Outrageous Generosity Blog
Babbie Jacobs

Check Out Class Lives; Stories from Across Our Economic Divide

February 10th, 2015 by Babbie Jacobs

I initially picked up  Class Lives to read more about three of our Bold Givers; Anne Ellinger, (also one of the co-founders of Bolder Giving), Jennifer Ladd, and Chuck Collins, but I found myself drawn into each of the 40 very different and unique brief essays from authors who represent a range of classes, genders, races, ethnicities, ages, and occupations across the United States. Class Lives is an anthology of narratives dramatizing the lived experiences of class in America. The contributors describe their class journeys in narrative form, recounting one or two key stories that illustrate their growing awareness of class and their place, changing or stable, within the class system.

Through story-telling, as we do here at Bolder Giving, this collection of stories offers a way to try to understand class and the differences that define and often separate us.  The stories are by and about those born into poverty, working class, the middle and owning class, the mixed class—and every place in between.

From those within all economic levels, shame is often present – too much, too little, and the frustrations of extreme inequalities are expressed by many.  Not only are the stories personal and insightful, but they are thought provoking and challenge the reader to examine some of their own experiences and background. 

When the woman at the school lunch check-out line at Wendy Williams’ high school offered her a discounted lunch, Wendy never went back in that line in order to avoid the humiliation of having her school mates know she was on a reduced lunch program.  Years later Wendy would have liked to have thanked her for trying to be empathetic. 

Many of the stories are uplifting, Fisher Lavall says, “Survivorship is a gift of my poverty-class upbringing.  Resiliency, the ability to take the blows and come up swinging.  Empathy, generosity, an open heart; things you acquire from being rejected, doing without, and carrying a burden alone.”  Fisher earned her master’s degree, has published fiction and now works as a school counselor serving predominantly working-class Canadians.

Jennifer Ladd shared the following, “I, like many others, have felt the pain of living in a society with such extremes of wealth and poverty. I, like many others, have searched for an appropriate response that faces that pain, while appreciating the true value of what I have and who I am, without cringing with guilt or shame. Now I do what I can with the money, time, attention and passions that I have. Taking action to create a thriving sustainable world with whatever resources we have seems like a mandate for us all.”

As Felice Yaskell, co-founder of Class Action, who initiated this compilation but unfortunately died of cancer before it’s completion, said, “When we do talk about class, we tend to talk only about the strength of wealth and the limitations of poverty.  But in reality it’s much more complex.  All of us derive strengths as well as limitations from our class position and experience.  Because of intense class segregation in this county, few of us have the opportunity to learn about each other’s strengths and to grow past our limitations.” 

The book doesn’t attempt to define class – but rather effectively dispels some of the myths and misconceptions about class and mobility in America.  I encourage everyone to buy, read, ponder, share and discuss the personal stories in Class Lives.

Reference Link: http://www.classism.org/store/

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Jason Franklin PhD

Giving in Bulgaria

December 15th, 2014 by Jason Franklin PhD

I just got back from speaking at the Bulgarian Donors Forum annual conference in Sofia, one of our partners in Bolder Giving's new Global Donor Storytelling initiative. During my trip, I was interviewed by Vesti, one of the major Bulgarian newspapers. You can read the article (if you speak Bulgarian) or check out the original interview in English below. 

Can you point out one giving story that was so touching that inspired you personally?
While there are so many stories we have collected that inspire me, one in particular that I remember when I first discovered Bolder Giving was the story of Pilar Gonzales. I found Pilar's story particularly powerful because she is not a wealthy woman, rather she has been giving very generously from her often modest salary as a nonprofit leader because she sees such need around her. I was also moved when she shared her story during the Bold Conversation we hosted with her in September 2011 by one particular experience - she shared how she was waiting in the check out line at a grocery store and a homeless man in front of her did not have enough money for the toiletries he had selected and she instantly just said that she would pay for them. He broke down in tears after, explaining that he was trying to get cleaned up to go for a job interview and try and get back on his feet. In a time when we spend so much energy thinking about big giving for long-term policy change, Pilar's story reminded me of how powerful it can be to give directly to a person in need, how important it is for us to not close ourselves off to the needs around us every day but to hold that spirit of generosity constantly.

Could you, please, explain in short what is the role and mission of Bolder Giving.
At it's core, Bolder Giving's mission is all about inspiration - we want to help people reimagine what is possible with their giving, to inspire them to be more generous and more courageous and more risk taking. We do this primarily through storytelling, we find and share the stories of people who inspire us with their giving and share those stories in the hope that they will help others reimagine what is possible as well.

