Financing Philanthropy: Time, Talent, Treasures

money jar

Philanthropy is more than writing a check.


Excitedly I registered for a seminar on Strategic Philanthropy this week. I’m marshaling my entrepreneurship efforts and, I thought, I’d learn best practices for allocating a portion of my profits to a cause near to my heart. When I left the 2-hour session lead by Rick Swanson of Learning Meets Quality, I was the one that left with more riches than I imagined. Through Rick’s leadership the participants in the room, schools, businesses, and non-profits, learned an important lesson. Philanthropy is about more than writing a check. In fact, Rick’s lesson extends a common theme from my place of worship.

During each new budget year we have a stewardship campaign that funds the operations and mission of my religious community. We’re asked to dedicate not only our treasures (money), but our time (volunteerism), and talent (expertise) as well. With Rick’s permission I’d like to share these lessons with you. (Psst…if you’re interested Rick runs the Strategic Philanthropy sessions for free.)

The session started with a look at the goals we have for philanthropy from BOTH the non-profit and the business’ perspective.

Public Relations

  • Business: You desire a partner with a positive presence to leverage through media and/or public relations events.
  • Non-Profit: To attract a partner document your positive presence in the community.


  • Business: You seek a natural connection and comfortable working relationship with a partner who is well-connected in the community. In a tactful way you hope to leverage the partner’s connection with their community.
  • Non-Profit: Position yourself as well-connected in your community, show that you have positive working relationships with your donors/volunteers, and demonstrate your desire to connect the business to your community in a tactful manner.
  • For the relationship to work both business and non-profit need to be able to articulate their core values. If you are have not discovered your core values, drop me a line at SDJ Marketing Solutions for a consulting session.


  • Business: You are looking for a non-profit who is able to use your financial contributions, expertise, or volunteer hours.
  • Non-profit: Show that you have a well thought out plan to use your partner’s resources and a strong volunteer management program.


  • Business: You want an outlet for your members, volunteers, sponsors, and clients to smile and have fun.
  • Non-profit: Document through pictures, videos, and testimonials the fun factor of your facility or events.


  • Business: As an owner you want to work with a business that you know can “stand on its own two feet.”
  • Non-profit: Demonstrate your organization is mature enough to operate independently and ensure all your communications reflect your independence.


  • Business: You expect a reciprocal commitment of time between your organization and the non-profit organization for planning and relationship building. (Weekly/Monthly/Quarterly)
  • Non-profit: Fulfill your commitment to spend time with your partner and keep your partner accountable for his/her commitment as well.

You might notice the acronym in different ways an entrepreneur (even a solo-preneur like me) is able to contribute to philanthropic efforts. It’s more than PROFIT. In addition to financial support (treasures) I am working my time and talent (volunteerism, seminars, training, etc.) into my business plan.

How has this post changed the way you think about being involved in philanthropy? I’d love to hear from you.

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Completely Biased, Unscientific Learning from Potential Job Candidates

At 12:25 p.m. on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 I just finished my first experience judging the #MNcollegiateDECA state competition in Mankato, MN. Between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. I judged six students on their ability to read a case study in the restaurant and food service management area and present their solutions to an ethical and operational dilemma facing a fictitious restaurant chain. The details of their case is not important. That students chose, at such an early hour of the morning, to let their skills be judged — that’s the important point.

When I brought Rasmussen students to the competition two years ago my focus was on the top students. I wanted to make sure my students were among the top ranked: confident, well informed, professional, able to problem solve and think on their feet. My focus is different today. I want to talk about the students who lacked confidence, need more experience, and still pepper their speech with “like” and “stuff.”

The existence of these aforementioned students at the DECA competition lead me to be hopeful for employment candidates in the future. WHAT? How can that be?

These students took a risk and opened themselves up to true feedback. By title I’m judging them, their performance, and their ability at this point in time. Asking for feedback is never easy. Asking for feedback from strangers and intending to improve from that feedback shows true commitment to growth.

As business leaders, we have something to learn. Based on the example of these inexperienced, but dedicated, potential candidates, I recommend the following actions for our personal and professional growth.

  1. Let your business and your contribution be “judged.” In DECA you are not approaching someone who will be judgmental. There is a different. Reach out to customers with whom you have the best relationships. Open yourself up to review from business peers, coaches, and mentors whom you trust to give you an accurate assessment delivered with love.
  2. Review the feedback carefully, then put it away for a day or two. Our businesses are wrapped up in our identities. It’s understandable that we’d feel defensive or emotional over the feedback we receive. Don’t reject the feedback immediately or rush to make changes. Instead, let the emotions fade for a couple of days. Then review the comments again with a trusted mentor. Really discuss the merits, opportunities, and challenges of each point.
  3. Create an action plan. What will you change, by when, and why? Make sure any changes are intentional and add value to your most important stakeholders. By the way; you are one of those stakeholders.
  4. Set your action plan side by side with your business and personal mission statements. If there are areas that don’t align one of two things may be true: 1) your mission has evolved since you’ve looked at it last and needs updating, or 2) you need to revisit your action plan.

