Last week, I took time off from work. For a brief shining moment, I acted like a stay-at-home mom to my beautiful daughters. It was wonderful. (See photo for proof of great time. Also, we have actual seating in our home.) Continue reading “You = VIP: an Experiential Experiment”
How can we feel safe when no one is safe?
The past several weeks have been rough. Without going into detail on what’s happening in my little family, I’d rather focus on what this time period has evoked:
Are we safe?
My daughters and I have openly discussed safety, identifying safe and unsafe scenarios and spaces, not compromising our safety, so that someone will like or accept us, and finally, how we practice self-soothing when we are afraid. Like any parent, my daughters’ safety and empowering them to know how to get/stay safe, are of the utmost importance.
While in the midst of walking through private issues over the past several weeks, epic mass shootings, scores of hate crimes and the disastrous fires in California, also plagued our country.
After the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, PA, like so many of us, I was shocked. No matter how many times I hear about or experience anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc, the shock value never, ever lessens.
My daughter and I discussed the Pittsburgh tragedy after a few days had passed. I couldn’t believe how matter of fact she was about it.
I fervently exclaimed,
I absolutely refuse to let this be the new normal!
She responded to me very calmly,
Mom, we’ve been having lockdown drills for as long as I can remember. At first, when I was little, they were really scary, but now, this IS our normal.
My mouth was agape. I felt like I couldn’t breathe…
I had the “aha” moment I have never wanted to have.
I went on to validate what she’d said to me. I told her that her response made me sad and then, she said,
It is sad, but it just is. Mom, we have to live with what is.
A part of me wanted to argue against what she was saying, but I didn’t. The truth is, I was in awe of my daughter’s composure and graceful example of how to live life on life’s terms.
Just this past week, I came home from work and as I prepped dinner, I shared with my daughters that ORT’s Kfar Silver Youth Village had to be evacuated because there weren’t enough (or close enough) shelters, for the kids to be safe.
Kfar Silver Youth Village is located just outside of Ashkelon, Israel. Hundreds of rockets were launched from Gaza and it was a terrifyingly unsafe situation for these kids and all who live there.
At dinner, my daughters were wide-eyed and glued to everything about Kfar Silver. They wanted to learn more about the “really cool” place the Kfar Silver Youth Village is.
My daughters asked so many questions:
How can these kids ever feel safe with rockets being launched nearby? How can they not have enough shelters? Do adults help them feel safe? Who helps the adults feel safe? How can the world be this scary?
And then, the same daughter who told me about needing to “live with what is” said,
WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!
My (amazing) daughters just finished raising funds for ORT America, for its #GivingTuesday campaign. (Yep, they raised their funds well before #GivingTuesday!)
Next, my eldest daughter has expressed interest in helping the kids at Kfar Silver Youth Village to get safe, feel safe and stay safe.
So, the moral of this story is,
we can live with what is, but we
can must also take action.
We may feel afraid, but in this very moment, in the here and now,
we are safe.
Maybe, they don’t, but they’re just programmed to think they do.
When I first began fundraising professionally, I remember trying to hide how emotional I was in my cases for support. I was embarrassed, even though my kvelling got the job done quite nicely.
More than a decade ago, I became immersed in philanthropy, although, I was born and raised to be philanthropic. Continue reading “The Kvelling Kishke Kampaigner”
Or to compliment the season,
Years ago, I believed I was unintelligent. As a child, I worked very hard to hide my perceived stupidity and the shame that accompanied it. I was convinced that anytime I appeared to be intelligent, it was artificial. Naturally, this internal messaging, along with other self-mutilating messaging, was totally false. Continue reading “A Love Letter to Artificial Progress & Real Regression”
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”
Lately, I’ve been extra depleted physically, mentally and emotionally. This is not a complaint, but is provided as a frame of reference for the possible drivel I’m about to write.
While in this diminished state, I considered writing 100 things I love about my Mother, but the truth is, 100 isn’t nearly enough. I have way more than 100 things I love about my amazing Mom.
Instead, I thought I’d fantasize about 100 Mother’s Day gifts and/or events I’d absolutely love. Some are real, and some are imagined. Most are imagined, but I hope they’re real someday. Continue reading “The Mother Load”
For the love of driving a mission. PLAN. LISTEN. BREATHE. SING.
With an abundance of vim and vigor, I work in the nonprofit sector. As with much of my life, I tend to think in choreography, musical theatre and improv comedy sketches. No matter how long I’ve been out of the performing arts professionally, I still have an artist’s brain with an obsession for the implementation of logical and accessible systems. I am grateful for both sides of my brain.
I have known for more than a decade that the nonprofit sector is exactly where I belong. Whenever my Dad mentions, “Hey Honey, you can always go the corporate route again,” I smile, and sometimes, I even nod.
