Thanks for being a part of Know Abundance!

June 16th, 2010  |  Published in Editorial
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Hello dear Know Abundance readers,

Thanks for being a part of Know Abundance. We’ve enjoyed writing each week and have appreciated your comments and feedback on our posts.

As of June 2010 we’re taking an indefinite hiatus.

I especially want to thank Sande Smith, Elizabeth Husserl R. and Tuti Scott for adding their wisdom and perspective to this forum.

You can read their previous posts by clicking on their names or browsing the archives on the right sidebar. I’m re-sharing my favorite post (To Be Alive is Enough) for our last “Quote of the Week” and our Know Abundance mantra for our last “Abundance Vocabulary.”

Wishing you all the best and thanks again,

- Lanell

Abundance Vocabulary

June 16th, 2010  |  Published in Abundance Vocabulary
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“Everything I need, I already have.”

Quote of the Week

June 16th, 2010  |  Published in Editorial
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shadowlightHappy Monday!

I used to think that I had to be something for my life to have meaning.

I used to think that I had to do something to earn my life.

Then I woke up to the fact that I am alive.

Sure, this sounds obvious, but I was so distracted by all my striving to be and to do that I totally overlooked this elementary truth.

Being alive is a new revelation every day.

That’s where the Know Abundance mantra, “Everything I need, I already have” comes from.

Our scarcity beliefs are most prevalent at this fundamental level of our relationship with life. Why is being alive not enough?

We constantly judge ourselves and each other based on standards (created by ?) that say we need to do more, we need to be more, than what we are.

I notice this underlying belief all the time in the women’s movement as we try to make a case for why women and girls should have equality with men. We say, “Invest in women and girls because it is better for society, for democracy, for the family, for the economy, for a future without extremism and violence…”

This might be true – in fact a lot of studies have been done to show that “investments in women yield large social and economic returns.”

But while this recognition of women and girls as vital and important is welcomed after years of marginalization, there is a subtle message that is also carried: we are not valued for being alive, only for what we can produce.

Why are the elderly and people with disabilities often seen and treated as “less than?”

A friend said to me last week, “I always thought the world would be better without me.”

In our striving to be something and to do something – we overlook the fact that each and every one of us is a unique expression of life. This is a given. We don’t have to do or to be anything.

We make up those requirements. That’s our story – added on after our birth. We tell each other and ourselves how we should look and behave, what kind of jobs we should have, how much money we should make and how things should be in our lives.

This week, let being alive be enough.

Repurpose, Adapt, Create!

May 24th, 2010  |  Published in Communications Strategies, Posts by Sande
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(Happy Monday! Today’s post is from Sande Smith, our communications expert.)

Ten years ago, I worked at a corporate PR firm. My first week there, my boss taught me two very important lessons that I call upon every day as I produce and write annual reports, videos, articles, communications plans, stories: Never start from scratch, because you don’t have the time and repurpose any and everything you do.

Instead of starting from scratch, she encouraged me to scan the environment and see what’s already been done that I can build on or adapt. And then the next step is to adapt and re-purpose the fruits of that work!

I not only consider the content I create for repurposing, I also listen for ideas that I can adapt to a piece that I’m working on.

For example, I was recently at a fundraising dinner and my CEO spoke about what had moved her the most at a recent conference we had held for our community. She told a story about a woman she’d met years ago – an employee at a grant partner organization. The woman’s personal transformation resulted in her becoming a powerful and eloquent leader at another organization that has made incredible gains on behalf of farm workers in California’s Central Valley.

This inspiring story helped to demonstrate the ability of our organization to identify and cultivate leaders who have gone on to have a tremendous ripple effect in their communities. And it showed the way the work personally touched my CEO. The story became an important part of a direct mail letter this spring.

Another great place to repurpose content is in your organization’s blog. I’ve found that many organizations are reluctant to start blogs because they don’t know how they will generate content. I launched a blog for the Women’s Foundation of California this spring, and I base content creation upon repurposing the incredible information that I come across in the course of a week.

