Walking My Dog Led Me Around the World

You ask me how walking my dog led me around the world? I'll tell you and it's no tall tale. I was walking my dog in my neighborhood as I do every other day. I smile as I pass my neighbors while my dog greets the other dogs. My neighborhood is one of those special places where people do stop to have a brief chat. You pass the same people often so eventually those brief chats add up to learning more about each other. This was one such moment.

My neighbor and I stopped to talk and the conversation turned a bit longer than it typically did. We began to ask each other about our professions, both curious since we would pass each other mid-day.

I shared what I did with her and it happened she had just reconnected with an old friend from high school who was looking for a copywriter. She made the introduction and he instantly hired me due to her referral.

The job went on for several months. During the assignment, I covered a story on an event coming to town. This event was of particular interest to me because it combined two of my favorite passions: entrepreneurship and college students. I instantly submitted a request to volunteer for the event.

During the event, I networked with others, and one conversation led us to a discussion on Italy. This perked me up because I had been planning a trip to Italy sometime during the year. He shared a few memories of his trip to Italy and gave me his card.

The story doesn't end there.

I occasionally followed up just to reconnect. But, one day my follow up was intentionally brought back to our conversation on Italy. I had booked my trip and was ready for tips and tricks to travel to Europe for my first time--alone.

He kindly connected me to a family member who lives in Italy. Not only did she graciously give me tips and help me plan transportation; but, she also invited me to stay with them during a portion of my trip.

By this time I bet you forgot this trail all began from walking my dog; but, I didn't! Let me share some relevant reminders to use in business (and relationships for that matter).

First, you never know how influential the people you meet will be in your life and who they know that could be beneficial to you.

Second, volunteering can propel your career. Find a cause you are passionate about and get involved.

Third, always follow up with people you meet. It may not lead anywhere today; but, relationships aren't meant for just today.

Fourth, always be kind. People remember you when you take time to get to know them.

Fifth, walk your dog :) Your dog will love you and you will be more approachable.

And that's the story of how walking my dog has led me around the world. I'll write you from Italy. Ciao!

The Business of Nonprofits

This blog post has been the hardest I've ever had to write. The answer is so simple and trite; but, deserves a fuller explanation. The one thing that non-profits need most of all in regards to funding is a systemic change in the organization. The trend in non-profits today seems to be that more Executive Directors are coming from the for-profit sector. Therefore, they have the business acumen to lead and grow the organization. However, they still have a Board to contend with as well as a staff that has "traditional non-profit thinking". Now I know you are thinking: "This may be true in some non-profit organization; but, not in mine." Bear with me a bit longer as I dig deeper into this thought. I have spoken to people who consult with non-profit EDs on an almost daily basis; I have sat at round table discussions with consultants who travel the United States speaking, consulting, and training non-profit organizations. This is the norm; systemic change is necessary!

Nancy Lublin stated "Non-profits have huge inefficiencies and overlaps....This is wasteful and bad business." In Nancy's blog "The Foundations Four Biggest Faux Pas" she states: Stop mistaking marketing for overhead -- and stop hating on overhead. We're all running businesses, and we've all got more expenses than we want. But your constant refrain about us spending too much on communications staff, graphic design, and public relations is misguided. "Scaling up" means that people need to know about us. It also means that we'll have to spend money on expenses that you label with the most unfairly pejorative word in our business: overhead.

Non-profits are being seen by philanthropists more as a business; those in the non-profit sector need to think more like businessmen and women. Results are trumping the cause and the personal relationship as high net worth donors look at giving. They are looking at sustainable income, outcomes, ROIs, and a multi-year funding cycle. This is the mindset of an investor not a donor! Funders (investors) and donors think differently in five key areas: a need for funding, an approach to the problem, funding level, measuring success, and delivering results. (More information can be found in "ROI for Nonprofits and Asking Rights" by Tom Ralser.)

Systemic change and a forward-thinking leadership team may just be the keys to your success. Wishing you success!

Turning Passion Into Profit

To help you define what you are passionate about, I suggest you read about issues plaguing our society and our world. Reflect on causes that strike a nerve with you and network with others that have an interest in similar causes. It is my belief that if you speak with those who are interested in similar causes you may gain a different perspective and perhaps be able to see solutions that you wouldn't otherwise see. The passion of some of the Changemakers from these organizations can be found in these books: Tattoos on the Heart, Black Faces in White Places, Who Owns the Ice House. I'm sure there are many other stories; but, these are truly inspirational and will get you started.

So once you find your passion and launch, how can you sustain and grow? Understandably, impact is a priority for the social entrepreneur. The key is to stay true to your passion, and to operate with persistence and patience. But, it's also important to find support. There is so much support available. First, find someone you can communicate directly with. That goes back to the advice of finding a mentor. Next, leverage your existing resources; this includes community, current staff and volunteers, and your funds.

As I spoke to the leaders from various social enterprises, they all shared the trials of growing pains. Sometimes the founders had the vision that inspired others to join them. These founders led the movement to address the social injustice close to their heart; however, at a certain point they found that their skills were causing the enterprise to become stagnant. To grow, they would have to pass the baton to someone else or they would be ineffective at moving forward to touch more lives. That is not failure; that is recognizing that each of us is capable of a certain level of vision and leadership.

