Archive for May, 2010


Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

I’ve been doing some research to talk about raising kids amid abundance and it’s dawned on me (not for the first time) that the two areas of education most critical to raising independent, self-sufficient kids who demonstrate both self-esteem and responsibility are (1) financial literacy and (2) philanthropy.

That is: kids who can comfortably manage money and are engaged in giving back to the community, however community is defined.

Yet those two arenas of knowledge are never remotely covered in any school course or curriculum, from kindergarten through graduate school.

Wouldn’t it be a good idea for parents to provide their offspring with lessons in both the emotional and transactional reach of money and giving, right alongside the stream of piano lessons and gymnastics, soccer and Little League?

As an example of the kind of rewards such lessons can yield, there’s philanthropist Ann Lurie in Chicago, who regularly appears on the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual list of the 50 most generous Americans.

Ann told me: “Long before I had a checkbook for what’s described as ‘transformational philanthropy,’ I learned at a young age that being helpful in some way to someone who needs help can produce a lot of personal gratification.”

She talked about losing her mother when she was only 21 and how her mother’s death had a bearing on her philanthropic outlook. “My mother said I should do a good deed daily, and she gave me some examples. So I started doing that at a fairly young age and I kept track of what I did. It was the high point of my day.”

To this day, says Ann, who walks a lot, she often sees tourists on Michigan Ave. wringing their hands over a map. So she walks up to them and says she lives in the city and offers guidance. Just as she did when she was a kid. She says, “I get so much gratitude from pointing people in the right direction, just like righting things on bigger scale.”

The two powerful lessons about engaging kids at a young age are:

• he or she learns in practical and tangible ways how to be helpful on a daily basis, even as a young kid without power or money; and

• he/she discovers and experiences firsthand the joy and personal gratification that comes with helping others.

It’s the best way to engender purpose, self-esteem, independence, caring, empathy.

Helping others and doing good deeds then turn into lifelong habits.So with a little bit of attention and effort, a parent can accomplish more for a child than most adults ever learn.

Ann says: “Being able to be helpful in some way to someone who needs help, even a simple thing, can produce a lot of personal gratification. It doesn’t mean giving a lot of money.”


Thursday, May 6th, 2010

At last, volunteering is getting some of the respect it deserves.

In its just-released seventh annual Volunteer Impact Survey, Deloitte reports a significant shift in corporate attitudes toward workplace volunteerism.

Seen in the past by companies as little more than an employee perk, volunteerism lately is being dressed as a serious tool for social change. “The business community sees its promise and, in fact, has very high expectations for what volunteerism can accomplish,” concludes Deloitte, based on online interviews of 303 executives at companies with 1000+ employees. More than eight in 10 companies (84%) believe that volunteerism can help nonprofits accomplish long-term social goals.

In the silver lining category, we can pretty much chalk up this corrective leap to the recession. Nonprofits need more support than ever as funding dwindles and need keeps climbing. Volunteer help is more essential than ever. Smart stewardship in the form of skilled board members, invariably volunteers, is likewise key to navigating the tough times. Corporations are intent on appearing helpful and virtuous. In point of fact, greed is now bad, very bad, indeed. For-profit companies are taking great pains to polish their image as a company that cares about the community and gives back.

Certainly, the proliferating challenges burdening nonprofits these days are dreadful and scary. But at least this adjusted attitude toward volunteering is one outcome of the New Normal we can applaud.

The prevailing notion that volunteers STILL are wealthy ladies who lunch or bored grandmas who don’t know how to fill up their days is laughable. The group that volunteers the most hours and the most often in this country is working moms, who, arguably, have the least amount of discretionary time than any other demographic.

In 2009, volunteer time was estimated to be worth $20.85 per hour, a jump of 60 cents over the year before, according to Independent Sector, a nonprofit lobbyist and association. And since, as research tells us, women volunteer more than men do, both in frequency and in number of hours, we know women are contributing billions of dollars in talent and time that is woefully undervalued and underappreciated.

The fact that so many nonprofit organizations do not recruit, train or even thank volunteers is thoughtless and, in many cases, obnoxious. Nonprofits also need to readjust that old chestnut that advises, “If they give money, they won’t give time.” Nowadays, donors give both.

Nonprofits must rearrange their attitudes and their practices when it comes to respecting volunteers. If Deloitte is really onto a big shift here, maybe nonprofits ought to start taking lessons from the for-profit world.