Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lifestyles of the Regular and Ordinary

Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams, do you recall that oft-quoted phrase from Robin Leach on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous?  I remember watching.  I also remember thinking; I have nothing in common with those people…absolutely nothing.

In fact, my strongest memory of caviar is that scene in BIG where Tom Hanks tastes it and then enthusiastically tries to wipe off his tongue with his napkin before leaving the champagne-laden party for, wait for it, a milkshake.

I’m more of a Lifestyles of the Regular and Ordinary kind of girl.  While I appreciate some basic material comforts like my Keurig, an iPhone, and 4-wheel drive, my life is pretty simple.  My husband and I attend church, work hard for our money, and are trying to make the lives of our children just a tad bit better than we had it.  Sounds pretty regular and ordinary to me.  We’re actually raising children without a yacht or a 20-car garage.  Who knew it could be done?!

Too bad Robin Leach didn’t take a side bar away from the private beaches and 10,000 square foot mansions to visit the charities these rich and famous people supported.  But, there might be a reason for that. Statistically, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that the wealthiest people historically give less money to charity.  I guess the rich and famous have to keep up appearances.  We “regular Joe’s” just want to leave the world a little better than we found it.

This came to mind recently as I met with one of our donors, Linda Rae.  She stopped by to drop off a key to our office that she had found while cleaning out her late husband’s desk.  It was an emotional day to be sure.  Bill Rea was a beloved member of the Grant County community and a former President of the Foundation Board of Directors.  I’m sure cleaning out his desk brought back many memories.  Heck, this tiny little key has me verklempt.   

That’s probably why it’s still sitting on my desk.  I keep staring at it.  Picking it up.  Twirling it through my fingers.  Thinking. Keys are so symbolic. The potential that they can unlock is often unknown, but it’s potential nonetheless.

I think Bill Rea knew that the Foundation was a key to unlocking a lot of Grant County’s potential.  Our existence for the past 28 years has allowed donors to mobilize their generosity toward impacting causes they loved.  And in those 28 years, the Foundation has invested all we could to improve the quality of life in this place we call home.  That’s powerful stuff.

So, I’m keeping Bill’s key in my desk drawer from now on.  And every time I see it I’m going to think of all of the Foundation donors past and present who were regular, ordinary people with big ideas and even bigger hearts.

And, in honor of the Lifestyles of the Regular and Ordinary, I plan to toast those very donors…every time I drink a milkshake.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Intentional Acts of Kindness

There are things people do that they really shouldn’t…like eat an entire sleeve of Chips Ahoy cookies while watching M*A*S*H reruns.  I have a ‘friend’ who did that once.  ;) 

Then, there are things people don’t do that they really should…like exercise 5 times a week or drink 8 glasses of water per day.  That same ‘friend’ thinks about doing both of these things quite often.

Then, there are those things we don’t do, but should do, yet never think about at all.  This is the category where estate planning comes into play.

Now, I’m sure Hallmark hasn't gotten wind of this yet, so don’t expect a card in the mail, but Happy National Estate Planning Awareness Week.  Doesn't really roll right off the tongue now does it?
I wonder if this is why people don’t really pay attention to estate planning.  It’s not, how do you say it…sexy.  But, it should be! 

Estate planning isn’t just for your grandparents anymore.  Whether you’re Young and Broke, Single and Employed, In a Relationship, Just Married, On the Parent Track, Heading for a Divorce, Planning to Re-marry, or Newly Widowed, you should be takin’ care of business no matter what age you are.

I would even say the business of estate planning is one of the most intentional acts of kindness that someone can show to the people and charities that they care the most about.

We always hear about Random Acts of Kindness.  Why can’t we coin the term Intentional Acts of Kindness?  In fact, intentional may be one of my new favorite words.  I love it when people are intentional.  It shows thought and planning and typically great detail and care. 

One of our donors, Elmira Davis, was intentional.  She recently passed away and didn't even live in Grant County anymore.  But, she never forgot about her old hometown.  And, she never forgot about the Community Foundation.  Now we will never forget her.  Elmira intentionally did one really wonderful thing for us…she named the Foundation as a 50% beneficiary of a gift annuity that she held.

One piece of her estate pie was designated to the Foundation.  Not the whole pie or even half of the pie, just a slice.  But, many non-profits don’t often get to enjoy dessert, so a slice of any size is a blessing for which we are forever grateful.

So, no, Hallmark isn’t ever going to celebrate Estate Planning Week.  And, yes, the whole idea of estate planning will probably always rank up there with broccoli, doing laundry, and winter.  But, intentionally planning now so that those you care about can have a better future later is utterly selfless...and sexy.  