Sometimes our purpose in life may be only to plant the seed and launch a team of advocates, and then the team together becomes a catalyst for something bigger. Sometimes growing pains meant learning that they had programs that weren't marketable. One organization that worked with people with a criminal background tried to market services; however, found that clients wouldn't let the former criminals in their homes to perform services. Other organizations just found that there wasn't enough of a market for their products, so that offering wasn't profitable. If you are a social enterprise that offers multiple products and/or services it's good business practice to keep your accounting practices separate for each one so you know if you have a product/service that is draining your revenue dollars or carrying your enterprise. To entrepreneurs this may seem elementary; but, to someone focused on mission they want everything to work. This feedback was given to me several times in my interviews. I was guilty of this as well in my social enterprises. When you are focused on mission and every idea was your "baby" it's hard to see when it's not working. A good resource for the entire journey from idea to incubation and growth is your local non-profit resource center.

In recent years the lines have blurred between non-profit and for-profit entities; non-profits have become more "business like" and profit seeking while for-profits have begun to embrace social and environmental causes clearing supporting those causes on their marketing collateral. There are two areas where social enterprises have admittedly fallen short: business plan development and sales and marketing. For those entrepreneurs ready to dive into the world of social enterprises, be aware and plan ahead, to seek business acumen in these two areas. Social enterprise is definitely on the rise and there are so many resources, both free and tuition or fee based. For large scale resources to obtain knowledge I would highly recommend Social Enterprise Alliance and Ashoka U. There is a rise in discussion regarding "B Corps" and "L3Cs". These are terms that are being entered into legislation to have a specific designation for social enterprises.

I, and many experts in the industry, believe that the way non-profits sustain is changing. Non-profits cannot be as dependent upon donors and grants to fund them. That funding has decreased in recent years. Therefore, non-profits must look at the idea of social enterprise for sustainability and covering operational costs through unrestricted funds. It amazes me that in traditional business we know that profit helps keep the lights on; but, in non-profits most grants won't cover keeping the lights on. Is this thought provoking to you?

Social Enterprise: From Its Roots to Mainstream Conversation

Can you believe the social enterprise business model has been in existence since before 1900? Yes, it's true! Goodwill Industries was founded in 1895 (although that wasn't its official name until 1915) in Boston by Reverend Edgar Helms. Reverend Helms, theological student, was sent to minister in a struggling inner city mission. When he saw the deplorable conditions these immigrants lived in, Reverend Helms knew he must find a way to employ them. He collected unwanted goods from the homes of the wealthy and allowed immigrants to repair and refurbish them. After they were made suitable for sale, the goods were sold in thrift stores. The profits from the sales paid the impoverished immigrants wages. By 1920 there were 15 Goodwill stores around the country. Reverend Helms had a larger vision for this enterprise though; his goal was to make Goodwill an international organization. Amazingly, this model is successfully used today by Goodwill Industries, and copied by thousands of other organizations. Goodwill Industries is quite obviously a successful social enterprise model that has withstood the test of time. Reverend Helms was a visionary entrepreneur before his time. The Wagner-O'Day Act was passed in 1938 by President Roosevelt. This legislative action paved the way for over 600 social enterprises to employ over 48,000 people with disabilities today. If Social Enterprise has been a successful business model for over 100 years, why are we just now giving it the attention it deserves?

Social Enterprise is practiced around the world. The largest social enterprise in terms of annual sales and size of staff was founded in Spain in 1956. The inspiration for it was due to the large amount of unemployment after the Spanish Civil War. Today theMondragon Corporacion Cooperative (MCC) consists of 120 companies, 42,000 worker-owners; and operates 43 schools and one college. The internet has given rise to the awareness and effectiveness of the social enterprise movement. Before the rise of the internet several organizations made an impact on their causes, such as Ten Thousand Villages and Denver Children's Museum. Again, these business models have proven successful and have been modeled by others. Bajalia International Group has an online model similar to Ten Thousand Villages supporting artisans in disadvantaged areas and selling their goods around the world. The internet has allowed us to see the impact Social Enterprises are having, and enabling us to study them. Women's Bean Project in Denver, Colorado not only sells there products locally; but, is able to have a worldwide customer base through their website and Wal-Mart.com. Many of our college students want to have a career that provides an income while making a change in the world. By studying model organizations that have created an effective Social Enterprise, they can gather inspiration and knowledge. Some Social Enterprises that are worthy of studying can be found on www.se-alliance.org Here is an excerpt from Seth Godin's blog "Non-profits have a charter to be innovators": "Non-profits have an obligation to be leaders in innovation, but sometimes they hesitate. One reason: "We're doing important work. Our funders count on us to be reasonable and cautious and proven, because the work we're doing is too important to risk failure." One alternative: "We're doing important work. Our funders count on us to be daring and bold and brave, because the work we're doing is too important to play it safe." This is the reason we have to educate the non-profit and philanthropic sectors about social entrepreneurship.

The Stanford Social Innovation Review conducted a webinar recently; in that webinar social entrepreneurs from 4 countries spoke on their experiences in the social enterprise sector. Although social enterprise is in the early adopter phase, it has become a mainstream topic of conversation around the world. Will you join the conversation? I look forward to hearing from you.

Social Enterprise: Is It a Necessity

They say necessity is the mother of invention. After the recession of 2008, government funding declined for social programs. Despite recovery, we will probably never see the same level of government funding again. The major reason, in my opinion, is that health care costs are expected to grow at twice the rate of state revenue growth over the next 20 years. This is due to an aging population and spiraling health care costs. Have you heard that approximately 8,000 people a day are turning 65?!

What does health care have to do with social enterprise? Well, as a result of government funding cuts there are fewer resources available for human services. Programs that address workforce development Cafe Reconcile , higher education , recidivism rates, poverty, and homelessness are an investment in long-term social and economic growth. These programs are imperative to a healthy society, and can be addressed by successful models of social enterprise.

