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Volunteering and Donating, for families & individuals
October 18, 2012
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August 17, 2012
(Excerpt from Giving Back)
Five twenty-something Stanford alumni, united by their student volunteering experience in India over the course of a decade, hatched a plan to help meet one of the key needs for the Indian state of Jharkhand: local medical care. Nearly one hundred thousand villagers have to travel three hours or more to get to the hospital at the state capital. Building a local health center would provide timely care that could save lives and double as a community center for health-education programs. Despite their busy professional lives and living spread out across the United States, the cofounders of Hospital for Hope kept at their dream. They started off by raising more than $100,000 for the construction costs through their online efforts, happy hours, and gala events, learning to partner with other nonprofits to pull together the large events. They worked with One World Children’s Fund (their fiscal agent), Construction for Change (to do the building), and Jagriti Vihara (JV), the local nongovernmental organization that will work with other community partners to run the hospital.
With the initial money raised and construction underway, the Hospital for Hope team has entered a new phase, planning for the staffing, operations, and ensuring the sustainability of the hospital. Now taking the role of consultants to JV, they’ve researched the best models for hospitals in developing areas, along with pitfalls to avoid. The project has provided valuable real-world experience in all the skills required to carry out a complex project: visioning and planning, implementation, partnering, and management. These skills have transferred to their day jobs, but the most valuable part of their volunteer experience was the inspiration of working with people so committed to helping others. As cofounder Golda Philip says,
We were searching for what we wanted to do, a sense of purpose and vocation. JV gave us a model. . . . It provided inspiration for all of us at an early, critical stage of development as professionals and global citizens responsible to the people around us.
August 17, 2012
Due to some tight deadlines, in order to have copies for the event tonight, I had to approve the printing “sight unseen” (well, I’d reviewed many drafts and the “digital proof” that CreateSpace provides). When the copies arrived Wednesday, I sat down and read it cover-to-cover, and found a few niggling changes that I wanted to make before I called the first edition “done”. So, combining a late night Wednesday night, with timely help from Thess on layout and Nancy on editing, and the final text is now awaiting approval from CreateSpace. It should be ready by Saturday afternoon. In the meantime, you won’t be able to order the old version, so there are at most 30 “upside-down airplane” copies out there that will be exceedingly valuable some day… :) (The changes are quite minor, really.)
This was an unbelievably large headache. I was trying to transfer the domain from the company where I registered it to the company that I wanted to have host it. What they advertise as an “up to 5 day” process took me 35. I gather both companies made some mistakes along the way, but one crazy story was that since I had registered the domain for 10 years, and a transfer included a one year extension in registration, and no domain can be registered for more than 10 years, I had to wait a year before I could transfer it. Anyway, it’s now in the hands of the right company, and I’ll be able to at least put the rudimentary stuff that I promised in the book up on the site between now and the weekend, with upgrades coming after that.
A group of Stanford students has done some serious fund raising to build a hospital in rural India. The NGO that is their operational partner there, Jagriti Vihara, was founded by Shri Upadhyay (“Daduji”) in 1975. I had been introduced to Hospital for Hope through One World Children’s Fund, and included their story in Giving Back (I’ll include the excerpt as a separate blog post). The awesome cover photo was taken by Jason Koenig of jkoephoto.com during his trip to the Hospital for Hope site. So, there were a couple of good ties that resulted in my opportunity to have the books available at the event.
Amit Garg helped get things set up, distributing copies of the book and marketing postcard around the room. They had a nice spread of food (though I think the caterers were caught off guard with the large percentage of vegetarians in the audience), a performance by an a capella group, a short video, and then speeches by Daduji and Amit. I”d offered to donate proceeds of book sales for the evening to Hospital for Hope, so they elected to charge a slight premium and request $20 donations for the books. Of course, a couple of memorable “First’s”: First Sale, First Multi-copy purchase (5!), First Signed Copies.
The picture is of me and Daduji. I really enjoyed the chance to meet him and learn a bit more about his project and life.
Thank you, Hospital for Hope team, for hosting me tonight, and for all that you do to bring greater health to the world.
August 13, 2012
In spite of my concerns about submission guidelines, CreateSpace approved the printing of Giving Back, and the first copies are now on their way to me in the mail, and should be here in time for the Hospital for Hope fund raiser!
It’ll be a few days before the purchase link is available on Amazon, but if you are interested in buying a copy, I’d encourage you to wait until August 30th at noon (PST). I’ll try to organize a sales blitz then, with the hope that I’ll make it into the “best seller” for my category during that hour.
