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Student research spots a flaw in planned giving perceptions

Posted by on April 26, 2015 in planned giving, Uncategorized | 0 comments

This article first appeared in Hilborn Charity eNEWS here. Did you know that there is a small army doing research on the charitable sector in Canada? Okay, not an army exactly, but a group of very committed, curious and enthusiastic fundraising management students at Humber College in Ontario. As part of the one-year graduate certificate program, students are assigned research projects focused on the charitable sector. Important questions are being asked about a plethora of subjects, including: donor retention, gender dynamics in the charitable sector, refusing donations, and measuring the impact of volunteers to name a few. Perceptions around planned giving Rebecca Farrell, a student in the Humber program, wanted to find out more about how many charities were talking to their donors about bequests. She also wanted to understand what the barriers were for charities that did not have planned giving programs in place, since planned giving can be such a lucrative fundraising channel. As part of her research Rebecca conducted a survey and received responses from 128 charities in Canada. Of those, 44.53% said they did not have a planned giving program in place. Almost half! Which of course then begs the next question: WHY? It turns out that: –           66.67% charities indicated they did not have staff with knowledge of planned giving. –           77.78% did not have the budget to implement a program. When the perception is that there is no time, knowledge and resources to implement a planned giving program – it is understandable that so many charities in Canada are missing out on what I consider to be the most rewarding and satisfying relationship an organization can have with their donors. Moving the needle I know that a modest Planned Giving program can be simplified and integrated into your existing body of knowledge and workload. The key is to decide that it is time to make it a priority. Here are some actions you can take today to get you started: Start to educate your board about the importance of this revenue channel. According to Rebecca’s research, over 53% of those who responded to her survey were unsure whether the board of directors would be supportive of a legacy (I prefer this term to “Planned Giving”) program. Unless you believe that you will be able to deliver your mission in one board term, help your leaders to see that it is their responsibility to invest in the future of your organization. At least start the conversation with them. Let your donors know that you are willing and able to receive their bequests. A simple buckslip sent with your tax receipts or an advertisement in your newsletter will let donors know that you are available to have conversations with them about their legacy plans – whenever THEY are ready. (Email me and I’ll send you an example.) Ask yourself, and your staff, WHY anyone would want to include your organization in their last Will and testament. Please avoid the temptation to tell donors how to do it. There are a lot of financial planners, accountants and other experts they can go to for that. Your job as a fundraiser is simply to inspire your donors to take action for your mission. That is all. How do your values align with their values? How will the...

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Tell your board of directors NOT to ask for money

Posted by on April 26, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

This article was first published in Hilborn Charity eNEWS Is your board of directors reluctant to help with fundraising? That’s okay. Tell them they don’t have to fundraise. Instead as them if they would be willing to build authentic meaningful relationships with people who love your mission as much as they do. Imagine what it would be like to live in a world where your board of directors was engaged in and excited about raising money for your cause. If this were your reality you would probably receive frequent phone calls from board members about prospective donors. You might see your board members in person between board meetings to have strategic discussions. You might have frequent visitors in the office to help make thank you calls and at events your board members would lift spirits by helping donors feel welcome and appreciated. What would it be like to work with board members who were out in your community acting as ambassadors for your cause and providing opportunities for people who care about your mission to get involved? Believe it or not there are actually organizations that work this way. Perhaps not with 100% of the board members, but, it is possible to get the majority of your board involved in and passionate about your fundraising program. This transformation starts by completely changing the organization’s expectations of board members. No solicitation required Has anyone in your organization ever said the following? “I would rather give the organization $20,000 than go and ask four of my friends for $5,000.” “I’m not asking my network anymore. They are tapped out.” Imagine how it must feel to be alienated from your friends because they don’t want you to ask them for money. Or worse, to be pressured into giving to causes you don’t care about because you need to pay back the favour. Time to change the conversation I’d like to start a movement where we tell our board members that: “It is okay, you do not have to open your Rolodex. You do not have to ask your neighbours to support this cause.  You do not have to do anything that you do not feel 100% comfortable doing.” In order to be more “donor centred”, let’s start with being more “board centred.” The pressure to fundraise is often the most avoided, misunderstood and onerous task for board members. When you grant permission to NOT ask for money, a beautiful thing happens: people visibly relax. Their eyes soften, they breathe and start to listen. When you literally tell your board they don’t need to ask for money an enormous weight is lifted and the relationship between staff and board changes and immediately becomes more productive. Changing expectations As part of some work I was doing with a charity to build a major gift program I conducted a telephone survey followed by a workshop with the board of directors. The survey started with the question: “Do you think the board should be involved in fundraising?” The answer was as expected. Ninety percent of members said: “No.” They felt strongly that it was not their job to ask for money or find prospective donors. I then asked if they felt the work was important? Was the cause worthy of funding? Why did they join the...

