Week 3 was one of highs and lows. Our students have made progress on better understanding the purpose and mission of this project, have identified organizations to investigate, and our guest speaker for the week, Geri Beaty of Event Innovations was awesome! Unfortunately, it’s the organizations we’re trying to support that are coming up short. First, the positive…
Cold calling is difficult regardless of the purpose of your call. These middle school students have embraced this task of reaching out to organizations, determining who they should be speaking with and setting appointments. It’s a difficult task that will serve them for the rest of their lives. This week we had Geri Beaty come into the classroom and spend some time discussing the nuances that come with operating a company that is dependent upon volunteers. It’s a different game than paying someone to work. She brought up some great points about how each of our experiences in volunteering can have a lasting impact on the specific organization we’re working with, as well as the volunteer experience overall. How an organization treats its volunteers, their level of organization with volunteers, and their appreciation are all reflections on their overall well being. Our purpose in this portion is to get a “feel” for the organization – what it’s like on the inside, perspective of other volunteers, etc. This will become part of our qualitative analysis as we determine which groups we wish to donate to.
The bummer part of this week came from the organizations themselves. After multiple calls by students (as well as several by Mr. K), we are yet to have booked a time to meet with someone or volunteer. Students have been transferred to voicemails, been told to call back another time, been given wrong numbers, and at least one hang up. They are calling with scripts describing the purpose of their calls, that they are students, and that they will be determining if they’d like to donate to this organization. It’s pretty disappointing to hear this feedback, though in my experience in working with other donors, it’s not all that uncommon. Speaking with non-profit organizations, their number one concern in nearly all cases is better fundraising. More donations. Bigger donations. Finding donors. These are current and future donors calling them, wanting to give them money. If someone called you wanting to write you a check, would you ask them to call back another time? Really? This shouldn’t be so difficult.
As a result of all of this, we’ve added a more detailed form for them to complete when calls are made to ensure we’re documenting the calls – which organizations, and to whom we spoke. Not sure if we’ll use this to notify the organizations, but I’m guessing that would be good information for them to know.
We’re counting on a few orgs to step it up this week; time is ticking! Check delivery is in three weeks; hope there are a few organizations that warrant the gift!
What’s the difference between charity and philanthropy? What are the various types of organizations in the non-profit sector that we might be able to support? If we’d like to give, how do we determine who to give to? Or, in the wise words of Aristotle: “To give away money is an easy matter and in any man’s power. But to decide on who to give it to, how large and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man’s power nor an easy matter.”
Philanthropy is about being intentional and strategic with your giving. It’s about giving such that the recipient will become independent of the need for your gift. Accomplishing this is much more difficult than just writing a check to appease a request. Our task this week was to break into smaller groups, three to five students, and seek clarity on the specific needs we would like to address with our potential donations. Last week, we had everyone prioritize the issues they’d like to address – animals, health, community, education, international, human services, etc. It was interesting to get questions about why they ended up in specific groups, when they may have been given their first priority. When this was explained, a few responded that they had just filled out numbers without really paying attention. Perhaps that’s my fault for not articulating the impact of their decision, but then again, perhaps it’s a lesson in itself that mental engagement may occasionally work out in one’s benefit. Apply yourself; you will reap the benefit. Submitting an answer without reading the question; may not work out so well…
After some group exercise, much of the time today was going over how to contact organizations to see about a time to volunteer in the next few weeks and/or meet with someone to learn more about how they impact our community. I prepared a call script, voicemail script, email follow-up, and a crash course in cold calling and non-verbal communication when visible cues are not an option. Pretty sure everyone is freaked out about making calls; that’s nerve wracking for everyone. However, for future job hunting and quite a few jobs out there, phone and other sources of communication ought to come in handy. The good news is, they’ll be calling organizations that are typically in need of volunteer support, talent, and certainly dollars. They’ll also be calling folks that are in a career with some level of altruistic intent, so there should be some willingness to help a student working on a project.
Students this week were even more engaged than last week. I think the project is sinking in a bit and they’re becoming more comfortable in partnering with me. There is so much to cover learn and share – for them and for me – I have a feeling the time will go quickly! Guess that means we’re having fun. (At least I am; hopefully at least one or two others are getting some enjoyment…)
Today was the launch of our maiden voyage of Main Street Philanthropy with McPhatter Middle School in San Diego. Mission for the day was to get to know the students, give them an overview of the project, teach a bit about philanthropy, and begin identifying personal values and areas of concern the world. Quite a bit to tackle in two hours!.
Here's a quick low-down on what we'll be doing for the next six weeks:
So, the history of philanthropy was a good discussion, but there is little more encouraging than speaking with folks, no matter what their age or background, about their personal values and things in the world they would like to see changed. Getting middle school students to open up in front of peers and a stranger (me) is no easy task, but we eventually made progress. They expressed an interest in ensuring that everyone has access to food and shelter, and that schools are given proper resources and supplies to make education as effective as possible. They discussed the importance of care for animals with no-kill shelters. They would like to provide support to families that are facing terminal illness in a family member.
I'm not completely sure everyone understands the full extent of this program, but it's week one, and we have much ground to cover! I can say that I'm thrilled to be working with these students; we have a great group - bright students that have all the potential needed to run with this thing. They are also extremely fortunate to have Mr. K as their teacher. His passion for helping them truly learn, not just memorizing facts and figures, but how to think, learn, gain wisdom and discernment is a tremendous gift. He doesn't throw fish; he teaches them how to fish. His impact, and possibly that of this program may take some time, perhaps decades to be realized, but I do believe it will prove meaningful in the lives of all of those involved - myself included!
Until next week,
We're bringing philanthropy to Main Street! Most of us think that philanthropy is only for the ultra rich folks that want their names on buildings. While these large gifts have done wonderful things for society and our communities, there's more to philanthropy than that. In fact, the word "philanthropy" has nothing to do with money! Philos - love, Anthropos - mankind or humanity. It's not about the dollars, it's about the intentional positive impact on mankind. Further, while dollar donations are fantastic for organizations and critical for providing the servies, as the philanthropist, you may gain more from the process leading up to check writing than the check itself.
Main Street Philanthropy is all about lessons we can learn in participating in philanthropy. While the dollar figure makes an impact, the learning and experience is priceless. You'll be able to learn more about the program at our website (once it's set up!) and join us as we venture through this program with our first group of students (and future philanthropists!) at McPhatter Middle School in San Diego!