Entries in Time (3)


My New Favorite Gift Shop

As a nonprofit professional at a major tourist attraction, I always like to see what kinds of products are available in the gift shops of other public destinations. This past weekend, I went to Muir Woods National Monument with some visitors from France and found the art instillation in the gift shop to be one of the most fascinating wood carvings that I've ever seen! 

Carved into a single redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), is a timeline of humanity that flows, from left to right, in order:

Inhabitation -> Colonization -> Exploitation -> Conservation -> Recreation

I took these shots on my iPhone, so please forgive the poor quality.

Cool, huh?


Cultivating New Community Leaders

Full Circle Fund logo


New Full Circle Fund Members, July 2011

After three consecutive weeks of attending Full Circle Fund events on any given night – and another event on my calendar for next week – it’s clear to me that this is an organization that I need to tell others about.

There are a few reasons I’m involved with Full Circle Fund that map directly to my core values: community, contribution, and camaraderie. Or, to use another alliteration, I value impact, investment, and inspiration. So please indulge me to align the alliterations and say more about each.

Community and Impact

First, an introduction from the website: “Full Circle Fund is an engaged philanthropy organization cultivating the next generation of community leaders and driving lasting social change in the Bay Area. Full Circle Fund members leverage their time, money, skills and connections to the service of nonprofits, businesses and government agencies in partnerships that result in significant impact on the community.”

Although I’ve come across many civic and social organizations that seem to be a platform for elitism and exclusivity, Full Circle Fund is the kind of philanthropic group that directly engages in the community – and by that I mean, the place where its members live and work across a wide region in the Bay Area. I’ve always been struck by the phrase “think globally, act locally,” and it makes sense to me that we can all do much to improve the immediate needs that surround us.

But in addition to occupying or pursuing an occupation in any given area, Full Circle Fund members participate in an organization that values substantive change.  Even with an acknowledgement that we cannot do everything for everyone, our members come together because we believe that we can make a contribution that is meaningful and measurable.

"Impact” a buzz word that I hear often in the nonprofit sector, but usually it means something that is pre-defined. Sometimes it leads to square pegs in round holes. At Full Circle Fund, “impact” can mean many things, including innovations unknown. We are willing to look at our community and make a difference – or take a chance – that matters. If we leave our grantees better than when we’ve found them, we’ve done our best to contribute to positive change. Risk does have results, intentionally for the better.

Contribution and Investment

Second, Full Circle Fund members each have a stake in the outcomes. Instead of only writing a check to a grantee, we engage with nonprofits through strategic partnerships. I’ve often been told that philanthropy includes contributions of “time, talent, and treasure” and it's clear to me that Full Circle Fund members give it all. The combination personal, social and financial resources is powerful. Each member contributes a bit of each.

And let me be clear, as much as I admire the time and talent of members, there is a financial contribution that gives each member of the group a fiscal stake. Full Circle Fund is not a charity; it’s a venture philanthropy partnership.

Camaraderie and Inspiration

Finally, the members are the best part. As a nonprofit professional, my work-related circles are somewhat limited. At Full Circle Fund, I learn from people that don’t do the same things as me professionally or personally. Many of us are leaders in our respective areas, but a big part of the investments we pursue are based on a collaborative spirit. Full Circle Fund is a place where bankers talk to lawyers, that talk to techies and social entrepreneurs, that talk to nonprofit leaders and public servants. We have much to learn from one another.

And, I admire the sense of leadership that each member exemplifies. “Cultivating new community leaders” is the true essence of our membership. Quarterly Inspiring Leaders Series Events feature speakers who are experts in a social change field. The series provides an opportunity to learn from compelling visionaries, develop leadership and teamwork skills, share best practices, report on grant project milestones, and celebrate team successes.

In conversation with Bill Draper at the "Inspiring Leaders Series" eventA while back, I attended a series event with Bill Draper, co-founder of Draper Richards LP, a venture capital fund that invests in early-stage technology companies in the U.S. and founder Draper Investment Company. He also is co-founder of the Draper Richards Foundation, which invests in entrepreneurs starting new non-profit organizations. Run much like a venture capital fund, in addition to financial support, the foundation also provides expert guidance and coaching to its fellows and fosters their growth from a start-up non-profit to a successful venture.

At the event, he told us about his experiences in venture capital and venture philanthropy. He shared insights about success in each area, but also how the two are not necessarily mutually-exclusive. Investment skills can transfer across sectors – and better yet – they require a wise investor. And a talented investor in any area is skillful with their resources. At this event, I learned that innovation is not just thinking outside the box; it’s thinking across boxes and beyond.


Community and impact; contribution and investment; camaraderie and inspiration: Full Circle Fund has it all.

Partners in Philanthropy

Watch a video about Full Circle Fund:


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!