of their experiences, to break down cultural and other barriers, to build trust, and to allow the organizations to find avenues for action and collaborations that will last beyond the timeframe of this phase.
Findings from an internal reflection we conducted last year to assess our particular model include:
- Funding is key to allow new and emerging organizations the opportunity to build and leverage their assets
- Collaboration and coalition building is important
- Building organizational relationships and trust takes time and resources
- Building understanding and relationships with funders is vital to expose newer organizations to the world of philanthropy
- The AMEMSA term has been useful to put these communities on the map
- Funders must be invested beyond resources to deeply engage in learning and strategic opportunities
What are CEF’s Next steps?
We are now in the final stages of Phase 2 of a three-year initiative that provided multi-year grants and convening spaces for seventeen AMEMSA organizations to build relationships, trust, and collaborations.
We are currently engaged in strategy conversations with funders, community and advocacy groups to identify and respond to the multiple needs and strengths of AMEMSA communities and organizations. We are planning targeted funder engagement to ask grantmakers what they are doing to include AMEMSA populations in existing foundation portfolios. We are planning dialogue with foundations, giving circles and local public bodies to strategize about ways to diversify decision-making tables that address the issues that are important to AMEMSA communities, such as civic and political engagement, immigrant rights, and interfaith dialogue.
For more information or to discuss what’s happening or could be happening in your communities, reach out to Laila at firstname.lastname@example.org. SAPP thanks Laila, AAPIP and CEF for their contribution to the blog today! And don’t forget to check out the video.
A quick post about two articles of interest this week on board service:
The Price of Board Membership in this week’s Crain’s Chicago Business details the pros and cons to nonprofit board member “give-or-get” requirements as fundraising strategies. They certainly guarantee revenue and help to engage board members in the organization’s work. But could those annual minimum donation guidelines or policies also serve as a deterrent for those who may be unable to commit those amounts or be put off by the high cost to participate, and therefore ultimately left out of the opportunity to serve?
And then, this piece Boards are Not Ready for the Next Generation of Trustees in the Chronicle of Philanthropy explores the very real challenge of board service as a young person… A rising generation of younger donors could bring new money to nonprofits and fresh ideas to their boardrooms but many nonprofits are not up to par when it comes to performance, operations and management to keep innovative, thoughtful and high-energy young people focused on impact and effectiveness engaged.
In their report “Next Gen Donors: Respecting Legacy, Revolutionizing Philanthropy,” the philanthropic consulting firm 21/64 and researchers at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University describe next-gen donors as driven by personal values, often those passed on from their parents and grandparents, and motivated strongly by potential social impact instead of recognition or obligation.
As we’ve discussed here before, volunteering and board service are critical ways to enhance our involvement in the important work around the services, education, outreach and advocacy our community organizations provide. What can we do to ensure serving in this manner is a positive experience? Do you have an interesting story to share about your volunteer service? SAPP would love to hear from you!
Want to try a new fundraising approach? Do you think an approach should be retired? Do you need proof a fundraising technique works? Submit an idea to the Science of Philanthropy Initiative‘s Idea Contest! SPI is offering up to $5,000 for ideas.
The Science of Philanthropy Initiative at University of Chicago is sponsoring an Idea Contest intended to solicit fundraising ideas from charities that can be tested by SPI researchers. SPI is looking for ideas that will further the science of philanthropy and change the way development professionals fundraise.