Transformation Through Virtous Philanthropy

Mission: To inspire generations to abundantly fulfill their wealth legacy.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kitchen table values carry us through life's adversity

Have you noticed that when adversity strikes in our life, we tend to reflect inward to find the strength and courage to carry on. We seem to know that deep inside our spirit is a reserve of moral fortitude waiting to rekindle our energy for creative solutions to move us forward to greater harmony and peace in our lives.

For many of us, including myself, that moral fortitude comes from the values that we learned in childhood. My grandmother's kitchen was full of love, good music and good food, nourishment for both the body and soul. My grandmother loved to listen to classical music on the radio, especially the Saturday afternoon Texaco Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. She would sit me on her lap and sing along with the familiar Puccini, Mozart, and Verdi arias. Music brought harmony into her life and music washed away the troubles of the day, family and financial.

On my 10th birthday, my grandmother gave me the gift of music lessons. I got to choose a musical instrument and take weekly lessons in the Albany, NY elementary school music program. I chose to take flute lessons. Classical music was in my heart, thanks to those kitchen table experiences at my grandmother's house. Classical music and flute playing became part of my core values for life.

Throughout my high school years I was blessed by having a caring band instructor, Luke Matthews, who encouraged my musical ability and helped me settle on a career in music. I was fortunate to receive a work scholarship to Boston University School of Music. I graduated and taught music in a small New England town for one year, but like most young women of my generation, my life and career took other paths. I packed away my Haynes flute, bought in 1961 by my folks with a loan on Dad's insurance policy, and went on with life in nonprofit management and fundraising.

Twenty years later I moved to Florida with my old flute and new husband. Several years later during the Thanksgiving holiday season, Dad, who had been quite ill for many years died, and I found myself getting a divorce. But I still owned my flute. Over the years, I would take it out of the case when I felt discouraged and I would play my favorite music to console my soul. Memories of my grandmother's kitchen and her joy of music made my heart sing.

I now live in a town with a pretty good-size community band, so a few years ago I sent my 40-year-old Haynes flute back to Boston for an overhaul to remove the dents and replace the pads. When I got it back, I practiced a bit more and went down to the community center and auditioned for a seat. I got in. When I am not traveling for work, you will find me on a Monday night at band rehearsal, forgetting all the troubles of the day and soothing my soul playing a Souza march or a Broadway musical overture.

Recently, I went through more of life's adversities, including the death of my Mom. I found myself once again lamenting and releasing my grief with my music. I realized that my childhood love for harmony, beauty and classical music in my life were values I wanted to pass on to future generations. This was part of my legacy. I wanted other young women to know and experience how the power of music can help get a person through adversity, soften the loss of loved ones, brighten changing economic situations and life-altering situations.

To do this, I revised my will and established a scholarship at Boston University, my alma mater, for a female flute student. I realized by getting in touch with my values and becoming more strategic in my estate planning, I could pass on my legacy of values as well as valuables. I could help a musical student start on her musical journey, just as a work scholarship had started me on mine. I could pay it forward.

So no matter if it's mini-money or mega bucks, funding a flute scholarship of leading a cause to stop global warming, we all can make a difference, we all have a legacy, we all can do our part for a more just, harmonious and compassionate world.

In my book, Women Wealth and Giving: The Virtuous Legacy of the Boom Generation, I write about the values pyramid, and how values instilled in childhood, become tested and distilled in our lifetime so that when we reach midlife we find the essence of these values guide and direct our decisions in times of adversity. Yes, our childhood kitchen table values have come full circle to help us get in touch with what is really important in how we live our life and how we leave our legacy.

Take a moment to reflect on your childhood memories and their impact on who you are and what you do today and tomorrow.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Are you making a difference?

Q: How do you know if you are making a difference?

A: If you are living your legacy as a voluntary philanthropist, then you are making a difference.

It’s only human to question and want to see results, but by what standards should we measure? Believe in your values; lead by example; listen to your heart. You know the world would be less but for the kindness of your actions, your thoughts and your love.

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean,” Mother Teresa said. “But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

“Empowerment Cycle”

For many, empowerment is not simple, but it is intuitive. To bring clarity to the process, here are four distinct steps that create a cycle that helps design, optimize, and empower your life as a torchbearer for virtuous philanthropy. Here are the four steps of the “Empowerment Cycle.”

