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Partial to penguins

Clearly, I realize this video is a TV advert for the British retailer John Lewis.

Cleverly, it utilizes a John Lennon song to amplify the commercial’s impact.

Creatively, it is a slick piece of marketing that is directly targeted to tug on our heart strings.

And ultimately – at least from my perspective – how did the producers know that I’m partial to penguins? Taking into account all the above, I challenge you to watch this two minute Christmas advert without getting even a little bit choked up.

Hopefully, as you wind down 2014 spending more time with family and friends you are also reflecting on who and what brings meaning into your life. It is with this thought in mind, and the moral of the story from “Monty the Penguin”, that I wish you all the best for the season and a very happy New Year.

Merry Christmas!


The Holstee Manifesto

I recently came across  something called “The Holstee Manifesto”. It was created in 2009, with the Washington Post calling it “The Next Just Do It”. I hope you enjoy the video but if you don’t have the 2 minutes and 37 seconds to watch it I’ve included the full manifesto below.


“This is your life. Do what you want and do it often. If you don’t like something, change it. If you don’t like your job, quit. If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV. If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love. Stop over-analysing, life is simple. All emotions are beautiful. When you eat, appreciate every last bite. Life is simple. Open your heart, mind and arms to new things and people, we are united in our differences. Ask the next person you see what their passion is and share your inspiring dream with them. Travel often; getting lost will help you find yourself. Some opportunities only come once, seize them. Life is about the people you meet and the things you create with them, so go out and start creating. Life is short, live your dream and wear your passion.”

Keith here – As the author writes, “Above all else creating the Holstee Manifesto has confirmed for us that with genuine positive intentions, anything is possible.” I couldn’t put it better myself!


My Hot Wheels moment

It was Christmas 1969, but I can remember the experience as if it were yesterday. The big day had finally arrived at 40 Kingsway Crescent and my parents had come through in a huge way with the present I had been pining for, Hot Wheels. The toy company, Mattel, had introduced these massively successful miniature die cast race cars the year before AND I WANTED THEM! Not surprisingly, probably less than a week later, I sort of lost interest. For an eight year old, this was my first introduction to the concept that sometimes wanting is better than having.

We live in a stuff-laden world where many of us have access to just about everything we need, so much so that we’ve long passed the marker for “needs” and are well into the “wants” territory.


My 9 year old daughter, Kiera, and me in Iceland this summer.

As I crossed over into my 50s a couple of years ago, it occurred to me what really makes me happy was less about “stuff” and more about “experiences”. To that end, my family has decided to travel a lot more, most recently visiting Iceland in August. This turned out to be one incredible experience!

What does this have to do with philanthropy? May I suggest that all of us involved in the sector (i.e. donors, nonprofit professionals, and board members) are also looking for transformational experiences which reflect our fundamental values and beliefs. It is the organizations that tap into their values and beliefs through their mission that will meet with overwhelming success in the future.


The aspirational and transformative

Perhaps the reason I was attracted to the video below was because I have recently returned from a trip to Iceland. But it is not the reason I finished watching it.

Here, in an ordinary train station in Germany, the group Árstíðir,  sings an Icelandic hymn. The words to this hauntingly beautiful piece are purported to have been written in the 13th century by Kolbeinn Tumason, an Icelandic chieftain. As one insightful blogger wrote, “We search for experiences that elevate and transport us. Because Árstíðir  sings this hymn in the Cathedral of a train station rather than a concert hall, the experience feels special, significant, universal.  And this act contributes to transforming the everyday into something aspirational, transformative. ”

Is it not the same for those of us who work and volunteer in the philanthropic sector?  If we take time to reflect … are we also not seeking something aspirational and transformative in what we do?

JULY 2014

Touch the heart and move the mind


The image shown above comes from Hugh MacLeod who, as I mentioned in my last Philanthropy Matters, is one of my favourite bloggers as I find him to be equally both philosopher and artist.

For those of us who work in the nonprofit world, MacLeod’s one frame comic reminds us that what reallymatters to our donors derives 80% from their emotions and 20% from their intellect.

For those of us who do not work in the nonprofit world, MacLeod’s one frame comics remind us that what really matters to everybody else derives 80% from their emotions and 20% from their intellect.

JUNE 2014

Fall in love with your work!

One of my favourite bloggers is Hugh MacLeod given that he is equal parts philosopher and artist.


This is what MacLeod has to say about the image shown above.

“Economic Inequality is the big news story these days. Whether we’re talking about Occupy Wall Street, the Google Bus protests, the high rents in New York, gentrification, the stagnation of middle class incomes, Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth or whatever.

I suppose all that is cause for concern, but to me, it’s a pretty transient inequality. The BIG inequality, the REAL class divide, is something far more painful and pervasive at the everyday level.

The greatest divide in the labor market is between those who love their jobs, and those who do not. One very enviable state of being and one very tragic; they’re two completely different planets that don’t undertand the other at all, even if the two sit right next to each other in the office.”

When I began my career at age 23 my goals were, how should I say … somewhat one dimensional. It took me close to a quarter century to  figure out finally that my passion revolves around the work I do in the philanthropic sector. Today the best advice I could ever give to  young people starting out in their careers is to fall in love with your work. In fact, I also believe this is still the best advice I could give anyone, no matter what stage they are in their career!

MAY 2014

Offline fundraising still rules… For now

Blackbaud has come up with a nifty infographic which shows that, while offlline fundraising still rules, online is catching up … fast! Specifically, online fundraising continues to grow exponentially, attracts a higher net worth donor with a larger median gift, and is more effective at acquiring new donors.

Perhaps not surprisingly the key to being a successful fundraising non-profit in the 21st century is to effectively utilize offline and online channels together.


MARCH 2014

The success circles

I have a wise friend who told me how he helps individuals with career counselling. Taking the “less is more” approach he simply draws three intersecting circles and labels each one, “what you love”, “what pays well”, and finally, “what you’re good at”. He then suggests that one should strive to find the activity in which the three circles intersect. I have read many, many books on career planning and nothing comes close to my friend’s profound insight.

Recently, I came across a similar idea that expands on this theme. I invite you to take a few moments to reflect on how the illustration below not only provides clarity in regards to career counselling … but in many aspects (including philanthropy) of life.



Who’s telling your story … and how is it being told?

Having worked with SickKids Foundation I must admit I have a soft spot for the organization. Having said that, the two minute video shown below will tug at your heartstrings no matter how close you are to the organization. Why? Because this short video focuses on the story of one real life hero. Yes it is professionally done, yes it is clever, and yes it has a surprise ending, but in the end we are hooked by the heroic and very human story of Antonio.

So who’s telling your story … and how is it being told?


The power of human connection

For just over three minutes you will forget that the video below is an advertisement for the world’s biggest search engine. Instead, you will find yourself immersed in the power of human connection.

I believe that our philanthropic values derive from the need for human connection. Having shared this video with individuals important to me, whether it was through friendship, history, religion, geography, or politics, everyone found a moment of connection. We commonly think of technology as an everyday tool but this video is an example of its deeper impact.   Technology, when used well, connects us with the past, present and future transcending both geographical and cultural boundaries. By telling a story and its careful product placement, Google humanizes its image.  It breaks down a wall and allows a deep appreciation to develop between the Google consumer and this corporate giant. Google is sending a message, recognizing that technology is more than just a set of complex algorithms: it is medium used to connect people with those causes that are meaningful to them.

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