Tag Archive for volunteering

Volunteering with Seniors

I had dinner with a friend in San Francisco on Wednesday who mentioned that she was interested in volunteering  with seniors, brightening the day of someone who otherwise probably wouldn’t have a visitor.  She’d be great: she plays piano and guitar; she’s smart and a good conversationalist in both English and Mandarin, and she’s learning French.  The only problem is that she’s twelve years old.  Even though her parents were willing to provide rides or come along, the groups that they checked with require volunteers to be 16 years old.

Finding volunteer groups that accept younger children and early teens can be a challenge.  Some do, some don’t.  Some post their policies on their web sites, others don’t.

In order to help my young friend, I started at GreatNonProfits, where I was able to get a list of rated organizations helping seniors located in San Francisco.  There were a few promising options (with reviews that rated them at 4.5 stars or better).  Some were things that a twelve-year-old couldn’t possibly do (driving or delivering meals-on-wheels) and others seemed a bit of a stretch (becoming a counselor about insurance programs and Medicare), some were outside city limits, and at least one did limit their volunteers to age 16+.  After narrowing it down, it seemed like “Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly” was the best option.  They had six 5-star reviews (though all from board members, and all posted within a couple days of each other) but perhaps more encouraging, they have a very active Facebook page and a decent website.  While I’m not sure how a 12 year old girl will relate to being a “Little Brother”, the website tells the story of the name, with its founding in Paris, France after WWII.  The San Francisco chapter is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

The site doesn’t say whether they accept young volunteers (or offer an age limit), but the Facebook page does have pictures of families with children younger than 12 participating in some of the social events with seniors (one of which happened yesterday…) and one of the programs they offer is a phone-based one where you just talk with your friend by phone from 1 to 10 hours per month.

I’m really impressed that my young friend is wanting to volunteer with elders, and glad that her parents are supporting her.  I hope that Little Brothers works out, but if it doesn’t my next recommendation would be to look for something even more informal:  a senior who happens to be a member of your church (or a local church if you aren’t active in one) or a neighbor on your street, or a friend made at the library.

Lohri at the Sikh Gurdwara (San Jose)


The friends volunteer to help serve food on Lohri at Sikh Gurdwara


Although I’m interested in learning about other faith traditions, I have to admit that I knew next to nothing about Sikhism.  When Ruchi and Durga invited me to the Lohri celebration at the Sikh temple in San Jose on January 13th, saying it was in honor of their young son, I assumed it would be like a baptism–family and friends standing in solidarity with the parents, offering their prayers and promise of support for the child’s introduction into the faith and the secular world.  Maybe a reception or light meal, and gifts, possibly kicking off a college fund for the child.

I asked Durga and Ruchi more about it, and Durga sent me to the Wikipedia page for Lohri, where I learned that it is a new year celebration (related to the end of the month with the winter solstice) and celebrated with special note by households celebrating a recent marriage or birth.

I was also impressed to learn that caring for the community is a key tenet of Sikhism, practiced by serving  a free meal to all who come.  Since Lohri is an especially auspicious day, the San Jose temple  was expecting a large crowd, serving several thousand meals, perhaps up to 8,000.  So, to honor their son’s birth, my friends sponsored the meal that day.  They prepared some food in advance (Ruchi personally responsible for some 600 rotis, 30-50x the typical volunteer’s output) and were stationed on the serving line during the food distribution.  Their friends also helped out, and rather than asking for gifts for their son, guests were invited to bring rice, flour, sugar, or beans for the temple’s meals.

In addition to the generosity of providing meals, I was impressed by the willingness with which I was welcomed.  As I was casting about looking lost, people helped me find and tie a head covering, stow my shoes, and walk to the main meeting room, even showing how to pay respects to the holy book and leave my gift of rice at the altar.  Not understanding the language, I didn’t stay long for the reading/singing, and went up to the hall where the food was being served.  From time to time the steady music would break into the foreground of my attention, reminding me that the worship service was continuing.

On my way out, I noticed another surprising sign of openness.  The temple’s financial statements were posted on the bulletin board for all to see.  It appeared that this massive building and social program was run on an almost exclusively volunteer basis.  The salary line was a shockingly small percentage of the total.

