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What are you doing with your jellybeans?

I love visual metaphors that communicate important life truths. And so it is for the video in this month’s PhilanthropyMatters which shares with us in a very entertaining way how much time we have left in an average lifetime. This was also the subject of my post a year ago, “Losing My Marbles”.

In the increasingly busy world which we live in I can appreciate how challenging it is to pause and reflect on how much time we have left. More importantly, do we believe the time we have left is making us happy? Is meaningful? Or making a difference? Only one person can answer that question.

So …what are you doing with your jellybean today?


It’s always about your story

Recently I had the good fortune to meet Jack Canfield. As you may recall, Canfield is the co-author of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series which has more than 250 titles and has sold an incredible 500 million copies in 40 different languages!
How the heck did he do that?

In Canfield’s own words:

“The first book contains all of the stories that I used in my seminars to illustrate the points that I wanted to make. The way that they became a book is that one night someone asked me, ‘Is that story you told about the Girl Scout who sold over 3,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies in one year in a book anywhere? My daughter needs to read that.’ I had to answer, ‘No, it is not.’ That kept happening for several months. Finally I realized that all of these stories needed to be in a book. It took almost two years from that point to complete the book. At the end of the first book, we simply stated, ‘If you have a great story that you think might help someone else if they read it, send it in and maybe we’ll publish a second book. ’Little did we know what we were unleashing. We started to get between 50 and 200 stories a day”.

Again, how the heck did he do that?

In a word … stories.

So who is telling your story? And how are you telling it?


Jack and me at a recent conference


You’ve won the cosmic lottery

Every day I look forward to receiving a blog from Hugh Macleod of gapingvoid® fame. Macleod is an artist and bestselling author writing on the themes of innovation, creativity and motivation.

In a recent post, he touched upon a subject that, I believe, all of us who serve in the philanthropic space can relate to… gratitude. I hope you enjoy this piece of concentrated wisdom as much as I do.


We’re great believers in the idea that gratitude plays a big part in being happy and successful, and that gratitude precedes the latter two, not the other way around.

The fact that we exist at all is pretty miraculous (or at least, the odds are 140 trillion to one), let alone that we live in a land of plenty, in a time of plenty, and all the modern ideas and conveniences that go with it.

That isn’t enough for us. Nothing ever is, of course. We are hardwired to keep noticing the negatives, and to ignore the positives. Then again, the positives never seem to jump out of the bushes and eat you, the way negatives have been known to do. The Good Lord made us that way for a reason.

Sure, life is full of danger. Life is full of suffering. The trick is not how to get rid of those (because you can’t), the trick is to make it all seem worth the trouble, in the end.

And believing in what you do is a good start. That’s why a good company culture is so important. That’s why people are willing to work so hard to attain it.

People want to believe in their own lives, and those of the people around them. It’s human nature.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Albert Einstein

JULY 2018

The mathematical impossibility of universal delight

Seth Godin is an entrepreneur, author, public speaker, and marketing genius. His blog, which is the only one I read everyday, is perhaps the world’s most popular written by an individual.

The following is an example of Seth’s wisdom, which I find not only relevant in regard to the many presentations I facilitate for the donors of the charities with whom I work, but at just about anytime I’m dealing with a large group of people.

“If you’re hyper-aware of what others are thinking, if you’re looking for criticism, the unhappy audience member and the guy who didn’t get the joke, you will always find what you’re seeking. For it to be any other way, you’d either have to be invisible or performing for a totally homogeneous audience.  Unanimity is impossible … invisible is an option, of course. You can lay low, not speak up and make no difference to anyone. That’s sort of like dividing by zero, though. You’ll get no criticism, but no delight either. As for finding a homogeneous audience, good luck with that. The one thing that’s true of all people is that they are different from one another. What delights one enrages the other. Part of the deal.


Complaints are a good thing. Complaints indicate emotion. They show that your reader cares enough to voice his or her views. Few or no complaints usually mean you haven’t tried hard enough, haven’t pushed your reader’s comfort zones, and likely haven’t got your message across. Lots of complaints mean that your donors really care about your cause, that you have got through to them and pulled on their emotions. You’ll generally notice a direct link between lots of noise and grievance and the volume of income raised. The key of course is managing complaints properly, and responding promptly and fully to answer your donor’s concerns. There will always be a surplus of people eager to criticize, nitpick or recommend caution. Your job, at least right now, is to reinforce the power of the yes. Unanimity is impossible unless you are willing to be invisible.”

“The more effective the fundraising campaign, the more complaints it will generate.”  

Brook’s 5th Law of Fundraising

“The only way to avoid pissing people off is to do nothing important.”  