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What kind of a world do you want to live in? A story about a trip to the grocery store.

Posted by on December 13, 2014 in fundraising, Philanthropy, Uncategorized | 0 comments

This post originally appeared in Charity Info’s eNEWS on December 12, 2014 Last Thursday night it was snowing pretty heavily. Begrudgingly, I had to stop and pick up a few groceries on the way home. As I rushed into the store to get out of the cold I saw a family doing the same. The mother was putting on a happy face, the tween looked miserable, as kids that age tend to, and the toddler and baby were a bit dishevelled and dazed. The baby’s clothes were soaked through, obviously from a leaky diaper. None of them had any coats on. It was a shocking sight and I politely tried not to stare as I suggested to the mother that a grocery cart from inside might not be as cold for her children to sit in. While shopping I crossed paths with that family several times. Each time we met I observed something different: The baby was relieved of her wet clothes and given a dry diaper – just a diaper – now she was naked. I heard the adolescent asking for chips and mother saying she didn’t know if they had enough money. Another woman had entered the scene and seemed to be providing assistance. As I started checking out I reflected on my shopping choices. Why did I buy THREE bags of chips if I was intending on starting another diet? Should I really get an $18.00 bottle of Canadian maple syrup that I had no immediate plans to use? AND what on earth could I do to help that naked baby? After all it was the week of Giving Tuesday and in spite of all the prompts for me to donate I had not been motivated to give anything…until I saw raw need right in front of me. “Could I please get a gift card as well?” I asked the cashier. Over my shoulder people were circling like hawks and staring at a woman with three cold tired children, one new, dry set of pyjamas and a small pile of groceries – no chips. The store was tense. Everyone was looking away, pretending not to see what was obvious. When I finished my shopping I bashfully cut across onlookers and approached the family. “I hope you don’t mind,” I said to the mother as I met her gaze head on “I wanted to buy you a gift card.” Her response: “Are you just…are you just…” (This is where I thought she would punch me.) “Are you just so nice? “ She quickly told me that her family had fled their home five hours north and just arrived in our town with only the clothes on their backs. I was speechless. The best I could do was wish her well, and tell her to buy chips or something fun or…diapers. Whatever she felt she needed most. And I quickly left before she could see the tears welling up in my eyes. My heart is full for the family who let me help them in this small way. I still cry when I think of the feeling I had when I walked away – full of emotion and unconcerned about a tax receipt. What is the point? We could use this story to talk about any number of issues....

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Confessions of a conference addict

