Monday, December 28, 2009

Books to Add to Your Reading List in 2010 – The Well Known and a Few Discoveries

In November I posted a list of books that would be good holiday gifts for nonprofit friends. To develop the list I posted a question asking for recommendations in two LinkedIn groups - Chronicle of Philanthropy and Web 2.0 for Nonprofit Organizations and of course I had my own wish list. The resulting post has been very popular and links to it have been retweeted and referenced in other blogs. When I posted notice of the blog posts on LinkedIn groups they became popular discussions and since then both as comments on my blog and LinkedIn groups people have added a treasure trove of recommended books.

So this is an encore list of additional books recommended by and for friends in the nonprofit sector. I have chosen some by well known authors and some that you might not otherwise hear of but for these generous recommendations. The hardest part is deciding which to read first.

Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits (J-B US non-Franchise Leadership) by Leslie Crutchfield was recommended by Holly Ross, William Hull and Paul Cwynar. Paul said, “It is an innovative guide to how great nonprofits achieve extraordinary social impact.”

Joanne Fritz and Beth Kanter recommend Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods by Shel Israel. Joanne included this book on her list -
The Charitable Reader: Books to Give and to Read for the Holidays at
Beth Kanter contributed to Twitterville and had a 15 copy giveaway of this book on her blog

At first I was going to pass over Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference
by Warren St. John recommended by James Barrows because it didn’t seem to fit. But after I read the full description at the Outcasts United website it jumped to the top of my personal reading list. It's a book about resilience in the face of extraordinary hardship, the power of one person to make a difference and the daunting challenge of creating community in a place where people seem to have so little in common. Resilience is a theme of mine for 2010 and so how can I resist this book.

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori and Rom Brafman was recommended by several people and has great reviews on Amazon. Rick Schwartz commented in his recommendation “If nonprofits are ever to understand their donors, their prospective donors, their clients, and their inner workings, they have to read this book.” Laura Deaton says “fascinating book about real forces that impact our daily lives”

One category I missed entirely was philanthropic books for children. But here are two excellent books in this category:

One Hen - How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference (CitizenKid) by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes(a favorite of mine)from Kids Can Press - This beautifully illustrated book inspired by true events tells the story of Kojo a small boy from Ghana who turns a small loan into a thriving farm for many and is able to return to school. I learned about this book when Steve Jennings, @zyOzyfounder tweeted the link to his reading list of poverty books

Three Cups by Mark St. Germain and illustrated by April Willy tells of life lessons that come from learning how to save, spend and give our money. This inexpensive but richly illustrated book is an excellent place to start developing philanthropy values in children. My thanks to Tony Townsley for this recommendation.

And added to my own list... BoardSource is having a spectacular year end sale that ends 12/31. Be sure to visit today!

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this great list of books. Some of them are currently on Amazon at great discounts. If you click on a title above, you will go to Amazon and you can find out more about each selection.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wishing You Joy, Pride and Resilience

Dear Friends,

I wish all of you a joyous holiday season and a blessed New Year. This holiday letter is being posted both at Marion Conway – Nonprofit Consultant and The Grandma Chronicles. Later this week I will offer my Christmas prayers at the Christmas Vigil for all of you who work with nonprofits, those I have worked with, all whose lives you touch and grandparents everywhere.

The snow blanketed us over the weekend and we will have a white Christmas in our neighborhood. It is dazzling albeit cold. This is my grandson Zach’s first Christmas and the whole family is enjoying watching him look at the lights on the tree and the various preparations going on. He really wanted a Christmas cookie on cookie baking day but its not quite on his diet yet. He got to play with some Christmas toys still in their cardboard holders before they were wrapped on wrapping day.

For me Christmas is a time of reflection and of joy. This has been a difficult year and 2010 will hopefully be better but it certainly will also be full of challenges. I have seen resilience this year both in my work and at home and so I plan to not only reflect but to relax and enjoy this holiday time and take the time to refresh the resilience we will all need for 2010.

Having a baby around (Zach is six months old) does seem to give you the extra oomph that keeps everything moving along. We bask in the wonder we see in his eyes and wonder ourselves what he is thinking and noticing. We take care of our health and enjoy Christmas shopping in a new way. We cherish every moment family is together. I can’t help thinking about families in homeless shelters or troubled homes and I know that some of the most generous people I have come across this year are those on the front lines of social service organizations.

At the lighting of the National Christmas Tree earlier this month President Obama said “this tradition that has come to represent more than any one holiday or religion, but a season of brotherhood and generosity to our fellow citizens.” How true.

When I think of how many lives have been impacted by the nonprofit community that I know both in person and online I realize how privileged I have been to work among this group. This year I wish you joy, pride for all you have done this past year and resilience to do even more next year.

Here is the picture of my husband and I with our grandson, Zach that we sent with our Christmas cards.

And here is my favorite picture of the zillions we took for Christmas pictures with us. This one now greets me on my computer desktop.

