Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The iPhone (R)evolution

Well, it happened.  The iPhone 5 was finally released.  iPhone 4 and 4s users are officially utilizing outdated technology that is only mere months old.  In fact, I heard that the new iPhone 5 is even wired to stand in line for the iPhone 6 when it’s released.  Not true, but funny, right?

Technology follows an evolutionary path.  We have a simple expectation that the next version will be a little bit quicker, better, or smaller than the last.  Somehow, just in my lifetime, we went from kids playing with tin cans connected by long pieces of string to those powered with 1.21 jigawatt flux capacitors…practically.
I guess it’s just the world we live in these days.  Change is our only constant.  Ironic, isn’t it?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because the Community Foundation ‘gets’ change.  We are a change agent.  We see donor generosity and passion toward making significant change…Every.  Single.  Week. 
But, the change we see isn’t evolutionary at all.  It’s better.  It’s revolutionary!

I recently had the privilege of speaking at Indiana Wesleyan University’s chapel about giving.  I was excited because there is nothing I love to talk about more.  But, sometimes giving is difficult to define. 

Is giving about money?  Yes, sometimes.  Well, what about time?  Certainly.  Time is a valuable commodity that we can’t replace.  But, what about talent?  You bet.  Someone with the willingness to share their talent may be invaluable to a non-profit with limited help.

All this led me to do a little research on levels of giving.  I wondered if there was any sort of continuum that would show how to start giving if you’re not currently.   Or how to move to a more selfless level of giving no matter what level you might be at right now.

In my research, I did discover 8 levels of giving written nearly 1000 years ago by Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon.  With all due credit to the Rabbi for his original brilliance, my friend Dave Drury and I took some creative privilege with his language and modified this for givers of all varieties.  See what you think:
  • Level 1- The lowest level of Giving = Giving begrudgingly.
  • Level 2- You give less than you should, but you do so cheerfully.
  • Level 3- You give after being solicited.
  • Level 4- You give without being solicited.
  • Level 5- The giver knows the recipient, but recipient does not know the giver.
  • Level 6- The recipient knows the giver, but the giver doesn’t know the recipient.
  • Level 7- The giver gives, but is unaware of the recipient, who, in turn, is unaware of giver.
  • Level 8- The highest level of giving = You give to strengthen the hand of another, so they don’t need help anymore, are fully sustained, and can become a giver to others.

While it’s common to give at various levels, we should strive for the upper tier, for sure.  This kind of giving can have a revolutionary impact on the giver and the receiver.  It’s not that evolutionary change that gets a little bit better each time.  It’s the kind of change that is radical.  It’s what my friend Jack Brady and I call a ‘quadradigm shift’ because it’s twice as good as a paradigm shift.  Giving in this way will fundamentally change the way you think and feel about people, organizations, and change.  It’s like going from that phone made of tin cans and string to the latest and greatest flux capacitor model.

If you’re not donating time, talent, or treasure today, start at Level 1.  It’s okay, we’ve all been there.  Everyone can afford to work out their generosity muscle a little bit more.  It might be out of shape, but it’s not too late to start now.  We can enjoy the iPhone evolution, but let’s be proactive and start our own iGive Revolution.  Folks, it’s time for a giving upgrade.
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Wednesday, September 19, 2012


You know what I love?  DATA!  And, it’s a good thing because my head is so full of data today that it feels like a clown car.  You remember the famous circus routine.  It involves an implausibly large number of clowns emerging from a very small car, to humorous effect, of course.  But, the data I learned today wasn’t funny.  In fact, it’s rather serious.  And, I cannot wait to disseminate that information to the Foundation team and our donors.  Why?  Because what I learned today will help our students (a) get to college, (b) earn a degree, and (c) graduate with as little debt as possible.   That’s a tall order for sure.  But, everything worth it usually is.

Since my brain is essentially about to explode, I’ll share an appetizer of information with you today and follow it up with a few other courses as the year progresses.  If you have a child, know a student, or have met anyone that would love to go back to school or finish a degree, no matter what age, pay close attention to our Foundation blogs about Scholarships.  Like them, forward them, share them.  After all, knowledge is power.

A few morsels of knowledge about college:

First, through our support of Project Leadership, Grant County has managed to enroll a mind-blowing 97% of our eligible students into Indiana’s 21st Century Scholar’s Program.  This specific scholarship provides 4-years of tuition to any Indiana public college.   That, my friends, will pay for half of our local high school students to go to college tuition-free.
Second, only 23% of Indiana public college students earn an associate or bachelor’s degree on time, meaning in 2 or 4 year’s respectively.   But, why is that such a big deal?  At least they finish, right? True.  However, if 23% are graduating on time, then 77% are not.  And that 77% is on their way to incurring 1-2 years of additional debt. 
And, finally, 32%.  This percentage reflects the 885,000 Indiana workers who went to college, but never finished.  So close, yet so far.  Some may be just a year, or even a class, away from that diploma, yet for whatever reason, didn’t seal the deal.   

What our task will be at the Foundation is to figure out how to help our 21st Century scholars cover costs outside of tuition, how to invest in all scholars to encourage more on-time graduation rates, and how to provide scholarship support to both traditional and non-traditional students. 

We’ll get by with a little help from our friends at the National Center for College Costs located at   Until we blog again, check out this treasure trove of resources for everything you ever wanted to know, but were afraid to ask, about funding a college education. 