I came away with a slightly greater understanding, and a general sense that while I was not expected to know much, I was welcome on my own terms.  I was impressed with the community, and sense of equality and service.   I admire my friends for choosing to celebrate in this way, and was glad to be a part of it.

Steven Ketchpel

Giving back is using your time and money to make the world a better place.

Along the way, you’ll discover a new wealth:

  • Friends who share your vision
  • Skills you develop while volunteering
  • Opportunities to work together with your family
  • Gratitude for what you have
  • Insight about what is important to you and how you can impact the world
  • Seeing your children grow in compassion, leadership,and kindness

The Book

Giving Back is a “how-to” book that supports you and your family in your journey.

For those just getting startedGiving Back walks you through finding your first volunteer project or donation.

For those looking to get deeper involved, Giving Back helps you think through your strategy:  unique talents you can bring, your ability to assume a leadership role, or even start your own non-profit.  Donating strategically means maximizing your gift’s impact by finding an efficient organization and taking all available tax benefits.

For families, giving back can be something you do together to strengthen family bonds, build a legacy, and help your children grow into their own.  The book offers lists of volunteering ideas appropriate for different age groups, tools for thinking about kids’ relationship to money, and discussion guides for sharing family values and collaboratively choosing ways to become involved.

Giving Back also includes lists of web resources and books to make the most of your journey.  Quotes from inspiring leaders and stories from real people witness to the transformative power of giving back.

The Site

This website is designed to:

  1. Promote the book to prospective buyers
  2. Supplement the printed copy with content that does better electronically
  3. Enable discussion with the community interested in giving back
  4. Share my latest thoughts (via blog posts)

The Blog

I write about volunteering and donating, primarily, but not exclusively.  I’m also concerned about our environment, and justice as displayed in our economic, political, judicial, and education systems.  Occasionally I rant, but more often I try to synthesize a response to something I’ve read or heard, or share personal experiences.  I welcome suggestions for topics, and feedback on what I’ve written.

Steve Ketchpel


Seven Tips for Organizing a Fulfilling Volunteer Experience

Bottom Line:  Volunteer projects over the last two days were a study in contrasts.  One very mental, one more physical.  Both fulfilling.  Seven things that they both got right to make it a good experience for me, the volunteer.

Ecumenical Hunger Program

Yesterday, I stopped by Ecumenical Hunger Program in East Palo Alto to ask about potential volunteer opportunities for groups.  They had an information sheet detailing different options, but they also needed help right now.  They were preparing for their monthly food distribution, and needed help splitting the pallets of groceries into boxes for the 80-100 families that would be showing up in a little bit more than an hour.  I offered to stick around, and was soon at work packing boxes:  2 large cans of pear halves, 3 smaller ones of peaches, 2 packs of tortillas, 4 smaller cans of apple sauce, 2 pound bags each of rice and pinto beans, a 64-oz bottle of spiced cranberry juice,  a half-gallon of milk, a 2 pound bag of pre-washed salad, a watermelon and a cantaloupe.   Other groups were packing meats (not sure of all that went into it, but looked to be a dozen eggs, a one-pound pack of hot dogs, a one-pound tube of ground sausage, and 2 1-pound packs of cold cuts (baloney or ham).  A third group was packing fruits and vegetables.  This being summer in California, there was a nice selection of nectarines, oranges, broccoli, corn, onions and probably more that I didn’t see.

At 5 PM, not only was the distribution done, but the area had been restored to its prior, clean state.  Empty boxes were gone.  The leftovers were in the food pantry.  The tables were taken down and stored, and the parking lot had been swept.  It was a remarkable display of efficiency, taking the volunteer efforts of probably a dozen people, some of us first-timers, and getting a large task done in a short time.  Staff members Suliana and Jackie deserve credit for getting us all together to get everything done.