Posted by on April 6, 2012 in Uncategorized | 7 comments

It is time for me to make a public confession. Are you ready? If I attended your conference anytime between AFP Fundraising Day 2009 and AFP Toronto Chapter Congress 2011 I did not recycle my name badge. I stole it. I’m sorry. I love my wee collection of name badges and the story they tell. My Canadian Association of Gift Planners Conference name tag has little stickers all over it. The stickers remind me of a networking game we played that involved meeting board members. It was so smart.   At the 2009 International Fundraising Conference in Holland Howard Lake, John Lepp and I started tweeting with a conference hashtag for the first time that we were aware of. My nametag reminds me of this because I handwrote my twittername @kimberleycanada on it. At the Bridge conference in DC I attended on behalf of Canadian Fundraiser and I have a little “press” ribbon that I am very proud of. (Identifying yourself as press is always a good thing to do by the way 😉). The Association of Fundraising Professionals of Toronto Chapter conference name badge – my home chapter – reminds me of close friends and colleagues and how proud I am of the way that Congress has grown over the years. The South Asian Fundraising Group Conference name badge in Jaipur India holds perhaps the most  happy memories. Warm welcoming delegates, insatiable appetites for learning and Bollywood dancing to a live band during a steamy Indian night. Obviously it isn’t the memento of the lanyard and plastic name badges that I love so much. It is the conference experience itself. Meeting together with other fundraisers, exchanging ideas, supporting each other, learning from each other, getting better at our craft, that is what I love.  In fact, as a self-proclaimed conference addict this year I promised to give myself a bit of a break. This is a promise I cannot keep because recently I found out about an extraordinary week being planned and I simply couldn’t help myself. I had to raise my hand and ask how I could get involved. I am proud to be a small part of The Extraordinary Donor Journey…A fundraising Odyssey of the Future. My small short term role as Global Training Ambassador is possibly the easiest one ever. All I will be doing is talking about something I believe in and providing you the opportunity to attend – any one of the four workshops at an additional discount of 10% using a special code. The code is JOURNEY12 and you can register and use it here now. Why is it so easy for me to support this project? So many reasons: Nothing like this has happened before in Canada. On June 25, 26, 27, 28 four of the world’s best fund development speakers will be travelling across the country to offer and extraordinary learning opportunity. If you live in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver or Toronto you can be part of this one week event. Guy Mallabone, Simone Joyaux, Richard Radcliffe and Stephen Pidgeon WOW! You see this day is so concentrated with greatness, unlike other opportunities there won’t be a boring, dull or useless moment. Of this I am very confident.  Every moment and every dollar will offer an excellent return on investment, not just...

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The world needs you to be EXCELLENT

Posted by on March 25, 2012 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

  How one fundraiser secured her place at an international conference.   In my years as a fundraiser I’ve come across many inspiring stories. But without doubt the most inspiring tale of commitment to attend a conference is the story of my friend, Sudeshna Mukherjee. I first met Sudeshna at a conference in Jaipur India. I was a volunteer SOFII Country Ambassador at the time and Sudeshna was considering a similar role in India. The second I met her in that hotel lobby I knew that someone very special had just entered my life. Sudeshna was intense, anxious to know what to do and extremely motivated to get started. She also had an amazing smile, a bright lightness in her eyes and an extraordinary amount of energy. Perhaps what I was most taken with was the amount of space she took up in the room. Sudeshna is a small person but her energy and enthusiasm filled that large hotel lobby. I was completely in awe of her and liked her instantly.   After seven years working as a fundraiser for Oxfam India and the Resource Alliance Sudeshna was awarded an Atlas Corps Fellowship and now finds herself working with Global Giving in Washington DC. When Sudeshna was invited to attend AFP’s 2012 Conference in Vancouver she had a problem – how to get there. Living on a small fellowship makes a trip from Washington DC to Vancouver almost impossible to imagine. ‘Almost’ being the important word in that sentence. Because you see – Sudeshna is one of those remarkable people who always views the glass as half full. Instead of seeing her attendance at AFP as impossible she asked herself – how can I make this work? The solution to her was to practice the very skills she is working on honing – she would raise the money. Sudeshna launched an online campaign.   In her own words on the boostive website:   What is the issue, problem, or challenge? Every day I help nonprofit organizations develop their own online fundraising strategies. While I’ve learned a lot working with GlobalGiving as an Atlas Corps Fellow, I’d still like to grow and learn more about how I can help nonprofits raise more money and be more effective. The AFP’s 2012 edition of the International Fundraising Conference in Vancouver, BC is happening in April, and it will be a great opportunity for me to learn how I can better serve nonprofit organizations. I have been invited to the conference, but I am still required to cover my own travel expenses.  I’m currently living on a fellowship with a limited budget, so it is difficult for me to afford this conference all by myself.   How will this project solve this problem? I’ve decided to practice the exact skills I’m trying to hone; I’ve created an online fundraiser to help raise funds for my attendance at the fundraising conference and $1000 will get me to the conference! Potential long-term impact I believe that this conference will not only help me with my own professional development as I meet other practitioners and specialists from the field, but it will also help me improve my skills. Furthermore, it will provide me access to international networks, help me earn latest skills from the sector, and help me learn from my peers. If...

