Pushing Yourself to Make a Difference

November 15, 2010

The National Philanthropy Day in Colorado Luncheon was a grand success with nearly 900 registrants gathered to celebrate ten outstanding recipients for their efforts to improve the quality of life in Colorado.  Each year I am impressed as we have the opportunity to glimpse into the lives of the winners to see how they were drawn into the important work for the causes they believe in. They step into positions they never dreamed of, and by their efforts, change the lives of hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people around them.

Kristin Richardson was recognized as Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser for her work to raise money for Denver Public Schools.  When she was recruited to join the board of the DPS Foundation, Kristin agreed to do so with the caveat that she would do anything “except ask for money.”  She joined the board because she felt so strongly that all children should have access to a good education, and even though her own children were not in public schools, she thought it very important to make the system offered to the majority of children in Denver as strong as possible.  She encouraged others to “put the children in the center of the argument” and to care about other people’s kids as they would their own.  When she did this, she found she could ask for money, and in fact, raised a quarter of all the contributions to the DPS Foundation last year! Not bad for someone who didn’t think she had the capacity to be a fundraiser.

Hearing Kristin’s story makes me think about the things I am most committed to and if I am doing enough to further those causes. It also drives me to consider if there are new ways I can get involved in assisting those causes. What about you?

Perhaps you have not yet had a chance to really get involved with the cause that you care most about.  There’s not time like the present to start. There are nonprofits all over the state doing great work to address the most critical problems in Colorado. If you want to help, but don’t know who to work with, I suggest using the search feature on the Generous Colorado web site to find one or two nonprofits that you might consider. Read about them on their websites, and perhaps drop in to see what they are about. Making a donation is a simply way to help, and if you feel comfortable, contributing your time would be an exceptional complement to that support. Like Kristin, you may be truly amazed at the things you accomplish once you are fully seeded in your passion for the work!

Be brave. Be intentional about your efforts to change the world.

Warm regards,

Sharon

 p.s.

Here is a list of all the winners of National Philanthropy Day Awards for 2010:

  • Outstanding Large Business or Corporation: Comcast (Denver)
  •  Outstanding Small Business or Corporation: KB Home – Mountains Division (Centennial)
  •  Outstanding Foundation: Colorado Health Foundation (Denver)
  •  Outstanding Philanthropist: Janet Mordecai (Denver)
  •  Outstanding Professional in Philanthropy: Linda Childears (Denver)
  •  Outstanding Service Organization: Fruita Thrift Shop (Fruita)
  •  Outstanding Volunteer: Gaku Homma (Denver)
  • Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser: Kristin Richardson (Denver)
  •  Outstanding Youth: Nicole Saucedo (Colorado Springs)
  •  Outstanding Youth Group: Lowry Elementary Eagle Ambassadors (Denver

Is your philanthropy more like Angelina Jolie, Mother Teresa or Patty Cook?

August 9, 2010

Everyone knows about Angelina Jolie and her philanthropic accomplishments. She is bold, very public and charitable in her efforts to support international causes. We all also know about Mother Teresa, tirelessly devoting her entire life to lifting up those in desperate situations. They are both extraordinary examples of women that have made a difference in the world, and it would be wrong not to admire their contributions. As awesome as their work is, however, I encourage you to NOT hold yourselves to their standards.  

Many people fear that their contributions would not make “enough” of a difference in the scope of the causes they care most about. While it is completely understandable, in the face of public icons like Jolie and Teresa, that we could feel less than worthy, but that comparison is not fair and simply not true. It would be nearly impossible for most of us to compete with either one of those two, but we don’t have to. There are some everyday heroes amongst us that have dedicated time and money over many years. Patty Cook is one of them.

Recognized as Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser at National Philanthropy Day in Colorado last year, Patty was rewarded for more than twenty years of volunteerism and fundraising for causes like the Colorado Aids Project and Mental Health America of Colorado (MHAC).  In the course of the last ten years with MHAC, she has helped to raise more than 2.3 million dollars which has provided 100,000 individuals and families across Colorado with free mental health services and information. She has inspired friends and family to get involved in the issues they care about – and never doubted that her contributions of money, time and talent, no matter how small, really did help make a difference in Colorado. You have to believe you can do this, too.

When it comes right down to it, we need all kinds of volunteers and donors. There is not a “one size fits all” category of philanthropist. While it would be wonderful if all the nonprofit organizations in Colorado had an international celebrity to support and publicize their cause, there just aren’t enough of them to go around. But every Coloradan has something to give… and I encourage you to consider what that something could be. Together, we can build a better, more vibrant Colorado.

All the best,

Sharon


Random Acts of Kindness

May 1, 2010

I’ve been reading about a new trend in philanthropy that is very interesting to me, and may be to you as well.  There are various names associated with this trend, including stealth giving, guerilla philanthropy, or just random acts of kindness

I started noticing articles about this late last year. Yahoo ran a “You in?” Campaign with the goal of creating a ripple effect of kindness. They asked viewers to share their stories of kindness to spur friends and associates to do so as well. They reported, “Whether you pay someone’s groceries anonymously or drop off a coat for the homeless, your actions will inspire others around the world to join you.”

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported on an amazing family from Vancouver. In what they referred to as “a guerilla giving” campaign, the  family started to leave small cash gifts in public parks, at bus stops, and in other random places, to be discovered by strangers — an activity that was part scavenger hunt, part social experiment. The anonymous gifts, in the form of bags of $1 coins, included notes signed by G.G. (guerilla giver) that were designed to inspire further philanthropy. Comments recorded on the Guerilla Giver blog, indicate that these random gifts of kindness were so unexpected and impactful that they might be considered be life-changing.