August 10, 2012
Woo-hoo! After some last minute fiddling with my ISBN, I submitted Giving Back to CreateSpace this afternoon. CreateSpace is Amazon’s subsidiary for self-published, print-on-demand works. Over the next 48 hours, they will review it, and almost certainly, reject it. I submitted the files knowing that I violated their submission requirements. Certain elements of the design of the book intentionally stray into the margins, but are still within the print area of the page. It’s called (as I learned from the designer) “hanging punctuation” and, unfortunately, it’s not supported by CreateSpace’s automated review process. So I expect to get a rejection, which I will appeal, and the people should nod in sagacity, approving the elegance of Dave’s design.
Unfortunately, we’re cutting the time very tight, and it probably means that I won’t have books for the Hospital for Hope fundraiser at Stanford on 8/16.
Still, this is a great milestone to celebrate, and I especially want to thank my fabulous editor Nancy Carleton, my layout person extraordinaire Thess Bautista, and design consultant Dave Blake with his artistry and encyclopedic knowledge of fonts.
As you can see from the picture, I went with the blue. The votes were very evenly divided, but with the designer, editor, and photographer all favoring blue, they carried extra weight. I over-ruled the popular vote and went with the longer sub-title primarily to have keywords “volunteering” and “donating” in the title for people that might be searching on those terms.
August 8, 2012
Bottom Line: The Grameen Bank, one of the landmark institutions for assisting the poor of Bangladesh, and receiving a Nobel for its role in establishing microcredit, has become a political football. The Bangladeshi government is making moves to oust its current leadership and install government-controlled leaders. At the very least, this is intended to cause a black eye for Grameen founder Dr. Muhammad Yunus. But I fear the damage to the women who are the current owners and borrowers of the bank will be far worse. International pressure may cause the Bangladeshi government to back off, so please consider adding your name to a petition to protect the bank.
For those of you who weren’t followers of my old blog (from the Reuters Digital Vision Fellowship), the Grameen organization with its flagship Grameen Bank, isn’t just the Nobel-winning creator of the microfinance movement. It’s also a group of people that I admire, some of whom I got to know personally and collaborate with on the Mifos Project. That includes a couple of meetings with Grameen Bank creator and Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus.
As an economics professor making a visit to a village in his homeland of Bangladesh in 1974, Dr. Yunus saw villagers suffering from obscenely high interest rates for loans for their necessary raw materials. By making a “micro-loan” (a number of loans totaling $27), he was able to start them on a path to creating a livelihood that provided better food, housing, health, and education for their children. In 1983, the Grameen Bank was founded to provide microloans to more people. Repayment rates were very high (97%+) aided by the fact that loans were extended to groups of 5 women who were effectively co-signing for each other’s loans. The effectiveness of microcredit was widely praised and duplicated, and today the Grameen Bank has nearly 9 million members (97% women), 20,000 staff members, and a weekly turn-over of $1.5M. A host of other businesses were started under the Grameen umbrella, and Alex Counts, who, as a Fullbright Scholar, was a protege of Yunus, started the Grameen Foundation USA. In 2006, Yunus and the Grameen Bank shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the impact of microcredit in alleviating poverty. The Grameen Bank is structured as a cooperative, with the borrowers being the shareholders, owning 97% of the bank, and the government owning the remaining 3%. The shareholders elect the directors, and for many years, Dr. Yunus served as the Managing Director of the bank.
In early 2007, Yunus briefly entered the political fray in Bangladesh, creating a political party that he shut down a few months later. Still, that was enough to rattle political opponents, and he was the target of a slander suit, a smear campaign based upon a discredited story of misuse of Norwegian aid funds, and finally a retraction of the exemption that he had been granted of the retirement age of 60. (Dr. Yunus is now 72.) Although he has tried to make plans for an orderly succession, the government is making a power grab and wants to appoint its own people to run the bank. Jealousy over Yunus’ Nobel has been cited as another contributing factor.
All 17 women Senators of the US Senate signed a letter requesting that the other directors of the bank board be permitted to choose the next Managing Director.
A YouTube video features some borrowers telling their stories, followed by the directors make the case themselves. (The subtitles don’t translate the amounts. 85,000 taka is about $1,000 and 1.5 million taka is about $18,000. The amount that the women couldn’t borrow was 2,000 taka = $25.) The video was eye-opening for me in another way. I saw the title “Voices of the Grameen Bank Board Members” and I realized at the end of the video I was confused…. Where were the men in suits? Yep, I was done in by my US prejudices. The women in saris *are* the directors. (See the full board listed on their site.)
Consider signing the two petitions at:
August 2, 2012
Bottom Line: If you have kids under age 18, and you don’t have a will which establishes your chosen guardian for them, you should fix that right away. Beyond that, your bequests say a lot about your values. I found it liberating to think about the good that organizations could do with my assets when I no longer needed them.
and one of the topics that came up was estate planning. I went through the process myself a year or so ago, and have been helping out my parents with theirs. My lunch guest has two young children, so there’s an extra importance that she and her husband take the time to think about it and specify guardians for their kids.