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Birthday parties, mother in laws, melt downs and the art of saying thank you.

Posted by on January 28, 2012 in Uncategorized | 5 comments

Eileen in 1931 My mother in law was a product of The Great Depression; as a result she had a certain way of doing things. For example: She really enjoyed her food AND would eat every morsel on her plate – even if she was full. She always had lipstick on and her hair sprayed. On the occasions when she and I would go out for lunch, she would have only two vodka martinis – never three! (A mistake I made only once.) My mother in law expected that children should, at all times be happy, polite and obedient – especially when we had company. There was also a certain protocol around gift giving. Eileen was very generous and really enjoyed giving presents. It took me about six years of marriage to learn the four phases of her gift giving protocol – the most important of which is phase 3: the thank you. If that went wrong the entire visit had an air of tension around it. As a young mother who believed it was okay to let children run around naked, to breastfeed and sleep in bed with us until THEY no longer felt it necessary and who encouraged them to explore their “independence” and express their real feelings – sometimes my mother in law’s expectations didn’t always match the reality of our home. (Except for the martini part – we did that well together from the beginning.)  Our children were both born at the end of May and were only two years apart so I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that our baby, Chase, often had his birthday celebration tacked onto his older sister’s. This lasted until he started to figure it out. There was one memorable birthday in particular. The year they turned 5 and 3 – 2001. Our daughter Skye was falling in love with horses, so of course both kids had a horse theme, my girlfriend brought her pony to our house and all the kids had a fabulous time riding it. After the frenzy of the piñata candy, games, cake and pony rides it was time for Nan to give the kids her gifts. Any parent out there will know that I had orchestrated the worst possible time in this busy day for such an important ritual. I take full responsibility for the outcome. Our guests gone, it was finally quiet and we went into the sitting room where Nan had two big gifts on her lap. It was time for phase one of the gift giving ritual: polite conversation, in this circumstance reflections of the party. When that was done and since Skye was oldest she received her gift first. Setting a prime example for the remaining phases of the gift receiving ritual: Phase two: express joy upon seeing the gift. Phase three: get up, hug and kiss Nan, look her in the eyes and say thank you (sometimes more than once). Phase three: show the world your gift – in this case put on the hat and turn around. This was a facebook profile pic for awhile So I think it is okay to use it. (besides – it is the only pic we have of the hat!) Now it was Chase’s turn. Barely able to contain himself he tolerated the well-intentioned but...

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The balance between ambition and contentment

Posted by on January 14, 2012 in Uncategorized | 5 comments

Anyone who has worked with me, lived with me or just hung out with me will tell you that I am rarely satisfied. It is true; I am constantly pushing. I always want more. Not stuff – goodness knows I have too much stuff already. I want to do more, learn more, write more, share more and change more. I rarely celebrate accomplishments and often miss them entirely. If you had asked me six months ago, even two months ago, I would have claimed these traits as assets. I think I’ve changed my mind. My epiphany started at a retreat recently hosted by networker extraordinaire Paul Nazareth. In the days since, I’ve come to realize that this ambition and drive that pushes me, and those around me, can also be a liability. So my very late New Year’s resolution will be to strive for more contentment and I’ll tell you how I’m going to do that in a minute. First I must tell you about the retreat. Purpose: As quoted in the invite from Paul: “We all attend too many “sessions” and “conferences” this is a chance to meet people and have a real, quality human connection and discuss issues and challenges if comfortable. If not, a quiet natural space to just spend a quiet moment” Our agenda: Introductions and lunch The place: A wonderful farmhouse in the heart of the Caledon Hills The rules: no twitter Who was there: A diverse group of people – for profit and non-profit folks, novices and veterans, social media junkies and other more well-rounded human beings. We were all connected to Paul some way and many of us really needed time to slow down. Paul didn’t even wear a suit! The day was perfect; the people were warm, open, kind and interesting. We had great conversations about dogs, planned giving, personal growth and a number of other things. I even was treated to a knitting lesson from Anne Rosenfield and saw Paul in something other than a suit! The really sticky bit of the day for me was something that Colleen Bradley shared during a short structured group conversation. In her coaching work Colleen encourages people to make a list of 100 things they are grateful for. Mundane things like…a clean bathroom sink or minted toothpicks. I confess to having heard of this before. I am even a proud owner of a dog eared copy of The Book of Awesome. Perhaps it was Colleen’s calm, gentle and inspiring presence or maybe it was because of the opportunity to pause and really listen, since the retreat I’ve started having small random thoughts of thankfulness. During these moments of purposeful gratitude I’ve come to realize that I also feel a moment of contentment. It is really nice. So on this blog post I’m going to start my list here. I will continue sharing on twitter and facebook in the hope that perhaps you will also post small things you are grateful for and together we can share this positive energy that is created Today I am grateful for: 1. Quiet 2. Dry clean MATCHED socks 3. My daughter 4. My son 5. My husband 6. A loving home 7. That we have enough food 8. That my puppy cuddles under blankets and warms my...