As one who has been immersed into these social ills of our society, I am passionate about promoting the idea of social enterprise. I have always been entrepreneurial; but, being entrepreneurial AND addressing social ills of our society is a win-win-win. The approach to social enterprise needs to integrate the best practices of the non-profit sector with the business acumen of the for-profit sector. As I have interviewed several senior level executives in the for-profit sector recently, they typically feel that non-profits do not have the business acumen for social enterprise, thus hindering them to achieve important long-term outcomes. There are times I agree with this statement. The non-profit world has long since been known to operate on a shoestring and focus on the mission; this usually meant eliminating best practices used by the for-profit sector. What is the solution if those leading the non-profit organizations in our communities don't have the necessary business acumen? (Stay tuned for Part 2)

Hibernating

Hibernating (from the cold).....What's it good for??

As I travel on my spontaneous journey, I am eager to see the places I am visiting. I have made some sacrifices to take this journey so I want to get all the pleasure from it I can. I am currently in the city I was most looking forward to visiting, Nashville. Not only do I like warm weather, I also like live music (and yes, I'll admit it, country music).

Yet, it's currently in the teens (and for a Florida girl, that's COLD!) after a day of sleet and rain followed by a day of snow. And for my Northern friends, you know what that means...ice. The roads are icy. Many places are closed. Even if they are open, who wants to go out?
Not this warm weather girl!

So as I spend two days in hibernation, I can choose to look at the above situation and be angry and unhappy or I can choose to look at two days of being "home bound" as a blessing. I choose to look at it as a blessing.

Being in hibernation gives me time to reflect, set goals and make sure I stay on track for the ones I've already set, check some assignments off my to-do list, and most importantly, be grateful. Not having anywhere to go or a schedule to keep also gives me time to call friends and family without the pressure of being interrupted.

Practicing the art of gratitude is important. In the solitude and quiet that I am given while hibernating from the cold, I can take the time to thank my Creator for all the abundant blessings I have been given. There are blessings that are clear like our health or a special person in our lives. But, sometimes we have to look at the small blessings of the precious moments and be grateful. Moments where you watch the sunset or enjoy the smell of freshly brewed coffee or a smile as you recall a text from your friend. When you are grateful for what you already have, I believe it opens up doors to receive more. To validate this I found a book in the home where I am staying called "The Art of Gratitude"; how apropos. I am an avid reader and this book continued to remind me to see  and practice gratitude daily...for the obvious blessings and the small, momentary blessings.

In every circumstance I believe we have a choice. A choice to look at the negative and whine about it or a choice to look at the positive and give thanks. What will you do? For the second consecutive day of hibernation I will choose to give thanks!

Opportunity Knocks: Can You Hear It?

Have you ever heard opportunity knock? Are you aware it knocks in large and small ways every day?

I was banging on the door of an organization for about 6 months. Nothing happened. I couldn't even get an email returned. Although I was frustrated, I kept knocking (literally emailing and calling). Oh, and let's not forget social media; I reached out through LinkedIn to several connections. But, to no avail.

As I began what I dubbed #theSpontaneousJourney I sat in Alabama. Visiting a friend, working on my writing assignments, and just relaxing. After all, there isn't much to do as far as networking opportunities in this part of Alabama. Suddenly, I saw a post on social media for an opportunity to attend an event with this organization in Nashville. That just happened to be my next stop on #theSpontaneousJourney and I would be there at the time of this event! How fortuitous.

As I eagerly awaited the day in Nashville I made sure I cleared my calendar for the day after to follow up with any good leads. During the evening of the event, I made a few good connections.

One connection led to a meeting, a story, and then a bigger opportunity. I will be going to Costa Rica to cover a very cool story with another organization next month!

I used airbnb to travel and heard opportunity knock in small ways, too. I spent a few nights with five college students from Brazil and the UK. Two of them missed their dogs and the companionship a dog provides. Because I was traveling with my dog they had the chance to play with mine. The smile that put on their faces was priceless.

I spent the night in the home of someone that housed a foster child. She and I had several hours to talk. I was able to answer "opportunity" by feeding hope into this young life through the conversations we had. She thanked me by bringing me a homemade treat from a celebration she had with friends. That small gesture showed me I impacted her life in a small way just by being available.

Although I am back home, I wouldn't say #theSpontaneousJourney has ended yet. Opportunity knocked several times while on the road. The results of me recognizing when opportunity was knocking are still playing out.

Whether opportunity knocks in a big way such as going to another country to cover a story or in a small way such as spending a few nights in the same house with a foster child and feeding hope into their lives through conversation, opportunity knocks daily. Are you listening for it? Will you answer the door? Are you willing to take the "risk"?

Because I used airbnb to travel, I met people from all over the world with diverse backgrounds. I stayed with yoga instructors, world travelers, songwriters, foster children, project managers, salespeople, and so many others. Where can you connect with so many types of people. I have stories to tell for years to come. And, I had opportunities I would never have had sitting on my couch at home.

It's worth it to take risks. Take a leap of faith and open the door to opportunity. I encourage you to recognize opportunity, answer its knock, and take your own journey. It won't look anything like mine because it's yours. Go on, answer the door. Opportunity is knocking.

 

 

 

 

Lessons in Leadership from Love

Sometimes lessons in leadership come from the most unlikely places; when you look for life's lessons, it's amazing where you will find them. I have found them in the small details, the fleeting moments, and the major life-changing transitions. As Valentine's Day approaches, I want to share some leadership lessons from a love story.

