Entries in Service (10)


Educational Tall Ship Sets Sail

This weekend, I celebrated the launch of the Matthew Turner, an educational tall ship build entirely from wood and constructed over the past four years entirely by volunteers. I was honored to serve on the board of directors of the Educational Tall Ship in its earliest days and it's a project with special importance to me personally. 

As a result of my volunteer service to the board, I was able to get to know Alan Olson, the visionary man behind the idea to build this ship to connect young people to the water-- “We want them to learn about the powers of nature, like the wind and the sea” -- I applaud his vision and success as an transformative force for future generations in the Bay Area. 

Watch this informative video about the project and be sure to see the ship near the Bay Model in Sausalito!


National AIDS Memorial Grove 

It is with great pleasure that I share news that I have joined the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park as Director of Development. I am absolutely thrilled to return to the park where my career as a frontline fundraiser began at the California Academy of Sciences. In addition, my return feels like a full-circle homecoming, as I served on the Grove’s board of directors from 2011 to 2015, co-chaired World AIDS Day in 2012 and 2013, served as board secretary, communications committee chair, and I contributed significantly to the the strategic planning process during my years of service as a volunteer.

It's great to be back to a place that I adore and to an organization that has already contributed tremendously to my professional development. I'm also excited to spread my wings as a Development Director and to strengthen the Grove's vibrant culture of philanthropy. It's the 25th silver anniversary of this national treasure and I'm eager to apply my professional focus toward its next chapter of growth, inspired by the healing power of nature and the leadership of supporters and volunteers from across the nation. 

The mission of the National AIDS Memorial Grove is to provide, in perpetuity, a place of remembrance so that the lives of people who died from AIDS are not forgotten and the story is known by future generations.

The idea for the National AIDS Memorial was first conceived in 1988 by a small group of San Francisco residents representing a community devastated by the AIDS epidemic, but with no positive way to express their collective grief. The group selected the de Laveaga Dell in world-renowned Golden Gate Park as the site for their memorial, an area that had fallen into a state of disrepair and was unusable by the public due to poor funding in the park budget. A team of prominent landscape architects and designers volunteered countless hours to create a landscape plan that would be fitting as a timeless living memorial. Site renovation began in September 1991 and ongoing maintenance and improvements continue each year. The site is the location of the National Observation of World AIDS Day annually on December 1.

Landmark Designation

In October 1996, through the passage of legislation spearheaded by Representative Nancy Pelosi, President Bill Clinton signed the National AIDS Memorial Grove Act, which recognized and designated the site as a National Memorial of the United States; a status comparable to that of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Mount Rushmore, and the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, among others.

Civic Ecology

Since my early interest and involvement, I’ve been drawn to thinking about the Grove from the perspective of the emerging field of civic ecology, which recognizes that it’s impossible to separate humans from nature. Civic ecologists examine how people in urban environments are caring for—restoring and stewarding—local natural resources. However, civic ecology practices are not just about caring for nature; they are also about caring for neighborhoods and healing communities, particularly in the aftermath of disasters and tragedies. The Grove, in my view, is a perfect case study in demonstrating the transformation of a physical and spiritual landscape. The Grove reflects my view that as places are defined by special people; people are defined by special places.

Join us!

I invite you to join me in spreading the word about this national landmark: 'Like' us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, donate, volunteer, sign-up for updates, or find more information about how you can get involved on our website:

Best of all, I invite you to visit the Grove and explore it for yourself!


The Grove Field Guide

It's official!  I'm a certified naturalist!

This new certification course from the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, with expert instruction from the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN), utilized a set science curriculum, hands-on learning, communication training, and community service to engage a cohort of environmental stewards in interactive learning for stronger scientific literacy and critical thinking skills.

It was a wonderful experience that I highly recommend to anyone who wants to learn how to communicate essential scientific concepts, understand ecological and social relationships, and explore the linked cultural and natural heritage of people and place.