Bolder Giving admits that most people rarely talk about their giving. Why is that and how do you change their minds?
I think two major things generally stop people from talking about their giving - modesty and fear. On one hand, in the United States and in most parts of the world, society teaches us that being modest is a good thing. We should not brag, we should not boast, and thus people hesitate to talk about their giving because they don't want to appear too proud. Sometimes this comes from a religious conviction and other times from social norms. On this front, I try to help people reframe their thinking about why they share their story, to help them understand that sharing their story can be an act of service itself, a way to inspire others. We work with people to help them tell their stories in ways that are not about bragging, but about inspiring. The second block is that of fear - fear that people will see them differently, that people will try to take advantage of them if they know they are wealthy or active givers, fear that it will change their relationships. In dealing with fear I first think it is critical to acknowledge that these fears are not unfounded - when you become more public about your giving and about your financial resources it will change relationships and people will ask you for money more often. But I have found that this is not something people stay afraid of, they quickly learn how to say no more gracefully as they deal with more fundraising requests and in terms of changing relationships, we often see changes for the better. The reality is that if you are wealthy, most people who know you already know or guess that you are - sharing your story can actually improve relationships as you develop relationships based on the truth of who you are and what you do rather than rumors and guesses that people believed because you were afraid to share the truth.

Bolder Giving strives to help donors become “effective, passionate, deeply-committed givers”, how would you describe an effective donor?
I think an effective donor is one whose giving helps move forward the issue or issues they care about powerfully or helps build the community they care about. I see too many donors who give impulsively or give to groups that have a good public relations team rather than learning about the work being done and finding the best groups to give to. Being an effective giver means you are a giver who takes the time to learn about the issues and the groups and then makes informed, thoughtful gifts that align with your goals.

Would you say that different societies have different giving culture and in that sense what is the giving culture in Eastern Europe?
Different societies absolutely have different giving cultures! These cultures are rooted in our history, in our government and economic systems, in our religious teachings, in the past role of civil society, and in our relationships with other cultures. For example, the US giving culture is rooted in Judeo-Christian teachings and a democratic political system and capitalist economic system that looks to civil society, charity and philanthropy to fill in the gaps of what the governmental & economic systems miss. By contrast, in much of Eastern Europe there is a strong tradition of a much more expansive government that has provided many of the social and cultural services that philanthropy covers in the US and a cultural tradition of anonymity around money and giving that is only starting to change. I do not believe that the goal is for Eastern Europe to adopt the American style of giving - that is a style that has developed over centuries that fits the United States. Rather I think the challenge today is for Eastern Europe to chart its own course - politically, economically, and socially - and to develop and build a culture of giving and a civil society that will enable to Eastern Europe to flourish in its own right.

Which are the pressing issues of the day donors in Eastern Europe should focus on?
I am not an expert on Eastern Europe and hesitate to tell donors what they should focus on when they understand the challenges and needs in their own communities better than I ever could. However, at a very general level my advice for the field is to seek diversity - giving is needed for direct services but also for long-term development of civil society and for the preservation, celebration and growth of the artistic and cultural traditions that make Eastern Europe unique. At an individual donor level, my advice for donors anywhere in the world is the same - start with your passion. There are thousands of issues you could give to, but I believe that you will become the most effective and generous giver when you first identify what issue, cause or community you deeply care about and then focus where your passion lies. You don't have to do everything, but instead building on your passion will keep you excited and push you to make the biggest and most powerful contributions you personally can make.

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Jason Franklin PhD

Giving Options in Response to Ferguson

August 15th, 2014 by Jason Franklin PhD

I’ve been getting many questions about how people can help, and especially donate, in support of the organizing being done in response to Ferguson and to support the Brown family and Ferguson residents. Responding to these donor questions, we've pulled together some resources to help you take action. Our support from around the country is still needed!

It’s a changing landscape but here’s what I’ve gathered so far:

  • Supporting the Brown Family - Sadly scam solicitations are popping up. We've been able to confirm with the family's representatives that there are two confirmed ways to support Michael Brown’s family after the loss of their son. You can give online or donations can be made payable to the Michael Brown Jr. Memorial Fund” and mailed to Fifth Third Bank (all other online campaigns are unauthorized or scams).
  • Community Needs - There is also a campaign to raise money for the Ferguson food bank to help kids who may not get fed because they’re out of school and missing the school breakfast/lunch programs. We'll be adding other community need fundraisers as we learn about them.
  • Local Organizing Efforts - There is a lot of organizing being done in Ferguson and nationally around the issues raised by Michael Brown's death. We've asked around to find out who is working locally in Ferguson/St. Louis and have assembled a list of resources of efforts we've been able to confirm. In addition, many national groups  are mobilizing but we haven't catalogued them all as they're easier to find online. 

You can check out all the resources we've collected (and will continue to update as we learn more) at bit.ly/FergusonGivingOptions. If you know of other resources we should add, please let us know!

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