Friday, June 29, 2012

How Will You Measure Your Life?

For Father's Day, I received Harvard Business School guru Clay Christensen's book How Will You Measure Your Life?  The book is a 206 page version of his 6 page article in the Harvard Business Review by the same name.  Were the 206 extra pages warranted?  I'm undecided, but here are a few of the topics on which I was glad I had some additional instruction from Professor Christensen:

1) Segmenting the market on the job you're "hiring" a product to complete
2) Strategizing, and the reality that everyone is pursuing a strategy, whether intentional or not, based off of how they're spending their time and money
3) Determining what capabilities you need to be successful in the future, and making sure you don't outsource those key capabilities

In writing this blog post, I've decided that the second item above is what made the book worth purchasing and reading.  But regardless of whether you decide to read the whole book, do yourself a favor and (re)read the 6 page Harvard Business Review article.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Answer: Local Social Entrepreneurship

What is local social entrepreneurship the answer to, you ask?  Potentially a wide variety of issues, but with respect to this article's title, it's the answer to this question I posed over two years ago: "Where does idealism fit into my busy life?"

This blog's author, Ryan Gunderson, with his wife and two sons

Not long after that post, with my wife's permission I seriously considered transferring to the Mumbai, India office of my former employer, Medtronic.  Four interviews in, it became clear to me that although I might have tremendously enjoyed the marketing manager job in India if I had no wife or children to look after, the fact remained that I did have a wife and one child (now two).  And while I greatly respect individuals such as Paul Farmer, John Wood, Muhammad Yunus, and Paul Polak for the work they have done to help the world's poor, I frankly see myself spending far more time with my family than I believe they have afforded themselves.  On to Plan B...

Plan B had become quite clear to me by the middle of 2011: I needed a new career path that could keep me engaged while keeping me married.  Scandalized?  Don't be.  I want to remain engaged in my work by continually learning things that are interesting to me while feeling that my work is making a positive difference in peoples' lives.  And I want to remain happily married by having more time with my family and not making my wife feel like a single parent due to my travel, which had averaged around 25% during my years in marketing for a global company.

The solution I came up with?  Own a local business, providing a service that helps local people and allows me to see my family each night.  "Sounds like a non-profit," my wife said.  Perhaps, but the big difference is that I will be earning an income by providing a valued service to an underserved population rather than diverting a portion of donations to cover my salary. The industry I chose for my new local social entreprise is called "home care," in which my agency and similar agencies provide in-home companionship, homemaking, and personal care to the elderly, disabled, and people recovering from surgery -- even new mothers.  It's a relatively new industry, and if it's not immediately clear to you why this service fills an unmet need, ask a half-dozen people and more than one of them is likely to tell you something along the lines of "I wish we had known about that service for my (grand)mother, who unfortunately died a few years ago.  We tried to care for her as best as we could..."

I have adopted the following mission statement for my agency, which I am running as an independent owner and operator of Synergy HomeCare:

Our mission is to help people realize their unlimited potential.  In pursuing our mission, we...
...desire to positively impact the lives of everyone with whom we come into contact
...demonstrate love, patience, and gratitude in all our interactions
...promote health, learning, and family in a thoughtful and respectful manner
...provide predictability for ourselves and others, including but not limited to finances, time, quality, etc.

My agency became licensed in the State of Colorado earlier this month, and I expect to serve my first clients in January 2012.  I'm excited to be a social entrepreneur serving an underserved population in my own backyard.  It's the best of both worlds, for now at least.  I continue to donate funds to organizations that focus on the developing world, including Room to Read, One Acre Fund, and BYU Hawaii, while seeing my family each day.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2012!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Job My Wife Accepted For Me

Two years ago at our annual holiday party, my general manager offered me the role of Community Council chair, overseeing Medtronic's philanthropic and volunteerism efforts in the Denver metro area for a two year period. Speechless, my mind raced through thoughts of how much time would be expected of me in this volunteer role, how I already felt stretched with other responsibilities at work, home, and in the community, and how this opportunity did not even fit in with my focus on the developing world. Embarrassed at my lack of response, my wife nudged me and jumped in with "I'm sure Ryan would love that, wouldn't you, Ryan!" I found myself agreeing, "Yes, thank you so much for the opportunity." The rest is, as they say, history.

Looking back at this past year, I'm so glad my wife accepted the Community Council role for me. I am especially grateful to have worked so closely with a group of individuals who care so much about helping others. Here are a few of the biggest highlights:

United Way Drive: In 2009, our Louisville, Colorado office raised $38K for our local United Way, including $ for $ matching from our Minneapolis-based Medtronic Foundation. Medtronic was the largest donor for our local United Way last year, which is all the more reason that our 47% increase to $56K this year was so rewarding.

Holiday Food Drive: Our 2010 food drive competition ended last Friday, December 17, and up until a few days before the judging it looked like a quiet year. I initially thought the United Way Drive had increased at the expense of the Food Drive; however, we continued to share inspiring stories with employees and to incite competition among teams. In the end, teams contributed and pledged $30K worth of food, money, and time, up from $18K the year before, for a 67% increase.