Before the blog, this was information and anecdotes shared when people sat together and ate lunch, or short emails that rarely went further than staff in-boxes. Many of us come across information that can be easily re-purposed for blog content. Examples include:

* success stories shared by grantees or the beneficiaries of your organization
* responses that you write to emails seeking information about your work or an issue
* podcasts that other people do (you can link to ones that are related to your issues)
* photos you take at events that can become brief photo blogs
* quick videos in which you ask a question and get an answer (see previous blog post about using video)

It’s also important to share the workload and engage others. We have a couple of regular contributors who write blog posts every other week. Another staff member created simple short videos featuring two public policy fellows who are working on upcoming legislation. And don’t forget to create an editorial calendar with key dates so that you can see what’s on the horizon for your organization and your constituents. That will inspire story ideas too.

I didn’t think so at the time, but I’ve come to realize that these ideas – never start from scratch and repurpose everything you do – are actually ways of exercising creativity. Many great inventions are inspired by, or modifications of, something that already exists.

In his book, Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius, Michael Michalko uses the acronym SCAMPER to help people remember 9 different things you can do with an idea to create a new idea:

- Substitute
- Combine it with something else
- Adapt
- Magnify or add to it; modify it or change it in some fashion
- Put to other use
- Eliminate something from it
- Rearrange or Reverse  it

Try repurposing an idea this week and see what you can create – and the time you save!

Abundance Vocabulary

May 24th, 2010  |  Published in Abundance Vocabulary, Posts by Sande
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Substitute asking yourself, “How do I begin?” with asking, “What can I adapt?

Quote of the Week

May 24th, 2010  |  Published in Posts by Sande, Quote of the Week
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“People don’t think carrot cake is weird. So when I serve a parsnip cake, that’s not weird to me. It’s just one step to the side.”

- Marcus Samuelsson, New York Chef (Aquavit)

Get Ready for Change

May 17th, 2010  |  Published in Fundraising Strategies, New Media
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Happy Monday!

We all know we’re in the midst of significant change propelled by new technologies.

We’re living the change every day – with our smart phones and flat screen TVs, our Facebook and Skype accounts.

If you doubt the rapid changes in technology watch this video of Steve Jobs unveiling the Macintosh computer – it makes 26 years seem like ancient history.

So how are all of these changes affecting Philanthropy? Check out the new white paper, Disrupting Philanthropy, for a comprehensive summary of how our access to instant information and capacity for networking online is transforming philanthropy. For a quick synopsis read Working Wikily’s review.

The authors of Disrupting Philanthropy, Bernholz, Skloot and Varela, offer some advice for us on how to deal with all of this rapid change: be flexible, scalable and portable.

“Th(e) institutional structure has remained the predominant model for organized philanthropy for almost a century. Today, peer-supported, data-informed, passion-activated, and technology-enabled networks represent a new structural form in philanthropy, and the institutions that support them will need to be as flexible, scalable, and portable as the networks they serve.”

Abundance Vocabulary

May 17th, 2010  |  Published in Abundance Vocabulary
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Substitute, “This is the way we’ve always done things” with “Times they are a-changing.”

Quote of the Week

May 17th, 2010  |  Published in Quote of the Week
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“The forms that will animate philanthropy ten years from now don’t yet exist. In the meantime, we can agree not to fear, scorn, or ignore new technologies but to be open to learning about them, experimenting with them, and sharing the results.

We can reconsider assumptions built into our work over decades – assumptions that may no longer make sense….There are innumerable strategic and tactical approaches for us – as philanthropic institutions, as social-purpose organizations, and as individual donors – to consider in this moment of transition.”

- Disrupting Philanthropy by Lucy Bernholz, Edward Skloot and Barry Varela

It’s Not Our Money

May 10th, 2010  |  Published in Fundraising Strategies, Relationship Building
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Happy Monday!

We often talk in fundraising about donor prospecting, cultivation and the all important “ask” – but equally significant for successful relationship building with our supporters is donor stewardship.