Oliver  Emberton

JUNE 2018

How to communicate with your affluent clients

This month’s edition of “philanthropy matters” has been years in the making and is especially directed towards those of us who work in the nonprofit sector.

As I mention in the opening paragraph of this Special Report, my experiences, both as a Philanthropic Consultant and a Financial Adviser, have provided me with a unique perspective in understanding and appreciating the “philanthropic mind” of affluent donors in Canada.


I have been asked many times by charitable professionals how to connect better with donors (especially in the high net worth space), and to offer insight into how these donors make their decisions to support specific organizations.

To that end I invite you to click through to “How To Communicate With Your Affluent Donors – The 15 Key Questions To Ask!”. I hope you find it helpful when working with your own affluent donors and also encourage you to provide feedback once you have read it.

“Never respect men merely for their riches, but rather for their philanthropy; we do not value the sun for its height, but for its use.” 

Gamaliel Baile

MAY 2018

French Elvis has left the building

I understand why approximately 50% of Canadians do not have a Will. After all, there are not too many individuals who choose to reflect happily on their mortality? Having said that, the downside of not having a Will and dying intestate, especially if you have a degree of wealth, is severe. For the cold, harsh reality just Google “dying intestate in Ontario”.


I’m not much of a French rock and roll fan, but for a cautionary tale of failing to draw up proper estate planning documentation … how can you possibly not read an article which begins, “Johnny Hallyday, referred to as the ‘French Elvis’, leaves behind a string of ex-wives and disappointed beneficiaries”?


I’m sure you haven’t been married five times, but I believe we can all learn (what not to do) from the “French Elvis” when it comes to thoughtful estate planning.

“Death is not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate.” 

Ambrose Bierce

MARCH 2018

The best feelings

For this month’s Philanthropy Matters I once again draw on the visual wisdom of Hugh MacLeod.

I recently met with a friend who has all the trappings of success. Health, happy family, successful career, financial independence, etc. and a laser like focus on constant self-improvement – but even then, with all his success, he shared with me that there was something … missing.

I couldn’t help but think that perhaps the answer to my friend’s search could be found in Hugh’s, “The Best Feelings Are Part of Something Larger”.


The great contemporary Buddhist teacher Lama Marut has a very nice maxim:

“If you want be happy, think about other people. If you want to be miserable, think about just yourself.”

This is also what the great Judean teacher Jesus of Nazareth meant when he said that it was more blessed to give than to receive.

It isn’t blessed because it makes you more virtuous in the eyes of God, it’s blessed because it makes you much more emotionally happy in the long run.

Not to mention, it’s a kind of happiness that lasts longer and seems more real, somehow.

Most of us know this to be true in our spiritual lives.

I believe that if we can realize this in our work lives as well, then we are truly fortunate.

This is what this drawing means to me.


Story selling

If there are two recurring themes in these monthly blogs they would have to be the benefits of adopting a philosophy of “gratitude” in one’s life and the power of “story” when it comes to ideas and causes worth sharing. This video, produced by Google, manages to touch on both in a mere 52 seconds.

Although Google is selling its rather pedestrian search engine capabilities, more importantly (and why it works so well), is their story about the most powerful emotion of all … love.



Why 2017 was the best year in human history

It has been my tradition with these monthly missives to begin every year with a brief commentary on how our world is making tremendous progress on just about any metric you care to focus on. Unfortunately, it does seem many of us truly believe the planet is quite literally going to hell in a hand basket!

This perspective is understandable, given that we are continually bombarded 24/7 with news reports and article such as this one from The Globe and Mail with the cheery title “Expect more war, hunger and extremism in 2018”.

Edwards Deming once wrote, “In God we trust, all others bring data”. An intelligent, data driven friend of mine forwarded me this remarkably positive (and rare) article from the New York Times, the subject line being “Every Year It’s The Same Damn Story!”. What he was pointing out was the fact that our media overwhelmingly highlights the “bad” while at the same time de-emphasizing the “good”.


Please click through the above video for a very interesting conversation between Bill Gates and Steven Pinker. In 2 minutes and 45 seconds they share a holistic picture of how and why the world is getting better.

May I suggest, as we begin 2018, to appreciate and be thankful for how much better the world and our lives are compared to 25 years ago (1993), 50 years ago (1968), and most certainly 100 years ago (1918).

And for those of us who work and live in the philanthropic sector I would go one step further and congratulate ourselves for doing what we can for making our country and the world a better place 25 years from now (i.e. 2043), 50 years from now (i.e. 2068), and 100 years from now (i.e. 2118).

“The more perspective you have, the better everything looks. And the less … the worse!”

Nick Murray

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