I thrived in the for profit sector for a few decades. I was so lucky to travel the world, earn a terrific living, engage with lovely people (mostly), and learn a great deal about a host of industries that have since changed dramatically. Growing up (hungry) in the performing arts for much of my life was helpful to my flourishing in the for profit sector. With a starving artist mentality, (because I wanted to be skinny, not because I didn’t have food), I showed up to each gig, grateful for the job, interested in learning, and excited to be around so much innovation. What sorely lacked for me while working in the corporate world, was the feeling that I wasn’t really doing enough to help humankind. The mere thought of collaborating with other like-minded people to move a nonprofit mission and organization forward, to make this world better, often led and STILL leads to thoughts of West Side Story and other musicals I’ve performed in and/or loved:
When I’m in a meeting with executive leadership, or with a colleague who needs to feel more valued, or with a disappointed donor, or when I choose to eat humble pie, because I KNOW it’s what’s best for the collective good, it always helps to recall and celebrate my musical theatre roots.
When I entered (head/heart first), into the nonprofit world, I was immediately inspired:
Do you hear the people sing? Singing the songs of angry men? It is the music of the people who will not be slaves again! When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums, there is a life about to start When tomorrow comes.
Truth be told, the music from Les Miserables often plays in my head. Much to my dismay, I never performed in that show, but I was called back a bunch of times for Broadway and the National Tour. My singing wasn’t good enough, and I always knew that. I think I might have had nine callbacks, so I guess I didn’t completely suck. P.S. I guarantee that my Mom, Lois Klier, absolutely knows the exact amount of callbacks and what I wore at each one.
So, while I was undeniably inspired by nonprofit work, I made a shocking discovery:
nonprofits sometimes forget that they’re a business.
In the nonprofits I’ve had the honor of working for, as staff, as a consultant, and as a member of the board of directors, I have noticed a trend:
- So many meetings, and meetings that are usually not well-organized and that last way too long
- Poor planning or no planning with reactive rather than proactive actions. Passion for a mission is not enough. Planning is key
- Too much reliance on gadgets and gizmos to help learn more about the organization’s donors and donor prospects. The best prospect research tool I’ve ever located, is having a conversation with the prospect, and doing more listening than talking. The relationship evolves from there
- Too much work on staff members’ plates, but in actuality, prioritization is usually out of whack because systems have never been put into place
- Enormous dependence on fundraising events with no plan for donor retention, post event.
- Weak marketing – lack of clarity or connective tissue between the organizational mission and its marketing and communications materials
- Not spending enough time on strengthening the case for support
- Not celebrating victories. Even small milestones are worthy of a two-minute party. The mission and workload will still be there when you’re done. Praise the collaborative effort, praise your colleagues and leadership.
- Inserting too much pressure on the Board of Directors and lay leadership for fundraising – THIS is not great cultivation and stewardship if your donor is uncomfortable doing something. It’s the staff’s job to craft a fundraising strategy that works well for the organization. Where do gracious volunteers want to go? What excites them? Have them do that. Support them and develop leaders
- More than all I have listed above, nearly all of the nonprofits I have been involved with attract the very best, kindest and most talented human beings on the face of the Earth. It serves a nonprofit very well to raise already extraordinary people up, so that the organization has the strength to do what it’s there to do. Elevating people is at the heart of every mission I have ever seen, pondered or worked to move forward
Today, I don’t have to tell you that there is a great deal of fear, worry, anger and shock that is practically suffocating us. While I am not immune to the current climate, I have forced myself to implement a system of boundaries that help keep me free to do what I must do in order to make this world better.
I do fear really well, I just choose not to.
While wallets may tighten and nonprofit tax benefits might change, it doesn’t alter the fact that important nonprofit missions have to be carried out. I would argue, NOW MORE THAN EVER BEFORE.
And while I’m a pragmatist, I might also be a secret optimist. I do believe:
While the Jets and the Sharks in West Side Story, hated and sought to harm each other, they never really knew each other in the first place. Heartbreaking tragedy struck and that’s what it took for communities to come together. Tony and Maria were more evolved than their peers because they led with love. I choose to lead with love, especially within a storm of chaos.
And from the very first show that bit me in the tush, I urge anyone, even in such challenging times, to think:
When hardship must be faced;Life obliges us with hardship, so the words of wisdom shouldn’t go to waste. To us and our good fortune, be happy be healthy, long life! And if our good fortune never comes, here’s to whatever comes, drink l’chaim, to life! To life, to life, l’chai-im,! L’chai-im, l’chai-im, to life! Life has a way of confusing us, blessing and bruising us, drink l’chaim, to life, to life, l’chaim! L’chaim, l’chaim, to life! A gift we seldom are wise enough, ever to prize enough, drink l’chaim, to life!
And l’chaim to a nonprofit’s life, and its organizational sustainability. Breathe, listen, pay attention, and please plan the exact moves (ahead of time), on how you’re going to safely get down from the roof without breaking your fiddle, and when you get down, you must already know how you will implement a system of collaboration for the entire community of Anatevka. You are a matchmaker. Make matches for your donors and the organization you work for or serve.
I have faith in you, and in human beings all over the globe. Happy Valentine’s Day.