The course requirements included:

  • 20 hours of volunteering
  • 10 weekly lectures (each split with a set science curriculum and a featured guest speaker)
  • 3 postings to (I almost became addicted to the impressive platform and completed 119 postings!)
  • 3 Saturday hikes to collect observations in a field notebook
  • A capstone (final) project

For my project, I held a bio-blitz at the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park (full disclosure: I'm on The Grove's Board of Directors). I then uploaded the photos that I took on my iPhone to iNaturalist and created an online "project" to work with a virtual community of volunteers to identify the plants in each photo. With the descriptions given to me from volunteers that I interviewed and via iNaturalist, I then crafted a publication, The Grove Field Guide, and published it here on my website, available for immediate access and downloadable in multiple formats.

Generally, the feedback I've gotten on the project has been overwhelmingly positive. Of course, I'm not trained as a botanist and, at times, the project was much more difficult than I expected. That said, I completed the project with a new perspective and stronger confidence in - at the very least - taking the time to observe my surroundings and to learn more about the unique blend of natural and cultural heritage here in the diverse and bio-diverse State of California.

I presented the project on September 12, 2012 and graduated from the program. I hope to participate in the advanced trainings offered in the future and perhaps in a citizen science project. I also hope to keep volunteering with SPAWN and to share my guide with visitors to The Grove, perhaps at one of our monthly community volunteer workdays. Join me for a nature walk?

Many thanks to the expert instructors at SPAWN, my remarkable classmates, and to the University of California for providing this new program to foster a committed corps of volunteer naturalists and citizen scientists trained and ready to take an active role in natural resource conservation, education, and restoration.

Photo credit: Dr. Christopher Pincetich


Coho Mojo!

For the past 10 weeks, I’ve been learning about the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN), an award-winning, science-based watershed protection organization that engages community members to take action in order to help the salmon recover and thrive. SPAWN is a project of the Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) and the program partner for my California Naturalist Certificate program from the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The mission of SPAWN is to protect endangered salmon in the Lagunitas Watershed and the environment on which we all depend. SPAWN uses a multi-faceted approach, including grassroots action, habitat restoration, policy development, research and monitoring, citizen training, environmental education, strategic litigation, and collaboration with other organizations, land-owners, and agencies.

SPAWN offers walks to view spawning salmon, an email action alert list-serve, homeowner consultations on creek protections, seminars, training and volunteer and internship opportunities.

As a soon-to-be-official naturalist, I have come to appreciate the focus of SPAWN’s efforts around the protection and preservation of the Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), a native species to the Lower Columbia River (threatened), Oregon Coast (threatened), Southern Oregon and Northern California Coasts (threatened), and Central California Coast (endangered).

According to the SPAWN website, "Coho have declined more than 95% from historic population levels, and are a listed species under the US Endangered Species Act. Just 30 minutes from the SF Bay Area's urban centers, Lagunitas Creek Watershed is one of the most important waterways left for these wild coho salmon, supporting 10 to 20% of all wild Central California Coast Coho surviving today."

By focusing on the Coho, our instructors explain their path to and from the ocean in the course of their lifecycle, drawing upon the connections that this species has with all of the other species is meets on its journey. We also learn about how the geography and geology play an important part in connecting such a fragile web of life.

I’m amazed at how intelligent, careful, and fun the SPAWN staff are in working with the community and watershed. Many of them are expert researchers, while others are local residents that care for the life around them.

This past weekend, I volunteered on a habitat restoration as part of the capstone project for two of my classmates. We removed the awful Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) that has taken over many areas near the SPAWN office in the Lagunitas Creek watershed.

Checkout this huge invasive weed pile that we pulled, on its way to become compost:

I hate weeds! - I HATE 'EM!


Naturalist Certification

Summer 2012 University of California Naturalist Certification cohort. Photo credit: Dr. Christopher Pincetich.Many of my current professional and personal projects involve translating scientific research and STEM education programs into key deliverables, such as grant proposals, reports, and fundraising case statements. I communicate to diverse audiences, from established scientific research and government agencies, to philanthropic foundations and the general public.

To become better at communicating science, I’ve enrolled to become a Certified Naturalist from the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The program "utilizes a science curriculum, hands-on learning, communication training, and community service to engage adults in interactive learning and provides them with scientific literacy and critical thinking skills."

I'm also excited about becoming certified because I'll be able to participate in a wide variety of citizen science programs, including those at the Academy's Naturalist Center. This certification and these programs are part of a growing field of public participation in scientific research (PPSR), in which members of the public engage in the process of scientific investigations:  asking questions, collecting data, and/or interpreting results.

