Practical Planned Giving … and Major Gift Fundraising #2022PPGC

I enjoyed speaking during Crescendo Interactive’s 2022 Practical Planned Giving Conference, “Navigating the Path Ahead.” I remember speaking at the conference ten years ago. What I remember most is how kind and sincere the Crescendo community is. It was a marvelous experience and I am delighted to have been invited.

While the title of the conference might lead you to believe the focus of the event is solely on planned giving, my talk will focus on major gift fundraising. I do include planned giving in my presentation, however. Gifts by Will and via estate plan, or “bequests,” are of growing interest today, as a substantial wealth transfer is underway.

Planned giving is also referred to as gift planning or legacy giving. In a nutshell, it is a donor’s intention to contribute a major gift to an organization beyond their lifetime. So, unlike an annual gift (an outright gift for use today), a planned gift is one made with the future in mind.

Check out my slide deck on ISSUU. I have formatted the slides so they double as “notes” for future reference. ISSUU is a platform that provides a “magazine” format that makes documents and presentations easy to view on any digital device. If you would like to receive a copy of the slide deck via email, use my blog’s secure contact form to reach me.

And if you would like to hear the presentation again, I will update and give it to the Crescendo family again in April of 2023 as a webinar. Stay tuned for details!

Carolyn M. Appleton

September 20, 2022

Updates from Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog

Although I have not shared a thought piece in a while, that does not mean I haven’t been busy. I wanted to share a few updates from Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog.

This summer, I updated my blog’s format to a new, more modern template. I also moved my disaster preparation articles and resource links to the main menu. And because some people in need reach out to me via my blog’s secure contact form, I also include a link in my main menu to HelpFinder by Aunt Bertha.

I have added a new article to my series, “A Brief Account.” The latest post concerns a working meeting with the late Tom Frost of Frost Bank and you will find the link below. For the update you are now reading, I share links to each individual brief account so you can easily access the discussions, sorted by the name of the person involved (alpha order).

Did you know:

When we read, brain networks involved in deciphering — or imagining — another person’s motives, and the areas involved in guessing what will happen next are activated, Neeley says. Imagining what drives other people — which feeds into our predictions — helps us see a situation from different perspectives. It can even shift our core beliefs, Neeley says, when we “come back out of the story world into regular life.”

Elena Renken for NPR, “How Stories Connect And Persuade Us: Unleashing The Brain Power Of Narrative”

These real life stories share what fundraising and working with philanthropists and public figures is actually like. I often say these are stories from “the trenches” of nonprofit fundraising. As the world has gone more “online,” professional fundraising staff have fewer chances to work as closely as I have with philanthropists and civic leaders. I hope that will change and a more “blended” approach – online and in-person meetings – will become the norm in the future. Each story focuses on normal development office tasks, from orchestrating special events to creating videos, from prospect research to finding just the right place for a donor meeting, from “asking” to assisting with estate planning.

  • James Avery, “An Episcopalian Rockstar” | I am an Episcopalian and I had the good fortune to work with one of the legends of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas.
  • Fabio Lanzoni, “Fabio and Meetings Locations Matter” | This chance encounter with Fabio at a cafe in San Antonio is hilarious. I treasure the memory. I will forever regret not having my picture taken with him that day.
  • Hugh McColl, “So, What Do You Want” | This “asking” tale underscores the need for fundraising professionals to be prepared. Mr. McColl asked the question very nicely, smiles.
  • Darrell Royal, “Darrell Royal and Willie Nelson” | This brief account discusses one of my earliest career experiences working with a donor who wished to honor a close friend. The memory of that deeply meaningful discussion in Coach Royal’s office is one I treasure still today.

I hope your summer is going well. It is very hot here in Texas, and as a volunteer for Citizens’ Climate Lobby and the Austin Chapter, I have been busy sharing information about how our leaders can fix that. Follow my Twitter feed @cclatx and if you have questions, use the secure contact form to reach me.

Be safe and well.