 Helping with a Grant Application

Monday afternoon, I spent about 2 hours helping out with the final submission of a grant application to the USAID.  The Principal Investigators for the submission had put together a nice response to a Request for Proposals, one that could have real impact for students and others in Africa.  They needed a fresh set of eyes to help them simplify the writing for people who weren’t already familiar with what they’re proposing.  So I helped cut some of the excess verbiage and clarify things a bit.  We used Google Docs, with two or three of us editing the same document at the same time, with the shared goal of clarifying it and squeezing the word count down to fit in the allotted number of pages for the proposal.   We were all at our own desks, miles apart, just communicating through the edits we were making to the document and the chat window alongside.  Yet here again, the process converged and we finished expediently, and had a chance to chat a bit before going our separate ways.


On the face of it, the two experiences were very different:  one very physical, the other totally mental; one where I was in the same place with the other volunteers, and even got to help the beneficiaries directly (e.g., loading a car) whereas in the other I interacted only through typing; in one case, just about anyone could have done what I was doing, in the other, it required a high skill level of writing, background knowledge, and a understanding of an “academic setting.”  But at the end of the day, each of the experiences was very satisfying.  I attribute that to:

  1. There was a clear objective.
  2. We managed to finish what we set out to accomplish.  (It was a manageable amount of work.)
  3. The project leaders were “in it together” with us, helping out in a visible way.
  4. The project leaders were appreciative.  Very much so.
  5. There was a sense of teamwork: we could see what other people were doing, how we were all contributing toward the goal.
  6. We had the tools we needed for the job:  we were able to use our time effectively, and weren’t forced to wait around much.
  7. There was space for a little off-task fun.  Kidding around a bit, cracking jokes in the chat window, taking a group break to re-hydrate.  We were definitely driven to finish things quickly, but it wasn’t “all work, all the time”.

Ultimately, I found the grant writing more fulfilling–the ability to use my skills in a way that not many others could do, plus the chance that it would have a very large impact (helping to win a grant that I thought will make a positive change, in a more enduring way).  But I was happy with my EHP experience, too.  By following the seven tips above, each project made me feel like a valuable and valued volunteer.

Thrown into the Lions’ Den (Literally!) and other Volunteer Vacations

I recently  had dinner with a friend who mentioned she was considering spending her vacation volunteering with a wildlife conservation program in Zambia, Africa.  She was excited about the idea of working with lions or elephants, and this program promised both:


You are paying for the privilege of working (including cleaning up after the animals or preparing food for them), and it’s not cheap:  about $600/week for 2-4 weeks, not counting airfare to Africa, but you do get meals and accommodations (basic) and some of your fee is supporting the project as well.  The reviews on the site were glowing, but you should look for independent reviews as well.  Although some of the  sites I found with reviews of Amanzi Travel and the lion release program pointed back to the Amanzi site itself, there were a few on sites like www.TripAdvisor.com, and a Facebook presence that seemed robust with happy customers writing about their experience.  The Amanzi site was reasonably informative and descriptive about what was actually included.  All in all, it seems an organization that has a good reputation, meriting further consideration.

Here’s an excerpt of Giving Back about volunteer vacations:

Typically, volunteering is something you do in your own community, and you find the time to work it in around the other commitments in your family’s life. If you’re able to take a bigger chunk of time out to focus on a volunteer experience, it can be a memorable and very fulfilling experience. One possibility is to take a volunteering vacation, where your family devotes a week (or more, for most international programs) to serving others. There are many organizations that offer such mission trips and take care of making the arrangements for you. Relying on their experience is a good way to go, unless you have a very specific project in mind and are willing to do extra legwork to handle the coordination, food, housing, and local transportation arrangements. Unless you have previous ties to a project and a specific invitation to come, showing up on your own is unlikely to lead to a rewarding experience.

The first steps in planning your volunteering vacation are determining the amount of time you have available, the type of work you’d like to do, and what part of the country or world you’d like to visit. The ages of children participating in the trip will also affect your options. With this basic information in hand, there are several websites listing organizations that offer trips:

  • Volunteer Guide (www.volunteerguide.org) does a nice job of offering a selection of different organizations within each cause and approach.
  • Abroad Reviews (www.abroadreviews.com) offers reviews from past travelers. They have dozens of candid reviews for the most prominent organizations, some of which warn you away from particular trips because of issues of safety, organization, or inflated cost.
  • The International Volunteer Programs Association (www.VolunteerInternational.org) is a portal site permitting search by region, country, cause, and duration.

