Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Harvard Business School’s Social Enterprise Summit & OI Board Expansion

Over 500 non-for-profit leaders converged at the Harvard Club in New York on Sept. 23 for the Harvard Business School’s Social Enterprise Summit. The focus was on “New Directions in Non-Profit Leadership.” I followed the ‘board development track’ as I am actively involved with strengthening the boards of the organization I founded in 1999, Orphans International America.

Over four long sessions I met with and listened to executives from AmeriCares, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, Fountain House, the Hauser Foundation, Helen Keller International, Outward Bound, and the U.J.A. Federation.

I heard what I have already learned through experience: that one-third to one-half of an NGO’s income should come from its board. As founder, my mission is to increase the commitment of OI America’s Board of Directors and Advisory Board – their “stretch commitments” – as far as I can.

My ideas for 2009 are as follows:

.....24 board members -
.....$6,000 each = $144,000 [$5,000 each is another option]

.....24 advisory members -
.....$1,200 each = $28,800

.....Total = $172,800

OI America’s 2009 budget – just under $500,000 – is approximately three times the stretch commitment of OI America’s proposed boards. I realize that 24 board members are ‘a lot of people’ for 2009 – twice as many as we have in 2008. However, as a point of reference, the United Jewish Appeal Federation (U.J.A.) has 150 board members and the Brooklyn Academy of Music 52.

I advocate this significant expansion of our Boards in 2009 because we need all the help we can get in achieving our mission. I am further suggesting the creation of an Emeritus Board in 2009 with the same “stretch commitment’ as the Advisory Board. I have already put forth suggestions for several 2009 candidates to the Nominating Committee.*

The Nominating Committee for 2009 is comprised of OI America’s Executive Committee: Don Hoskins (President), Nancy Zhang (Vice President), Linda Stanley (Secretary), Kimberly Andino (Treasurer), Kristie DeKoker (Development Chair), and me (Founder).

Several specific ideas have been raised to expand OI America Board responsibilities for 2009:

— Attempt to raise $6,000 per year (10 Child Sponsors at $600@).
— Attempt intros to high-net worth individuals or foundations.
— Require active participation with one standing committee.
— Require active participation with OI’s spring and fall benefits.
— Require annual all-Saturday meeting focused on group dynamics / organizational goals.
— One-on-one mentoring of an OI Intern or Senior Intern.
— Serve as a resource to existing OI Chapters at your alma mater, if any.

OI Committees, like any other organization, is where the actual Board work takes place. The Executive Committee of the Board of Directors manages its governance. I strongly believe that the most critical ingredient for the success of Orphans International America in 2009 is the strength its Board of Directors and Advisory Board members.

I am busy this fall scheduling individuals on our Top Hundred List who have given Orphans International significant contributions in past years. I hope to meet with them personally before the end of this year to request additional funding. Like many other organizations, we have a President’s Circle for those who contribute $5,000 and a Founder’s Circle for those who give $10,000 annually.

The renowned child advocate Regina Skyer, Esq. has just agreed to host a pre-New Year’s reception in her Sutton Place home for all of our new Board members and heavy-hitters. Last year Regina hosted a dinner for us to honor Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a long-term supporter of Orphans International.

Sitting through the Harvard Business School’s Social Enterprise Summit, at the incredible Harvard Club, I was delighted to feel that Orphans International America is directly on track with Board development. Bankers at JP Morgan have said they feel OI is the next Habitat for Humanity or Doctors Without Borders. Bankers at the Summit, from many investment firms, said they would welcome the opportunity to help ramp up OI’s boards in 2009.

After years in the field, it is obvious that our programs are work well. OI Haiti, OI Indonesia, OI Tanzania, and OI Sri Lanka are all running smoothly. Our Boards will continue to sustain them. I believe we can sustain them better than we have in 2008. As always, my door is open to anyone of goodwill who can help us in our Interfaith mission of Raising Global Citizens in 2009. Join us!

To be considered for an Orphans International America Board of Directors or Advisory Board position, please send your résumé and letter of intent to Jim Luce at jim@oiww.org. For more information, go to www.oiww.org.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Pressing the Flesh with Politicians of all Stripes (7/04)

Although August is always the worst month for fundraising, it’s a great month for getting in touch with politicians. In August 2004 I hosted a get-together for New York State Representative Jose Serrano and U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney. Then I joined New York State Governor George Pataki at a dinner during the Republican National Convention in Manhattan.
With U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney.

I also joined company with New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and North Sulawesi Governor John Sondakh. If we need to call upon government officials to cut red tape to help us move OI’s mission forward, then we obviously need to know them.

With New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Since founding OI Worldwide, I have met with two presidents of Guyana, my old friend President Janet Jagen and the incumbent President Bharrat Jagdeo.

Meeting with d Indonesian diplomats in New York City.

In Indonesia I met with North Sulawesi Governor John Sondakh and the Vice Governor of Bali, as well as former President Abdurrahman Wahid, known affectionately as “Gus Dur.” I met the representative of the Governor of the Southeast Province who attended our July 4th OI Haiti board meeting in Cyvadier.