Watch the video below to learn more about the program and be sure to follow the "Green Blog" - it's highly informative and effectively uses stunning visual images.


Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

When I was in graduate school, I took a course on organization behavior and we had a conversation about "nonprofits acting like people," which led us to the funny image of "kids playing in a sandbox."  A recent project that I've been working on has been one such example of organizations collaborating, fittingly in a park setting.

On May 12, 2012, the Stanford Alumni Association is holding the annual Global Day of Service known as "Beyond the Farm" that extends Stanford's spirit of service to communities around the world through the volunteer efforts of alumni, family and friends. As an alumnus and board member of Stanford Pride, I'm putting together a project to work at the National AIDS Memorial in Golden Gate Park (full disclosure: I'm on the board of the National AIDS Memorial, too!). We're promoting the event with the Stanford Club of San Francisco in our outreach efforts, among many other service projects in San Francisco on that day.

Our volunteers will help maintain the memorial by clearing weeds and debris, mulching and hauling topsoil, planting new trees and shrubs, and other related projects.

Grab your shovel and join me!  Let's play well together in the sanbox!


Reading Recommendation: The Raising of Money

It’s simple, yet all too true: “Organizations Have No Needs” is the first small chapter in the book The Raising of Money: 35 Essentials Trustees Are Using to Make a Difference by Jim Lord.

I’ve never thought about it before, but he’s obviously right.  The organization doesn’t have needs; people do. I’ve never heard an organization beg.  I’ve never heard an institution say “I’m hungry!” 

It’s what we so commonly assume about organizational behavior is that somewhat ironically, organizations are not literally alive, nor does one behave.

But when you want something to grow, much like a person, an organization requires essential nutrients and significant investment. We invest in people, for causes, that are approached in a strategic and organized manner.

As a reminder, civil society is really people asking for support and essential resources, for causes that are important to them for any number of reasons. Somewhat like requesting nourishment, the heart of philanthropy is based on personal relationships.

The book is divided into seven sections:

  1. Working from the Perspective of the Donor
  2. Getting People Involved
  3. Setting the Pace for Giving
  4. Applying the Campaign Principle
  5. Asking for Money
  6. Practicing Stewardship
  7. Kindling the Spirit of Philanthropy

Each section has a number of small chapters, each filled with tips and strategies, targeted to trustees and development professionals; or in the case of smaller nonprofits, the board of directors and fundraisers.

The book was recommended to me by my mentor as a fellow with the Association of Fundraising ProfessionalsGolden Gate Chapter. I was excited to read the book for professional and personal reasons.

For example, I was recently elected to the Board of Directors at Stanford Pride, a nonprofit networking organization affiliated with the Stanford Alumni Association. Without being preachy, the book had many pages that directly apply to my leadership and volunteerism. The book addresses both sides of the philanthropic coin – the donor and volunteer, or in many cases the donating philanthropist and development professional.

I’m definitely grateful that this book is fresh in my mind as I begin this service commitment!

The book is also filled with inspirational quotes – some from creative works, others from passionate philanthropists, such this inspiring quote on page 76 from John D. Rockefeller, Jr.:

“When a solicitor comes to you and lays on your heart the responsibility that rests so heavily on his; when his earnestness gives convincing evidence of how seriously interested he is; when he makes it clear that he knows you are no less anxious to do your duty in the matter than he is, that you are just as conscientious that he feels sure all you need is to realize the importance of the enterprise and the urgency of the need in order to lead you to do your full share in meeting it – he has made you his friend and has brought you to think of giving not as a duty but as a privilege.”

In all honesty, this rather long quote resonates with my passion for my work and personal alignment with the mission of the California Academy of Sciences, where I spend my day job as a part of the development team. Each day, I aspire to work with donors in such a way that they will see my personal and professional missions as one in the same, and something they can be a part of as investors.

In conclusion, the book is also an important reminder that all forms of philanthropy (time, talent, treasure) is based on people helping people (also the title of chapter 26!). The book is dedicated “The the Volunteer… the heart and soul of philanthropy.”  Its insight-filled pages had many practical implications that apply to my work, my board service, and all other areas of my involvement in civil society.

Colleagues and comrades, this book is a must-read if you want to take your work in philanthropy seriously. 