Sometimes your most intimate relationships are a mirror for the other relationships in your life. As our grandmother always told us, you become like the five people you spend most of your time with. If they are angry, you tend to be angry. If they have a positive outlook on life, you probably do, too.

There was a couple who had dated a short time. After the initial "honeymoon" phase ofdating was over, the relationship began to take a drastic turn in the conversations. Over several weeks a pattern emerged. The man was affectionate and inviting the girlfriend to meet him. Once together, the conversation turned toward criticism, anger, and their differences which he viewed with contempt. Afterwards, the texts would read like nothing was awry.

A thought resonates with me from a book I've read and re-read the past few months: your truth is NOT determined by someone else's opinion. Abuse is typically viewed in terms of domestic violence or physical abuse. However, someone that attempts to make you feel inferior is toxic (and if you let it continue, can be emotionally abusive) to you. Whether in business or personal relationships, these people should be removed from or limited in contact.

Maybe you feel this can't or doesn't happen in a business environment. Nevertheless, let me share a personal story from my career. When I worked in a commissioned environment a co-worker approached me and proceeded to berate me for approaching "her" customer. Confronting someone in business is okay, and even necessary; however, it must be done in a respectful manner. I asked my colleagues to come off the selling floor with me, and told her that anytime we had a conflict to settle it must be done in private and with respect for each other. That was the last time we had a problem. Some people just need to know that you know your worth, and that you will not allow them to diminish it.

WE determine our worth by what we are willing to accept. What do you accept at work? In your home? In your relationships? Equally important, how do you make people feel when they are around you?

You determine what you are worth by what you are willing to accept. Walk off the "clearance rack" and put yourself on the shelf where "valuables" are kept. And value others.

As we celebrate Valentine's Day, love yourself enough to evaluate your relationships, remove the toxic ones, and put yourself on the "valuables" shelf. When your truth says you are worthy, you will begin to move in the direction of your goals.

Global Links

Two Tupperware executives, Rick Goings and Elinor Steele, visited Iraq in 2011 as part of a Department of Defense Task Force for Business and Stability. While there, they realized Iraq lacked a small and medium enterprise (SME) sector and a robust entrepreneurial class. Women suffer from this the most; they have the highest unemployment, greater barriers to credit, and weak labor laws. Despite the fact that Iraq is poised to experience double-digit growth in the coming years, women must be a part of this growth for the greatest impact.

These realizations sparked a collaborative effort between Tupperware Brands, Rollins College, and the U.S. Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues. It’s awe-inspiring to think a local, Central Florida company and a small, local college can make a global impact! The result is the Global Links Scholar program.

This partnership invites a female professor from Iraq, hosted by Rollins College, to come and learn skills in five key areas: career, culture, curriculum, community, and coaching through a train-the-trainer model. Ultimately, this opportunity provides the professor with the skills for her to return to Iraq and teach and empower other women to contribute to the future of their country.

The inaugural Global Links Scholar, Dr. Amel Abed Mohammed Ali, was selected and arrived on the campus of Rollins College in January 2012, one short year after Rick and Elinor traveled to Iraq. Dr. Ali is an accomplished researcher, focused primarily on change management and thought leadership. Tupperware Brands and Rollins College provides a perfect fit for this highly accomplished professor. During her Global Links experience she participated in a specially-designed graduate level curriculum that focused on entrepreneurship (both traditional and social, notably Rollins College is an Ashoka designated campus), women business ownership, and financial self-sufficiency. During her externship at Tupperware Brands, Dr. Ali learned the fundamentals of sales, strategic planning, market analysis, and general management skills.

Dr. Ali shares the Global Links program will enable her to “develop both the intellectual and economic standard of Iraqi women as well as the Iraqi community”

In 2013, Dr. Ali returned home to teach students the skills she learned through the Global Links program. And, a partnership was formed with Women for Women International (WfWI). Through these developments a career center was formed and social entrepreneurship classes are offered. The students who are part of this program are learning the importance of social entrepreneurship and community engagement. After completing the coursework, the students are eligible to apply for a two-week immersion program at Rollins College. The first group of students spent time with Rollins students in relevant seminars on social entrepreneurship and participated with local community organizations to develop leadership skills.

Over the next five years the goal is to replicate the program, leveraging these lessons on a global level.

Follow the progress of the Global Links Program on their Facebook page.

Ron Ben-Zeev: Shaking the Entrepreneur Ecosystem in Orlando

Ron Ben-Zeev noticed there weren’t many resources in Orlando in 2010 for entrepreneurs. As an entrepreneur, Ron describes himself as a “find a need and fill it kind of person”. There was certainly a need and he knew there were other entrepreneurs in the community that had the same need of resources. Let me digress by sharing how Ron became an entrepreneur then we’ll fast-forward to seeing how this journey allows Ron to see the needs of the Central Florida community in 2010. Without his background, he would not have been able to be a part of the thought leaders that brought an ecosystem for entrepreneurs to Orlando.

 Ron began his entrepreneurial journey as a 13 year-old boy in France. During Labor Day (May Day in France), the beautiful, exotic Lily of the Valley is used in celebration. As a young boy riding his bike through the countryside, he found a field of Lily of the Valley flowers; Labor Day was the following week. Preparedness met opportunity. Luck is where opportunity meets preparation. Ron picked many of the lilies, sold them at 100% profit, and caught the entrepreneur bug.

 During Ron’s first trip to the United States with his parents, he noticed the Sony Walkman trend. Seeing the Panasonic product that was its competitor, Ron made calls, negotiated a contract, and shipped Panasonic’s product to Switzerland. Bringing this product to a new market, Ron, although young, became an accomplished entrepreneur.