Carolyn M. Appleton

Be Strong, Sound and Secure: Supporting Uvalde

As I write, the nation is reeling after a young gunman shot and killed 19 school children and 2 adults in Uvalde, Texas. I have received concerned emails from friends across the nation. And I have listened-in on conversations with elected officials struggling to find answers and to respond to questions about how this could have happened, and how we might stop future occurrences of gun violence.

Uvalde is a beautiful city located west of San Antonio. In years past, I visited Governor Briscoe and his bank there, First State Bank of Uvalde. By way of background, the bank came under control of the Briscoe Family in 1960. It has a distinguished history and was founded in 1907. I know personally that during our nation’s economic downturn ca. 2010 (which is when it reached Texas in my opinion), some of my prior donors moved their money to First State Bank of Uvalde for safekeeping, trusting its conservative and smart leadership.

Inauguration of Governor Briscoe in 1972 by Jay Phagan, Wikipedia Commons

Wikipedia notes, “During his two terms as governor, Briscoe balanced increasing demands for more state services and a rapidly growing population. As the governor elected during a period of social unrest and skepticism about the motives of elected officials, he helped restore integrity to a state government fallen into disgrace as a result of the Sharpstown scandals [stock fraud]. Briscoe’s terms as governor led to a landmark events and achievements, including the most extensive ethics and financial disclosure bill in state history, passage of the Open Meetings and Open Records legislation, and strengthened laws regulating lobbyists. Briscoe also presided over the first revision of the state’s penal code in one hundred years.”

You may have read my blog article, A Brief Account: Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe Jr. In that discussion, I share my professional experiences with Governor Briscoe and my prior work with the South Texas Council, Boy Scouts of America. At the time, we eagerly sought Governor Briscoe’s participation in a video featuring civic leaders across Texas, who gave testimonials about the merits of Scouting. Our interview with Governor Briscoe was one of the most memorable of that particular project, and of our lives. In truth, we thought we might not get the appointment to interview and film him, as he did not agree to meet with many. But we were ultimately approved, and our BSA team met with the Governor at First State Bank of Uvalde in his private office.

The tragic events of May inspired me to remember that experience, and Governor Briscoe’s advice.

… “Those who have had the benefit of the Scouting experience are not the problems of the present, and do not become the problems of the future. Today, our State government and its taxpayers support a very expensive system of enforcing law and order, a judicial system and a penal system. If we were able to reach more young boys with the Scouting program, the cost of those programs would decrease dramatically.

Those who have benefited from the Scout program do not create problems, nor do they require additional law enforcement that jams and clogs the judicial system, or overpopulate the penal system. The cost of government in the future would be greatly reduced if the Scouting program reached a much larger percentage of our young people.

Governor Dolph Briscoe Jr.

My father was a Scout for five years. When I began working with the BSA, I immediately recognized the training my father had conveyed to my younger sister and me as children, as it came directly from Scouting! We often think today that Scouting is just for boys, but it has broadened its offerings to include girls. One of my favorite mantras from Scouting is, “leave no trace.” I live by that motto today when it comes to respecting the natural world. Having supported environmental education nonprofits for many years, I believe Scouting was the first, and it is one of the most effective environmental education organizations in the United States and the world.

If the young Uvalde shooter had been enrolled in Scouting and had the benefit of its ethical and life skills training, I believe the May tragedy would not have occurred. Yes, I know the BSA has experienced organizational challenges in recent years, but I also know it has become more rigorous than ever in carefully managing staff and volunteers. In my opinion, we need more Scouting for young people in the months and years ahead.

The tag line of First State Bank of Uvalde is, “Strong, Sound and Secure.” It was adopted during the mid-1980s when Texas faced a crippling real estate downturn. And I know a few of my prior donors found the bank secure place for investment during the economic downturn ca. 2010, as noted above. That is why, if you would like to contribute in support of the victims of the May shooting in Uvalde, I recommend the bank’s special fund:

The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District created a bank account at First State Bank of Uvalde where people can send funds to shooting victims and their families. Funds can be sent electronically through Zelle using the email robbschoolmemorialfund@gmail.com or through the mail to 200 E. Nopal St., Uvalde, Texas 78801. Make checks payable to the “Robb School Memorial Fund.”