Stewardship is defined as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.”

Every gift that we receive from a donor, large or small is an act of trust.

Donors are trusting that we will use their money in the ways we’ve said that we will. And in a world where financial scandals are reported daily and faith in systems and the people who run them is weaker than ever, this part of our job is even more crucial.

What are the key aspects of good donor stewardship?

1. Honor the intent – Did you receive the gift in response to a targeted appeal? Did the donor send in a note with their gift expressing interest in a specific program? Then that’s where their money needs to go. Talk with the donor about why they are choosing to give to you. Record and respond to their interest.

2. Be Transparent and Honest – Every donor wants to know, “How will my money be spent?” Don’t use fancy marketing or vague lawyer speak to answer this question. We all feel suspicious of that sort of thing. Instead be explicit about organizational costs and expenses using simple language and terms that are easy to understand.

3. Report on successes and challenges – Donors want to hear from us about how their money was used. Did their contribution make a difference? The stories we share about what is made possible because of donor generosity is the pulsing heart that keeps our organizations alive and thriving.

4. Remember where the money comes from – We are simply intermediaries between the donor and their passion. We are helping them do what they want to do in the world. So the money might change bank accounts but it’s never ours.

5. Be your donor’s best friend - Don’t take your donors for granted. No relationship is static. Donors literally have thousands of choices of where to give their money. What will keep them giving to you is the relationship you nurture and build with them.

As passionate crusaders for our cause we can easily slip into the belief that we “deserve this money” and forget how important donor stewardship is.

But as the charities who’ve had to close their doors in the past two years know, without our donors our organizations will not survive. So follow these five basics of donor stewardship and honor the trust your donors place in you each time they make a gift.

Abundance Vocabulary

May 10th, 2010  |  Published in Abundance Vocabulary
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Substitute, “It’s a done deal” with “Take nothing for granted.”

Quote of the Week

May 10th, 2010  |  Published in Quote of the Week
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Stewardship:the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.”

Inspiring Service, Raising Grace

May 3rd, 2010  |  Published in Fundraising Strategies, Inspiration, Posts by Sande
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(Happy Monday! Today’s post is from Sande Smith, our communications expert.)

One of my favorite quotes by Martin Luther King says anyone can be great, because any of us can serve.

He reminds us that you don’t have to be incredibly bright or skilled, “you don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. . . you only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Growing up, I knew incredibly generous Black women who embodied that meaning of greatness. One of them was my grandmother, who in her 60’s, adopted the 5-year old daughter of a friend.

Hit by a car, the young girl was paralyzed from the waist down. My grandmother’s friend said that she couldn’t do it – she couldn’t take care of her own daughter. So my grandmother did it. For the next 25 years, my grandmother raised her, provided for her, and helped her to grow into an independent woman who would choose a partner and raise two children of her own.

I was reminded of the greatness of the unsung heroines and heroes who commit their lives to service when I listened to the Oakland-born Malaak Compton Rock (at the recent Madam CJ Walker Luncheon) describe her story and personal journey from the time she was a young girl watching her mother engage with social causes. Her mother, Gayle Fleming, included the young Malaak in her activities, whether that be attending a rally, meeting with a nonprofit, or door-to-door canvassing for a political candidate.

Commitment to serving others became integral to Malaak’s life, personal mission and employment, and she went on to work for the US Fund for UNICEF, then started her own organizations: Styleworks, providing image consulting to women moving from welfare to work and then Journey for Change: Empowering Youth Through Global Service, which takes NY teens (many of whom have never left NY before) to South Africa to meet and learn from their young counterparts.

Of Journey for Change, Malaak says, “Ultimately we want them to return to the US encompassing a greater sense of understanding for their blessings, to dream big, and to challenge themselves to become the best young people they can be.”

Malaak’s new book, If It Takes a Village, Build One: How I Found Meaning Through a Life of Service, and 100+ Ways You Can Too, is a rallying call for action, engagement and service. The book blends personal stories from ordinary people who’ve gotten involved with causes that touch their hearts with how-to tips on choosing organizations to support – whether through donations, volunteering, or promotions.

