Taking Stock of Priorities & Tuesdays

One week from today, on November 27th, scores of nonprofits and other fund-seekers will bombard each of us with #GivingTuesday solicitations. I love the idea of the entire world participating in philanthropy, I’ve just questioned the implementation of the annual event. For me, it typically undercuts all that’s really beautiful about philanthropy – The building of relationships, the matchmaking between donor prospect and mission and the “what’s in it for me,” and of course, long range thoughtful planning regarding organizational sustainability.

I have been pretty cranky about the implementation of #GivingTuesday, since its launch in 2012. If you’re interested, feel free to revel in a few curmudgeonly #GivingTuesday articles:

Still, each year since the launch of #GivingTuesday, I have had to either create campaigns or at the very least, raise funds for them.

There’s no question that my most “favorite” #GivingTuesday concept is something that looks very different from the barrage of campaigns hitting us left and right. I like a campaign where an entire staff gives of themselves out in the community, as a literal, external-facing depiction of philanthropic behavior. I also like to focus on giving education about a nonprofit’s mission and vision and even adding a day of volunteerism where it’s tracked via social media streams throughout the day.

No matter how #GivingTuesday is marketed or pitched, I always have to find the love in a campaign or I won’t be able to succeed.

This year, I moaned and groaned quietly, about collaborating on mapping a #GivingTuesday campaign for ORT America. Then, I made an intentional decision to take a fresh approach. I started thinking about all of the Tuesdays that have passed since ORT’s founding in 1880. While my math isn’t great, I figured out that ORT has been GIVING access to education, thus changing lives, AROUND THE WORLD, for a minimum of 7200 Tuesdays.

7200+ Tuesdays.

The least I could do was learn everything I possibly could about the micro:bit. Our organizational goal is to get as many micro:bits into the hands of ORT students, so they can easily learn to code, think creatively and have a ton of fun diving into STEM education. (science, technology, education and math.) FYI, ORT is a global leader in STEM education, so to state I have buy-in to the mission and vision of ORT’s Global Education Network is a no brainer. I’m passionate as hell about it.

Raising funds for the micro:bit was a fantastic choice, because they aren’t particularly expensive, but their impact on each student (and teacher) is immense. I am grateful to my staff partners for choosing the micro:bit. It has been easy to embrace.microbit-front

Basically, kids find the micro:bit easy, fun and almost immediately understand that all kids can code. Right there, I see these kids succeeding and that’s all I need to know.

GT FB 2018I am also a super fan of ORT America’s new branding. #GivingTuesday is a good place to educate the public on ORT’s global impact and strengthen our public organizational face.

So this year, I am far less cranky about #GivingTuesday, but have also made a choice to implement this year’s campaign differently than we have in previous years. We aren’t going to bombard you on November 27th as we have other simultaneous fundraising ventures AND, we just don’t want to bombard you. We’d prefer to gracefully shepherd you into ORT.

I do ask you to consider how the micro:bit can change kids lives and their upcoming trajectories. How will this one hand-held computer impact their career path? Who will they be in the world?

Sure, maybe I think and feel too deeply and I take my job far too seriously. This is something I have tried to change but have been unsuccessful.

When I think about or meet ORT students, I see with clarity that there’s hope and optimism in our future leaders. This one thought, makes any day, even #GivingTuesday, more than a worthwhile investment.

If you want to get micro:bits in the hands of ORT students around the world, please support Team ORT Chicago!

Of course I appreciate every “bit” that comes into ORT and a micro:bit makes a macro impact.

You do too.

XOXO, Pam

“For every beginning is difficult”

AND NOW — if you will now take upon yourselves the observance of My commandments, it will be pleasant (easy) to you from now and henceforth, for every beginning is difficult (Mekhilta d’Rabbi Yishmael 19:5:1).

Earlier this week, I stepped (dove headfirst) into an executive director role and for months prior, I’d been obsessing about the great Rabbi Ishmael and the short quote (and surrounding text) from the Midrashim. In a nutshell, “For every beginning is difficult,” raced through my head constantly. Continue reading ““For every beginning is difficult””

A Teacher Named, Ba Ba Ba Ba Barbara Jan

Over the past several months, since my colleague, ORT Chicago director, Barbara (Barb) Statland announced her retirement as our region director, I’ve tried to sit down to write about her.

