Saturday, October 16, 2010

Truth Be Told- The Future of Begging

Your humble Holy Beggar would like to share the good news with her community: I am once again gainfully employed, of course, as a Holy Beggar. Please follow my exploits as I direct the efforts of foundation and individual giving for Global Green USA ( at the national headquarters in Santa Monica CA. GGUSA is the USA affiliate of Green Cross International, founded by Mikhail Gorbachev. We are at the vanguard of developing and implementing new models of sustainable living, whether it is building new "green" (i.e. LEED certified) residences for low income families in flood-ravaged New Orleans or getting schools across the country to help students to adopt "green" lifestyles and "green" their families, too. We're helping formulate and implement important legislation to reduce carbon footprint of our society and stop the proliferation of nuclear arms.

I am so very exited to be part of the future rather than dragging the past along. Thank you to my colleagues at Global Green and for you, my dear community, for your encouragement to amp up the Holy Begging once again. I have learned first hand what it means to take charity, to be helped by you all very personally, even (and perhaps especially) if you have given me nothing but encouragement and a sense of being included.

Please include all Holy Beggars in your everyday life. I will continue to honor this tradition and write more.


And remember,
No matter what,
Don't forget to ask for the money.

Essence of Chutzpah

This is not original to me, but as it captures the subtleties of the "holy beggar" essential value to society, I felt it is important:

A little old lady sold pretzels on a street corner for 25 cents each. Every day a young man would leave his office building at lunch time, and as he passed the pretzel stand, he would leave her a quarter, but never take a pretzel.

This went on for more than 3 years. The two of them never spoke. One day, as the young man passed the old lady's stand and left his quarter as usual, the pretzel lady spoke to him. Without blinking an eye she said:

"They're 35 cents now."

And remember,

No matter what,

Don't forget to ask for the money

Thursday, July 15, 2010

With Layoffs, Nonprofits Relying More on Volunteers

Check out the July 14, 2010, article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy
on the Johns Hopkins University study \(

Your Holy Beggar is working hard to get Congress to change the tax laws to provide an income tax deduction tied to volunteer service.

It's time that volunteers get more than a handshake and a certificate. Romanticizing the value of free labor is not appropriate in today's economy ... actually it never has been.

Is this like a beggar selling advertising on her begging sign? I'd love to see a sign that asks for help on a board that reads, "The pause that refreshes! Coke!"

Please, sign the petition ... or do what you can to get Congress to change the tax laws!

And no matter what,
Don't forget to ask for the money!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Walking the Talk: Petition Congress @

Your Holy Beggar has taken action! Aux armes, mes citoyens!

I've created a petition am working it as best I know how at the moment to secure signatures to elected Congressional officials and the President to get that tax deduction for nonprofit volunteering.

Please sign it and tell your friends, family, colleagues to do so as well.

You'll thank me for this, I know.

No matter what,
Don't forget to ask for the money!

Monday, May 17, 2010

“Tit-for-Tax-Break” - A Real Economic Stimulus Would Be to Give Tax Deduction for Volunteer Service to Nonprofits!

Why does pro bono work have more socio-economic value to the beneficiary nonprofit organization than to the person who donated her expertise?

Giving “charity”, with no expectation of benefit in return, is instilled within the foundations of many civil societies across time, space and cultures, and it comes in many forms. People in all walks of life donate their money, stuff and expertise to aid other folks, around the corner and around the world.

To his credit, President Barack Obama has made community service a key theme of his administration’s strategy for socio-economic change. There’s a lot to say for earning “social capital” or “street cred” through volunteerism, but the popular valuation of such civil service in support of the public “weal” needs real reform for real change.

One such area needed for immediate reform is the distorted understanding and valuation of pro bono work. USA's GDP still does not include “nonmonetized” productive volunteer activity for NPOs, not to mention unpaid housework and child-rearing. It is only being accounted for by a few countries, notes the United Nations (see footnote 1)

This can be seen most easily in the consideration of income tax itemized deductions.

