Archive for June, 2013

Busting five myths about Next Gen donors

There are now four generations we need to authentically engage in the philanthropic world that affect everything from communication to leadership to recruitment and retention of donors. We need to look at fundraising from the next generation of donors’perspective because philanthropy’s pipeline is essential for our organizations’sustainability. The essential questions have become: 1) Whom do we tap for funds? and 2) How do we develop Next Gen leaders on our boards and staffs and in our volunteers?

As I travel around the country and talk about Fundraising and the Next Generation, I am consistently confronted with the following five myths about fundraising with the next generation of philanthropists. Tagging and dispelling these myths can help us develop relationships with the next generations that can only enhance our organizations.

Myth #1: Next Gen donors are hard to find.

Next Gen donors are in our organizational backyards. This is not a “Where’s Waldo?” situation where they are mystical and unobtainable. They are our volunteers, staffers and children of our donors. They are young people engaged in professional groups like Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, Resource Generation and more.

Many young philanthropists begin engagement with nonprofits through volunteerism. In fact, according to various research, Millennials especially see philanthropy as a contribution of both time and money. The next generation wants hands-on experiences with organizations before giving dollars. Pay extra attention tothe volunteers.

Myth #2: The next generation is too young to make major donations or think about planned giving.

Our organizations’major donors and prospects were not always major donors, at least most of them.They needed time to build their wealth and philanthropy. It’s the same with Generation X and Millennials. We need to cultivate today’s annual donors to be tomorrow’s major donors.

I also know of Next Gen donors that do have the capacity for large gifts and do have wills with allocations for philanthropic contributions. The truth is we never really know where those millionaires are–they may be quiet or understated or they may stand to inherit wealth. It’s our job to develop relationships with individuals with wealth or access to wealth now to create sustainability for our organizations in the future. As I often say, donors are like snowflakes: each one is completely unique. Philanthropists express their contributions in different ways at different times.

Myth #3: Next gen donors’ philanthropy is the same as their parents’ and grandparents’.

Family philanthropy is complicated, whether we are talking about a family foundation, donor-advised fund or kitchen table philanthropy. Combining money, family dynamics and the generational lens makes giving especially delicate. One thing I know is that every generation–every individual–in philanthropic families wants to have its own impact. This impact may include a respect for the legacy of those who led the family’s philanthropy but will also need to encompass additional philanthropic values.

In resource development, we can reach out to the younger generations in family philanthropies to find out what inspires them and how to communicate effectively. Ask questions about how they would like to be engaged and what a successful,impactful philanthropic investment looks like.

We are not carbon copies of our parents and grandparents; neither is our philanthropy.

Myth #4: Next Gen donors don’t have the time, talent or treasure to serve as board members.

Experiences with groups like Young Nonprofit Professionals Network demonstrate there are young people who are anxious to serve in leadership roles. Our job is to make sureany board member, regardless of age, has the tools to serve successfully in those roles. Provide training on fundraising and help individuals set fundraising goals to serve the mission.

A positive leadership experience for emerging leaders transforms them into ambassadors for your mission. We need to avoid tokenizing young people on our boards so we can check a box. Instead, make sure you’ve created a welcoming and engaging culture on your board that makes it possible to both recruit and retain Next Gen board members and donors. Young board members will provide fresh perspectives and diversity on your board, just like any other demographic.

Next Gen philanthropists are interested in giving time, treasure, talent, and ties, as the Next Gen Donors Report highlights. The next generation is well connected and will use those networks to tie the organization to meaningful partnerships whenever possible.

Myth #5: Young donors only use electronic communications.

Today the key to fundraising with any demographic group or individual donor is multichannel communications. Yes, Generation X and Y are technologically savvy and Millennials are considered digital natives, but online interactions will never replace in-person relationships. Don’t assume the only way to communicate with younger donors is by Facebook or Twitter.

We can use online technologies like social media as one of the tools in our toolbox, creating anentry point to develop deeper relationships. Social media is an outstanding way to steward relationships with existing donors by sharing our organization’s stories and successes and adding value by connecting followers to additional resources.