She also talks about how to start your own organization, how to reach out to and engage celebrities, and ultimately how each of us can tap our passions in order to improve our communities and ultimately, the world.

This message of whole-hearted engagement is one that those of us who communicate and fundraise on behalf of good causes simply can’t afford to miss. We can’t afford to think only in terms of raising donations for our organizations, because while money is important, it’s not enough.

We need to make sure that we’re inspiring and moving people to get involved by tapping into their passions, encouraging them to make connections between what they care about personally and what they see going on in the world outside of themselves.

To realize a better world, we have to encourage all of us to realize our greatness, our unlimited capacity to serve with love and grace.

Abundance Vocabulary

May 3rd, 2010  |  Published in Abundance Vocabulary, Posts by Sande
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Substitute, “How will we raise more money?” with, “How can we raise more whole-hearted engagement for our cause?”

Quote of the Week

May 3rd, 2010  |  Published in Posts by Sande, Quote of the Week
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“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve, you don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.

You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Spring Break

April 5th, 2010  |  Published in Editorial
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Happy Monday dear Know Abundance readers,

We’re taking the month of April off for Spring Break.

We want to spend some time enjoying the abundance of new life and (re)creation of spring.

We’ll be back in May.

xo,

- Lanell

p.s. Elizabeth has one last Creating a Healthier Relationship to Money from the Inside Out workshop in April before maternity leave. For more information visit Inner Economics.

(Our picture this week is of the painting “Soliciting Silence” by artist N. Teddy Goldsworthy-hanner.)

Abundance Vocabulary

April 5th, 2010  |  Published in Abundance Vocabulary
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Substitute, “Routine” with ” ??? ”

Quote of the Week

April 5th, 2010  |  Published in Quote of the Week
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” Do you know how to do nothing? Seeing cannot take place until you pause. Real creativity cannot occur as long as creative impulse is constantly sublimated into habitual activity. At this late stage of conditioning, doing nothing alone can allow transformation to happen. Yet doing nothing must be based on clarity of vision. Knowing how to pause, not just outwardly, but throughout your being is a consummate art of living. Knowing really how to pause is the action of intelligence itself. ”

- G. Bluestone from Enlightening, The Way of Enquiry

Writing Our Passion, Changing the World

March 29th, 2010  |  Published in Communications Strategies, Creating Change, Posts by Sande
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(Happy Monday! Today’s post is from Sande Smith, our communications expert.)

For the past week, I’ve been thinking about the critical importance of sharing our perspectives, experiences and solutions to the problems we see.

By our, I mean the people who are passionate about bringing more empathy, equity and exuberance to the world!

These thoughts were catalyzed last Sunday, when I attended a workshop on writing op-eds that was led by Katie Orenstein and Katharine Mieszkowski. Wow! Talk about passionate.

Orenstein is passionate about changing a basic inequity: Women’s voices and perspectives were not appearing in the op-ed pages, a major forum for influencing public debate and public policy. Op-ed pages of leading newspapers such as the New York Times, LA Times, and Washington Post are read by congress members and their aides, corporate CEO’s, journalists, philanthropists, donors, influencers in all sectors, and yes, even President Obama.

And why are women’s voices missing? At a minimum because women weren’t submitting op-eds! According to the Washington Post, out of 10 submissions, only 1 is written by a woman.

Incensed by this knowledge, Orenstein tried to get someone to start a program to train women in writing and submitting op-eds. When that failed, she started it herself. Now 2 years old, the Op-Ed Project has trained thousands of women, and seen many of the graduates successfully publish op-eds in news outlets across the country.

On Sunday, I was amazed by the women in the room. They were exceedingly accomplished in their professions, as well as passionate about using their knowledge to make a difference in the world.

Yet, when Orenstein asked us to consider any area of our life and then finish the statement, “My name is ____and I’m an expert in ____ because ___”, many of the women found it difficult to answer.