My Furry Valentines

In my view, love and giving are meaningfully and practically synonymous. It's one reason I cherish the definition of philanthropy: to love and give. Although the etymologic roots refer to love and giving of/to humanity, it's important to remember that a loving relationship with an animal is a cherished and beautiful part of life, for humans and animals alike.

Meet my furry Valentines, Langton and Bryant, named in celebration of our new home on Langton and Bryant streets in the South of Market (SOMA) neighborhood of San Francisco. 

These cool cats are brothers, born in 2005 (5.5-years-old), and are a bonded pair from the same original litter – and they are as lovable as can be!


We (mon valentine et moi) adopted them through a local nonprofit organization, the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SF/SPCA).  Since April 18, 1868, the San Francisco SPCA was the nation's fourth humane society and the first west of the Mississippi. Their mission is to save and protect animals, to provide care and treatment, to advocate for their welfare and to enhance the human-animal bond.

Last year, the SF/SPCA found homes for over 4,000 cats and dogs (that’s nearly 11 animals each day!). In addition, the Leanne B. Roberts Animal Care Center, a full-service veterinary hospital, offers high-quality care through an experienced, compassionate veterinary team that has helped more than 30,000 animals.  There is also a subsidized Spay/Neuter Clinic that has performed procedures on approximately 150,000 cats and dogs, greatly reducing the number of surplus kittens and puppies.

Many people in our community confuse the SF/SPCA with the municipal shelter: San Francisco Department of Animal Care & Control (SF ACC).  The Department is responsible for San Francisco's stray, injured, abandoned, neglected, and mistreated animals, as well as for the enforcement of all state and local Animal Control and Welfare laws. In other words, the SF ACC serves as the city’s regulatory agency and it’s also the place to search for a lost dog or cat.

The SF/SPCA was the organization originally behind the definition and philosophy of “no-kill,” and hasn’t changed a decades-old commitment to trying to find a home for every adoptable animal. Together, the SF/SPCA and SF ACC have made San Francisco the nation's safest city for homeless cats and dogs. In 2009, the SF/SPCA’s Live Release Rate was 97 percent. Combined with the SF ACC, 85 percent of the animals entering San Francisco shelters were saved, and overall, shelter animal euthanasia decreased by 4 percent in 2009.

Community Program and Partners

As a nonprofit organization, the SF/SPCA is much more than a typical animal shelter.  It also includes a Veterinary Hospital that provides many additional services. Together, the shelter and hospital are committed to working with and supporting other local animal rescue organizations in our community.

For example, they provide community partners with heavily discounted medical services and spay/neuter surgeries. They also routinely provide free spay/neuter surgeries for pets of homeless San Franciscans through the organization Vet SOS (Veterinary Street Outreach Services).

The SF/SPCA has a variety of other programs, including:

In addition, their website has a Resource Library and Información en Español.

Pet Philanthropy: Love and Giving

From the moment you enter the SF/SPCA’s beautiful facility, the important role of philanthropists and volunteers is immediately evident (and profoundly touching!).

As a private nonprofit, the SF/SPCA receives no funds from the government, nor is it associated with national groups (including the ASPCA). As a community organization, the SF/SPCA is in the “business” of caring — for the dog that is abused or abandoned, for feral cats fending for themselves on city streets, and for animals in pain and requiring treatment.

However, this community organization is only able to advance its mission because of a generous community of donors and volunteers. For our community’s animals, donors and volunteers literally make the difference between neglect and nurturing, hurting and health, loneliness and a loving home — again, for humans and animals alike!

Friends, I encourage you to donate and/or volunteer TODAY! Alternatively, if you don’t have the cash or the calendar on-hand to give, there are a variety of other ways that you can support the SF/SPCA.

Finally, there are a variety of videos you can watch on the SF/SPCA YouTube Channel, including this one about the “Top 5 Reasons to Adopt a Black Cat” — I love it!