I also recommended the book by Liza Hanks: A Mom’s Guide to Wills and Estate Planning, published by Nolo Press. Liza did my estate plan, and I thought she was fabulous: knowledgeable, friendly, competent. She helped guide me through the process of thinking about how I wanted to divide my estate and establishing the legal documents and entities to make it happen. She writes the Estate Planning Blog at Nolo.com.
In addition to the legal aspects of it, there’s the consideration of how such bequests are a part of your giving plan, the way you financially support organizations and causes you care about. In fact, I’ve included a section about that in my upcoming book, Giving Back.
Estate planning, legacy giving, or planned gifts are all more pleasant-sounding ways to talk about a topic that makes people uncomfortable: death, and what happens to your money after you die. Avoiding the topic doesn’t make it go away. If you don’t get around to putting your affairs in order in time, it makes the probate process more confusing and expensive for everyone (else) involved. Your first concern is establishing a guardian for your minor children, if needed. Drafting a will (and keeping it up-to-date) will ensure that, in the event of your death, the people you choose will have the legal authority to care for your minor children. Your will also determines how your assets are distributed after your death. Many people choose to devote some of their estate to the charitable causes they supported during their lifetimes.
The very word legacy calls to mind long-term, almost larger-than-life expectations. What’s your legacy? What enduring mark did you leave during your life on this planet? How will future generations remember you and your actions? Clearly, your descendants are the living part of your legacy. Their very existence is determined by the path you took through your life. Your professional achievements may be memorialized, especially creative endeavors such as a musical recording, a patent, a book, or a collection of photos. Perhaps you made a physical mark on your environment by constructing a new home or planting a garden or grove of trees. Another part of your legacy is the way you treated other people, their recollections of your relationship, and the efforts you made to improve their lives. That is, giving back can be an important part of your legacy.
Your will represents your final opportunity to influence the world. Rather than let the state decide what you would have wanted (if you die without a will), take the time to consider the legacy you’d like to leave, and work with a lawyer (if needed) to write it into a precise, legally binding document, a plan for the future beyond your lifetime. Providing for your family is probably the foremost consideration on your mind, and appropriately so. However, creating the full vision of your legacy may mean incorporating others, such as those organizations you feel are transforming the world into the fuller expression of what you envision for it. During your lifetime, you supported those organizations with your volunteer time and donations. After death, you can still provide financial support from a portion of the assets you accumulated over a lifetime.
There are three different approaches to thinking about a legacy gift.
The first approach, memorial giving, is simply to include the organization in your will. A token amount shows the organization was an important part in your life, an association you want to acknowledge even on the solemn occasion of your death. Perhaps you include favored organizations as a suggested recipient of memorial gifts.
A second approach to legacy giving is to think about income replacement for the organization. If you’ve been a significant donor over a period of years, will the absence of your gift cause them hardship? If you fear the answer might be yes, and you have the means to do so, you can establish an endowment-style gift that generates enough income on an annual basis to match what you gave each year during your life. The typical endowment payout policy is about 5 percent of its value (which assumes investment returns are slightly above that, to maintain the real, inflation-adjusted value of the principal). So you’d need to start with an amount that is twenty times what you’d like to give on an annual basis. For example, if you make a $1,000 gift each year to a local organization that teaches urban gardening, and wanted to sustain that gift “in perpetuity” after your death, making a $20,000 bequest would likely enable them to draw $1,000 worth of interest each year without running out of money. Of course, not every organization has the structure in place or the discipline to maintain that type of long-range planning. If you’re worried your wishes for an endowment-style gift will be beyond their capabilities, you may be able to find a community foundation that has more of the financial experience and structure in place to administer the gift over the long term. Donor-advised funds may also provide the service, though that may require a $100,000 or larger initial grant.
The third approach to legacy giving is to consider a bold, strategic gift. At the time the organization receives your bequest, you won’t need the money anymore. So, free from personal attachment, what would a larger gift enable the organization to do? Hire more staff? Start a new program? Remodel their facility to make it more suitable for the people they’re helping? Of course, it’s hard to project today what the organization’s priorities will be years from now when they receive the gift, but it’s still a useful thought exercise to consider the potential impact of different gifts. Don’t limit yourself to a single organization, but think about which one(s) would make the best use of your gift, or be most transformed by it.
As a final thought experiment, ask yourself the question “Why wait?” Being able to see your gift make a significant difference to a favorite organization is a powerful validation of your success. There are certainly reasons to save the assets you need for your family’s long-term well-being, but if there’s an opportunity that captures your imagination, think about whether it would be feasible to do both. Discuss it with your family to see if they share your enthusiasm. Sometimes a bold vision will radically change your priorities, as it did for the Salwen family, who tell their story of downsizing and giving half the proceeds of their house sale to the Hunger Project in The Power of Half (Salwen & Salwen, 2010).