The steps outlined here go far beyond creating a to-do list. It’s your opportunity to transform yourself and your business. How often should you go through this process? I would recommend once a year, but if your business is in a state of rapid growth you might go through the steps more often.

The bottom line: Not everyone is at the top of their game at all times. The ones that will break through to success are the ones that will put their assumptions at risk.

Lifting the Lid on Leadership

It’s poignant to remember the stages we went through as children and young adults. As infants, children, and teenagers we are expected to hit certain stages where we redefine our relationship to our world and our selves. What I’ve found is once we graduate from college or some advanced degree, we work as through we’re done developing in stages. Suddenly a plateau hits and I wonder – is it just me? Is this natural? How do I develop my leadership effectiveness?

Recently I read John Maxwell’s well known book 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (PDF) and the first law, the Law of the Lid, summarized where I am at this point in my career. I’ve hit my leadership lid. Now, I could continue on and be perfectly effective, but to truly transform my relationship with my employees, my peers, my friends, and my family, I need to lift the lid.

There are two areas where I’ve begun to define what this means at this later point in my career; there’s no question I’ve been successful, but my growth requires a redefinition of terms.

Networking redefined:

  • Used to mean meeting people in order to expand my circle. I offered my skills and expertise in hopes of making connections with others.
  • Now networking means offering my skills and expertise in order to build my influence. Who can I count on to support my vision of both my personal growth and that of the organization for which I work? My networking must focus internally as much as externally to develop this influence.
  • You’ll notice I still offer my skills and expertise first. That has not changed.

 Branding redefined:

  • Used to mean developing a personal brand. I needed to articulate my value in the context of organizational and needs. The focus was on my contribution and competitive advantage.
  • Now branding means develpoing a platform of ideas – a vision – that illustrates a future for my organization and its people in the context of internal and external competition. I’m particularly good at articulating my personal brand. Where I now need to focus it the development of my organization’s future.
  • My personal part in this vision is both forward facing (I’m literally the face) and secondary to the needs of others.

Value redefined:

  • I’m struggling most with this one right now. Personally I’ve tended to define my value by how others see me. As an instructor and manager I’ve fought this impluse in order to be effective. If I want to be transformative, I must let go of this definition all together.
  • My value, with this redefinition, would be constructed not by other’s opinions of me (do they like me?) but by how valued my employees, friends, and family feel. I am not the primary source of delivering this value to them, but encouraging others to see the value they offer in the best light.
  • In a nutshell it doesn’t matter if people like me…do people express thanks to my employees for the value they’ve offered up?

In print these definitions are neat and tidy. In practice I feel like I’m in a game of dodgeball. As many of us know from our childhoods; dodgeball is both frightening and fun at the same time.

Please, join the discussion.


From a “Bad Indian Girl” who has become a “Bad Asian Parent”

A colleague recently sent me an article article from the Wall Street Journal about being a Chinese mother. He recommends parents give it a read. Essentially, the author states that shaming a child (for their own good mind you) is cultural, successful, and much preferred to the Western style of parenting. This no hold barred article makes the point that learning should not be fun but hard work, and given hours of practice, memorization, and parental tutoring, all kids can be the best in the class. The author also includes other Asian and some African cultures in her diatribe.

As a kid, I was considered a “bad Indian girl.” I didn’t go to Indian school the two weekend days other kids had free. I didn’t take dance lessons and didn’t stay on the “women’s side” of the house during the endless Indian parties weekend after weekend. Instead, I wanted to discuss literature and politics and business with the men. The Indian men didn’t know what to do with me, but my father always welcomed me with open arms. He let my natural curiosity lead my desire to learn.

Was I pushed to succeed in school, yes. Nothing was as difficult to handle than the pressure I put on myself, however. I started things and stopped things (not easily as my parents wouldn’t let me give up too easily) as I discovered myself and my calling. Why am I telling you this? Apparently I’ve evolved from a “bad Indian girl” into a “bad Indian mom.”

I believe that my kids should be, and can be the best. I work with them on their homework, their music lessons, and yes, on the plays in which they choose to take part. Even wrestling (be still my heart) is an acceptable pursuit. I also think that every child has a unique gift and through persistence and self-awareness he or she can make a difference in the world.

I reject the authors claim that “Chinese” parenting must be so severe that the world must revolve around the wishes of the parent, that learning must be a battle, and only then is success achieved. Instead, this “bad Indian mom” believes in unconditional love, delayed gratification, and working hard for what you earn. I will love my children without limit, but I won’t stand for laziness.

