Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Big Give Excitement...and the heart of philanthropy

I tuned into the premier of Oprah's Big Give, and as a development consultant by training, I had my many doubts. With all of my insight and non-profit baggage I thought I'd be immune to reality based "do good" programming. I didn't actually cry, but I came close.

Not because I was overwhelmed with what I saw, but out of sadness for what the format would do for the time consuming and intense nature of true philanthropy. One hour doesn't give you much insight into the reality when $50,000 checks are presented after one phone call. Don't get me wrong, the catalyst for communication and debate is healthy...and anything that spurs interest in giving has some innate good to it. The essential issue for me is what it says about non-profit agencies and the true work of development. If people think that it just takes 5 days and you can launch gifts of substantial amounts to any one and any thing - we're in trouble. If, however, people are prompted to do something with impact, purpose and sustainability let me sign up a few hundred of those right away.

The local television station here is conducting its own Big Give of sorts, and I'm thrilled about Big Give Indiana. I think that there is tremendous opportunity for $10K to be used by 2 groups to leverage resources to agencies. I'm not posting more about it because I'm thoughtfully considering which group of people I can mobilize to be competitive. I'll post more on that this month.

But....if I had my druthers, I'd ask for someone to host Big Give Michigan. I have yet to work with an agency that excites me as much as
Community Housing Network. Located in Troy, Michigan the agency is a diamond in the rough....heavy emphasis on the diamond.

Why are they great you ask? Well even though I no longer live in Michigan, if I had the chance to do a volunteer project and leverage resources for an agency, they would be at the top of my list. (15 years in the industry, and my list is pretty short.) I believe in non-profit effectiveness and making a difference in the lives of people .... and CHN has been doing both with incremental growth and success, with excellent leadership and a full understanding of impact. No, I'm not their publicist or an employee, but I have had the chance to work with the agency. Outside of our church donations, they receive the largest amount of support from my personal dollars in 2007. That says a lot right there - given private tuition for 3!

Community Housing Network has a team of diverse and committed staff members dedicated to doing their jobs really well with programs that work. When something doesn't work, they evaluate it and they change it - a key to success in any area.

Originally funded by larger grants and contracts, they have created a fundraising strategy that works to include everyday people. This transition is key to the growth of non-profit agencies who intend on lasting longer than any cyclical funding trends. They understand intentional progress over perfection.

Real lives are changed in their fight to end homelessness; as they provide quality affordable housing alternatives and opportunities for people to meet key needs for family stability. Their staff is reflective of the people they serve, and leadership actually cares about the office culture and the direction of staff growth. I have often said, if I must go back to work full time for someone other than myself, I should move back to Michigan. They are an agency I'd love to be affiliated with.

At some point, I thought I'd rant about the Big Give being too idealistic and simplistic. That isn't quite fair unless you look at the power of possibilities when a show focusing on something other than the lowest human denominators attracts such a wide viewing audience. I decided (for all of my 15 regular visitors) that I would devote my energy to what the Big Give can do. It has the ability to launch a conversation and action on behalf of groups and people who are deserving of a hand up. If you are wondering what you could do

If you want to launch a team driven exercise for raising additional dollars for a deserving group, let me sign up. If there was seed money, a time crunch and a t.v. camera - I'd be championing what I know for sure - really good people still do really good work, most often without the media or big corporate donations ever coming close to the power of individual support. (One $25 donation at a time.)

Financial contributions can be made in several ways:

  • Mail a check made payable to Community Housing Network to:
    570 Kirts Blvd., Suite 231, Troy, MI 48084.
  • Make a credit card donation by telephone by calling 248-928-0111. Ask for the Accounting Department. CHN accepts VISA, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover cards.
  • Visit the CHN website.

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