Out of the mouths of Philanthropy folks (Chronicle of Philanthropy, May 2022)

“What if we change how we fund rather than what we fund?” – Beth Collins, Executive Director of the Sisters of St. Joseph Health and Wellness Foundation

“The only thing that will cause philanthropy to change in the way I wish it would within a five-year period is if we have a reboot.” – Hilary Pennington, EVP for programs at the Ford Foundation

“We’re much more cautious about what funding we go for now. What that [application] process looks like can tell you a lot about what that partnership will look like.” – Amber Wallin, Executive Director of New Mexico Voices for Children

“Even knowing what funding is out there is a struggle. Funders are having more closed application processes.” – Makia Green, Co-Founder of Harriet’s Wildest Dreams

“All of these changes are about a shift in power.” – Amoretta Morris, President of Borealis Philanthropy


Book banning

The banning of books has been a hot topic recently in the world of literacy, especially in elementary schools across the country. Candidly, I just desperately want ALL children reading and honestly, what they read is way less important to me.

Book banning is NOT our biggest problem, our nation’s state of literacy is the issue which deserves our greatest of vigilance.

Mark Twain once said, “The person who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” Along these lines, if we have millions of children in America who are not reading ready or reading proficient, which we do, how important is it what books are or are not available in their school library?

Speaking of libraries, did you know many of our schools in under-resourced communities, don’t even have libraries? And in many of the under-resourced schools which do have libraries, you can check books out, but you can’t take them home. Wait. What? Yep. So much for encouraging reading at home. Brilliant.

So, what’s my point?

I believe our “literacy outrage” should be channeled towards our embarrassing and shameful American literacy crisis, first and foremost. Then, maybe, we can turn our attention to what, should be in the library or not.

As a quick reminder…

  • 32 million adult Americans are functionally illiterate.
  • 34% of children entering kindergarten lack the basic skills to learn how to read.
  • 61% of low-income families have zero books in their home.
  • Nearly 85% of juveniles who face trial in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.


Word of the week

You ever been a position where you’ve signed up for free software or an app, but then you want more functionality or capacity beyond what was offered for free, which comes at a cost? What do you do? Well, of course you pay for it, right?

This week I was introduced to a term which describes this perfectly, a freemium; a type of business model or service to users at no cost and charges a premium for supplemental or advanced features.

Creative capitalism never ceases to amaze me! Freemium schmeium.


Caller reluctance

So, you need to make a phone call but find yourself staring at the phone.

Or, you need to make a phone call and find yourself re-prioritizing anything you can just so you don’t have to pick up the phone and make “the call”.

If you’ve ever been in sales, you’ve had the “pleasure” of this experience probably more than once.

It’s called caller reluctance. Even the most confident of us get a case of caller reluctance from time to time.

I remember my first time.

It was time for me to “grow up”, or so I thought.

Part of this growing up process for me was accepting an offer from my brother, Bernie, to come work for him.

Now if you know my brother and me, and our dynamics, the stage is set for you. If you don’t know us both, let’s just say, he was the typical first-born and me, well, I guess if the shoe fits, I’ll wear it proudly, I’m the middle child.

Anyway, it was my first day working in his State Farm Agency, 1999.

At this point, I had already had some rich life experiences and so I was afraid of nothing, or so I thought.

After my brief and thoroughly enjoyable “onboarding”, Bernie handed me his book of business, literally.

Being 1999, it was still a physical binder, it was white, heavy and clunky.

He then took me to his back room and said, “Okay, this is easy. You’re going to call all these folks and ask them to come in for a FIC, ‘Family Insurance Checkup.’ Easy enough. He then left the room, shutting the door behind him. So, there I was, a room, a binder and a phone. I looked at the phone, then the binder, then the phone, then the binder. A sense of anxiety came over me which I had never felt before. So much so, I started looking for windows by which I could escape and head back to the mountains, where I belong. Again, phone, then binder, then the phone, then the binder.

Finally, I gathered the courage to pick up the phone, turning to the first page in the binder, to the first household I was going to call, Alice Hutchinson. With the phone in my hand, I dialed. I still remember her voice, she was so sweet, “Hello.”

Now, what you need to know is Bernie was known as, “Bernie from Gurnee.”

As such, I was supposed to say, “Hi, my name is Brian, from the Bernie from Gurnee State Farm Office.”

But instead, in my terror, I said, “Hi, my is Brian, from the Gurnee from Bernie State Farm Office.”

Mrs. Hutchinson graciously responded with a comforting sigh and subtle, empathetic chuckle, “Oh son, it doesn’t sound like you know where you’re from.” I was paralyzed and embarrassed and all I could respond with was, “You’re right, nor do I know where I’m going, but you’d really make my day if you’d come in to see Bernie and talk to him… about anything… just please do it.”

And, you know what, she did!

Yes, that experience was painful, but all growth is.

However, I can tell you without a doubt, the experience with Bernie prepared me for what I do now.

And, you’ll be happy to know, I now know where I’m from and am pretty certain where I am going.


Writing, chicken soup for the soul

I’m entering my fifth month of writing this weekly blog.

To be honest, I’m not sure anyone is really reading it but if you are, thank you!

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed it and found it to be entertaining, fun, inspiring and informative at some level.

That said, even if I knew after 4 months of writing, no one was reading it, I’d enthusiastically continue.

I’ve never been one to keep a journal, but now I know why people do.

This process has been so healthy for me.

It makes me be still, breathe and reflect.

It provides an opportunity for some powerful mental calisthenics, forces me to think differently, and on unique levels.

It’s a great release. Through the process, I’ve realized how much has been resting on my mind and heart.

Thank you for joining me, on the page, each week.

I look forward to the day when my responsibilities wane a bit, without a phone or clock, in an unassuming cabin situated deep in the woods, sitting at a modest desk, windows open, maybe with the sound of water babbling nearby, birds chirping, whispering winds singing like only they can… and just be still, breathe, reflect and write, and keep writing…



Are there really any more important people on earth than mothers?

Sunday is Mother’s Day, Happy Mother’s Day to all.

I’d like to take the opportunity to acknowledge a few very important mothers in my life.

Mary – mother of Jesus

Mom – thank you, I love you, you’ve always believed in me, you kept the standards high and never relented. Your mothering taught me how to be a better father. Thank you for loving me.

Christy (soon-to-be Floriani) – you’re a wonderful mother, you’ve taught me a lot about parenting, I love you more than you will ever know.

Janet O’Brien (Christy’s mom)thank you for Christy, I love the family you built.

Looch (my mom’s mom) – I love you Looch. We had a special bond. You were tough, but graceful & fair.

Grandma Floriani – I love you. Tough as nails, gritty. Never forget your expressive joy and kisses every time you saw me. Honored to call you my grandmother.

Lindsey (my sister) – you have wonderful children. And you’re my favorite sister.

Jillian (mother of my children) – you are an awesome mother. Thank you for all you do for the Zs.

Christy Floriani (my brother’s wife) – you’ve done an amazing job with Max & Kayla, even thru the hardest of times.

Dianne Johnson (Jillian’s mother) – thank you for all your help with the Zs and for all the learning opportunities you provide for them.

Mother Earth – thanks for hosting, hoping we leave you better than when we found you.

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