First State Bank of Uvalde

Society will also be “strong, sound and secure” if it provides life skills like those offered by Scouting to young people across Texas and America. Scouting dovetails well with traditional school curriculum and it enhances it. Scouting provides mental strength and clarity, and vital skills young people will use throughout their lives. I have found Scouting also provides invaluable support for single parents – particularly mothers – raising young boys. And Scouting welcomes people of all faiths and socio-economic backgrounds. It is an incredibly valuable program.

Yes, I do think gun purchase should be restricted across the nation. The New York Times comments about mass shooters, “They fit in a critical age range — roughly 15 to 25 — that law enforcement officials, researchers and policy experts consider a hazardous crossroads for young men, a period when they are in the throes of developmental changes and societal pressures that can turn them toward violence in general, and, in the rarest cases, mass shootings” (June 2, 2022).

And yes, I also believe in the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms. But those allowed to acquire and use guns need to be properly trained and mentally fit. Our President and several Texas leaders have voiced the need for mental health solutions and monitoring going forward. I suggest that Scouting and similar programs be considered when it comes to developing “mental fitness” in young people everywhere.

Punishment is the last and the least effective instrument in the hands of the legislator for the prevention of crime.

John Ruskin, English writer (1819 to 1900)

We Must Have Plugins and Other Myths

Since launching Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog back in 2011, I started learning how to use WordPress “by hand.” I continue to design and develop all my own content and design elements. And while I have moments of frustration learning the latest capabilities, I can say without hesitation that WordPress is a marvelous platform. I recommend it highly, and on occasion, I have helped nonprofit organizations develop cost-effective websites on WordPress.

A question came to me recently via my contact form. In brief, they asked how I could possibly claim that I do not use plugins. Here is one definition: “In WordPress, a plugin is a small software application that extends the features and functions of a WordPress website. Plugins play a major role in building great websites using WordPress. They make it easier for users to add features to their website without knowing a single line of code,” according to WP Beginner.

But I have found that today, WordPress provides a variety of helpful widgets along with most templates that allow you to have greater functionality without paying for extra plugin support. HP Tech Takes notes about widgets, “On websites, blogs, and in WordPress specifically, the term is more likely to refer to a small piece of software officially called an application. This application usually performs one small task, takes up little resources, and updates often.” This sounds like the same thing as a plugin, smiles. And again, there are quite a few widgets on WordPress that come with the template you select.

I also use secure links for gift processing like those available from Qgiv, which is a favorite, by creating a WordPress “button” and adding a donation link to it.

It is also possible to embed donation forms you create on your WordPress website. Abby Jarvis notes, “Some nonprofits go a step further to earn donations and embed their donation form right onto key pages, such as their homepage. This ensures that your donation form will be impossible to miss and that supporters will have multiple places on your website where they can complete a donation. If you’re interested in this strategy, make sure to partner with a fundraising platform that lets you easily embed donation forms (like Qgiv!).” One does not need a separate “plugin” for that.

Think twice before assuming you need a plugin. Check your widget options on WordPress. You will be glad you did.

Hurricanes and Other Disasters: Nonprofits Must Prepare

And the good news is, there are helpful resources available to help you and your nonprofit prepare.

“Climate change is already driving more severe flooding across much of the country, especially along the East Coast and Gulf Coast where residents are experiencing the triple threat of rising seas, stronger hurricanes and heavier rain. By 2050, annual losses from floods will be approximately $40 billion, according to the new study by scientists in the U.S. and United Kingdom.”

Rebecca Hersher, NPR (January 31, 2022)

And sadly, residents in low-lying areas including communities of color are often affected the most.

Hurricanes are predicted to get stronger in the years ahead.
I live in Texas, and I have seen the devastation of hurricanes along the Gulf Coast first hand. With advance preparation, nonprofits can not only survive hurricanes and other emergencies, they can also thrive. Part of planning involves moving more operations “online.”