I want to restate that Orenstein emphasized that we didn’t have to give an example from our professional lives. For example, we could say something like, “Hi, my name is Sande and I’m an expert on making frittatas because I’ve made hundreds of frittatas with ingredients such as artichoke hearts, bacon, and gruyere, and when my friends eat them, they ooh and ah, compliment me, and then ask for seconds.”

Orenstein said that women in the US often find it hard to finish the statement of expertise because they haven’t learned how to provide the evidence that establishes their authority to speak on a topic.

Yet, we can’t successfully write and publish op-eds about the issues we care about unless we develop and present ourselves as credible experts. So what are some of the elements that establish our credibility?

  • personal experience
  • statistics
  • anecdotes
  • expert quotes (keeping in mind which experts will be credible to your audience)
  • testimonials
  • history
  • legal precedence
  • logic
  • trends (three of something makes a trend)
  • university and other academic credits
  • authoring a book
  • awards
  • results you’ve achieved

And please don’t think that personal experience is less worthy than the other items on the list. In fact, the opposite is true. Personal experience often trumps all else!

I left the workshop excited about finishing my own op-ed (see basic op-ed structure here), but also determined to take more seriously the expertise that I’ve already developed and the importance of sharing it. What about you?

p.s. The picture above is a Wordle, created by playing with the words from my bio. Make your own at wordle.net.

Abundance Vocabulary

March 29th, 2010  |  Published in Abundance Vocabulary, Posts by Sande
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Substitute, “I’m not an expert,” with, “I’m an expert on . . . because . . .”

Quote of the Week

March 29th, 2010  |  Published in Posts by Sande, Quote of the Week
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“What can I do that isn’t going to get done unless I do it, just because of who I am?”

- Buckminster Fuller

A Board Chair not a Bored Chair

March 22nd, 2010  |  Published in Leadership Strategies, Posts by Tuti
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(Happy Monday! Today’s post is from Tuti Scott, our leadership expert.)

The world of nonprofit Board development can be enriching and invigorating.

Recently, an Executive Director called to ask me if I could suggest a Board Chair for their organization or provide insight on who might be a good fit for them.

I was curious how he thought I could help so I started with questions. “What is the role of your current Board chair? What are the expectations you and the Board have for this role? What drives you to be energized about the mission of the organization?”

Throughout our phone conversation as it became clear that he wanted me to suggest prominent names of people he could recruit, I thought, “Where are the ‘headhunters’ for social profit board leaders?” I do know of several organizations that have used BoardNet (an online matchmaking site for Board members and organizations) with success.

While I am not a Board chair headhunter, I have recruited and energized many Board members over the years and have learned some key principles to consider with any Board chair recruitment and with Board and Executive Director relationships:

1. Build a partnership. First and foremost, a good Board chair has a similar amount of passion and drive to see the organization succeed as the Executive Director. Starting with this base, the partnership can grow.

2. Tell stories. For a leader to mobilize a team of Board members, he/she should have the ability to be a storyteller and paint a picture of where the organization is going and how their role makes an impact. Using all forms of communication, an ideal Board chair would be capable of motivating and mobilizing the Board and donors to act and engage in the ‘work’.

3. Meet with current investors. To ascertain what a good pool of Board candidates could look like, talk with your wise counsel, Board members, and top supporters. Seek out people who come from different industries or sectors to offer unique perspectives.

4. Establish rules and rhythms. For an ideal partnership, there would be a clear set of expectations for each role. Understanding what ‘dashboard’ items are important to share with one another and the Board is key to success. Consider having an established time that is set aside on a consistent basis for discussion on issues, topics, and future focus.

Experienced and engaged Board leadership is crucial for the health and stability of our organizations. Use these four principles as a baseline for your Board recruitment and Board chair relationship building.

Abundance Vocabulary

March 22nd, 2010  |  Published in Abundance Vocabulary, Posts by Tuti
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Substitute, “Let’s recruit a prominent name for our Board” with “Let’s find a person to lead who is passionate for the mission of our organization.”