There are also books dedicated to volunteer vacations, and given the expense and prospect of a miserable (or unsafe!) week or two, checking out one or more is a good investment. Highly rated guides include:

  • Frommer’s 500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference by Andrew Mersmann (2009).
  • Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others by Bill McMillon and Doug Cutchins (2009, 10th edition).
  • Mapping Your Volunteer Vacation: A Workbook by Jane Stanfield (2009)
  • The 100 Best Volunteer Vacations to Enrich Your Life by Pam Grout (2009).

Going as part of a team from your religious group or local service organization can add to the excitement. Plus, when you return you have a built-in base of collaborators, if you decide to continue your involvement through fundraising or awareness building, as many international volunteers do.

“Saving AmeriCorps” and Gap Year Volunteering

I recently saw that the House Budget for 2012 eliminates AmeriCorps.  The AmeriCorps Alumni posted this YouTube video arguing for the importance of saving it.

When I was writing the book, I was aware that some things would change, and tried to include web sites that I thought would be more “stable” and reliable, and less likely to be defunct in a year or two.  Somehow, I didn’t expect that I’d need to worry about AmeriCorps.  AmeriCorps is one of the largest domestic, government-sponsored volunteering programs that engages people for assignments of approximately a year.

[Excerpt from Giving Back]

The Peace Corps (http://www.peacecorps.gov) is the archetype of the life-changing volunteer program. Idealistic young college graduates (mostly, although other demographics can participate) take 27 months to work in another country, gaining experience with the culture and sharing their skills in teaching, agriculture, information technology, or health. The Americorps program (http://www.americorps.gov) was launched to provide a similar experience, but for those people who preferred to do their work domestically (and for 10-12 months). The success of these programs, especially as measured by the impact on the volunteers, is substantial. Many Peace Corps alumni speak of their experience as the most meaningful period of their whole lives. It is often a convenient time to make an extended commitment, before starting a family, buying a home, or even being deeply involved in working for an employer in their chosen field.

Many high school students are considering the “gap year” as well, choosing to defer college admissions for a year after their senior year in high school. They may be looking for a change of pace before launching into another four or more years of rigorous study, or perhaps they’re not entirely convinced that college is the right next step in their life journey. Increasingly, colleges are supporting the students’ decisions to take some time before matriculating, especially if they do something that will be meaningful in the long run, increasing the student’s maturity and perspective. If a student is prepared to commit to a full year of volunteering with a single assignment, there are organizations that can offer placements overseas, teaching English, helping with community development, or interning in a non-profit office.

Here are some Web sites offering advice for those intending to spend a full year at a volunteer project.

  • Volunteer Guide (http://www.volunteerguide.org) does a nice job of offering a selection of different organizations within each cause and approach.
  • Abroad Reviews (http://www.abroadreviews.com) offers reviews from past travelers. They have dozens of candid reviews for the most prominent organizations, some of which warn you away based on issues of safety, organization, or inflated cost.
  • The International Volunteer Programs Association (http://www.InternationalVolunteer.org) is a portal site which allows you to search by region, country, cause and duration

There are also books appealing to specifically this group of young adults. See, for example:

The last book on this list points out that “gap years” aren’t exclusively for young adults: people changing careers, starting retirement, or taking a sabbatical could also make an extended commitment to volunteer before starting the next phase of their life.

Service Projects for Martin Luther King Jr. Day near Palo Alto

As you’re thinking about the holidays, don’t forget about one coming up early in 2012:  Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 16, 2012.  “Don’t make it a day off, make it day *on!*”

Need some ideas how you and your family can participate in a service project to honor Dr. King?  If you’re in the Bay Area, Oshman Jewish Community Center of Palo Alto has done a great job of pulling together lots of options:

  • Taking care of our earth and environment
    • Planting trees, restoring habitats, picking fruit, gardening
  • Confronting Hunger & Homelessness
    • Serve a meal in a shelter, sort at a food bank, pack bag lunches, make scarves, build a house
  • Supporting those with illness
    • Decorate, make joke books, serve desserts, make soup
  • Honoring our elders
    • Visit, make placemats or play bingo

See the full listings and then sign up your family!

They also ask that you bring a non-perishable food item for Second Harvest Food Bank.