The truth is that fundraisers have had to evolve their communications strategies as new technologies emerge. We have had to learn how to effectively use direct mail, public service announcements and websites. We now need to add social media to that toolbox and know there will be more tools to come. In fact, it was recently reported thatthe fastest growing demographic on Facebook is women ages 55–65. What does this tell us about our assumptions related to social media and age?

While technology is agreat asset we can use to develop our donor relationships and create newprospects, it will never replace the personal connections that a phone call ora face-to-face meeting offers. Next generation philanthropists are no different than other generations; there are just additional ways to communicate with them.

We know from the research by Convio on the Next Generation of American Giving that lifelong loyalty to any nonprofit organization begins in the thirties, regardless of the generation, so perhaps giving is about life stage rather than age. We need to always check any assumptions we hold in order to explore what individual donors of all ages and giving abilities can contribute to our organization.

You can read more about next generation donors in Fundraisingand the Next Generation and the Next Gen Donors Report.

See also:

Our Page to Practice summary of Fundraising and the Next Generation

Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia–Multigenerational Management Ideas that are Changing the Way We Run Things

Working Across Generations: Defining the Future of Nonprofit Leadership

Creating Change through Family Philanthropy: The Next Generation

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What are we most often forgetting during evaluations?

Are you guilty of pleasing only the funder? Many well-behaving nonprofits know the evaluation process pleases the funder but coalition builder and The Power of Collaborative Solutions author, Tom Wolff, would add that the evaluation process should be serving a more comprehensive purpose so you can leverage the full potential of the collective group.

When you sit down to evaluate your collaboration, consider if you are asking the right questions. We interviewed Wolff about what’s most often overlooked in assessing progress in our CausePlanet Q & A and he shared the following answer:

CausePlanet: You have quite a few web-based tools you offer online and in the book. One in particular is the evaluation process. What’s the most frequently overlooked aspect of assessing progress and celebrating success?

Wolff: Here is what is most overlooked: The most successful and useful evaluations most often occur when the collaborative itself decides to look for answers to critical questions, such as: After having been at this for three years, are we getting anything done? Are we being effective? Is the way that we are set up the most effective? What do all our members think about what we are doing? These kinds of questions can motivate a collaboration’s steering committee and staff to undertake an evaluation process with a high level of interest and beneficial results. When the only interest in doing an evaluation is to keep a funder happy, we get less coalition engagement in the process. Just as the key to success in coalitions is to “keep your eyes on the prize” (make outcomes matter), so it is for evaluation. We need to undertake evaluations that look for changes in programs, practices and policies that are related to the coalition’s vision and goals. When we find them we need to note the changes, make them visible and celebrate them.

If you’re involved in a collaborative, what questions do you regularly ask to keep your colleagues on task toward the outcome?

Save the date: Get more out of your collaborations and save the date for our author interview with Tom Wolff on Thursday, August 22 at 11 a.m. CST.

Register now: Our next author interview will have you taking a fresh and bold look at cash flow management with coauthor Richard Linzer this week on Thursday, July 27 at 11 a.m. CST.

See also:

Community by Peter Block

Do More Than Give by Crutchfield, Kania and Kramer

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Isolate your root cause with democratic problem-solving

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The spirit of democracy is not a mechanical thing to be adjusted by abolition of forms. It requires change of heart.” The change of heart Gandhi speaks of can only be accomplished by an inclusive process that observes the viewpoints of those directly involved and affected. Tom Wolff’s The Power of Collaboration stresses the importance of democracy in the collaborative process and uses the North Quabbin Community Coalition to demonstrate his point. We asked Wolff about democracy in our Page to Practice™ interview and included an excerpt from our summary:

CausePlanet: You discuss the importance of encouraging democracy in the collaborative process. How do we encourage democratic participation without overwhelming the process?

Wolff: What we have learned from coalitions is the productive use of democracy builds ownership and participation in coalition members. Through shared decision making we get things done. Why is practicing democracy a critical part of community building? When we are facing serious community problems, shouldn’t we just get professionals to solve the problems and avoid the messy process called democracy? The answer to this question is a resounding “no.”

While professionals have a great deal to offer along the path to solutions, they understand the view from above, not the view from the ground. Without everyone’s perspective, any solutions devised will focus on symptoms, rather than root causes. Some are concerned that democratic processes grind coalitions to a halt. That may be the case in the U.S. Congress but does not have to be in our communities.