Quote of the Week

March 22nd, 2010  |  Published in Posts by Tuti, Quote of the Week
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“An organization looking for new people to join its nonprofit board of directors should consider people who are already engaged in the organization or community.”

- Molly Schar
(Read more at Suite101: How to Find Great Nonprofit Board Members.)

Be Pollyanna

March 15th, 2010  |  Published in Creating Change
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I have a new favorite book.

Written almost 100 years ago, in 1913 by Eleanor H. Porter, this book is about a little girl who helps people find something to be glad about in every situation.

Maybe you’ve heard of her. Her name is Pollyanna.

She’s had a hard life. Her mother died when she was a baby and she grew up poor, living with her dad until he died too. Then she gets shipped off to an aunt she’s never met, a woman who forbids her to speak of her beloved father and who sticks her in a small bare room next to the attic so she’ll be as isolated as possible. Oh, and she also gets hit by a car and is paralyzed.

Pretty daunting life challenges – especially for a kid. But somehow Pollyanna manages to survive with a love for life and the people around her. She transforms her situations by playing a game her dad taught her. The game is to “find something to be glad about in everything – no matter what ’twas.” Her enthusiasm is infectious and pretty soon the whole community is playing her ‘just being glad’ game.

Pollyanna is a reminder of the power of our attention. What are we focused on? “You see, when you’re hunting for the glad things, you sort of forget the other kind.”

The Pollyanna story also highlights the affect we have on one another.

As Kay Redfield Jamison writes in her memoir, Nothing Was the Same, “Moods are contagious; they spread from those afflicted to those who are not.”

Jamison talks about how hard resisting the human interplay of mood is and says, “Moods are too insinuating, too persuasive; despair begets despair; suspicion and anger give rise to paranoia and rage. Concerned disengagement is the Holy Grail at such times, but obtaining and holding on to such a state is difficult; to remain impervious to provocation flies against all odds and is scarcely reasonable to expect from human nature.” (pg. 18)

The beauty of Pollyanna is that she never denies what is happening, she merely looks to find the silver lining and no matter how small it is – focuses on that.

We’ve been taught that “being Pollyanna” is a bad thing, but why? Especially if we do affect each other so powerfully with our moods – wouldn’t we rather have a few more Pollyanna’s around? Try out the glad game this week and see what happens.

Happy Monday!

Abundance Vocabulary

March 15th, 2010  |  Published in Abundance Vocabulary
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Substitute, “Don’t be a Pollyanna” with Be a Pollyanna.”

Quote of the Week

March 15th, 2010  |  Published in Quote of the Week
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“Once you start looking for the happy things, you don’t think about the bad ones as much.”

- Pollyanna

The Power of Data

March 8th, 2010  |  Published in Leadership Strategies, Posts by Tuti
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(Happy Monday! Today’s post is from Tuti Scott, our leadership expert.)

In a room full of women leaders I remind them that power is not a bad word – only the abuse of power is.

Power is simply the ability to motivate people to do what you want them to do; to influence others. Power is manifested by how you communicate and how others receive you.

Often power is a subjective experience. There are three factors which influence the perception of power:

Power of position – hold title and/or authority/access
Power of wealth – have or are connected to wealth
Power of knowledge or expertise – master of facts and arguments

Power of wealth and power of title or the ‘corner office’ are places that women and people of color have not traditionally had access to. Centuries of structural and systemic sexism or racism have kept us out of these spheres.

There are hundreds of folks who have spoken and written on the ‘light’ topic of “The history of patriarchy and the creation of race as a construct for domination.” Feel free to read bell hooks, Gloria Steinem, Barbara Jordan’s speeches, and others.

Without equal access to positions of power or power stemming from wealth (which women and people of color generally do not have) what is the best access to power in this framework? For many of us it is the third frame or knowledge, data, and expertise.

Having knowledge and data gives you the power to think, to rationalize, and to make the best choice so that you and your organization can be successful. You are more likely to get a CEO or leader to commit to a project if you make your case using established facts, data, and by explaining how the choice will impact society, the staff, and the constituents the organization serves.