Never doubt that an affordable college degree can be in your future.  After all, stranger things have happened.   I mean, Peyton Manning is wearing an orange uniform now, right?  
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Me, Us, America

Once upon a time one could watch a TV show without a news ticker announcing the latest sports scores, stock prices, or breaking news at the bottom of a television screen.  That ‘once upon a time’ was September 10, 2001.
On September 11th, everything changed.  As a necessity, news channels had to develop a dual delivery system to both report and direct.  They needed a real-time approach to unpack the chaos of a terrorist attack on American soil.  But, they also needed a constant approach echoing basic information paramount to the safety of all involved.  It was that day that the Fox News Channel, CNN, and MSNBC all began using news tickers floating across the bottom of our television screens.  Now, every time I see a news ticker, I can’t help but think of how 9/11 has changed me.  Changed us.  Changed America.

I had a suitcase in my car and an American Airlines plane ticket to Los Angeles in my purse that morning.  It wasn’t until my phone started ringing endlessly with panicked voices of loved ones on the line telling me not to get on a plane that I realized the catastrophe that is now part of America’s story.   But, it was over the next several days that I realized something profound.  While I was running away from the danger, many others, policemen, firefighters, and first responders were running toward it.  The heroism that the world witnessed at the World Trade Center changed me.  Changed us.  Changed the America.

This past spring, my 16-year-old, Griffin, and I had the privilege of traveling to New York City during Spring Break. Hundreds of men, women, and children from all over the world were there to pay their respects.  There was a magnificent hum in the air as machine operators did their part to rebuild what once stood at the corner of Liberty Street and Church Street in New York City.  Architect Michael Arad designed the two reflecting pools, entitled “Reflecting Absence” that stand in the footprints of the two former towers.  Around the pool edges you can touch the 2,977 names of those lost etched in stone at The National September 11th Memorial.

The Survivor Tree in 2002
(courtesy of NY Parks Dept)
And then I saw something peculiar.  Well, not so much peculiar, but out of place.  Almost unreal.  At the very site of such death and destruction stood a lone, beautiful, healthy, vibrant, living pear tree.
If you haven’t heard about The Survivor Tree, it has an incredible story.  This tree, too, was a victim of the 9/11 tragedy.  Here is a picture of the tree, slashed to a mere 8 feet tall, just a few months after the disaster.  It was then that horticulturist Richie Cabo of the New York City Parks Department decided to try to nurse this tree back to health.

Nine years of tender loving care by Cabo took this barely living tree from a few frail branches to a thriving transplant back to its original home on the property of the World Trade Center.  I smiled widely as I took this picture of Griffin standing under the, now 35 foot, blossoming beauty. 

There’s just something about new life growing where so many lives were taken.  Something about a ray of light in the midst of darkness.  Something about a glimmer of hope where all seemed lost.

And today I am thankful for that something because it has changed me.  Changed us.  Changed America.    
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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Happy Birthday, Roger Hamilton!

One of my favorite writers, Seth Godin, recently wrote a blog entitled “This or That?”

Don’t follow, lead.
Don’t copy, create.
Don’t start, finish.
or even,
Don't sit still, move.
Don't fit in, stand out.
Don't sit quietly, speak up.
Not all the time, sure, but more often.

I doubt that Roger Hamilton ever read that, but he lived it.  Roger was a superstar football player, a motivational speaker, a quadriplegic, and my friend.  When September arrives, I always think of him.  There’s a chill in the air, you can hear the faint sound of the football game from our backyard, and it’s his birthday on September 6th.  Roger passed away last year and I miss him.

I’ve heard lots of stories about Roger.  During the Marion Giants 1968, 1969, and 1970 football seasons, Roger scored 358 points and had 54 touchdowns for school career marks.  He led the Giants to an undefeated season in 1969, Marion’s first since 1902!  The school’s record during Roger’s 3-years of play was 28-2.  He was arguably the greatest runner to ever play Grant County football, and because of that, was inducted into the Grant County Sports Hall of Fame.

But, that’s not how I know Roger.  In fact, when he was running touchdowns, I wasn’t even toddling around coffee tables yet.  But, the stories live on.  Maybe some of you reading this even have some stories of your own.

I actually didn’t get the pleasure of meeting Roger until 2002.  Jack Brady introduced us and we became fast friends as he ‘toured’ with the Project Leadership team at that time and spoke to nearly every student in all of Grant County.  And, boy, did he have a lot to tell those kids.

Not long after Roger’s football glory days at Marion High School, he started to make some poor life choices.  The worst left him paralyzed from the neck down after a tragic car accident.  So, from our first meeting until he passed away in 2011, Roger was maneuvering his R2D2-like wheelchair via puffs into a very long straw.

Try to imagine the silence in an auditorium full of kids as they’d see Roger roll onto stage blowing into the straw once or twice to manipulate his speed or direction.  It was humbling to say the least.  And it was on that stage that he’d talk about his notorious football career, what could have been, and the reality of what was.  He talked about the choices that led to those 358 points and the choices that led to that wheelchair.  He talked about his faith, living every day to the fullest, and the opportunity that each of them had to do the same.  

Roger didn’t have much.  But, he had a great message to share with others.  And he was willing to share it with anyone who would listen.  I admired him for that.  So often we think about helping others after our kids are grown or after the big promotion or after things slow down a bit.  Or we think we’ll donate to charity after the house is paid off or after the kids graduate from college or after we feel like the contribution can be significant enough to make a difference.

Roger didn’t wait.  And he taught me not to wait.  He worked with what he had and touched many lives forever.   And, that’s why I’ve decided to run my first 5K this weekend in honor of Roger Hamilton, his life, and his birthday.  I’m so glad he was born.  

Those of you that know me well know I’m not a good runner.  I’m not as bad as Phoebe on Friends, but I really only run for the health of it.  So, it’s going to be a challenge for me.  I know others running in the Color Me Rad 5K in Indy this weekend will be running to get their best time or to win in their age category.  Me, I’ll just run for Roger, plan to finish, and make a charitable donation in his name when I do.  

It’s not much, but it’s something.  And we should all do something, not all the time, but more often.

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