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Anyone can thank a donor. Just do it!

Posted by on December 10, 2011 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

December is a fabulous month. This is the time year where we make a special effort to connect with people who are important to us. Many of us decorate our homes. We make special foods that are high in fat, sugar and ingredients we don’t normally use like dried fruits, nuts and cardamom. I love the smells, tastes and sounds of December. If you work as a fundraiser in a charity December has an added dimension. This month can fly by in blur. All of your revenue channels are extremely active and suddenly your donors are ringing with special requests to be processed before year end. This is good. You should be busy at this time of year. Raising less money or being less busy simply isn’t an option when you are working to improve lives for people, animals and the environment. In our office volumes have easily tripled. We have several direct mailings coming in, reports for corporate donors to prepare, a large campaign finishing up with a strong online component, major donor events, meetings and solicitations as well as pending deadlines for budgeting and planning for next year. Perhaps the most exciting piece is that for the first time in several years we have reintroduced a direct mail acquisition campaign. And the really good news is that people are responding. But last week I had a concern. Can you guess what it was? Brilliant! You are of course right. I was worried about the new donors. Acquisition is a big investment and it is very VERY exciting when the mail arrives. When I see new donors signing up I feel like Sally Field when she won the Oscar – “You like me; right now you really like me!” (Well, not me of course but you know what I mean) I especially like the donations of $2.00 and $5.00 in cash that come in. So what is the concern? You are so smart. That’s right – fast forward to the second gift. “Right now” they like us…what about three months from now? In order to build a strong base of support we must secure a second gift. And how do we do that? We need to earn it. First time donors need to know that their donation to your organization was a good decision. They need to know we value them. They need to know their gift made a difference about something they care about. We must tell them these things and we must do it quickly. It is so easy to write about best practices in isolation. It is far more difficult to implement them in a hectic and small fundraising shop. The perfect welcome pack and thank you letter looks easy in a blog post or in an exhibit on the beloved SOFII. But when you add implementing good stewardship practices to a complex mix of activities at such a busy time of year, even the simplest things can be onerous. Can seem impossible. Implementing best stewardship practices in the trenches of a busy small fundraising shop in December is not easy. Still, I would argue that good stewardship is even more important in smaller organizations since we don’t have the large churn of donors that mega organizations have. So what is the solution? Ask for...

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Emily Post’s Twitter Etiquette