We can all work toward the three ‘stations’ of power being broadened with smart community organizing, increased social capital, and the changing of who sits in the corner office. In the meantime, and on this auspicious day of celebration of International Women’s Daylet’s also keep framing a powerful story and case that offers what we stand for rather than what we are against.

P. S.  For those of you who have a spiritual or physical understanding of the connection of sport and how this can help shape one’s approach toward power, feel free to check out an organization I serve on the U.S. Board of and their brilliant launch of International Sports for Women’s Rights Day.

Abundance Vocabulary

March 8th, 2010  |  Published in Abundance Vocabulary, Posts by Tuti
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Substitute, “Powerless” with “Powerful.

Quote of the Week

March 8th, 2010  |  Published in Posts by Tuti, Quote of the Week
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“But tonight, here I am. And I feel — I feel that notwithstanding the past that my presence here is one additional bit of evidence that the American Dream need not forever be deferred.

We are a people in a quandary about the present. We are a people in search of our future. We are a people in search of a national community. We are a people trying not only to solve the problems of the present, unemployment, inflation, but we are attempting on a larger scale to fulfill the promise of America. We are attempting to fulfill our national purpose, to create and sustain a society in which all of us are equal.”

- from the 1976 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address by Barbara Jordan

Can YOU see it?

March 1st, 2010  |  Published in Leadership Strategies, Posts by Sande
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(Happy Monday! Today’s post is from Sande Smith, our communications expert.)

I finally found it – my new apartment in San Francisco. In a little bit more than a month, I saw 40 apartments!

When it came down to the final two, I was stuck trying to decide between an apartment with lots of sun, bay windows and French doors or one with arched doorways, 1,000 square feet and a view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I chose the view.

At first my choice felt frivolous, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. First of all, every time I look out the window, I stop and I breathe, deeply. The view literally compels me to expand my sights – to look out beyond what’s right in front of me.

And it resonates with a goal that I’d set two years ago, when I took a 3-day class on facilitative leadership presented by the Interaction Institute for Social Change.  Facilitative Leadership calls upon leaders to be “servant leaders” who involve others in the process of change and continuous improvement that our organizations and communities require.

In preparation for the class, we were asked to think about the seven practices of facilitative leadership and then decide which one we wanted to focus on during the three days.

  1. Share an Inspiring Vision
  2. Focus on Results, Process and Relationship
  3. Seek Maximum Appropriate Involvement
  4. Design Pathways to Action
  5. Facilitate Agreement
  6. Coach for Performance
  7. Celebrate Accomplishment

It was hard to choose, because who doesn’t want to be great at everything? But I decided that I wanted to improve my ability to convey a clear and compelling vision, closely followed by designing a pathway to action.

Why? Because I have spent much of my career being the one who does what needs to be done, rather than leading a team that carries out the work. As I’ve grown, and increased my area of responsibility, it’s become clear that not only is it impossible to do it all myself, but the outcome is vastly improved when a team of people skilled at working together produces the work.

I wanted to learn how to be the kind of leader that brings out the best in the team and in myself, while also deeply enjoying the process. After setting my focus on learning how to imagine and articulate a clear and compelling vision, the three days of the workshop proved to be just the beginning.

Everywhere I turned, I saw examples of how to do it. I saw it when a colleague insisted that we do regular presentations to staff about the work of our communications team. I saw it in Obama’s campaign, which not only included inspiring articulation of a vision of unity and hope, but was accompanied by a social media campaign that gave people the tools they needed to run their OWN campaigns on behalf of the candidate. And I saw it in fundraising letters that do a good job of describing both the problem and a vision for how the world will be different.

We will not be able to transform the world if we don’t become very good at stopping, taking a breath, and giving ourselves space to widen our sights. We must imagine, describe and co-create our vision of the world that all of our fundraising and advocacy is trying to create. Research shows that people work with greater commitment and excitement when they are guided by a vision and feel their efforts can make a difference.

Can YOU see it?


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