 Ron recalls his days as a student at Wharton School of Business. Back in the 80’s “not many studied  entrepreneurship”; he did. However, as a foreign student, Ron wasn’t able to get a job other than on campus and there were no jobs available. Once again, Ron found himself creating his own job. As a “find a need and fill it kind of person” Ron always found a way to make money. Upon graduation, he interviewed with a company and was chosen among the top candidates; but, the only one without a Master’s Degree. As they offered Ron the position, he asked the hiring team why they would choose him. Their answer became Ron’s defining moment. They replied, “We want you because you don’t know it can’t be done; therefore, you’ll find a way to get it done.” Today Ron still finds a way to get it done.

 One of Ron’s pet peeves is people who sit on their idea and never act. He quips, “Ideation without execution is just an hallucination.”

 Ron spent some time in corporate America as an intrapreneur (before the word was even coined). He attacked silos, met resistance, but found solutions. His philosophy during his tenure in corporate America was to be pragmatic and “get shit done”.

 He has certainly been a part of “getting shit done” here in Central Florida. Today Orlando has a Women’s Business Incubator, 3 co-working spaces, 1 Million Cups, Starter Studio, Startup Weekend, and is also Rollins College first entrepreneur-in-residence. Ron has played an integral role in 1MC, Startup Weekend, and Rollins College’s Entrepreneurship initiatives. There are certainly other resources in Orlando; these are just a few.. But, one thing Ron realizes is “it takes a village” and he credits several other entrepreneurs for championing this movement to bring some “big city resources” here for entrepreneurs. I have watched Ron over the last couple of years in several settings; Ron has always given credit to the “village” of people who have come alongside to bring all these resources and events to Orlando.

 Ron says he sits somewhere in the middle between a 4-hour workweek and a 12-hour day philosophy. Although an entrepreneur’s brain never shuts off, Ron knows that family and finding time to give back are important. He says the secret to his ability to be noticed by the Kauffman Foundation (sponsor of 1 Million Cups), Rollins College where he resides as an entrepreneur-in-residence, and sitting on Wharton’s IGEL Board is to give first. When you give and ask “where can I help”, opportunity comes back to you. Orlando’s startup community is competitive, yet supportive and willing to help, Ron says. As a fellow resident and entrepreneur in Orlando, I couldn’t agree more.

Ron currently is founder and co-founder of several early stage startups. He also sits on the board of directors of a for profit and a non-profit in town.  I’m sure we’ll see more from this innovative entrepreneur who “gets shit done” and fills the needs he finds.

 

    The Big News in Philanthropy Across Central Florida

    Central Florida has a vibrant nonprofit community, and there is always something to share. However, three things have recently happened in Central Florida that are newsworthy in the nonprofit sector because they impact the sector-at-large. I’d like to highlight them briefly here.

     

    First, the P. Due to the Edyth Bush Foundation’s continued generosity for 15 years to the Center, the Philanthropy and  Nonprofit Leadership Center (PNLC) has changed it’s name to the Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership. More than 2,000 nonprofit leaders from over 200 members utilize the courses and other resources each year. Since the Center serves so many they are truly a “cornerstone” in Central Florida’s nonprofit community. Margaret Linnane still serves as the Executive Director. Under her guidance, the list of programs continues to grow. Central Florida is truly fortunate to have a resource as comprehensive as the Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership.

     

    Homelessness continues to be the hottest topic among the nonprofit community. And, Andrae Bailey, CEO of theCentral Florida Commission on Homelessness, made waves when Cardboard Stories, the media campaign went viral. Cardboard Stories was seen along I-4 billboards, on the news feed of many Facebook profiles, and received local press. Because of his effective and persistent action to shed light on the issue of homelessness, Andrae was awarded runner up as Central Floridian of the Year. His activism has put him and the Commission in the spotlight, garnering the support of politicians and other organizations. Many organizations are coming together in a collaborative effort to implement an effective model to reduce homelessness.

     


    Third, Charity Magazine  is now in it’s second year highlighting the news, stories, and organizations that are making a difference in Central Florida. Eric English, Editor, has gone from publishing an inaugural issue in 2014 to a quarterly issue in print this year. Two columns to look forward to are written by Mark Brewer and Kaia Forget for the pulse of philanthropy.

    Soles4Soles Hikes to Costa Rica with an Orlando Writer

    One question: “Will you go?” While I was in Nashville, I met a staff member, Lisa Pointe, from Soles4Souls. She kindly gave me a tour after I expressed my interest in social enterprise. From that initial contact I was asked to join a team from Ohio State University that would be doing a shoe distribution in Costa Rica in May and cover the story. What an opportunity! What an adventure!

    A simple request is about to change the lives of several and I get to watch it unfold live.

    As I landed I was greeted by 10 student athletes, their advisors from OSU, and Taylar Proctor from Soles4Souls. We boarded the bus and headed to our host facility in San Jose. The first evening was uneventful, settling in and doing introductions. Although the students came from Ohio State, home of the Buckeyes, most didn’t know each other.

    The next morning though, we boarded the bus early to head to our first shoe distribution at a local school. The team of OSU athletes were diving in, sorting sizes, fitting shoes on little feet, and putting smiles on the little faces. While the kids waited their turn some of our team played soccer, jump rope, and basketball with the Costa Rican children; others put Buckeye “tattoos” on the kids. This team came to serve and serve they did! In under six hours we gave out nearly 1000 pairs of shoes.