If you don’t happen to be near Palo Alto, All for Good site has a special “MLKDay” category that lets you find opportunities near where you are.  (For me, it still included several things that weren’t strictly MLK Day focused…)

Palo Alto Weekly section: The Importance of Teens Finding a Purpose

High school is a stressful time.  Schoolwork, family obligations, paid employment, extracurriculars, college applications–all are major demands on a student’s time. At the same time, teens are still wrestling with questions of identity and how they fit in with the social scene that emerges from their peer group.

Parents, wanting to be helpful, are often not sure how, and can end up making things worse.   The birth of new technologies, especially social media, mean that today’s students have a whole new realm to contend with.

In a place like Palo Alto, the culture of success runs deep.  Many parents have reached the pinnacle of performance in their selected fields:  CEO’s, venture capitalists, serial entrepreneurs, partners of prestigious law firms or ad agencies, executive directors of non-profits.  They want their children to live well, and too often that implies “live well off.”  Material success is a common goal, but even where parents agree that their children should have the freedom to choose a lower-paying, less prestigious career track, they aim to give their child a “full range of options” by having him or her go to the very best schools, resulting in major pressure to garner admission to Stanford or an Ivy League school.

And so begins the “treadmill”:  expectations (both parental- and self-) of academic success; excellence in sports, music, school newspaper or other “meaty” after school activity; volunteering or paid employment; and a range of support services to help prepare for standardized tests and college applications.

This combination has been literally fatal to too many students in the Palo Alto high schools.  The community has reflected and responded.  Improvements have been made.  Support services are stronger.

The cover story/section of the November 18, 2011 Palo Alto Weekly was an excellent multi-faceted review of different programs and experiences of people, both students and those who support them.

There is an interesting sidebar why college is less stressful than high school (more flexibility in choosing classes, more interesting material (professors that  probe “why?”), extracurriculars run by students–without as much “resume building” pressure, instructors that treat their students in a more egalitarian way, and just fewer hours of instruction and activity, less competition, and getting away from “pushy parents”).

But the main point of the story is about…


“People don’t worry about the right things,” [William Damon, Professor from Stanford School of Education, author of the book The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life] said. “The biggest problem growing up today is not actually stress; it’s meaninglessness.”

Working hard for something they didn’t choose themselves, and don’t believe in, is counterproductive to longterm health and fulfillment. It is simply not sustainable.
A purposeful life, by contrast, can unleash tremendous
energy, creativity, exhilaration and a deep satisfaction
with efforts and accomplishments, according to Damon.
Based on hundreds of surveys and in-depth interviews
with adolescents nationwide, Damon has found that the
vast majority of today’s youth (about 80 percent) are not
engaged in activities fueled by a clear sense of purpose.

Community service was an avenue through which several of the students found their purpose.  Youth Community Service (Disclaimer:  I’m a huge fan) and Executive Director Leif Erickson (Disclaimer applies here, too…) were featured for their work in service learning programs in the schools.  The stories of the students were inspiring.

I’m tempted to quote more and more of the article, but I’ll limit myself to urging you to read the original, and quoting one final sidebar:

How Purpose Begins

The following sequence outlines steps in a path to purpose
for youth, according to researchers’ findings.

  1. Inspiring communication with persons outside the immediate family
  2. Observation of purposeful people at work
  3. First moment of revelation:  Something important in the world can be corrected or improved
  4. Second moment of revelation:  I can contribute something myself and make a difference
  5. Identification of purpose, along with initial attempts to accomplish something
  6. Support from immediate family
  7. Expanded efforts to pursue one’s purpose in original and consequential ways
  8. Acquiring the skills needed for this pursuit
  9. Increased practical effectiveness
  10. Enhanced optimism and self-confidence
  11. Long term commitment to the purpose
  12. Transfer of skills and character strengths gained in pursuit of one purpose to other areas of life

Source: “The Path to Purpose: How
Young People Find Their Calling in Life”
by William Damon

It was interesting to me that people *outside* the family were instrumental in the initial stages of defining a purpose.  Also made me wonder how I, personally, can do a better job of giving teens that glimmer of possibility.