May You Have a Blessed and Joyous Holiday,


Thursday, December 03, 2009

This Holiday Season Is a Good Time to Begin the Path to Philanthropy with Your Children

I love blogging – so much in fact that I have two very different blogs – Marion Conway Nonprofit Consultant where I blog about topics of interest to the nonprofit community and The Grandma Chronicles where I blog about grandparenting. I never thought that I would have the same post on both blogs but here it is. I started to put my thoughts together on this topic for my consulting blog and then, it came to me...This topic works for both blogs!

The topic of teaching children to be philanthropic is an important one to me and I believe it is something that starts young. The word Philanthropy is derived from Ancient Greek and means "to love people". Philanthropy is the act of donating money, goods, services, time and/or effort to support a socially beneficial cause. Webster’s definition resonates with the holiday season: “goodwill to fellowmen”

I started to do some research for this post on the web and was happy to see that there are wonderful resources and ideas available. There was even a blog post from Beth Kanter a year ago that I contributed to on this subject.
Kids and Philanthropy: Teaching Your Children To Be Charitable by Beth Kanter

We should be thinking about philanthropy as a core value to teach children. It is an important part of wholeness in adult life and it should be something that just comes naturally. That is my basic philosophy. So just as we teach the importance of education to our children by helping with homework, providing enjoyable educational experiences, encouraging and rewarding working hard in school there is the parallel in philanthropy.

Children learn about philanthropy by example, by doing things themselves and by being taught about it. We start with the very young by teaching and practicing caring and sharing. Older children participate in community service and contribute their time, talent and treasure as we say in church. There are so many things that we can do with children to develop a spirit of community service. Whether it be volunteering at a local food bank or raking leaves for an elderly neighbor there are opportunities everywhere in our everyday lives.

If you want your children to be enthusiastic about participating in philanthropy then it has to be something that is of interest to them. It may be in helping poor children or the environment. It may be supporting children who are very sick. You may have your own interests – I know I have mine – but it is a good idea to explore with children how they would like to help others and then for them to have as much of a hands-on experience as possible.

At our church all ages participate in our holiday giving program. Young children decorate Christmas cards and small trees for the elderly. Older children help stuff Christmas stockings with a variety of supplies for men at a homeless shelter. The teens participate in cooking a special meal for the homeless shelter that is served with tablecloths, flowers and a festive theme. The hands-on experience with philanthropy is an important part of their development.

The hands-on experience I remember most with my son is that for his Eagle Scout project he collected sleeping bags for children in Newark to use for summer camp. He also collected money and arranged a big discount with Coleman to buy sleeping bags. The day he and fellow scouts went to Newark to unload the sleeping bags from the delivery truck some teens were getting sleeping bags for a trip that weekend. I think my son has always appreciated his own sleeping bag a lot more since then.

Sometimes our children have set the example for us. When my son was a freshman in high school he came home and TOLD us he was going on a trip to help re-build a burned Black church in the South during his Spring vacation. My husband decided to take a week of his vacation and go with him and several years later my husband and I went together. My daughter has a caring spirit and when she works with young children she is particularly thoughtful of a child that needs a little extra personal attention that can make a difference. She is much more the touchy feely type than I am and I know she touches the lives of children she works with in an important way.

Teaching the concepts – Many people in my generation were brought up not knowing anything about family finances or giving. Looking back my parents were generous with their time, talent and treasure. I was oblivious to the treasure part but I could see the time and talent part. We have taken a different tack with our children. They know about our giving patterns and that it is spread across local, national and international causes. They know the local organizations where we are involved very well. They know that we have priorities for our giving and that charities are named in our will. When our children were young we made matching gifts to charities that they gave to and this encouraged them to give even more. They know our “philanthropy philosophy” and as adults are forming their own. When my son started working he immediately made a commitment to make a contribution to KIVA with every paycheck. He has his own philanthropy philosophy and it developed as he was growing up.

Our philanthropy manifests itself differently at different stages in our lives but it is important at every stage. For children and young adults it can be bursting with energy and innocence and a spirit true to the origins of the word. There is no time like the holiday season to start. Kayta Andresen from Network for Good offered a fantastic idea last holiday season in Beth Kanter’s post: "Give with your kids day. "She suggests giving a child $25 to donate to a charity. You can help them research the type of charities they are interested in online.

Learning to Give - offers lesson plans, activities and resources to educate youth about the power of philanthropy

Foundation Center - Youth in Philanthropy – An extensive list of online resources is available

Games for Change - Lots of video games are avaiable for teaching children about philanthropy on topics ranging from serving the poor to the environment

A favorite book of mine on this topic is Raising Charitable Children by Carol Wiseman.

A special note to grandparents: One of the things that grandparents do is fill in some blanks as parents have busy schedules. This is an excellent responsibility for grandparents to take a leadership role in and find things you can do together with your grandchildren than enrich your lives and that of others.

Enjoy the Holidays and Live Philanthropically,