    The following morning was much like yesterday. Except today we stopped on the way to the distribution site to see where these children lived. The “shanty town” was little more than tin boxes housing as many as 14 people in a home not any larger than a tool shed. Our host said it was one of the most densely populated “shanty towns” in San Jose. Heartbreaking.

    These kids definitely needed shoes. The OSU athletes worked tirelessly and quickly. Today more than 800 shoes were given out in under four hours! Again, the athletes didn’t just put shoes on the feet of the students; they interacted and played with them putting ear-to-ear smiles on their faces.

    Saturday we were up at 5:00 am to take a bus ride (fully loaded with students and shoes with barely enough room to sit!) for three hours before hopping in a water taxi to ride upstream for an hour. The rainforest was our destination for the third shoe distribution and this was the only way of getting there. By this time the students had become friends. They bus was a frenzy of music, lively conversation, and bantering. Part of the intrigue of the week was watching these students go from nearly strangers on the same campus to a tight-knit group that want to stay in touch when they return home. Somehow serving others will break through the cliques and bind hearts and lives.

    After settling in at the rainforest lodge we board the water taxi once again for a short ride upstream. The town has 400 residents and this distribution is open to all; however, due to our shoe sizes remaining we won’t be able to fit men or larger women’s feet. The team sets up quickly and welcomes the throng of people into a small school room to be sized and fitted. We are seeing moms and babes coming together, many without shoes on their feet. Each leave with a pair of shoes and a smile filled with hope on their faces. Sadly, there were some who were so used to walking barefoot, they left carrying their new pair of shoes. But, for many, entire families lives were changed that day by a pair of shoes.

    Our last shoe distribution was scheduled as we descended the mountain to return to San Jose. Unfortunately, the road was closed and our team couldn’t meet the delivery of shoes to get where we needed to be. The last distribution had to be postponed for another trip.

    Serving others changes lives. As nearly 2,000 pairs of shoes were given out during our six days in Costa Rica we watched the hearts of the OSU students melt. We watched athletes who had never spoken on campus connect on social media and plan to meet regularly once they returned home. We watched as the team stooped on bended knee to share a small gift, a kind word, or a hug with a child that spoke another language. Language, age, and location should never be a reason not to serve. Serving makes all of those things irrelevant and will give you an experience you’ll never forget. I know I’ll never forget how humbled and honored I felt to be invited to write about and participate in a life-changing experience. I had a front row seat as many of these students shared that they had never left the United States to serve others.

    Soles4Souls doesn’t just change the lives of those who receive shoes; they change the lives of all who take a few days out of their life to serve. One question: “Will you go?”

     

    Hidden Inside a Hug

    Near the Mills 50 District a hidden gem is being constructed. This hidden gem, a custom home, designed and built by Silliman Homes Cityside, will be finished in October 2015. Why is this hidden gem more noteworthy than the other homes they build?

    This 2,594 square foot home, House of Hugs, is being sold at market value and the proceeds are being donated to three of Orlando’s charities: Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida, Florida Hospital for Children, and the Greater Orlando Builders Association’s (GOBA) Foundation. These three charities depend on philanthropic donations. Florida Hospital for Children states one out of every two children who need care in the community are served at the Hospital. The Boys and Girls Club serves nearly 13,000 children in Central Florida each year. GOBA Foundation has given more than $1Million to youth related charities and scholarship funds throughout Central Florida. The fundraising efforts of these organizations obviously touch the lives of many in our community.

    Lives of our friends and neighbors are touched by these organizations and will benefit from the “House of Hugs”.

    The recent groundbreaking was attended by Gary Cain, President of the Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida, Dick Batchelor, Board Chair of Florida Hospital for Children, Marla Silliman, Senior Executive Officer of Florida Hospital for Children, Eric English, Publisher of Charity Magazine, and other community leaders.

    Silliman Homes Cityside is grateful for the support of its contractors and United Legacy Bank. Without their support the construction would not be possible. Hidden within the Mills 50 District is a home that will welcome a new family. In addition, this House of Hugs will serve the youth of our community at-large through the proceeds of the sale.

    “Silliman Homes CitySide is doing good in our local community. Thanks to their ‘House of Hugs’ project, we will have the ability to continue providing over 3 million hours of service and support in the areas of academic success, good character & citizenship and healthy lifestyles for the more than 13,000 young people we serve annually,” said Gary Cain, president & CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida. “We are grateful for this opportunity and thank everyone behind this project for making children a top priority.”
    “Bill Silliman has been a champion of Florida Hospital for Children for many years and we are thrilled with the announcement of his new gift through the House of Hugs. Combining his great talent as a home builder to support one of his favorite charities really is a winning formula. Bill has a deep passion for not only building homes, but building community. It is heartwarming to think that the home owner will not only get a well-built home, but also the special added benefit of knowing their home helped support children’s care at Florida Hospital. Bill really has a heart of gold and the children and families we serve are blessed by his generosity.“ David Collis, FL Hospital Foundation

     

    Kicking…..for the Kid’s Sake

    The largest high school soccer tournament in the state is run by volunteers. However, the most impressive part is these volunteers do it on behalf of families whose children are diagnosed with cancer. This year the Kid’s Sake Foundation is providing a vehicle to a family that has a 2 year old fighting for her life, going through chemo and radiation treatments. The father is working to support his wife and four young children, including Sophia, the two year old battling cancer. Dad is putting all his efforts into providing for his young family; Mom is physically worn out tending to her little girl full-time and caring for the other three children. The Kid’s Sake Foundation is the beneficiary of the 19th Annual Hickory Point Invitational Soccer Tournament so they are able to provide a vehicle to this family. Twenty-four teams, 16 boys and 8 girls, will travel from their local high schools from across Florida to descend in Tavares, Florida from December 29-31, 2014. They compete at the Varsity level during their winter break. The teams arrive excited to compete while supporting a great cause. More than 2,000 athletes, family members, coaches, and spectators gather to watch the competitive games. We invite you to join us in “Kicking….for the Kid’s Sake” by becoming a sponsor, making an online donation, or attending the Hickory Point Invitational Soccer Tournament.