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Box of 64’s with the Built-in Sharpener

There’s really nothing that brings back memories like the smell of a box of Crayola Crayons.  When I was little, you either had the giant box of 64 Crayola Crayons with the built-in sharpener, or you wanted one.

The Crayola marketing geniuses certainly made all of the kids think that they just couldn't draw a respectable sunset without Burnt Sienna.  And, with a dull crayon?  Forgettaboutit.

But, I’m here to tell ya, folks…bigger isn't always better.

That may sound a bit odd coming from a non-profit organization that relies on donations to fulfill our mission of creating a better quality of life in Grant County.  It’s still early in the morning as I write this eNews article and we've already had two noteworthy donations come in.  One donation would be along the line of a box of 64’s; the other donation would more toward the standard box of 8.  But, to me, both are significant.  And you don’t even have to leave the crayon industry to understand why.

Let me introduce to you Senior Crayon Maker, Emerson Moser.  Moser made over 1.4 Billion crayons prior to his retirement from Crayola in 1990.  His life’s work, 37 years, was spent creating colorful ways for children to express themselves.  Although that may not be impressive in and of itself, upon retirement Moser announced that he was, in fact, colorblind!

Apparently, one day Moser made a decision.  He decided that the hindrance of being colorblind was not going to stop him from being successful at Crayola.  His dedication to that decision throughout the years eventually propelled him to, maybe the most awesome title I've ever heard, Senior Crayon Maker.  In other words, Moser showed his true colors. ;)

This isn't altogether different than the two donors I spoke of earlier.  Both of them decided one day that they would make annual gifts to the Community Foundation.  And both of them have loyally followed through with their gift-giving promise.  These generous donors know that we will invest their donations efficiently and distribute them effectively.  They are partners with the Foundation.  They follow the work we do.  They appreciate our leadership.  They trust us.  But, ultimately, they made a decision.  The decision to give loyally and annually. 

Maybe you haven’t decided to be a loyal, annual donor yet.  (Unless you believe that no decision is actually a decision.)  But, this I know for sure, loyal donors can be the difference between a successful non-profit and a significant non-profit.  With occasional donors, we can make grants. With loyal donors, we can make a difference.  With occasional donors, we can make scholarships possible.  With loyal donors, we can make college diplomas possible. With occasional donors, we can focus on immediate needs.  With loyal donors, we can focus on strategic needs.  See the difference?

This reminds me of a quote I learned long ago:  The difference between 'involvement' and 'commitment' is like an eggs-and-ham breakfast: the chicken was 'involved'; the pig was 'committed'.”

Make a decision today to be a committed, loyal donor.  To give annually, no matter what amount.  To help us move the needle and make an impact.  After all, there’s a fine line between success and significance, involvement and commitment…and it’s probably drawn with Burnt Sienna.
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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Weebles and Shiny Things

You remember Weebles, right?  Come on, sing it with me…"Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down”.  I had the Weebly Wobbly Treehouse.  It’s hard to tell how many hours Hasbro kept me entertained, but those Weebles were so cool. As many times as I tried to knock them over, they just kept popping upright again and again.

What I didn’t know at the time was all of the precision that went into make that Weeble untippable.  

The developers at PlaySkool had to take that tiny piece of plastic and utilize weight, gravitational force called torque, and inertia to ensure that no Weeble would ever fall down.  Every kid could count on that and that’s why we liked them.

Typically, the things in life that you can count on have some similarities.  They’ve been around for awhile with a solid track record, their goals are strategic and measurable, and friends, family, and colleagues trust them to do what they say they will do…accountability.  

Contrast this to shiny things.  It’s about that time of year where department stores begin creating those wonderful kiosks displaying the lastest and greatest item you just can’t live without…the shiny thing. (See also Snuggie.)

Sure, it’s looks nice and you’ve even seen it the news recently, but is it reallly all it’s cracked up to be?  Is it a good investment?  Can you trust that it will do all it says it will do?  Was it an impulse buy because of the time of year or that temporary warm, fuzzy feeling?  
When it comes to philanthropy, you need to be wary of the shiny things.  It’s imporant to target your dollars wisely with a non-profit or two that that you can truly trust.  Targeted dollars will create larger impact toward causes that you truly care about.  And, you need to know that your donations will be spent on exactly what you intend.  

Shiny things seem like a good idea in the moment, but in the long run what you really want is a Weeble…A non-profit that has a history of “difference-making”, strategic investing, and overall trustworthiness for the long haul.

While there are many organizations like this in Grant County.  Rest assured that the Community Foundation is a Weeble…no question about it.

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