A synopsis of Wolff’s North Quabbin Community Coalition case

“Without everyone’s perspectives, any solutions devised will focus on symptoms, rather than root causes,” explains Wolff.

To practice democracy, we need systems to fairly and productively elicit public opinions, and people in the community need to have the skills and confidence to participate. Communities need to have a say and be involved, not just vote on an issue. We need to look at our systems’ encouragement or discouragement of democracy, the people we wish to engage, and the interactions between our systems and constituents.

How democratic are you?

Wolff suggests a Ladder of Participation, originally developed by Armstein and modified by Williamson and Fung, to help identify how democratic your process is. The ladder ranges from manipulation to citizen control. Wolff also provides ways to encourage the democratic process ranging from arranging the room in a circle to collaborative leadership suggestions to study circle techniques to a consulting resource, The Public Conversations Project.

Valuing Our Children democratizes their solution

The North Quabbin Community Coalition had struggled with addressing child abuse. Finally, it received generous funds to pursue its concerns. It formed Valuing Our Children (VOS). First, its hired director went door-to-door to low-income neighborhoods to find out the stresses and needs for support in their families. It spent time talking to the residents and formal and informal helping services before jumping into a program too soon. Then, VOS found a parenting curriculum. Afterward, it focused on its grassroots goals to involve those most affected in the program. It recruited low-income parents (some whose children had been taken away by Social Services) and trained them to become leaders, who participated in many VOS programs. They also had opportunities to communicate with the Department of Social Services to voice their concerns. Ultimately, this program engaged the community in the democratic process first to develop a successful program that fulfilled its needs.

Learn more about The Power of Collaboration by purchasing the book, executive summary or subscribing to our executive summary library and author interviews. Watch for our interview with Tom Wolff on August 22 at 11 a.m. CST. Register now for our interview with nonprofit financial expert, Richard Linzer on Thurs, June 27 at 11 a.m. CST.

See also:

Community by Peter Block
Do More Than Give by Crutchfield, Kania and Kramer

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Is your nonprofit mission-frenzied or market-driven?

It’s no secret there is a noticeable drift of for-profit professionals turning in their Blackberries and travel loyalty cards for the less frenetic pace and soul-filling way of life working for a nonprofit. Bridgers, as they are sometimes called, are professionals from the marketplace bringing unique sets of talents, treasures, skills, perspectives and practices that work to increase productivity, effectiveness and efficiencies; all while improving the delivery of services of nonprofits—tangible and intangible—to their customers or clients. While increasing these outputs is intuitive to the for-profit and nonprofit professions, it’s approached by each in very different ways.

Steve Rothschild was one of those bridgers and brought his years of experience at General Mills and Yoplait to found Twin Cities Rise! in 1994. The culmination of his for-profit and nonprofit experiences led to the creation of his seven principles outlined in his book, The NON Nonprofit: For-Profit Thinking for Nonprofit Success. I, too, made the switch. I had a long career working in marketing and public relations for a variety of high-profile firms in the fashion, entertainment and higher education industries. As a fellow bridger currently working with identity-based affinity groups, it’s easy for me to connect with Rothschild’s principles in theory; however, these seemingly oversimplified principles can be perceived by those who have never worked in the for-profit world as pithy and disingenuous. Even for those who find the value in these principles, adopting and implementing them is a far more greater challenge. In reviewing Rothschild’s principles, I offer a critique and a recommendation.

The Critique

As Steve Rothschild points out, the “customer-focused” approach, typically seen as the focal point of for-profit models, puts the client at the center of the work and the mission (and most often the grant proposal supporting the program being delivered). Rothschild requires a nonprofit to determine who its customer is—but this is not always as clear to identify for a nonprofit organization as it would be for a for-profit firm. Having made the transition from the for-profit to nonprofit world, I learned the complexities of this challenge firsthand.