1. Affirm and Discover Your Core Values

      A. How did your parents and grandparents influence you?

      B. List three angels or heroes in childhood that inspired you.

      C. Identify a difficult life experience – describe how values shaped your experience.

2. Align to Causes - “To Thine Own Self Be True.” Engage the REAL you:

     A. What would make your community a better place?

     B. What do you appreciate most about the opportunity to support one of the causes you now participate in?

3. Commit to the three Ts: time, talent and treasure. Hold Yourself Accountable.

     A. Review current strategies. For example: how to say yes or no.

     B. How do you maximize or leverage your giving?

     C. What legal documents do you have in place?

4. Celebrate: Live a Purposeful Life

     A. Confidence replaces doubt.

     B. Choice replaces chance.

     C. With less effort, more gets done.

     D. You have the freedom to believe in the beauty of your dreams.

     E. Speak your authentic voice and paint a vivid picture of what you believe, what your passion is, what you do about it, and how you do it.

     F. List the following: ______________ is my purpose, _____________ is my passion, ______________ are my values.

Connect your passion with purpose. Be REAL in your philanthropy and don’t wait a single moment before starting to improve the world through your generous gifts of time, talent and treasure.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Start building your legacy and story

Cotton Mather, one of founders of Yale said, “Good deeds are like a stone falling into a pool – one circle and service will produce another till they extend, who knows how far.”

The original settlers’ traditions of doing good, passed to our founding fathers, formed the pillars of our communities through the revolution and up to now. I believe that philanthropy is one of the principal methods of social advancement. A principle means by which ethics and morals are shared by our society.

The Three Principles of Abundance enable each of us to connect to something beyond ones own ego and help others realize their own potential and have the capacity to detect opportunities to combine seeming unrelated ideas into something new. “Co-create the world we want to live in.” Find joy in ones self and illicit it in others.

Three Principles of Abundance
Every person has a legacy
Every person is a philanthropist
Every person makes a difference

Legacy has two forms: tangible and intangible. Abundance is in the story of our lives, the engine of our soul that drives our actions and directs how we live our lives. We preserve it and pass it on.

What’s important is how we spend our “dash” (a reference to the poem by Linda Ellis that explores the dash on a gravestone – that little line between the dates of birth and death which represents all the days lived on earth). It's not about the cars, house or the cash – but how we live and love. When all material items are lost, it’s our history, story, legacy and words from the heart that remain. Stories are the ties that bind. When disasters occur, we reach for the photo albums – our tangible history and legacy.

How we share our stories is equally important. In the Seven Covenants of Abundance, there are seven virtues – four of which are cardinal: prudence, courage, justice and temperance. Three are theological: faith, hope and love. Theses virtues are demonstrated in the daily action in our lives and in the stories and conversations we write or speak. We build story virtues that lead to values we cherish in life: beauty, excellence, education, family, harmony, healing, connection to causes, education, children, environment.

Start building your story. Consider creating an ethical will, or a Heart o Gram™ as I call it. It provides a road map for the journey of your thought where you decide the destination. Some thoughts to ponder: “I make a difference in my community by…” “I receive joy from giving because…”

Writing your story is a way for you to:
1. Articulate your legacy of unique talents and abilities
2. Spark your passion to engage in projects with others that make your heart sing
3. Engage your head and heart in creative thinking for a sustainable community
4. Live with peace, joy and happiness in your soul

Start writing your story!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

We are all seeds...

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

These poignant words were written in 1943 by a young, 13-year-old girl, while hiding from the German police in a secret room in Amsterdam. Sixty-seven years later, Anne Frank’s passionate words take on new meaning and purpose as we experience in our own community the challenges of economic uncertainty, including the continuing saga of the “rich get rich and the poor get poorer.”

At such junctures in the ethical and moral fabric of our socioeconomic and political venues, I am reminded of the lyrics sung by county singer Kathy Mattea: “We’re all seeds in God’s hands, we start the same but where we land is sometimes fertile ground and sometimes sand. We’re all seeds in God’s hands.

We are indeed blessed to be some of God’s seeds that landed on fertile ground. We share our harvest in the form of time, talent or treasure. We live in the spirit of abundance, when the winter of our discontent seems to surround us in our daily lives.

We must celebrate the fact that as individuals, we are members of a fertile society that gives more than $300 billion each year to improve the world – with one third coming from households with annual incomes under $100,000.

In the 20th century there was high-tech education of the head. In the 21st century, we have high-touch education of the heart. With education of the heart comes the ability, and for many, the passion and zest to live life rich in positive values of emotional and intellectual discernment. Rich in self-knowledge – the emotional intelligence that honors the beauty of interconnectivity and interdependence. Every cause has an effect, every action a pebble dropped into a pond, radiating ripples in all directions. Abundance is energy and wealth from within – wealth from our soul that transcends adversity.

It is not material assets we acquire, but rather the environment we create – moving from conspicuous consumption to conspicuous compassion to create the world we want to live in, find deep joy and contentment, and accomplish great things - bountiful, joyous balance that we can give back.