“Out-of-pocket expenses giving services” (i.e. telephone calls, transportation, supplies, etc.) connected with volunteering for an NPO (i.e. board service, providing legal counsel, administrative support, clinical services etc.), are generally considered allowable by the IRS 1040 Schedule A (see footnote 2)

The value of volunteered “productive activity” by the donor categorically, is not. In effect, it has no “tax cred.”

But why?

If a person can be employed or hired as a contractor at a known rate (salary or fee) to accomplish the same task and pay tax on the income, why can’t the value of a volunteer’s contribution of her expertise and effort over time to an NPO be accounted and credited?

While the debate goes on about the need to evaluate housework (predominantly by women and especially for Social Security), clearly the value of the “productive activity” donated to an officially designated 501(c)3 can be “monetized”. NPOs are fast to parade budget lines bulging with the value of in-kind or pro bono services before potential donors and audit committees to demonstrate their lean costs of operations. Indices used to evaluate the work include Independent Sector's annually updated estimated quantifier of volunteer time (see footnote 3) and Points of LIght Institute's nifty calculator (see footnote 4) where, by job title, the value of professional work at all levels of engagement in the economy can be figured. “Professional” should be extended to include all colors of men’s shirt collars; if one can be paid for a task, it should be included in the list and GDP.

There’s nothing in the literal meaning of the term pro bono that states the work must be done for free!

Pro bono Is a Latin term that literally means for (the) good, rightly, morally. It has nothing to do with undertaking work without any compensation. It is good in its simple understanding. We may even need to redefine, if not altogether abandon, the notion of giving “charity”; no longer must we sacrifice something of our own to relieve the suffering of “others”. We may not have to suffer, but, rather willingly, gracefully give a bit of ourselves (expertise, time) for the common “weal”. There are no “others” left in the world. Income tax credit for volunteer work would smooth that out.

When so many NPOs are short staffed (due to lay-offs), over extended (due to greater demands for services due to government agency cut-backs) and financially strapped ... when so many qualified and talented people are out of work and want to continue to contribute to society, it would be “good, right and moral” to recognize our contributions of volunteer time in some way more significant than a plaque or pin.

In fact, it may be a profound and timely response to our dire our socio-economic predicament.

When Michelle Obama challenged the George Washington University Class of 2010 (see footnote 5) to engage in volunteer public service in exchange for her appearing at their commencement, they responded with overwhelming success. Holding up her end of the bargain, she then challenged them to make it a lifelong commitment.

It was a nice gesture, but she missed opportunity to do more. There are many graduates who will not find work in the nonprofit sector of the current economy, much less work at all. Some even think that they will never be paid a reasonable wage working for an organization or agency. “Why do you think it’s called ‘nonprofit’,” I’ve heard tell. It would have been more gracious, not to mention powerful, for the First Lady to announce that, whatever their first jobs would be, they would earn income tax credit for contributing their newly-acquired zeal for volunteer work. Even a waiter or file clerk who volunteers at a free clinic will appreciate the “tit for tax break”.

Then there are the rest of us whose successful careers in nonprofit service have been cut to shreds due to the recession. We are struggling not to fall through the bottom of Abraham Maslow's (see footnote 6) classic “Hierarchy of Needs” chart (see footnote 7). While we look for gainful (i.e. paying) employment, many of us continue to respond to the needs of others through professional, unpaid pro bono effort. Tax credits would be welcome for “good, real and moral” unpaid work. (Funny, or not, that the Father of Modern Management & Leadership by Employee Motivation never included volunteer or pro bono work on the great pyramid.)

As USA First Lady, Mrs. Barack Obama receives no salary, but serves as an “extension” of her husband’s executive responsibilities. Glad she can afford to. As for me, to paraphrase a pop tune, written by Ronnie Self and sung by Brenda Lee, “I need to be valued.” There’s nothing wrong with practicing random acts of kindness, but let us be thanked in ways more than in-kind, too.