Back in February 2020, I shared my thoughts in, “No Time Like the Present: Disaster Planning Helps Your Nonprofit and Community.” There – in addition to disaster preparation ideas – I share information about the ever-growing importance of nonprofit organizations to society. With our heads down working hard to achieve our many missions and meet our goals, nonprofit staff often feel they do not have time to stop, learn about disaster preparation, and implement those concepts.

But not to take the time ultimately undermines nonprofit effectiveness, long term viability, and it can endanger the lives of staff, volunteers, clients and the public.

Our nonprofit leaders, including board members, should demand nonprofits set aside time to prepare. And one of the most cutting-edge programs available is provided by TechSoup.

For the past two years, I have maintained a disaster preparation menu with resources – my own and those of TechSoup – on Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog. These items have been moved to the main menu. Click on the menu bar at the top of the page to access them.

You will notice my photo blog from a day-long in-person program TechSoup hosted in Houston just prior to COVID-19 lockdowns. This excellent program could be replicated once it is safe for us to meet in person again. But also, with a bit of philanthropic investment, TechSoup could probably fine-tune the program for remote presentation on video conferencing platforms. If you have questions, reach out anytime!

Check out the recording of this April 4, 2022 program hosted by TechSoup Connect, NTEN and Capital Factory, “Powering Up Disaster Management: Tech Then, Now, and Later.”

Parting Thoughts on 2021 | Looking Ahead to 2022

As the year draws to a close, I wanted to thank my followers and visitors. As of this posting, 108 nations have visited Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog this year. From Nepal to Luxembourg, Norway to Guatemala, Lebanon to Mongolia, and from the good old United States to Hong Kong, welcome to all! You are the reason I installed the Google Translate widget on my website.

This year marks my 10th anniversary on WordPress. Launched when I had just moved to San Antonio after a productive decade working in South Texas on a variety of major gift projects, Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog continues today from my home office on the western edge of Austin in Bee Cave, Texas. Grant writing and ethics were topics of great interest to readers this year. Realizing my blog is a teaching tool, this year I added to the main menu links to a few slide presentations and videos that make the website even more helpful. I notice SlideShare received quite a few visitors that way!

This year involved more email mentoring, with several inquiries coming in via my secure contact form from people across the United States asking how they might transition to new careers in grant writing and fundraising. Questions about how to blog on WordPress also kept me busy, as my blog is quite searchable now after ten years online. Thanks to Google Search for the high rankings. Grants Professionals Association (GPA) and The Grantsmanship Center have received quite a bit of traffic via Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog, and I am glad to see it. Both are trustworthy organizations from which you can learn a lot.

Since 2015, I have been the primary volunteer organizer of Nonprofit Tech Club Austin. It is a partnership involving TechSoup Global, NTEN: Nonprofit Technology Network and locally here in Austin, startup hub Capital Factory. As 2021 draws to a close and I peel off as lead organizer, I am delighted to see the club broaden its scope and become the TechSoup Connect Texas Chapter. Thanks to our volunteers this year and our valued partners. Your endorsement has meant so much! And we have more work to do. Follow the link above to sign up for program notifications and to obtain secure Zoom links direct to your inbox.

Normally at this time of year, I share my nonprofit predictions. Instead, I refer you to my fall 2021 post, “Nonprofit Fundraising: Reasons for Hope.” There are good reasons for hope, despite the many challenges we have faced!

In closing, I share below a menu of 2021 presentations and articles for ease of access. I enjoyed visiting with a wide variety of constituents across Texas and beyond, sharing my knowledge and insights. Thanks to those organizations for inviting me, and I look forward to 2022. In particular, mark your calendar for May 11: I will be giving a webinar on how to launch a career in nonprofit grant writing and fundraising – or transition from a for-profit position to a nonprofit one – for Qgiv. And on September 20, I look forward to speaking during the annual Crescendo Interactive Practical Planned Giving Conference on, “Using Technology and Data to Lay the Groundwork for Lean and Effective Major Gift Fundraising Campaigns,” which will be part of the “Navigating the Future” track. Check my Media Room for updates.