Posted by on December 3, 2011 in Uncategorized | 5 comments

  Many of you probably remember IFC 2009. What you might not remember is that there was a twitter hashtag for it. Howard Lake, JohnLepp, a few others and I were pioneers. (sorry I don’t remember the “few others”, so please claim your cyber moment in the comments). At IFC 2009 we tweeted for the first time – that we were aware of – from a fundraising conference. In fact, I even walked the halls of IFC with John on Skype so that he could “be there”. Two years later, tweeting from a conference is now a big part of the experience. Conference committees initiate hashtags, we have twitter boards in public areas so you can follow the online conversation and this year at congress, AFP Toronto Chapter even appointed an official twitter team. The AFP Toronto twitter team was made up of people who have “more advanced” twitter skills. They have followers, understand the medium and have carved a place for themselves in realm of social media. This is excellent, I’m very proud of my AFP chapter and colleague Sylvie Labrosse for trying something new and formally organizing this aspect of congress for AFP. A lot of new people joined twitter and participated in the online conversations. IRL (in real life) experiences with twitter groups were incredibly fun. There was more twitter action at this conference than any other I have witnessed. This is all good stuff. A positive evolution. And of course with any new innovation questions are bound to surface. Skeptics will emerge. Faux Pas will be made. Boundaries will be crossed. And then we need to ask ourselves: How can we make this better next time? After Gail Perry’s excellent session on the soft side of major giving I started to ask myself what is the twitter etiquette? If Emily Post were to write a new book about the online social space, what would she say? I thought of a couple of things and I hope you will add more in the comments. Tweeting in sessions If you are the speaker, ask at the beginning of the session if anyone is tweeting. This lets other people in the room understand that something good is happening with the phones and that people generally aren’t being rude and texting about rubbish. (hopefully) Next establish some ground rules. For example: I encourage tweets (because which speaker on the planet wouldn’t want their wisdom broadcast across the internet!) but I ask that you don’t tweet donor stories or anecdotes that I might share about my work. Those stories are the reason you pay and invest the time to be there in person. If you are the delegate tweeting BE NICE! I remember this tweet from last year: “Wow so many people walking out of this “so and so’s” session is a total fail.” I simply do not know what would motivate someone to tweet that and frankly it is a little embarrassing for everyone. A different view point is fine, healthy debates are good but some tweets just seem mean. Don’t tweet anything about a person that you wouldn’t have the courage to say to them in real life. Establish some boundaries Fundraising conferences can be incredibly fun. Fundraisers work hard, are often misunderstood, have extraordinary pressure from all sides of...

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A lesson in good fundraising and a story about a walk in the mountains

Posted by on November 12, 2011 in Uncategorized | 9 comments

After spending about a week doing charity work in the Kathmandu and the Terai Region of Nepal I had a few days for rest, writing and reflection in a touristy mountain village called Nagarkot. It was the festival weekend of Diwali and sitting on the balcony of my little mountain hut I could hear singing and music below. I wanted to visit the villages and see the people. So Ram, the host of my hotel (which is so remote you have to pay cash and it does not have a website) drew me this map. This map follows a trail that is essentially straight down and took me past a small cheese factory, a school and through several villages. My final destination was a village called Baluwa Pati. The trail was a narrow local one and along the way I saw many children in their uniforms heading up the mountain to school. First there were teenagers obviously having to go all the way up to Nagarkot. They greeted me with a polite “Namaste” and some snickers. At times I felt like some of them were secretly laughing at me, a silly lone western women who was likely to get lost on their small trails. But they were polite and a few even posed for pictures. A little further down, past the small school in the mountain side were younger children. Their “NAMASTE’s” were all in capital letters – enthusiastic and very excited. These children gladly stopped to have their picture taken. Some of them even practiced their English with a shy and quiet “good morning”. It was a perfect walk, all downhill, warm but not hot.I loved seeing all the people, their homes carved into the side of the mountain, carrying on with normal morning chores like dishes, laundry and feeding livestock. Eventually my interactions with the children changed. Those who weren’t at school, were still happy to have their photograph taken. The only difference is after I took the photo, instead of ‘namaste’ (good morning) or “dahanyavad” (thank you) they said: “Rupies?… one rupee?” and they followed me with their hand stretched out. At first I didn’t know what was happening. I was still experiencing the euphoria of a pleasant walk down a mountain. Then I figured it out. The expected exchange after a photograph, was a reward. After several refusals of a rupee solicitation, the asks were automatically downgraded to “chocolate?” and then “crayons?” When I look at the amazing photos I’ve collected I think back and wonder if perhaps it was a fair exchange and if I should have paid for the photos. But at the time being repeatedly solicited was getting annoying. I began to dislike the mountain people of Nepal and wished to be back in the Terai region. (I also became angry at every westerner before me who taught these children to beg. But that is a topic for another blog.) I started to see these adorable little people as annoying urchins. I stopped making eye contact, didn’t bother with my camera and there was no way anyone was going to get a rupee!   THIS…I thought to myself, is probably EXACTLY what donor fatigue feels like. I finally reached Baluwa Pati. A nice little place. It had more buildings than the other...

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