Footnotes / Hyperlinks








Tuesday, March 16, 2010

From One Holy Beggar to Another

In a previous post I mentioned that I realized I was more a giver than beggar. (Critical thinking is so important: taking a long, higher, deeper look at the situation from other angles!)

I was then puzzled about my role as the Holy Beggar. Did I indeed have to get out on a street corner, begging bowl in hand, perhaps a dog or other attention - sympathy getter at my side, a compellingly designed and annotated sign professing my sincerity, need, etc.?

I recently saw such a fellow HB, he was about 30+, clean shaven, baseball cap, jeans and a T shirt, day pack, cardboard sign, "Need help. Please!" standing on the medial strip before a freeway on-ramp. I was on my way to my volunteer job.

Instinctively I plunged my hand into the Holy Begging purse and pulled out a dollar, signaled for him to come and gave it to him. He had a nice manner, thanked me. I then asked whether he was out of work (Yes. I'm a day laborer and didn't get work today. I need money for food.) I told him I was out of work myself, over a year. He agreed it was tough out "here" and thanked me, again.

The light turned green and I entered the roadway.

So, while I wasn't personally begging, I made a connection and felt that I empowered him to do it for me. He held my place and that of millions of we folks out of work in this miserable economy. Thus, I was doing what I did well and perhaps he was doing OK, too.

Something to consider. I think there's some sort of spiritual rightness about it. We are helping each other.

I really miss spending money doing mitzvot (good deeds) even in simple ways.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Unemployment Compensation Blues

Back in the 1960s I was an avid "folkie", playing my guitar every day, transcribing tunes from the static-ky Philadelphia fm station so that I could keep up with some of the more rooted but nonetheless topical songs of the period. Tonight I remembered one of my favorites, "Unemployment Compensation Blues", words and music by Les Pine, adapted by Jerry Silverman, copyright 1949 by People's Songs, Inc. that was transferred to SING OUT in 1957) and published in Sing Out! volume 3. It has a sweet blues-y tune that doesn't seem to salve my growing resentment about the current situation. The lyrics are not really dated (except for the fact that there are fewer requirements to have a meeting with an EDD staffer (thank heavens!)

I've got those
Unemployment compensation
What was your last occupation blues.
I've got those
How much money did you earn
Stand in a line and wait your turn blues.
They make me feel I'm committing a sin
To get back part of what I paid in.
I've got those
Have you had an interview
Come back in a week or two blues.

I've got those
Unemployment compensation
Please fill out an application blues
I've got those
State your weekly minimum
You don't wanna work you bum blues
And when I'm thru with my weekly routine
I spend my money on thorazine
I've got those
By the time I get my check
I become a nervous wreck blues.

I've got those
Unemployment compensation
It ain't worth the aggravation blues.
I've got those
Won't you wait, just have a chair
Nothin' in my frigidare blues
I'm tired of fellin' like a jerk
All I want is a chance to work
And lose those
Out of work humiliation
Unemployment compensation blues

I may update it with a few verses, including stimulus, extension, COBRA, online / e mail job hunt, etc.
Stay tuned (as much as one needs for folk music ...)

No matter what,
Don't forget to ask for the money!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Adopt-a-Pothole on Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles

I am encouraged! The developing nation shall lead the arrogant ones!

Who will join me in this enterprise to repair Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles?

To wit:

The Adopt-a-Pothole is a new Social-Economic Enterprise, which addresses key fundamental needs in South Africa, being road infrastructure maintenance, and the alleviation of unemployment and poverty in local communities and promotes the principles of custodianship and leadership rather than ownership and entitlement.

The project has been designed as a practical business and enterprise development incubator, and it will recruit, train and mentor unemployed individuals as business unit caretakers, admin and support officers, and pothole doctors in the developing social entrepreneurship arena.

The project was designed using a multiple cluster model, with each cluster comprising of 5 independently managed business units positioned within a social-economic franchise model.

This programme is structured to leverage CSR, Social Economic and Enterprise Development funding mechanisms as well as marketing budgets of large and medium corporations. Profits generated will be shared between the programme expansion cost and pre-defined beneficiaries.