I hope to see you then, if not before!

Carolyn’s Activities

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National Infrastructure Improvements Help Nonprofits, Too

I was relieved to see the U.S. infrastructure bill passed. Having witnessed a steady increase in the number of deadly storms and floods over the years, the modernization of our nation’s infrastructure is essential to ensuring the citizens of our nation are secure, and businesses – including nonprofits – may thrive in the years ahead.

To read more about what is included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, follow the link to The White House website.

I have worked with several nonprofits in South Texas and along the Texas Gulf Coast. I know first hand how vulnerable they are. Their stories of being unprepared and almost obliterated by natural and manmade disasters are unforgettable. Flooding and wind damage are especially prevalent in Texas. With climate change, we can expect more. Here’s hoping the infrastructure funding will be put to good use and soon.

Having become more important to society than ever, nonprofit organizations must be ready to pivot quickly and methodically when disaster strikes. If they plan well, they can also thrive.

This year, I shared a special menu of information on Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog about disaster preparation and recovery. You will find it in the margin. In fact, one of my earliest blog posts focused on using social media in disaster situations, “Emergencies: Use Social Media.” It was inspired by the Boston Marathon bombing, and I have continued to update it with new information, including a video presentation by a disaster communications specialist, hosted by Nonprofit Tech Club Austin at Capital Factory.

Here are the articles and items included in my special resource menu for quick reference.

Courtesy of Adobe Spark.

Our TechSoup disaster planning course covers a lot more than just social media. Document storage, how to outfit your office, creating a contact “tree” for communications, establishing leadership (and backup leadership) for key operational areas, and being prepared in advance to raise funding online while also ensuring a credible online presence are just a few of the topics included.

In closing, I would also like to mention that as much as we like to complain about social media, don’t forget the many invaluable ways it can help in emergency situations. Social media can help us find food and shelter, find and check-in on loved ones, learn what emergency personnel are doing at any given time, help emergency personnel find us, report on our status to concerned constituents, learn the latest weather forecast, and more. As I said in that original post – and it is still true today – use social media in emergencies.

Nonprofit Fundraising: Reasons for Hope

I was preparing a class presentation for University of the Incarnate Word recently, and by the conclusion, I realized I had learned something new, myself. For the nonprofit sector, the future is bright! Normally, I write a year-end “predictions” post, but I guess I am jumping the gun a bit with this one.

UBS Investor Watch 2021 published a report this summer called, “The New Valuables.” They note, “Investors’ purpose now: putting capital behind experiences, relationships, and helping others.” The statistics are striking.

  • 79% of UBS investors say, “COVID-19 made me reassess what’s most important.”
  • 77% say, “I believe life experiences are more important than material things.”
  • 68% say, “I want to make more of a difference.”
  • 66% say, “I feel guilty for being more fortunate than many other people.”
  • 59% say, “I am more interested in sustainable investing as a result of COVID-19.”

For nonprofit organizations, this is inspiring news and suggests investor thinking is trending toward more and perhaps greater philanthropic activities in the months and years ahead.

When you combine this information with the steady growth of “CSR,” or corporate social responsibility, the future looks even brighter.

“Corporate social responsibility is a management practice whereby companies integrate social, environmental, and economic concerns into their business operations. Examples of CSR initiatives can range from philanthropic efforts and involvement in the local community to diversity and inclusion and transparency. Rooted in the belief that businesses can play a role in shaping a better world, CSR can be a part of all companies – from large global corporations to small local businesses.”

Washington Business Dynamics

The report also notes, “A study by Cone Communications found that 63% of Americans are hopeful that businesses will take the lead to drive social and environmental change and 76% will refuse to purchase a company’s products or services upon learning it supported an issue contrary to their beliefs.” Corporations are paying attention, and I for one hope the trend continues to rise.