I know many of us offer acts of kindness by being generous with people around us. As example, I will often take friends of my sons to places they wouldn’t normally have the chance to visit, as a way of adding value and meaning to their lives. I have some sense that this will eventually lead to their own acts of compassion and kindheartedness.

I have gone a little beyond that type of generosity as well. On occasions, I have purchased a stranger’s coffee in Starbucks that looked particularly stressed, and once paid for a family’s dinner out after overhearing their conversation about the financial burdens they were facing. While I didn’t ever talk with the strangers I offered “gifts” to, I did watch their faces when they were told their bills were covered. I could tell they were amazed and touched.

I am not sure that these acts were ever life-changing, and I know they weren’t in keeping with my usual strategic giving, but it did feel good to make a difference in someone’s life that day. And who knows, the people I gifted may have done something nice for someone else, who then did something special for another. I suppose this is the most we can ask for – that we might start a chain of kindness, or generosity, that could then spread throughout our communities.

I wonder if the trend will continue, spurring more grassroots philanthropy across the continent? What do you think? Have you ever participated in stealth giving? If so, share your stories.

Warmest regards,

Sharon


New Donors Step up to Support Communities

February 10, 2010

The economy and recent disasters are fueling broad changes across the face of Philanthropy in the US. Many of the “typical” large donors had less money to contribute at the end of 2009. We heard stories of big dips in revenue at the very time there were increases in demand for service.  Some donors established innovative or new ways of supporting the charitable sector and some of the wealthiest people actually stepped up their donations to compensate for the declining revenues some of their favorite causes were realizing.

One exciting result of the economy is that increased understanding of the impact of the fiscal crisis, and new forms of communication highlighting how people could help, did spur the birth of new donors across the country.  While I greatly appreciate major donors, it is inspiring and heartwarming to realize that average citizens are starting to see that by pooling resources with others they too can make a significant impact. Like I often say, “You don’t have to be a millionaire to make a difference in Colorado.”

National trends show these new smaller donors are interested in the environment and social issues. I would love to hear stories about how these “average citizens” are contributing their time and money to your communities. Please share!

Warm Regards,

Sharon


Helping Everyone to Make a Meaningful Contribution

December 9, 2009

One of the goals of the Colorado Generosity Project is to help every person in Colorado understand that their contributions, no matter how large or how small, are vital and can make a difference in their communities. It is the cumulative impact of all our contributions that enrich the lives of those around us and make Colorado a great place to live.

One of the things that I do to keep philanthropy alive in my own family is to get my son involved in the decision-making process for charitable gifts each year. We talk about the issues that each of us has noticed in the community and narrow down the causes that we most want to support. I intentionally make contributions in both our names so he gets follow-up communications that allow him to see what the nonprofits we supported are doing with the money they raise. It’s a great way to cement the fact that he has the power to make a difference in his community – and I think it is a lesson that will follow him for life.

What things do you do to keep philanthropy alive in your home or  in your community? We’d love to know.

Warm regards and wishes for a happy holiday season,

Sharon


Thank You For Visiting!

November 6, 2009

Welcome Readers! Thank you for coming to the Generous Colorado blog.

This is place to share the ideas, successes, and challenges we encounter as we work to make a  more generous Colorado. It is my firm belief that you don’t have to be a millionaire to really make a difference, and to demonstrate that, I”d like you to share some personal stories about generosity, philanthropy or volunteerism that have really made an impact. 

Enjoy the uplifting stories and useful advice you find here from people – just like you – that  want to give back to their communities. Contribute your own comments, and we’ll work together to improve the quality of life and provide more opportunity for all residents of this great state.

Warmest regards,

Sharon


Building a Tradition of Philanthropy

November 6, 2009

Research shows that generosity, and the behaviors that indicate individuals are truly giving back to their communities, is often shaped early in life. Children that see these behaviors as they are growing up, tend to become generous, engaged citizens, that make a difference in their communities- and the world. I think most of us want our children to grow up with these values, but may not be entirely sure how to make that happen.

The Colorado Nonprofit Association is hosting a breakfast presentation on December 4, featuring nationally renowned expert on this topic. Susan Crites Price, author of The Family That Gives Together, will share tips for nonprofits and the public to engage young people in philanthropy. If you want to be part of that special conversation, go to www.coloradononprofits.org for more information.

There are many exciting projects in play right now, in Colorado and across the country, that are designed to create opportunity for young people to become involved in philanthropy – and I thought you might be interested in knowing about some of them.

Please feel free to read a longer article about this topic: Building a Tradition of Philanthropy when you have a chance, but here are a few examples of activities you might engage in with your family and programs you may want to look at if you are interested in strengthening altruistic characteristics in your family.

Activities:

  • Sign your whole family up to participate in a special walk or run to support a charity of your choice. It’s a fun activity, and good for everybody! Make sure you point out some tips about the charity you chose and why your support is important.
  • Sit down with your family to make joint decisions about contributions once per year. Ask every member of the family what type of organization or cause they would like to support. You might consider giving every member of the family a certain amount to spend (by the way, did you know the average amount of contributions made by Americans across the country is 3.4% of their adjusted gross income?)
  • Consider telling your children that you will match any contributions that they make with their own money – whether that money is from an allowance or money they raised just for a cause. You will be  building their confidence and their generosity index at the same time.
  • Pick at least one day a year that family members, together or separately, volunteer in the community. It can be fun, meaningful to the charity you support, and it helps family members to gain perspective about the needs of others.

Thanks for reading, and please, live generously everyday.

Warmest regards,

Sharon

p.s. Next blog: Programs that engage youth in philanthropy.


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