While nonprofits want with every fiber of their being to serve the customers (the folks who actually use their services, members, etc.), they can find themselves serving many masters such as donors, funders, board members, and often times the most complicated customer of all, the ever-loved founder. Consequently, what a nonprofit thinks of as its market and what the market really is may not be in alignment. This inadvertent perplexity can cause a very complicated bout of, what I like to call, mission-schizophrenia. In the race for delivering services, building sustainability, pleasing donors, aligning programs with the philanthropic funding du jour (of the day), and satisfying staunch ideal-firm founders, it’s easy to steadily creep away from one’s mission. The result may lead to diminishing the value nonprofit programs bring to the market or the programs may actually become obsolete. In the for-profit world, identifying who the customer is and putting the customer first is far more clear-cut: How does/will our decisions affect our customer or does this decision align with what we have promised to deliver? If the answer is “no,” then there is no room for debate—you learn (Rothschild’s Principle #7: Be Learning Driven), process and implement changes as needed for the organization. This leads me to my recommendation.

The Recommendation

While Rothschild’s Principle #7 highlights that nonprofits be learning driven, I would say this is not enough. I have been part of a number of learning-driven organizations in the for-profit and nonprofit worlds. I find, particularly in nonprofits, that being learning-driven isn’t the problem—especially as it relates to being market-driven. The challenge is more in the flexibility to respond to the learnings obtained from customers, stakeholders, etc. This inflexibility can be due to a number of reasons, including the most elemental: lack of will to be flexible.

So what can organizations do to get started in becoming market-driven? Applying any or all of Rothschild’s principles can be daunting, overwhelming and even downright frustrating. Staff and resources are limited and are seemingly becoming more and more scarce. Nonprofit staffs are typically small (1-10 people) and are often multitasking to the hilt. In a recent CausePlanet interview with Rothschild, when asked which of his principles a small nonprofit should focus on first, Rothschild suggests that while they are all important, Principle #3, Be Market Driven, is a good place to start. I would agree and would suggest the process begin with an open, frank conversation with your board, staff and founder (if applicable) to discuss where and how the organization may be falling short. It’s always good to come to this conversation with comments from your customers and staff regarding how they view you. This way the conversation begins from a customer-driven perspective versus what could be perceived as your own personal opinions.

Regardless if your organization adopts Rothschild’s seven principles or some other success model, my humble suggestion is be patient and flexible throughout the process. Remind yourself and your staff to be patient and flexible. Adopting these (or any) principles demands a paradigm shift—a different way of thinking—sometimes big and sometimes small in how your organization functions. This is no different than the shift one makes when looking at one of those pictures with a hidden image. It can be confusing and sometimes frustrating but if you stick with it, you’ll see the full picture and be glad you did.

See also:

The Page to Practice™ summary of Steve Rothschild’s book, The NON Nonprofit: For-Profit Thinking for Nonprofit Success

Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits

Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World

The End of Fundraising: Raise More Money by Selling your Impact

Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability

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Are nonprofit clients involved in your collaborative vision?

“In its simplest form, collaborative solutions mean doing together what we cannot do apart,” asserts author Tom Wolff in his latest book, The Power of Collaborative Solutions.

Today’s complex social issues require the strength of many. Wolff’s Power of Collaborative Solutions is our new Page to Practice™ feature at CausePlanet and is a highly useful guide for nonprofit leaders who want to assemble an efficient and collective effort toward their causes.

Wolff leverages his 40-plus years of community problem solving to tackle each of the areas where we fail to collaborate and illustrates how to develop healthy partnerships through numerous case stories and examples.

Wolff has distilled effective problem solving into six essential principles we must follow as collaborating leaders. He shares extensive insight into winning coalitions as well as hard lessons learned from habitually troubled collaborations where resistance is fierce.

I asked Tom the following interview question about why community problem solving efforts fail. Here’s what he had to say:

CausePlanet: You discuss 11 different ways traditional community problem-solving methods fail. Which of these is the most common and why?

Wolff: Many of the dysfunctions in our helping system that I describe in the book happen way too often. The one I am most concerned about at this moment is the lack of connection of our coalition efforts with those most affected by the issue. In the book I emphasize the importance of engaging those most affected by the issue–sometimes called the grassroots communities. Depending on the focus of the work, this can mean youth, immigrants, communities of color, survivors of domestic violence, the LGBT community, etc. We cannot do authentic community work without their voices at the table as shared decision makers.