    Entrepreneurs: Learn, Exchange, and Unite

    The vibe in the room was electric as the kickoff event opened in Orlando for Global Entrepreneurship Week on November 17, 2014!  Orlando’s The Big Exchange helped bring Global Entrepreneurship Week, sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation, to Orlando. Global Entrepreneurship Week was announced as an idea in 2007. By 2008, 77 countries and over 3 million participated in the week-long unconference consisting of over 25,000 activities. This is truly a worldwide movement. In Orlando, entrepreneurs spoke, shared, collaborated, taught, learned, and networked. From the feedback and the “Tweet Wall”, we believe everyone that participated was inspired to further action and found the workshops beneficial. Each day workshops and mentoring “open office hours” were offered. There were several networking opportunities, too. This week could not have been successful without the support of the sponsors, the Root Radius team handling the logistics, and the many entrepreneurs that volunteered their time and talent to attend and assist with the power-packed schedule of events. Orlando’s entrepreneurial community really showed their collaborative spirit and their desire to help others succeed. If you are a Thinker, Maker, Artist, or Educator we hope you’ll join us next year.

    Gratitude: A Legacy for Lake County

    The Leesburg Regional Medical Center Foundation, led by Executive Director Ted Williams, has seen many changes since 2009 when he accepted the position. The Leesburg Regional Medical Center (LRMC) began serving the community in 193 with 15 physicians and 25 support staff members. In their first year they served 2, 357 patients. Today they serve Lake, Sumter, and surrounding counties with the help of their 331 physicians and 1,790 support staff. In 2012 they cared for 52,000 patients. Their legacy continues to be a beacon in our community in many ways including as the largest single employer in Lake County. Ted has championed continued growth as the President of the Foundation and the Vice President of the Medical Center. Ted spends his day dedicated to his work. You may find him bringing a casserole to a sick friend over the weekend, checking on another before surgery at 7am, or reaching out to a colleague who lost a loved one late into the night. He doesn’t do these things because of his job description. He does this because of his heart. Ted’s heart quickly turns strangers into lifelong friends.

    Ted states, “I once read that happiness is an attitude. We can choose to make ourselves happy and strong or to make ourselves miserable. The amount of work is the same.”

    There are many milestones the Medical Center has been able to celebrate under Ted’s leadership and with the dedication of the medical and support staff. The 25 events each year that are done to raise funds for LRMC are highlights for the staff and the community because they understand that everyone at some time will need medical care. Their participation allows those without the means to pay to receive treatment. The largest event, “Go for the Green” Golf Classic, has been their signature event for the last 17 years. It is hosted at the beautiful Mission Inn each September. Whether you are a constituent that comes to golf or an entrepreneur that supports the event through sponsorship and enjoys the opportunity to network, it is a highlight event for everyone. The day encompasses friendly competition, relaxation, networking, a wonderful lunch, and usually beautiful weather.

    The Ladies in Philanthropy are an integral part of the Leesburg Regional Medical Center Foundation as well. This is a group of community minded women who want to change and save lives by collaborating with other women leaders. The Ladies in Philanthropy wish to empower others to fulfill their philanthropic potential by understanding the healthcare needs in Lake County and promote the power of collective giving. The embrace fellowship and strive to educate and inspire women. They provide regularly scheduled lunches and events that allow you to serve on a committee, learn about healthcare issues affecting women, and teach others about the philanthropic potential of women. 92% of men interviewed named their wives as the primary influencer for philanthropic giving (Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund Study 2009). Therefore, our Ladies in Philanthropy program is an instrumental part to our fundraising goals.

    Last fall, the LRMC Foundation launched a capital campaign to raise $5 million of the $10 million needed to add 24 rooms on the hospital’s first floor. Approximately $3 million of that has been quietly raised. “Whether someone gives a little or a lot, just the act of giving something provides enormous benefits not just to the quality of healthcare in our community, but to the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of the giver.” Ted prompts us to remember.

    The First Annual Philanthropy Day for Lake County

    The First Annual Philanthropy Day for Lake County was hosted by the Community Foundation of South Lake. Over 100 people were in attendance.

    The day began with an inspiring speech from Renaut Van Der Reit, CEO of Axum Coffee and Founding Pastor of Mosaic Church. Renaut shared how his vision for Axum Coffee was to be different; being a social enterprise allowed them to unapologetically make money to fund justice and mercy projects. Renaut inspired the audience with several profound quotes.

    “If you are not driven by a deep desire of passion you won’t sustain what you are doing.”

    “You can make money for greed or to change the world”

    Once you’ve broken boundaries once you realize they weren’t really boundaries. Someone convinced you it’s a line you can’t cross.”

    Renaut believes that in the nonprofit sector you are limited by resources and access. Just because your resources don’t align with those options on the table doesn’t mean you are limited. It means you need to be free to think outside the box and be free to fail, a message he gives his staff often. Your access is only limited by your relational access. Relationships create access. He allows his staff to fail so they can learn, grow, and succeed. The final thought he shared with the audience is that “your passion point must remain central”.

