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Welcome. I'm an academic fundraiser and writer.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Nonprofit fundraising articles

For the nonprofit community, I wanted to share two of my essays on nonprofit fundraising, specifically on performance measurement in corporate and foundation relations: here and here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lando Calrissian could have been the most interesting Star Wars character. When we first meet Lando, we are lead to believe he's shady by the way in which Han Solo regards him warily. Indeed, it turns out that Lando cuts a deal with Darth Vader and his troops right before Leia, Han, Chewbacca and Luke arrive, turning over the good guys to Darth. As he tells his friends, he had no choice, because Vader arrived before them. Judging by the protagonists' anger toward Lando for his actions (including a bit of strangulation from Chewie), we are led to believe that Lando acted unscrupulously. And when Lando helps out the good guys, we feel the joy of redemption. Scoundrel turned good guy!

The problem with this account, of course, is that Lando was coerced into cooperating with the Empire. The Empire would surely have slashed and burned Cloud City had he not. Aristotle said (roughly) that moral responsibility involves being both aware of one's actions and doing them voluntarily. In Aristotelian thinking, Lando didn't act voluntarily; rather, he acted under duress. And how many of us would not have acted the same way, to save our families, our country, our planet?

What would have been a more interesting approach to Lando would have been to make his actions be voluntary. Perhaps Lando thinks he can profit by aligning himself with the Empire. Under this set of circumstances, his moral conversion would have had more force. And perhaps the conversation would have been only temporary--perhaps he's constantly pulled by self-interest into doing less-than-savory things. But that's the essence of the Star Wars saga--there are these two archetypes--good and evil--and people are in one camp or the other. Several characters changes camps, but nobody really oscillates between them or inhabits some middle ground.

In our world, we inhabit the middle ground. Sometimes we do the right thing, sometimes we don't. Quite often, we don't even really pay attention when our hearts are telling us that some action or another doesn't sit quite right. Paradoxically, sometimes those closest to us bear the brunt of our mistreatment, because we may be able to get away with a little more. When I find myself caught in some variety of subterfuge or another, I think of it as my Lando mode. If Lando had been written with a bit more nuance, he would have been the link for all of us imperfect beings into the Star Wars mythology. We're all a bit Lando, after all, aren't we?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This winter I am taking part in an equanimity meditation seminar. "Equanimity" comes from the Latin, aequus + animus: evenness (or balance) of mind. In our context, the focus is on being able to accept (receive) things as they are. The idea behind equanimity meditation, as I understand it, is that to recognize and behold our reality is to be better able to deal with it, in whatever way we need to. To the extent that equanimity meditation is most helpful in situations we find hard to accept, such as death, illness, breakup, loss of a job, etc, there is perhaps a similarity in the process described in equanimity meditation and the five stages of grief described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.