Each time I’ve tried to write almost anything about Barb, (and I have tried countless times), several things happen:

  1. The Beach Boys’ Ba ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann runs through my head, but instead of “Ann,” I change it to “Jan.” Barb’s middle name is Jan, so it obviously works great. It repeats and repeats in my head and drives me totally nuts.
  2. Still, I riff a little bit with the whole, Ba ba ba ba ba Barbara Jan song idea. I create a sketch in my head about “The Teach Boys” singing the song for our Barbara Jan. Instead of being on the beach, the band, along with ORT students and educators sing and dance in an ORT 21st Century Classroom.

    21st century classroom
    Picture The Teach Boys singing Ba ba ba ba ba Barbara Jan in the classroom at an ORT School in Israel. Welcome to my head.
  3. Now, I start to get teary because Barb is kind of like family to me.  I’ve grown accustomed to her face, her attention to detail and her Fuji apples and peanut butter at 11:16 AM each day. I think, “What will it be like not to hear her cutting apples? How will I know it’s 11:16 AM?”
  4. I stop trying to write because I get emotional and even nostalgic. I am generally not a nostalgic person, but Barb and I have walked through a lot together. Side note: I also happen to be a very ugly crier.

Now, I am not crying. Oh good. We are making progress.

Here’s how I see my professional partner in crime and friend, Barbara Jan Statland:

  • Barb has been one of my best educators.
  • Her attention to detail is superlative.
  • If she wanted to, she could be a theater director and/or theater teacher.
  • She could also do voice-overs. Great voice.
  • Heck, she would make a fine actress.
  • She is one of the biggest reasons I was hired by ORT America. Thank you, Barb.
  • She has more patience than any colleague I have ever worked with, anywhere.
  • She is extremely creative and incomparably tenacious.
  • She loves ORT and its people very deeply. (P.S. ORT = People)
  • She is hilarious even when she’s not trying to be.
  • She is a powerful communicator.
  • She is reasonable.
  • Her commitment to and her belief in ORT programs never, ever wavers.
  • Barb’s leadership has sustained our region where most others would have failed.
  • I have never heard anyone better on the phone. Yes, she knows I eavesdrop.
  • Barb really loves the ORT Teacher’s Fund.

There’s a lot more to Barb than what I’ve stated here. It has been my privilege to partner with and to learn from her.

The love goes both ways. ORT loves Barb so much, there’s a whole ORT International Seminar for Leading Educators dedicated to Barb, in honor of her retirement. This seminar, (which I believe starts TOMORROW!), is a key part of the ORT Teachers Fund which is a fund dedicated to the professional development of educators. A few words from Barb about the ORT Teacher’s Fund:

So many ORT students are motivated, passionate, knowledgeable and creative BECAUSE of their teachers.  Their teachers instill these traits within their students.  ORT knows that this is key and provides a network of peers for their teachers to whom they can turn for support and to share ideas. This Teachers Fund will provide so much – including training in the areas of digital technology, physics education and Bio Research, learning technologies training, math and English.  Collaboration is key in all of these initiatives. — Barbara J. Statland

Barb has been around ORT for 30-ish years. She’s been an employee for 13 years and a region director for the past five or so. Most of us see Barb as a lifetime ORTist.

If you’d like to honor Barb’s Herculean leadership at ORT, and/or you seek to invest in professional development for educators, and/or you want to witness my ugly crying because thanks to you, we have raised our $40,000 goal, please stop reading this post and click on Barb’s photo below!

Barb gorgeous2
The tenacious, beautiful, and dedicated Barbara J. Statland

Thank you for reading this, and of course, for your investment in Barb, ORT, teachers, students, me and all who make a positive impact on our world.

May we all draw strength, knowledge and courage from Ba ba ba ba Barbara Jan.

In gratitude and love,

Pam

The Fable of the “Safe,” Boring Label

Please forgive the obnoxious length of this post. It’s 4:00am and I stole most of it from an article I published in June, 2016, on LinkedIn. At this wee hour, it seems applicable to where my head is right now.