I’m an instructor of business for juniors and seniors in college. I get the value of education. I’m also compulsively driven in my work and education. I don’t like getting less than an A+. So why, with these traits, would I encourage my kids’ teachers to give them harder work so they no longer get perfect scores on their tests? Why do I prod them to take on the challenge words and leadership roles in their classrooms? Learning should be fun at times, yes, but it should also be a quest. It should be hard and messy and frustrating at times.

We don’t learn purely for satisfaction or recognition. I believe we strive to settle an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. If my kids make a mistake, my first question is, “Is it because you didn’t understand or because you made a careless mistake?” If the mistake was preventable we work on strategies to make sure it never happens again; we also practice and practice until the skill is second nature. If they forget their work at school there are consequences until organization and responsibility are reinforced.

Now, if they didn’t understand, that’s exciting! We work on learning the concepts, strategies, practice–rinse and repeat. If they get perfect scores they are the top of the class, but that’s not enough. Their main competition should always include themselves. Where is that in the Chinese model? When do the children of the author take on a difficult task when mom is not there? Why would they?

My kids don’t like to get things wrong on tests. They try to hide it because they know what’s coming…work and more work. However, when they get stuck on something they never hesitate to come to me. Why? Because we embark on the quest together. When the questions get harder the fire is lit.

This “bad Indian mom” will stand by her claim that pull will trump push in motivating kids, employees, team members…etc…every time. Pull them into wanting to succeed by lighting their curiosity. Support their efforts with love and work. Their quest to improve should never end, regardless if it’s “perfect” or not…that’s not really the point. The journey is the point.

You’re a great friend, even though…

I was at a seminar where the speaker said something interesting.

He had a best friend in college who is black. He said to the friend that he didn’t even think of him as black, like that made their friendship better. The friend turned around and asked him how he would feel if he said the reverse. That he was a good friend, even though he was white? They discussed it; yes, they are still friends to this day.

That reminded me of the time I told a good friend (male) once that I didn’t even think of him as a guy, that he was like one of the girls. What do you think that did to his conception of his male identity?

When people say that “race shouldn’t matter” in hiring, what are you saying about what is acceptable in terms of identity? What affect do comments such as this do to an individual’s development of racial identity?

If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend the book, “Why do all the Black Kids Sit Together in the Cafeteria?” It’s great book that deals with, among other things, the development of racial identity.

My kids, both boys, are 1/2 East Indian, 1/4 German, and 1/4 Scandinavian. We get into interesting discussions about what it means to be “them” and how others perceive them. There are times when people ask me who’s kids they are. (They are lighter like their father, olive skinned I guess.) If you know my husband and I, you can tell they are our kids. Naturally my kids want to know why they are asking. I let them ask that person the question. They never do get a straight answer.

Once another child told them they couldn’t vote for our current president (in elections at school) because they are white. We talk about these instances. Why people say these things, how they feel about it, what they’ll do going forward. It’s a tightrope we walk, and although it’s kind of scary, it’s also exhilarating!

I invite your comments.

Not all ethics are created equal

When deciding to do business in other countries to perform well, and ethically, business people must understand that they are doing business with people in a country and not an impersonal entity.

There are some basics of humanity that don’t change. You are going to read a lot, and have probably read, about the differences inherent in doing business abroad. In fact, differences dominate most discussions about diversity. (Sorry for the alliteration, I couldn’t help myself.) I agree understanding and respecting differences between people here and China, for example, is a crucial part of working with other cultures. I’ll argue, however, we must simultaneously focus on similarities.

People in India also want to provide for their families and themselves. They want their children to be better off than they are, and they want to pass on the values that made them successful to future generations. All human beings deserve and crave dignity and the feeling of being valued. One way to ensure doing this when you are working with other cultures is to learn more about them before you begin business. Did I just shift to differences? Yes, but hear me out. In appealing to differences aren’t we also addressing the need to be heard and understood at the same time?

Assumptions and stereotypes can get in the way of dealing with people. What do you think about when you consider doing business in Mexico, France, or Vietnam? How did you form these assumptions? How do you check them? In a study called, “Ethics Perceptions of the U.S. and Its Large Developing-Country Trading Partners” the author, Inder Khera (2010) reported in the Global Management Journal that when a sample of Mid-Western business students were asked about a variety of scenarios, the assumption was that Americans will act more ethically than their counterparts in Mexico, China, or India.

If you are a manager of a division in another country, maybe Mexico where study participants assumed ethics would be at its lowest (Khera, 2010), you might make different decisions. Would you be as quick to promote Mexican employees? How much money would you spend on their training? Would you invest the same time in coaching them for management? There is a bright spot that Khera’s (2010) survey showed that Americans are starting to attribute higher percentages, and therefore, more propensities, to be ethical to these trading partners. More important is that people in Mexico, India, and China are not necessarily less ethical than Americans. How does perception become reality?


Khera, I. (2010). Ethics Perceptions of the U.S. and Its Large Developing-Country Trading Partners. Global Management Journal, 2(1), 33-41. Retrieved from Business Source Complete database.