In my experience when we do not have them at the table we develop programs that are more likely to be ineffective. In my book I note the ones who succeed at engaging those most affected by the issue tell us consistently there are a series of efforts that we must make to adapt our practices so that the community can come to the table. These include: holding the meetings in the evenings, providing child care and transportation, feeding the group, providing translation services if needed, and even providing a stipend (a coupon for a local grocery store, etc.).

CausePlanet members: Learn more from Tom Wolff and register for our author interview with this collaboration expert. We’ll dive into his six essential collaboration principles, plus address more of the common failures to avoid. Mark your calendars for Thursday, August 22 at 11 a.m. CST. Register now for our July interview with nonprofit financial expert and coauthor, Richard Linzer.

Not a member yet? Learn more about our summary library and author interview schedule and archives.

See also:


Nonprofit Mergers & Alliances

Do More Than Give

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A fresh and bold look at cash flow management

When I asked Richard and Anna Linzer why they decided to write Cash Flow Strategies after so many successful publications about financial management, they explained how this book further explores bold financial strategies within the context and limitations of our sector. Read on for the Linzer’s detailed answer to my question.

The first of our books, The Cash Flow Solution, was featured by CausePlanet and was published by Jossey-Bass as a practical, nontechnical guide to financial management for board members. It followed on the heels of three other nontechnical publications. Each of these publications sets forth concrete steps that can and should be taken by nonprofit organizations, both large and small, to foster a greater capacity for self-reliance. Many of our ideas were controversial and counterintuitive and while they work effectively for people who try them, they always seem strange to folks who simply contemplate them. Or, as one foundation official noted to us: “I can see that your ideas work in practice, but do they work in theory?”

A look at social and financial theory

Our latest book, Cash Flow Strategies: Innovations in Nonprofit Financial Management, answers this remarkably odd question. On a practical level it represents a more technical and detailed account of the approach that underpins all our work, but it also moves beyond the realm of tips and techniques for practitioners and into the realm of social and financial theory.

The book’s punch line

We urge nonprofit leaders to understand and manage their cash flow, learn how to bridge gaps or deal with surpluses effectively, and work to make all the resources in the nonprofit world flow more efficiently. That administrators and board members can work to make all the resources in the nonprofit sector flow more efficiently is the punch line of this book. And this vital conclusion contains two overarching issues: (1) Nonprofit institutions need to obtain higher levels of working capital to fulfill their mission. (2) Nonprofit institutions must reach beyond the world of philanthropy to a much broader base of societal support.

CausePlanet members: Join us for a live author interview with Richard Linzer on Thursday, June 27 at 11 a.m. CST. Learn more about what’s inside the book and how to make your resources flow more efficiently. Do away with the surprising shortfalls and find out how to maximize windfalls.

Not a CausePlanet member? Find out more about this recommended book and others.

See also:

The Cash Flow Solution: A Nonprofit Board Member’s Guide to Financial Success

Overcome your board’s allergic reaction to the financials

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Podcast: Reynolds on “Nonprofit-KnowHow”

We are interviewing authors of intriguing leadership and nonprofit texts to showcase more recommendations and best practices. Join us for our conversation with Rebecca Reynolds, author of “Nonprofit-KnowHow,” which was nominated for the 2012 Terry McAdam Book Award. Whether you’re a seasoned executive director or a new board member, you can benefit from Rebecca Reynolds’ Guide and Workbook, “Nonprofit-KnowHow.”

After 20 years of consulting experience in the sector, Reynolds decided to publish helpful information (the Guide) and tools (the Workbook) she had used to assist nonprofits to further their missions. This comprehensive two-volume manual integrates the theory and practice of nonprofit management subjects such as board governance, strategic planning, finance and fundraising. All her materials have been tested with hundreds of nonprofit organizations and can be referenced again and again.

Podcast: Listen to Reynolds discuss her invaluable resource, “Nonprofit-KnowHow,” in her own words here.


KR: Welcome to CausePlanet’s book preview series. I’m Kris Rutledge. I’m talking today with Rebecca Reynolds, author of Nonprofit-KnowHow. She is going to discuss her guide and workbook. Rebecca, thanks so much for joining us.

RR: Thank you, Kris.