I’ve been engaged in recruiting for ORT America’s Annual MeetingEVERY SINGLE TIME I utter the words, “Annual Meeting,” I feel like this: CLICK ON CARTOON SOUND EFFECTS for accurate representation of my opinion regarding the title/label, “Annual Meeting.” 

If I had my druthers, I’d never call anything I’m deeply passionate about, or other people are supposed to be inspired by, “Annual Meeting.” I’d call it:ANN MEET BLOG

As you’ll see below, I am not a fan of labels. I’ve also started writing shorter articles, but I hope this lengthy post (that I’d shorten if it wasn’t 4:38 AM), relays to you what I really think of uttering the words, “Annual Meeting.”


I really dislike labels. When someone asks what I do, or who I am, I almost always dislike my answers. My responses are usually, “I’m a fundraiser,” or, “I’m divorced,” or “I’m J and C’s Mom.” When I ask who you are and what you do, I hope for more than two or three words. As it stands in our society, labels and an individual’s outer image are inextricably connected and hold a hefty weight. How we choose to label ourselves and put ourselves out there, leaves a mark, but is it accurate? I don’t think so.

I recently attended my first strictly Orthodox Bar Mitzvah for a friend’s son. A few weeks ago, my friend suggested that I wear a long skirt to the service, as I’d be more comfortable being dressed like the other women, in accordance with Orthodox Jewish culture and tradition. She was very kind, but as she advised me, I could feel myself rebelling against the idea of following such rules.

On the morning of the Bar Mitzvah, I dressed modestly, but chose wide leg slacks, rather than a skirt. To be honest, I looked like a twin sister of Bea Arthur as the character, “Maude.” I didn’t love my outfit, or even like it, but I sort of appeared, Jewish-ish, (whatever that is), even though I wore pants.

Maude
I kind of looked like this.

As I walked into the women’s section of the shul, a nice woman asked if I wanted a prayer book, and so, I took one. I asked if I should wear a head covering. The woman responded, “You’re wearing pants.” When I heard her utter those words, I knew I’d made the wrong wardrobe decision. She continued, “Are you married?” I told her I was not. She then asked, “Are you Jewish?” When I exclaimed, “Yes, I’m Jewish,” she told me I didn’t have to wear a head covering because I’m not married. She also told me not to feel badly about the pants debacle and that next time, I should wear a skirt. She was lovely.

I started thinking of labels and of the image I’d put out there that morning, but what I hadn’t shared with her. Had I been honest, I’d have told her, “I’m rebellious against wearing a long skirt, but it’s really no big deal, and I should have had more respect for you and your house of worship. I was wrong, and I’m sorry.” I could have said, “I was raised Jewish, and feel most Jewish when I pray with my feet, but you may not think I’m Jewish because I don’t have 100% Jewish genes and we may disagree on specific political and religious issues.”

Okay, okay. I know most people don’t want to hear these lengthy, honest answers, but when I label myself, “Jewish,” there are assumptions and perceptions, but how do we correct these inaccuracies? How many of us are inquisitive enough to ask more questions?

I admit, I’m inquisitive to a fault, and perhaps that’s one of the most accurate labels I wear. My interest in people is what propels me to love them so much. While I’m not usually so rebellious as to not wear a skirt in shul, I don’t think the nice woman at the entrance of the women’s section labeled me as “A rebellious, stubborn woman who should have had more respect.” This would have been an accurate label on that day. Instead, she knew I was “Jewish, unmarried, and made a mistake.”

I find labels most prevalent in business, and they’re chock full of rules, expectations and “shoulds.” I don’t really subscribe to that type of thinking, but I go along with the image and label that is expected of me, depending on the occasion.

My resumé is diverse and usually makes for an interesting conversation. I have followed an atypical career path. Today, when I present as “Fundraiser,” or tomorrow, when I present as “Trainer,” or in a few weeks when I’m an, “Emcee,” how do these labels and images encompass all that we really are, and especially at our core? Aren’t we interested in going deeper?