Foundation Grants: For each of the past several years, the Medtronic Foundation has entrusted our local business unit with about $50K to grant to local non-profits in the areas of health, education, and human services. Based on the strength of our grant decisions in 2010 and our pro-active identification of additional unfunded opportunities, the Foundation upped our 2011 allocation by 50% to $75,000. Rocky Mountain Youth Clinics is one of the organizations we funded in 2010 that has worked hard to develop a partnership with us.

Community Fair: About 150 of our 300+ employees came out to our Community Fair in August to meet the non-profit partners we selected earlier in the year. Our Community Council especially highlighted the Volunteer Grants program, under which employees can apply for a $500 grant from the Medtronic Foundation after completing 25 volunteer hours with a qualifying non-profit. How did we get such a good turnout? We called it the iPads and iCecream Community Fair, and attendees got gourmet ice cream and a chance to win a free iPad.

Walkathon and Bikeathon: Brain cancer and Parkinson's are two conditions that Medtronic products treat, and we had about 40 total employees participate in a walkathon and bikeathon raising awareness and funds for those conditions.

Giving Tree: In addition to our annual food drive, around the holidays we also collect toys for needy children in our community. This year we collected 60 toys.

Project 6: Medtronic's mission statement has six tenets, the sixth being "to maintain good citizenship as a company." Accordingly, during the sixth month (June) of each year, Medtronic asks every site worldwide to designate a service project as our Project 6 volunteerism project. This year about 15 employees from our facility volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, and based on employee interest that's likely to increase next year.

I had a great deal of fun working with my colleagues on activities to give back to our community. Despite my initial concerns about being overstretched, I'm very glad my wife accepted this role for me. And I'm equally glad to be passing off the baton in the new calendar year, though I plan to remain involved in a different capacity.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Managing Your Charitable Giving Budget

If you haven't yet depleted your 2010 charitable giving budget, it's time to assess your funds, update your giving criteria, identify the organizations that best fit your criteria, and allocate your funds among those organizations.

Assessing Funds: My wife and I set our charitable giving funds as a fixed percentage of our annual household income, such that when our income increases (or heaven forbid, decreases), our dollar amount adjusts accordingly. In my experience, agreeing on a percentage of income before calculating the dollar amount can help ease sticker shock. And agreeing on a budget frees us up to spend more than we otherwise might.

Giving Criteria: During the last several years, we spent almost 100 percent of our discretionary* charitable funds on the causes I am passionate about in the developing world. Drawing on my experience managing a philanthropic fund at work, this year I suggested to my wife that we should target 20 percent of our discretionary funds on local causes. My wife lit up at the opportunity to direct funds in our own community; although she agrees with me that in theory funds can go farther in the developing world, like many people she gains greater satisfaction in helping those closer to home. Our funds both locally and internationally are targeted toward solutions to help socioeconomically disadvantaged populations realize their unlimited potential, focusing especially on sustainable distribution of products and services related to health, education, and agriculture.

Organizational Fit: When I created this blog over five years ago, I originally used primarily financial criteria to make funding decisions. Now, I filter organizations primarily based on fit with my giving criteria, using CEO salary as a secondary financial filter to gauge charitable intent of the organization. For example, here's how I rated One Acre Fund:
  • Socioeconomically Disadvantaged: High (target the "extreme poor" in Africa)
  • Sustainable Distribution: High (98% repayment rate; near-term target to cover 70% of field costs with client revenue)
  • Health: Mid (target reduction in deaths of children age 0-2, with early data suggesting they're succeeding)
  • Education: High (training the extreme poor is central to their core values)
  • Agriculture: High (target farmers, who account for 75% of world's extreme poor)
  • CEO Salary: $13,000 (well below the $147,000 average)

Fund Allocation: Portfolio theory suggests that diversification is key. And many people with whom I've spoken believe that the more organizations they fund, the greater their impact, even if that means each organization gets only a small amount of money. But I subscribe to the theory that in charitable giving, fewer is better. With philanthropy, your money can be magnified by your volunteering and fundraising efforts. I find it easier to advocate for a few organizations I'm intimately familiar with, rather than for dozens of organizations about which I know little. Granted, especially as you're getting started, you will have some winners and losers just like in your non-charitable investment portfolio. For example, last year I funded four relatively young organizations. Two were wildly successful (One Acre Fund and Room to Read), so I doubled my investment in both organizations this year, while cutting funding to the other two. Since local giving is new for me this year, I'm funding more organizations in lower amounts.

Perhaps these reflections on my personal giving, based also on my management of a philanthropic fund at work, will help you to be more intentional and strategic in your own giving. If you have other suggestions that may benefit me or other readers, please leave them in the comments section.

*Note: my wife and I do not treat tithing (10% of our income paid to our church) or monthly fast offerings (value of two foregone meals) as discretionary funds