KR: Could you start off by giving us an overview of Nonprofit-Knowhow?

RR: I’d be happy to. I began my 20-year consulting career working exclusively with nonprofits and I worked with hundreds of organizations of all sizes and missions. But, over the past five years or so, my work has taken a different direction. It really bothered me that all that material I had developed over years of consulting that had been so effective with my clients was just sitting there gathering digital dust. So, at the beginning of 2012 I decided to sit down and put it all together in an easy-to-use format to give broad access to this knowledge for nonprofits. So, Nonprofit-Knowhow is actually a comprehensive, direct and hopefully easy-to-use manual for effective leadership and management of nonprofit organizations. There are two parts to Nonprofit-Knowhow: the Guide and the Workbook. The Guide explains the important concepts and practices of the nonprofit sector that are often unknown or misunderstood. This know-how I’ve found makes the difference between a struggling nonprofit and a high-functioning one. The Workbook, on the other hand, is the action tool of the duo. Once the concepts and practices are clear, the next step is implementing. So the Workbook includes tools to make that implementation easy. For example, it has samples of other clients’ work to show exactly how something is done, like to develop a budget or to prepare a fundraising report. There are templates that people can fill in the blanks and go. There are exercises on how to do something like determine what contribution level board members should give. There are checklists, glossaries, diagrams, all kinds of material that I used and created to support my nonprofit clients over the years. So, it’s been well road-tested. The format of Nonprofit-KnowHow is eight chapters: four on key leadership capabilities like board leadership and development, strategic business planning, and finance and four chapters on fundraising, covering basics like Fundraising 101 and grant writing to more sophisticated skills like asking for money and capital campaigns.

KR: Thanks so much. So what would you say is unique about Nonprofit-Knowhow?

RR: First, most books written in the nonprofit sector, like most business books, treat one topic, such as board development or assessment or grant writing. When I was consulting with nonprofits, I found that it was often my ability to help clients see the connections between activities like strategic planning and board development and grant writing that really gained the client a quantum leap in their thinking and approaches. In fact, clients would hire me for one thing and soon we’d move into other areas that came up as a result. It was that agility and breadth of understanding that I developed in my own career in nonprofits as an intern, grant writer, development and marketing directors, and then as an executive director that I realized made an organization go from “good to great,” to use Jim Collins’ phrase. I wanted to share this integrated knowledge with many more organizations than I was able to do one at a time. Also, because I’m no longer consulting with nonprofits, I was free to include all my methods and templates and so on that I wouldn’t have when I was consulting because I was still using that material to earn my living. It was an incredible luxury for me to be able to do that.

KR: Wow, that sounds great. How would you suggest using the Guide and the Workbook together?

RR: How people use the Guide and the Workbook I think depends on their experience level in the nonprofit sector. For example, a seasoned executive director would use Nonprofit-Knowhow more as a reference tool, so the Guide they could look up in the index something and just get a check on how to do something or just sort of ground themselves with maybe even an idea about that. But they would also use the Workbook as a place to get templates for things that that executive director already knows they need, such as personnel policies. All experienced executive directors know that those are important so they wouldn’t necessarily need the explanation for that provided in the Guide but the sample personnel policies in the Workbook could save that same executive director a lot of time. On the other hand, a new board member would find the Guide a really important teaching tool, and an ED could use it to help orient and explain many important issues that are specific to the nonprofits. For example, why is fundraising an important asset to the nonprofit rather than a burden or an encumbrance, which many for-profit board members coming across to serve really don’t understand.

KR: Thank you so much for giving us this preview. How can we get Nonprofit-Knowhow and follow you?

RR: Nonprofit-Knowhow is available on the Nonprofit-Knowhow website. There I also a lot of other material to support nonprofits on the site, including our blog, Nonprofit Navigator, where we feature guest bloggers as well. Nonprofit-Knowhow is available on Amazon, too. We have a Facebook page, a LinkedIn page and our Twitter handle is @NPOKnowHow. We love connecting with new nonprofits and others supporting the important work they do, so we hope that people will check us out.

KR: Rebecca, this has been a great insight into your materials. For more on Rebecca Reynolds and related topics, visit us at Thanks again.

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