Meeting with the Episcopal Bishop the
Rt. Rev. Zache Duracin
in Gonaives, Haiti.

In addition, I have met with Episcopal Bishop of Haiti, Rt. Rev. Zache Duracin, who had introduced me from the pulpit in Gonaives, New York City Councilmember Eva Moskowitz, for whom I held a coffee in my living room, and Indonesian Consul General Kristio Wahyono, who invited me to lunch last fall before he returned to Indonesia. In New York, I continue to meet political figures such as Congressman Charlie Rangel. Connections are vital to our ability to raise funds and remove levels of bureaucracy, both essential to allowing us to raise Global Citizens.

Hurricane Katrina and our Tsunami Doctors (9/05)

Orphans International traditionally raised its largest funds in the fall, and with the Tsunami behind us in 2005 we were ready to show the world what we had done and begin to pay for it all. I was very enthusiastic about how well our contributors would respond to our Herculean efforts in Aceh.

However, on the last day of August, as the images of Katrina on CNN flooded our office, I realized that all funding for the Tsunami was over. Hurricane Katrina was turning our own New Orleans into a developing world disaster, and our president seemed unable or unwilling to lift a finger to assist those who were suffering. I watched in horror at the desperation of my fellow countrymen and could not understand where our government was in responding to this emergency.

In the middle of all of this I received an urgent email: Our Tsunami doctors, who had just completed their assignment with us in Sumatera, had returned to Jakarta to resume their lives. However, with the news of Katrina flashed around the world, they wanted to come to New Orleans immediately, if I would arrange it. What a thought! Muslim doctors from the developing world arriving to save American children. Although this was hardly the direction I had anticipated our relief to be going, I agreed on the spot and rolled into action. China Air based in Taiwan would fly my five doctors over. Everything was set, except for visas.

OI Sumatera Tsunami doctors arrived at JFK en route to
New Orleans to assist in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The U.S. government does not like to issue visas from many countries, including every country that Orphans International works in. After the events of September 11, the U.S. government has been even more cautious in allowing Muslims to visit us. I called my friend, the Indonesian Ambassador to the United Nations, the Hon. Rezlan Ishar Jenie, who assured me that the U.S. did not want foreign doctors coming in. His government had agreed to fly in 200 emergency workers, but had been asked not to. George Bush might not care about poor people of color who do not vote for him, but the world had a different view.

So I thought, How could I get my doctors U.S. visas? How could I pressure the American Embassy in Jakarta to issue them? I called two journalists I had met, the CNN bureau chief in Jakarta and the Indonesia desk editor of Voice of America in Washington, and told them I had written the American Ambassador in Indonesia a personal request to expedite the Tsunami doctors’ visas on humanitarian grounds, and I asked the two journalists to call the Ambassador to interview him on how the application process was going. They did. Within a few days all our doctors had five-year multi-entry visas.

Working with the Red Cross, our
Indonesian doctors stayed in FEMA tents.

They arrived about a week later, giving us time to come up with places for them to work in New Orleans. We managed to obtain temporary U.S. doctors’ licenses and they volunteered both in a community health clinic near downtown New Orleans, and with the Red Cross.

OI Sri Lanka Commences, in Memory of Cresenta Fernando (1/06)

By January 2006, funds were received in honor of Cresenta Fernando to open Orphans International Sri Lanka. We are now in the process of choosing a coordinator for training at OI Sumatera in Aceh, Indonesia, identifying a village near Galle to locate the project in, and building homes for 12 children in the next several months. This also opens a seat for Sri Lanka on the OI America International Council.

The first home of OI Sri Lanka will be the Cresenta L. Fernando Home for Tsunami Orphans, in recognition of the humanitarian achievements of a Sri Lankan native son who worked for the World Bank until his death during the Tsunami on Dec. 26, 2005. Cresenta’s wife, Ariele Cohen, survived the Tsunami and now lives in New York. She sits on the Advisory Board of OI America. Ariele’s parents, Tom and Donna Cohen, are coordinating development for OI Sri Lanka.

In March of 2006, I made an initial organizing trip to Sri Lanka, which was highly successful. Orphans International Sri Lanka is being founded with the pro bono assistance of Sri Lanka’s oldest and most prestigious law firm, FJ & G de Saram in Colombo, as a Sri Lankan volunteer social service organization in full compliance with the Sri Lankan Departments of Child Protection, Health, Education, and Social Welfare. The project will consist of a small campus dedicated to assisting disadvantaged Sri Lankan children, specifically orphans. It will also feature a community health clinic and a computer center.

OI Sri Lanka has already hired Buddika Bandera as Assistant Director. Buddika is currently seeking to purchase the project’s campus, with two homes, on land outside the city of Galle. Wendy and Arnie Budin were active in forming the first Orphans International America chapter in New Jersey, specifically to raise awareness of the Sri Lanka project.