The Launch of Giving 2.0 by Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen

The launch of Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen‘s new book Giving 2.0 was a festive event at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business yesterday.  It was open to the community, and I’d guess I was one of the first people to sign up to attend.

The Talk

(I’ll go a little out of chronological order, to get to the “meaty” part first.)

Challenging the notion of philanthropy as “something rich people do,” Laura offered her own definition of a philanthropist:


Laura started off with her personal inspiration for giving, the example of her parents Frances and John. She talked about the challenge of losing her mother to cancer, and the transformative experience that providing care to her had been.  She also talked about the significance that giving has in her new family, with her marriage to (Netscape, Opsware, and Ning founder) Marc Andreessen.

She wove in examples from the book from givers of different stages and scales:

  • Hector Chau, a retiree in Southern California, who uses his CPA skills to help needy people prepare their tax returns through Tax-Aide
  • Seema Bhende, an engineer in Seattle, who uses the Jolkona platform to support girls receiving computer training in South America (where $40 covers the expense of such a class).
  • Joon Yun ‘s support of Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative through Silicon Valley Social Ventures.
  • Her own family giving
The key thesis was the need for philanthropists (by her definition, all of us!) to move from “Giving 1.0” to “Giving 2.0” where the key is not *how much* you give, but *how* you give.  (“If the gift is significant to you as the giver, it has the capacity to be significant to the recipient as well.”)  She contrasted the change in giving style:
“Giving 1.0” “Giving 2.0”
Reactive Proactive
Sympathetic Strategic
Isolated Collaborative

She encouraged each of us to think about the causes that we were passionate about, to research them on the web, and make sure that the gifts that we were giving were going to organizations that tracked their impact and reported it back, so that we as givers would also feel a greater connection to the outcome.

She talked about the current times of economic challenge, and pointed out that this was when were called to be most generous, when the need was the greatest.  She provided examples at different scales:

  •  Global:  2 Billion people live on less than $2/day
  •  National (US):  1 in 8 people received emergency food aid last year
  •  State (CA):  1 in 4 children live in poverty (Family of 4 making less than $22,000/year)
  •  Local (Palo Alto / East Palo Alto):  Of the population over age 25 in East Palo Alto, only 18% have a high school diploma
She closed with a plea for the audience members to think about how they could move their giving to the “2.0” model, and also use their influence (networks and advocacy) to make the world a better place.  Laura did some giving of her own:  In addition to sharing her wisdom and ideas, she gave each of the event attendees a copy of the book.

The Event

Held in the CEMEX auditorium of the Knight Management Center of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the launch attracted several hundred people to witness the contributions that Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen has made to philanthropy, especially her latest, the authoring of this new book.

In her brief welcome, Kim Meredith, the director of the Stanford Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS) center, gave some high level statistics about the importance of philanthropy and acknowledged the extensive list of luminaries and major philanthropic organizations that were attending as co-sponsors of the event.

Jim Canales, the President and CEO of the James Irvine Foundation introduced Laura.  Laura needed little introduction in this venue, as she is a respected and beloved member of the philanthropic community, both as a seasoned giver and an academic who has had a significant impact in helping to shape how philanthropy is researched and presented.

A few key highlights:

  • Earned 4 degrees from Stanford (undergraduate, two masters, and an MBA from the GSB).  While the whole Knight Management Center is new since the time she was a student, it was still something of a “home coming” to present at the GSB.
  • Served as President of two family foundations:   Arrillaga Family Foundation and the newly created Marc and Laura Andreessen Foundation.  The first has transformed Stanford campus (Arrillaga Alumni Center, Arrillaga Family Dining Commons, Arrillaga Family Sports Center, Stanford Stadium) and made significant donations to other schools and athletics.  The second has supported medical emergency services and transformation of the field and practice of philanthropy.
  • Created Silicon Valley Social Venture (SV2) an early “giving circle” to help the new generation of tech entrepreneurs and workers get engaged in philanthropy, giving both of their material wealth and the skills that helped them achieve that wealth.
  • Joined the faculty of the Stanford GSB, teaching courses about philanthropy, and helping to establish the academic grounding, by writing case studies and convoking conferences on the topic. (I was able to audit her course when I was a visiting scholar in 2004.  She gave informative lectures, and brought in great guest speakers.  I blogged about many of the class meetings (for example, the first lecture)  in my previous RDVP-focused blog, newly re-constructed at http://ketchpel-rdvp.blogspot.com .  This course certainly influenced my own thinking about giving, and introduced me to key concepts and people  especially in the strategic, venture philanthropy tradition.)
  • Established the Stanford Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS) Center, and serves as its Chair.

