My paternal grandma passed away this past Sunday.  I went looking for her obituary online this morning and could only find a one-liner in The Daily News.  No listing in the Trib or the Post-Gazette at all.

Now this may be the fault of the funeral home, but I think my grandmother rates more than a one-line note in the local paper.  Patrick Swayze, god rest his soul, got an entire article and he’s not even from this area.

We’ve talked a lot on this blog about She-Roes, women who are admirable, courageous, and strong.  I’d like to tell you a bit about my grandma, who is one of my She-Roes.

My grandma, born in 1919, was the daughter of Irish immigrants who spoke English as a second language.  She became pregnant at an early age and was, to hear family members tell it, basically party to a shotgun wedding.  This would have been in the midst of the 1930’s, while America was coping with the Great Depression.  Not an ideal time to start a family.

She proceeded to have 14 kids over the next 25 years, each pregnancy around 2 years apart.  One was a set of twins that were miscarried (or stillborn – not sure on my memory for that one), so she raised 12 kids total.  Obviously birth control wasn’t a common thing back then, and in Irish farming families, the more kids you had, the more free labor you had available to you.  My grandparents weren’t farmers – I’m simply pointing out that it was not unheard of to have that many kids.  If she were attempting this today, she would have probably been given a reality TV show.

As if having 12 children weren’t enough to bear, she had married a man with some anger management issues.  Back then, spousal abuse wasn’t discussed, unskilled women and mothers didn’t leave their husbands, and people didn’t have the wonderful nonprofit resources available like we do today.  From what I understand, she dealt with regular physical and mental abuse from my grandfather until he got heart disease and died in the early 1970s.

Who knows what my grandma might have done in this life if she hadn’t been in these circumstances?  Her entire life, to me, seems to be a series of unfortunate events with no real choices to be had.  What I admire about her is, I’ve never heard her complain or whine about her life.  Until she got dementia around 10 years ago and more recently, cancer, she seemed to be happy enough.  I remember that she used to love to go shopping and to church – loved trinkets, knickknacks, and small things like that.  She was not difficult to please in the least – she was grateful for the smallest item or kindness.

She was also tough, in her own way…a survivor and a fighter.  When she got cancer a year or so ago, she must have gone into the hospital three or four times for internal bleeding and other issues.  Each time, the family was called in and told that she was ready to go.  Each time, until this last, she bounced back and was released.  I recall one time, about a year ago, she was in the hospital and looked white as a sheet when I visited her – I thought for sure that was it.  Two days later, my dad called me to say he had to stop her from pulling the IV out of her arms, and that she was ready to go home.

She died this past Sunday at age 90.  I can only hope that, in my own life, I will have half the courage and strength that she had.  When I think about the way her life went, it makes me incredibly grateful for my own adversities (which seem minor compared to hers) and thankful that we have such a variety of nonprofits that educate people about birth control, provide abuse shelters, send single moms to college, and otherwise help people today who have it like my grandma did.

Rest in peace, grandma…you’ve earned it.

My grand-dog, the only Corgi named after a hiphop artist, Busta Outon!
My grand-dog, the only Corgi named after a hiphop artist, Busta Outon!

Everywhere you look, someone is offering advice about how to fundraise in tough times…stay close to your donors…ask for many small gifts…re-create a lay-away plan for contributions…don’t ask for capital…don’t ask for new…be afraid, be very afraid!  I ponder the question of effective fundraising techniques frequently myself.  The Bayer Center has always raised 50% of its operating budget and the current economic times have hit us where we live…

I love many things in life and one of them is Pembroke Welsh Corgis.  The AKC breed standard to describe a proper Corgi personality is “Bold yet kindly”…an intriguing set of characteristics for any living creature.  This  combination produces absolutely wonderful dogs – three of whom are in my immediate family.
So as I ponder how we or one of my clients should frame their case for support in these trying times, I find myself thinking about the BOLD YET KINDLY injunction…For times like these call for organizations to retain their optimism, their aspirations for a better world, their intention to change and improve people’s lives – BE BOLD, yet they also call for a measured, evidence-based, tempered approach in their fundraising techniques, strategies that are appreciative of the times – YET KINDLY or better perhaps, WISE…
Corgis have other qualities that are characteristic of good fundraisers.  They are persistent and tenacious when they believe something valuable (a peanut butter filled Kong is particularly desireable…) is in the offering.  They are charming and interested in all kinds of people, believing them to be worthy of their regard.  Their world is joy-filled and full of possibility.
I think these are qualities that draw people to organizations and motivate a spirit of generosity and connection.  So may we all be BOLD YET WISE in our on-going work of securing the necessary resources for our organizations…may we all love life like a corgi and love our people with many kisses and an unbounding enthusiasm for new adventures, believing the world is waiting for us and ready to play.
I’d love to hear where you find your inspiration and courage to keep working even when the world around you says NO…so fundraise like a Corgi and may  you each be very successful!

Might women be the key to our economic salvation?  Perhaps I am biased, but after reading the New York Times article, Mistresses of the Universe, it’s hard not to agree with this notion.

 

According to the author (and corroborated by countless studies), elevated testosterone levels often lead to greater assumption of risk.  So is it any coincidence that male-dominated Wall Street just placed far too many leveraged bets?  No, we can’t place the country’s peril on the shoulders of men, nor are women the panacea for the nation’s problems, but, it is interesting to think of how more estrogen might have changed the course of the financial market’s future. 

 

After all, women have made quite a few marks in history.  Marie Curie introduced the world to X-ray and radium therapy.  Amelia Earhart flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean.   Rosa Parks sparked the Civil Rights Movement. With accomplishments like these, it’s no wonder why we encourage diversity in our schools, in our communities, in our organizations. 

 

According to research, women are more risk averse and less susceptible to peer pressure.  Perhaps we need more gender diversity at the top — and not just in the private sector, but in the nonprofit sector, too!  The Bayer Center’s 2008 Wage and Benefit Study found the majority of executive directors are female, but NOT in the largest organizations.  This begs an enduring question, how do we see greater shared power among our leaders?