A Fundraiser for Ghana and Togo

On July 24, 2006 people from different cultures and different generations blended perfectly in harmony wishing me a Happy 47th Birthday. Balloons covered the walls, ribbons colored the columns, ethnic tablecloths wrapped the tables nicely, and African music flavored the party, welcoming Togo and Ghana as OI’s next project nations. Hubert Eteh-Benissan and family provided delicious African food.
A crowd of well-wishers attended my birthday party
as a
benefit for OI’s work in Togo and Ghana, West Africa.

The high point of the party was a beautiful birthday cake. As I made my wishes and blew out the candles, guests regaled me with Happy Birthday in six languages: English, French, Ewe (West African), Polish, Indonesia, and Hebrew!

Work Begins in Togo and Ghana (8/06)

In the summer of 2004 Messan Minyanou, chair of the OI America Exploratory Committee for Togo, informed me that our new board had been formed in Lomé with a doctor, lawyer, artist, sociologist and English teacher – an ideal OI board composition. The Togo Committee had acquired toys from the United Nations School in New York for the upcoming Togo House in Lomé.

OI Togo’s by-laws were submitted to the Ministry of Interior for approval. Messan met that summer with the Minister of Public Health and Social Affairs, Mme. Suzanne Aho, who welcomed the project and assured us of her assistance. The next step in Lomé is the recruitment of a director and houseparents. Michel Kinvi served first as the OI America Togo Committee Secretary and worked later as my assistant.

OI Togo Treasurer and Secretary meet with
President to form new board in Lomé.

Hubert Eteh-Benissan of OI America’s International Council has made three trips to Togo to pull the organization there together, following in the footsteps of Messan Minyanou. OI America Council member Ernst Fiabu is spearheading efforts to create a project in neighboring Ghana.

Each of the villages I visited in Togo and Ghana, whether attending a ceremony in Gboto Village, Yoto Prefect, or looking at possible homes in Esse-Dzogbedji Village, Yoto Prefect, has a chief. In Dzelukorpe, outside Accra, there is a chief. And so of course there was a chief in Hubert Eteh-Benissan’s hometown, a village near the Benin border of Togo.

Walking across the dusty courtyard, with the sun shining down brightly, we disturb several large lizards that go scurrying off. The Reception Room is large, with a full screen TV playing French-speaking cable. The many assistants have sat us and brought an assortment of beverages. As the Chief enters to make his way to the large sofa, with pillows arranged so that only one person may sit upon it, we rise. Then, one at a time, we move to greet him, falling down on one knee with head bowed. The Chief extends his hand to me and I grasp it in both of mine. He pulls his hand back after a moment. I stand and move back to my upholstered chair. The greeting formalities are over.

I next introduce Orphans International in English, which he understands, although he replies in French. Hubert and the chief continue in both French and Ewe, the local language spoken along the coast from Ghana to Benin. The chief tells us that 250 years ago a British sea captain had agreed as a favor to the African royal family to take one of his ancestors to England to study European ways for eighteen years. Upon his return he served as a cultural and linguistical translator for commerce back and forth along the coast of West Africa.

OI Togo was set to open by the end of 2006, and OI Ghana in the spring of 2007. Following an exceptionally successful trip to West Africa sponsored by Air France, OI America Ghana Committee Chair Hubert Eteh-Benissan and I met with business, government, health sector, and NGO leaders in Lomé, Accra, and the Volta region between the two.

Press Conference in Lomé, Togo August 2006
where we introduced OI Togo to the media.

We presented OI to the African press corps in a press conference in Lomé, capital city of French speaking Togo, in August 2006. Flanked by Hubert, as well as the president of OI Togo, Dominique Awa, and the Minister of the Department of Social Affairs, the Hon. Agnélé Mensah-Atoemne, I helped field questions from over fifty journalists. With the Minister of Social Affairs and the OI Togo president beside me, I was in good company: Dominique Awa serves as Togolese Secretary General of the Minister of Security.

During the trip we met with what I began to refer to as the Usual Suspects: UNICEF Togo, CARE Togo, SOS Children’s Village of Togo, Afrique Aide of Togo, and the Chamber of Commerce of Lomé, as well as the Prime Minister of Togo, the American Ambassador to Togo, the Minister of Social Affairs of Togo, and Miss Togo, who has agreed to help represent OI Togo I also met with three chapters of Rotary International, which each expressed interest in assisting us.

On the road looking at homes and properties for OI Ghana,

In Ghana our delegation visited government offices, met with representatives of the Ministry of Social Welfare, and began the legal process to incorporate and register as both an NGO and an orphanage in Accra, the capital city of English-speaking Ghana. Dr. Nesfield Semey, a psychiatrist at Pantang Hospital, is the president of the Ghanaian OI board. He is offering OI Ghana a large parcel of land outside the Volta Region’s capital city of Ho to begin building a campus for orphaned children there.

Another OI family note: Dr. Semey is the uncle of Ernest Kwesi Fiabu, the chair of the OI America Ghana Committee. Ernest’s brother, Israel Fiabu, joined the delegation in Ghana. OI always welcomes family participation!

More than 100 orphaned children brought in by
Prefect caretakers to register for OI Togo.