The Board Match 2011

Just in time to do something about my "volunteer more" New Year's resolution!
Tonight I attended The Board Match, a job fair-style event that matched 150 Bay Area nonprofit leaders with candidates interested in serving on their organization's board of directors. The event included a variety of organizations from large to small, focusing on everything from the environment to arts to youth.
First, well done on a fantastic event, Volunteer Center!  It was delightful to see so many interesting nonprofit organizations represented by their dynamic leaders and it was well attended by a diverse variety of people. It was also inspiring to see such a vibrant nonprofit community - I found myself wanting to donate my time to WAY too many organizations. I seem to be a bit more of a calendar philanthropist, pledging the time I am saving now that I don't commute. It's true, time is NOT money - it's way better!
So, well done to all involved and handshakes all around.
I must confess, it was interesting to exchange my excitement about organizations that I've known for years and may have never contacted beyond a donation or to follow via my social media in/outlets. The event was an instant connection to people that I may never have collaborated with, if given my own reservations about throwing my "expertise" on organizations that I already admire. Connections are key.
It was also interesting to speak with nonprofit leaders to see what I can offer to help them and how my knowledge and energy might be helpful. I also discussed things I will learn that will directly contribute to my professional -and - as we are all mission-driven people - personal development.  Collaboration is a beautiful exchange.
Finally, I must admit - nay, declare(!) - how enjoyable it is to attend professional networking events, when people are energized around a shared mission. On both sides of the table, I heard people talking about their backgrounds in a way that explained their forward direction and aspirations. It was a marketplace of stories, skills, and strategies. Civil society is in able hands.
I had a number of memorable conversations and vowed to share this resource with all my colleagues and comrades. Take my recommendation and see you at the next Board Match!

Serving Science and Society - Under One Living Roof!

California Academy of Sciences

Claude, the Academy's lovable albino alligator.

Although this site reflects my research interests – and by no means represents my employer – I am delighted to feature the California Academy of Sciences, where I recently began working in the development division.

Inside and out, this place is amazing.

The Academy has the deepest coral reef exhibit in the world, a 4-story tropical rainforest, a towering T-Rex skeleton, a colony of African penguins, a fully-immersive digital planetarium, and an albino alligator named Claude, along with 40,000 living animals!

The Academy was founded in 1853 (wow!) and today it supports 46 world-class scientists and hundreds of researchers in 11 fields of study. With over a million visitors annually, each year the Academy's accredited teachers, highly-trained docents and scientists share their knowledge and enthusiasm for the natural sciences with tens of thousands of children, teens, and life-long learners. 

The world's greenest museum.It’s new, living and breathing building in Golden Gate Park opened in 2008 and earned the platinum rating (highest rating possible) for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and is the largest public building with this rating in the world. This commitment to sustainability extends to all facets of the facility - with a 2 ½ acre living roof, an expansive solar canopy, an extensive water reclamation system, and walls insulated with recycled blue jeans. The building also houses the Academy science labs and administrative offices (shout out to my colleagues in the development division!), including an extensive library and scientific archive consisting of more than 26 million specimens.

The Academy holds a variety of educational events, such as lectures, in addition to many other public programs. For example, the ’Tis the Season for Science events include indoor snow flurries, an igloo presentation dome, special events and daily presentations. Young visitors can also meet “Santa Claude,” the Academy’s lovable alligator.

Each Thursday, the Academy holds an event called Nightlife, where 21+ adults can enjoy music, science, entertainment and cocktails, while experiencing the Academy’s world-class exhibits and having fun with friends. Each weekly installment features something new and different. For example, last week featured chocolate tastings from around the world!

The Academy also has a useful iPhone application: Golden Gate Park Field Guide. I’ve downloaded it regularly use it to navigate my way through the 1,000+ acres of the park. The app highlights the park’s common wildlife, popular attractions, and hidden gems. As an interactive tool, it invites users to engage with the park and by recording and sharing their experiences.

As a donor and nonprofit professional, I can’t think of a better place to serve or a better mission to support. On my first day of orientation, I was thrilled to see that the very first item on the slideshow was a simple and clear mission: to explore, explain and protect the natural world. 

However, as I learn more about the collections, I also understand that the Academy also provides profound insights into human nature. My experiences in the Academy are a reminder that all forms of life are connected, biodiversity is our greatest strength, and that science and society are fundamentally linked.

Friends, I encourage you to visit the California Academy of Sciences to see it with your own eyes. I also encourage you to become a member, to support this unique cultural and scientific institution, volunteer, and spread the word!