What if we stopped submitting resumés, and started submitting, “Truthés?” Here’s what one of mine might look like:

Pamela Klier-Weidner. People Lover and Inquisitive Seeker

Legally, my name is Pamela Klier, but I kept, the Weidner, because I didn’t want to confuse my kids by having a different last name after my divorce

Objective: To listen, demonstrate love and tolerance, communicate the truth, guide people, and allow the cream to rise

Truthful Stuff:

  • Lover of people and the direction/s they really want to go (which is the basis for everything, I think)
  • Inquisitive (that too, but also have a sense that if you aren’t comfy, I’ll shut up and respect your comfort level)
  • Super fun (if we aren’t having fun, why are we doing it?)
  • Perfectionist (not proud of this, but truth is truth)
  • Periodically stubborn (don’t love this about me either, and sometimes I’m right to be stubborn. Other times, not so much)
  • Creative risk-taker (this usually pays off, or at least it has historically)
  • Non drinker or drugger (no judgment: if you can do that without impending doom, fine)
  • Weak at accepting compliments
  • Compliment giver, and almost always means them
  • Very generous which is periodically caught up in people pleasing, but this is improving
  • Not entirely at peace with physical appearance, especially when it’s humid and coif is out of control. Working on accepting physical appearance, and working harder on it not mattering as much

Yep. I would consider hiring someone who gave me a “Truthé,” in a hot minute.

I realize and respect that labels, stereotypes and images present a level of safety for us and that the appearance of and/or acceptance of “Truthés” is not likely to exist, except in my own head, and now, in this post.

So… if you seek to help repair this world through education while we engage in creative and collaborative idea sharing, please join me at the Sheraton Grand in downtown Chicago on March 18th, 2018. In fact, come on March 17th at Pinstripes, for our “DAY BEFORE THE ORT Day of Collaborative, Visionary Genius.”  I’d be delighted to play a friendly game of bocce ball with you, as we get our creative ideas prepped and flowing before the next day. (I am pretty good at bocce ball. You’ve been warned.)

I love ORT. I love the 138 year history, its stories, the students, families and communities who have needed, benefited from, or still need ORT educational programs.

We need at least another 138 years. We need you.

STA
Shelly Dreifuss – (one of my favorite humans), will receive the ORT America President’s Award. 1871’s COO, Tom Alexander,  Keynote Speaker – (Genius who has more impact in three words that long-winded humans who write blog posts that are waaay too long, and finally, our Featured Speaker, Alina Gerlovin Spaulding, who is a rock star in philanthropic and impact giving

REGISTER RIGHT FREAKIN’ NOW! 

Doing What I Loathe Out of Love

I hate to even mention this, but since I’ve written a few articles about it and I sort of never shut up, there has been A LOT I haven’t liked about #GivingTuesday.

I don’t mean to be the cranky Jewish “Scrooge” of philanthropy, (Scrooge-stein?), but for me, unless #GivingTuesday is implemented in a uniquely creative manner that sets an organization apart, most nonprofits appear like they’re standing in line, waiting for a #GivingTuesday number at a busy deli, I kind of can’t stand it.  Continue reading “Doing What I Loathe Out of Love”

The Expert Neophyte

In my professional life, I take comfort AND yield countless benefits, from approaching things as a hungry collaborator who doesn’t know more than you do, no matter what the organizational chart says. I internally (and sometimes externally) overtly identify as a neophyte  (with extensive experience in leadership behind me), on a wide variety of subjects. I find this tactic not only propels my openness to learning and growth, but helps me perform with my ego checked at the door long before a project actually begins. (The more egos that can be checked at the door, obviously, produce fun and successful teamwork.) This often creates a level playing field, and an empowered ensemble that implements great work. Continue reading “The Expert Neophyte”

Ageism is Myopically Immature

This week, I spent Monday morning with 96-year-old, Dyna Wise and her grandson, Lawrence Burley. The time I spent with these two extraordinary human beings, was not only the highlight of my week, but one of the most significant experiences of my entire nonprofit career.

Before I go any further, I’d like to provide a few initial facts that will make my story shorter. (I can almost hear your applause): Continue reading “Ageism is Myopically Immature”