I have also tried for years to push nonprofits toward planned giving. But for many, their immediate needs are so urgent that launching and maintaining a long term planned giving program is not considered. But there are escalating reasons why today is the perfect time for all nonprofits to venture into planned giving. Kate Dore, CFP notes in, “Are you prepared for tax impact of the $68 trillion great wealth transfer? Here are some options to reduce the bite” for CNBC (July 12, 2021).

  • It’s estimated that nearly 45 million U.S. households will transfer $68 trillion over the next 25 years, according to Cerulli Associates.
  • With tax laws in flux, estate planning is more critical than ever, financial experts say.
  • To lessen the tax bite, families may consider Roth IRA conversions, life insurance, gifting and other strategies.

A bequest in a Will is one of the easiest and most popular ways to leave a legacy for the benefit of the community and for future generations. One of my favorite resources for Wills is Nolo Press. “If we do nothing else to take care of our legal affairs, we should write a will. If you don’t make a will before your death, state law will determine who gets your property and a judge may decide who will raise your children.”

Giving Docs is a platform I learned about through the startup sector in Austin.

“Studies have shown that building an estate plan with a charity as part of their legacy, increases volunteering, doubles lifetime giving, and helps them feel a greater sense of purpose. Yet more than half of people die without creating a will, leaving behind conflicted families, wasted money in legal fees, and missed opportunities to leave meaningful, well-considered legacies. We seek to help people live more meaningful lives, create significant legacies, and help grow the extraordinary organizations that inspire them.”

Whatever ways in which you choose to encourage your constituents to place your nonprofit in their Will and estate plans, give it a try. Gabrielle Weiss provides timely advice for everyaction in, “5 Ways Your Nonprofit Website Can Promote Planned Giving” (May 21, 2018). Simply adjusting your website to provide planned giving information and options makes sense. Concannon Miller asks on his website, “Is your nonprofit organization pursuing planned gifts? It should be. Research suggests that the average planned gift in the United States falls between $35,000 and $70,000 – and the amount may increase with more Baby Boomers moving into retirement. Yet many nonprofits, especially small and medium-sized organizations, lack formal planned giving programs.”

I admit, I was surprised over the course of the last year and a half that more of our nonprofit planned giving advisors were not sharing information routinely about how one can place a nonprofit in one’s Will or estate plan. COVID-19’s unfortunate arrival and many succumbing in the worst cases has underscored the need for everyone to create a Will. It is not that our sector should capitalize on illness and death. Of course not! But we as a sector should be providing options for planned giving, and for the immense wealth transfer coming our way.

Photos illustrating this article are courtesy of Adobe Spark.

Every Day is Mandela Day

“Without education, your children can never really meet the challenges they will face. So it’s very important to give children education and explain that they should play a role for their country.”

Nelson Mandela, South African statesman (1918-2013)

Nelson Mandela was a servant leader for the South African people and for the world. Click on the image below to read about #MandelaDay on the United Nations website. The day occurs annually on July 18. To read suggestions about things you can do on Mandela Day – now and in the future – follow this link.

What am I doing for Mandela Day? Well, I am someone who thinks every day is Mandela Day. Follow the link to read about my community and volunteer activities. I do as much as I can through volunteering, including mentoring aspiring nonprofit fundraisers online via Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog.

There are several important goals of #MandelaDay. Foremost among them is providing an education for young people everywhere. Why is education specifically so important?

FutureLearn notes there are several reasons. The following are thoughtfully discussed on the website:

  • Creates stability during childhood
  • Encourages childrens’ brain development
  • Provides independence
  • Offers job prospects
  • Increases likelihood of financial security
  • Creates aspirations and goals
  • Teaches life skills
  • Increases life span.

The more people around the globe who are educated, the better chance we have at achieving equality. As we’ve discussed, a better education can lead to job security, financial stability, more life skills and an increased life span.

If, then, we can bridge the gap between those who receive an education and those who don’t, we are likely to see society thriving in a number of ways, and more equality across the world.

FutureLearn

In the article, “COVID’s Lost Learning: Over Half of the World’s 10 Year Olds Can’t Read,” ONE Campaign notes:

Calculations based on official ‘learning poverty’ figures from the World Bank and UNESCO, as well as UN population data of all 10-year-olds, show that a staggering 70 million children could be affected. This situation has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has contributed 17% to the total number of children falling victim to this global learning crisis in 2021 — leaving them with a life-long brake on their future potential.