    After the audience was inspired with these profound thoughts, they were sent to the breakout sessions offered in a track for CEOs and one for Development staff. Speakers for the CEO track were Royce Gomez on a nimble strategic plan, Stephanie Krick on social entrepreneurship, and Gary Cain sharing how to assess our strengths and weaknesses. Each speaker gave relevant, real life examples and even shared some of their personal learning experiences. The Development track speakers were Todd Roupp on data collection, Vanessa Lopez-Littleton on measurable outcomes, and Susan Kelly on strategic planning.

    The evening closed with an Awards Banquet and a Keynote Address by Pat Burke, Founder of HOOPS Life. His message to the audience was investing your time and talents in young people can change the course of their life in a positive direction.

    Bryan Williams, the Executive Director of the Community Foundation of South Lake, shared that there are approximately 1,000 nonprofit organizations in Lake County. In 2012 $107M was given to charity. From that figure 47% goes to religious and educational institutions leaving an average of $53,000 per year given to organizations like the nonprofits in attendance. This gives you a brief perspective on the philanthropic picture in Lake County, Florida. This will become an annual event; the staff look forward to planning an amazing lineup again next year.

    Electricity!

    The vibe in the room is electric! Eight social entrepreneurs came to Downtown Credo to pitch their businesses. Each one resonates with the Credo of meaning, impact, and community. The room is full long before the pitches start. The first pitch is from Care Spotter followed by two urban farming concepts, Edible Orlando Junior Academy and Growing Orlando. The next concepts, Market Colors and One Purse, focused on helping women escape from human trafficking. Next, Rebuild Globally shared the 760% growth they’ve had in the first four years of operation. They focus on helping women produce a sustainable income to remove her family from poverty. The last two business pitches focused on our school-aged children in our local community. These businesses are The Human Experience and SourceCode B46.

    The awards will be announced at the third annual CREDO Awards on November 6, 2014. If you’d like to attend, tickets are available here.

    Making Strides in the Lives of Women

     

    October 13, 2014/in Community Impact /by Royce Gomez

    Julie Colombino went on a life-changing trip to provide disaster relief after the earthquake in Haiti. Little did Julie know it would be more life changing than she could imagine. While she was down there on what was to be a short term trip, providing water and other necessities to the people of Haiti, she was constantly told by the Haitian women, “What I need is a job so I can provide for my family”. Julie was there to pass out water, not give them a job. This statement, repeated over and over again, tugged at her heartstrings. What was she to do? Julie realized that all around her was garbage due to a lack of infrastructure to remove waste. Haitians just threw their garbage in the street, and it stayed there. Tires were abundant in these piles of rubbish. Julie saw opportunity! She came home, quit her corporate job, packed her things, and moved to Haiti to find a solution for these women. August 14, 2010,just 7 months after the unforgiving earthquake on January 12, 2010 that claimed 200,000 lives and left 300,000 homeless and jobless, is the day I will never forget. This is the day we opened the REBUILD Globally (RG) training center and workshop. This is the day that marks the beginning of the bravery of Haitian artisans, a Board of Directors, international and local volunteers and many friends and family. This is the day RG took a plunge to use what most people in the world consider discard-able waste and planned to revolutionize the way waste in Haiti is managed, the way international consumers buy and the way aid is delivered to devastated, poverty stricken communities.

    She collected the tires, taught the women how to cut the rubber, and use the tires to manufacture sandals. Julie began to pay these women a living wage, taking no salary for herself. Julie shares, “People asked for jobs and we worked hand in hand in order to provide a dignified living-wage and livelihood opportunities for four Haitian women and men. On that day, August 14, 2010, that was all we could conceive: four people, four lives.” Through disease, sickness, challenges to grow a business, no funding, and no infrastructure in the country to assist her, Julie persisted.

    The Strides sandal was created. By 2013, REBUILD Globally had an impact of:

     

    • 17 REBUILD employees earning a living wage
    • 20 vulnerable youth in Apprenticeship Program
    • 5 street boys given full academic scholarships
    • 2 REBUILD artisan landowners
    • 6 REBUILD artisan homeowners,119 REBUILD renters
    • 4000+ tires recycled
    • 920 sandals sold
    • 250 sandals donated to the Phillipines
    • 25 women in microfinace project

     

    Today, you can find the Strides sandal at the famous Ron Jon’s Surf Shop and support REBUILD Globally. And, you will find Julie spending more time here in the states because she is able to employ local women in Haiti to run the program, while she makes several trips a year to oversee the progress. Julie Columbino is truly a social entrepreneur.

    Meaning. Impact. Community.

    September 10, 2014/in Community Impact /by Royce Gomez

    If you want to be inspired, spend time with Ben Hoyer of Downtown Credo. His
    cornerstones of meaning, impact, and community are what this column is about and what
    has defined my life as an entrepreneur.

    Ben’s Credo states “Life is worth living. I refuse to merely exist. I pursue a life of meaning
    and purpose, fulfillment and joy. The world is not yet as it ought to be. Neither is my city.
    Neither am I. Yet, I reject apathy and despair. I engage the world, my city, and myself to
    make an impact for good. I am not alone. I press through narcissism, isolation and
    self-sufficiency striving to live in authentic community.”

    If this resonates with you like it did for me you might want to apply to pitch your social
    entrepreneurial idea. (I will be submitting my idea. Will you join me?) Ben has worked
    tirelessly to get some of the most successful entrepreneurs to invest their time, money, and
    knowledge in supporting someone with an idea and courage to live with meaning and have
    an impact in their community. I have made Orlando my community over the last couple of
    years and am ready to live with meaning and impact while rejecting apathy. If you have an
    idea, join me. If not, come and cheer on the contestants October 15th.