The Future of Giving 2.0

Although the book is building on a decade of scholarship and practice, it seems clear that this is just the first step of a bigger project for Laura.  The bookmark included with our free copies read “Giving 2.0:  a book / a website / a movement”.  While the website  is live, there are lots of features that are “coming soon,” like Giving Circle startup materials (and hosting platform, perhaps?), your online giving journal, a how-to for sharing the values with your children.

Laura has also pledged to give 100% of the author royalties of the book to proactive, strategic, collaborative non-profits.  Information is still forthcoming, but I’d imagine there will be a crowd-sourcing aspect to it.

Given the technical savvy level of Laura (and her husband) I’d assume that the Giving 2.0 will either launch as or morph into a major resource for sharing information about non-profits, giving strategies, and the key information that philanthropists (all of us) need to make the world a better place.

Congratulations, Laura!

Kids and Money, Part 1, “Giving”

Yesterday, I participated in a workshop for families organized by financial planner Cheryl Young and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.  This was a new project for them, and for the first time being offered, I thought they struck a good balance between content for the kids with activities to keep them engaged, and content for the parents.

The two-hour program featured:

  •  A brief introduction
  • A testimonial from one of the parents, talking about the types of volunteer experiences she and her kids had engaged in, along with some cues about what activities might be “too early” for some of the younger ones
  • Michelle Berg, community relations and events coordinator from the Second Harvest Food Bank, spoke about her own experience as a client of the food pantry growing up, and the alarming level of need (nearly 10% of the people in these counties, nominally one of the richest parts of the world, used the services). SHFB is able to leverage donations of imperfect/hard-to-sell fruits and vegetables, plus relationships with major grocery chains to really stretch their resources, providing lots of meals (100,000/day (!), 45 million pounds/year(!!!)) at just 50 cents per meal.
    After the talk and a very short video about an elementary school student  who organized a food drive  (1:50 YouTube video), we did a short food-sorting project, helping to pack healthy snack bags.  Our group of about 30 people (more kids than adults) made short work of the packing project, and had a snack break of our own.
  • Jennifer Yeagley, the Executive Director from My New Red Shoes, described the importance of letting poor and homeless children start school with the sense of pride and belonging that comes from a new outfit and school supplies.  Recipients get a pair of new sneakers, a $50 Old Navy gift card, school supplies appropriate to their age, and a card from a volunteer who helped make and pack the gift bag.  The kids split off to decorate cards for the bags (which ended up being a favorite activity of the day for most of them).
  • Meanwhile, the adults learned a bit more about Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the 5 major initiatives for our community.  Gina Dalma, the Program Officer for SVCF’s education initiative spoke about the inequality in the schools in our counties, as well as the hope for advancing the laggard schools with appropriate leadership and teacher training.  She answered questions from the very education-focused parents.
  • I got a chance to describe my book project, and appreciated the friendly reception for what was essentially the first public presentation of the work in progress.
  • Cheryl Young finished off with a plea to the kids to engage their parents in conversation about what they could do.  I was impressed that even as a financial planner, Cheryl felt it was more important to have “Give” come before “Save” in the workshop series.  I think her comments and mine struck a very similar tone, even without any advance planning.
  • Marie Young, Director of Donor Learning and Engagement of SVCF, prepared packets for the adults, with a bibliography of family-friendly books on giving, some tips for starting conversations, and a reprint from a Scholastic Family article, as well as a bunch of SVCF background information.  The kids’ goody bags were more fun:  a t-shirt and stuffed animal from Cheryl, and a pen that looked like a fork from Second Harvest Food Bank.
Overall, it was a nice event, engaging both kids in the 6-12 year old range, plus their parents, to learn more about the needs of the local community, and the organizations that are helping to fulfill those needs, and what they can do to contribute.