ONE’s analysis shows that if current trends continue, the number of children lacking basic literacy when they turn 10 could rise to 750 million by 2030. This global learning crisis will hit Africa particularly hard, with sub-Saharan Africa accounting for 40% of children at risk.

As a ONE Campaign volunteer for a decade, I continue to lend my endorsement to the Global Partnership for Education. I am working with my fellow ONE advocates to reach out to elected representatives in Texas and nationally, to make sure they know how essential supporting the Global Partnership for Education is – not only to Africa but the entire world.

Did you know, children globally have lost an average of one third (74 days) of education each due to school closures and a lack of access to remote learning? Close to half the world’s students were out of school worldwide due to partial or full school closures linked to the coronavirus pandemic in 2021.

However you support #MandelaDay this July 18 – and there are lots of helpful ways you can do that – be sure to raise your hand for education. “Don’t look away. Make every day Mandela Day.”

To read more about my support for the work and specific projects of ONE Campaign:

You will find ONE Campaign on social media. Follow the link to learn more.

January 2022 on Twitter

Inspiring Words in Challenging Times

As I post, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is hosting its annual Continental Congress. The event, traditionally an in-person gathering in Washington, D.C. at the organization’s headquarters, is being held online in 2021. As each program begins, members are invited to stand at home or from whatever location they were watching, to say the Pledge of Allegiance and recite the American’s Creed.

“I believe in the United States of America, as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes. I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.”

William Tyler Page, The American’s Creed

During these challenging times – particularly as equality for all citizens of the United States is a matter of concern – the American’s Creed is more important than ever. I believe as a nation, we should renew our interest in the American’s Creed and encourage the review and study of it by citizens of all ages.

“The American’s Creed” dates from WWI. It was written by William Tyler Page, the winning entry of a national contest and the title of a resolution passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on April 3, 1918. As Denise Doring VanBuren, President General of DAR notes, “On the eve of World War I, a contest approved by President Wilson was announced to secure ‘the best summary of the political faith of America.’ In March 1917, the City of Baltimore offered a prize of $1,000 for the best entry (an amount equal to about $17,000 today). More than 3,000 entries were submitted prior to the closing of the contest on September 14, 1917. Fifty of these were turned over to a committee, and ‘Creed No. 384’ was selected as the best.”

By way of background, DAR was founded in 1890. It is a nonprofit, non-political volunteer women’s service organization dedicated to, “promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and securing America’s future through better education for children.” DAR members volunteer millions of service hours. It one of the most inclusive genealogical societies in the nation with 190,000 members in 3,000 chapters across the United States and internationally.

I joined DAR almost by accident in 2010. I was volunteering to help a local Texas DAR chapter with a recognition event. An avid and talented genealogist asked if I might have ancestors who participated in the American Revolutionary War? I responded that I had heard perhaps our family had ancestors dating back to 18th century America, but I did not know for sure. She took it from there.

After detailed genealogical research conducted free of charge, I was formally approved and inducted. Today, I have three documented American Revolutionary War ancestors [five as of 2022]. I can say enthusiastically that discovering my ancestors, and learning about their roles in the success of the American Revolutionary War, has been among the most meaningful experiences of my life.

A few years ago, PBS produced, “American Creed,” a documentary featuring Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David M. Kennedy. The basic framework for the discussion is, “What does it mean to be American? What holds us together in turbulent times?” Follow the link to learn more and to find helpful resources for all ages.

It is my perception America is beginning to rise out of the divisive and often painful times we witnessed the past few years. I hope so. We can accomplish so much more together with understanding and tolerance than we can fighting one another. Let us return to the American’s Creed, and renew the conviction that we believe in the United States of America, as a government of the people (not just one group of Americans – all the people), by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable.

Sharing a photograph of me at left, my mother and sister at George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon in the 1960s.