And then let's adopt-a-lightbulb for the streetlights that are out! It's so annoying to see that cluster of "art" streetlight poles at LACMA ... when the ones we need for visibility (and safety!) are out everywhere.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Wisdom From The Mirdrash

From the teaching of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz via Rabbi Arthur Kurzweil (

Some people live in their own narrow world and are stingy to themselves.

But they do so not out of miserliness, for there are people who can realize that other people are in need but fail to see that they themselves are no less in need.

There is a story in the Midrash Rabbah about some scholars who came to a city to raise money for charity.

They sent one of their number to observe the household of a certain illustrious citizen in order to ascertain how much to ask of him.

The scholar came to the house and by chance over­heard the rich man scolding his wife, insisting that she buy a cheaper brand of lentils for their table.

The scholars therefore did not even bother to approach him for money but collected their charity from others.

They explained the reason, and he answered, 'Concerning that which belongs to me, I chose to be stingy, but about that which belongs to God I prefer to be generous.'"

So, as you can see, the following is so deeply true ...

No Matter What,

Don't Forget to Ask for the Money!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Holy Beggar’s Epiphany: I’m Really a Giver!

Hold on to your begging hats and bowls. My begging days may be over. While looking for that illusive next career move from Holy Beggar to HOLY BEGGAR, I understood the basic flaw in my premise ... I’m really much better a giver than a receiver.

In this world there’s giving and receiving, the host and guest, a thank you and you’re welcome, the latter being almost an endangered species. How many people do you know who say “You’re welcome” vs. “thank you”? I bet more the latter than the former.

Well, with a deep bow to retro-ness, I’m going to focus on the giving side of the philanthropy “equation” and make it simple, personal and, hopefully, impacting.

You heard it here first, dear reader.

Your Holy Beggar is going to undergo a transformation. Not because it is better to give than receive, although there’s a nice balancing ring to it, rather because it is possible to give. It may make me smile. It will help others.

More later.

In the meantime,
No Matter What,
Don’t Forget to Ask for the Money!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Chronicle of Philanthropy Features "Holy Beggar" Persona Jan 14, 2010

Can a blog's feelings be hurt?

You betcha!

The Holy Beggar’s letter to the editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the “Bible” of the philanthropic sector, garnered some attention to we professionals who have been laid-off from nonprofit organizations in the midst of successful careers serving others due to the economic turbulence.

Since November I was in deep conversation with a smart, compassionate, insightful staff journalist and the article came out January 14, 2010, page 15 etc. By all accounts, my colleagues who are still (and recently pink-slipped) employed, it was a good piece.

I agree, but there are a number of concerns (of course) that could have turned a reasonable article -- about the issue of the difficulties of finding employment not to mention keeping it during the recession -- into something provocative, dare I say strong enough to give us hope and wake up those higher-ups who still are employed.

One concern was that editorial policy mandated describing the for-profit "sector" as “business” ... as if multi-million dollar non-profits were a ... what ... hobby? I thought TCP was a trade publication, not one for weekend-warriors.

Further, the reporter was reminded many times by your Holy Beggar of this blog. The HB had commented frequently in TCP's online site. Yet the editor failed to allow the Holy Beggar, or this blog, to be mentioned by name! Just her creator's name (and likeness ... see P.S., below)

Are they afraid to “promote” something so benign as a simple, free blog, one that has fueled the article to begin with? How even more wonderful would it have been to invite the Holy Beggar to blog within the Chronicle itself.

Well, I'm sure that Mae West had a better way to say it but, "There's no such thing as bad publicity."

To all of you out there in non-business land, who feel a bit better that someone has honored your achievements and sympathizes with your plight, you're welcome, indeed.


No matter what,

Don’t forget to ask for the money!

P.S. Seems it’s better to have a doggy (or kitty, or perhaps even your human child or the disadvantaged folks you help?) in your professional photo. You will get on the front page.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Holy Beggar Koan

What's wrong with giving up?

No matter what,
Don't forget to ask for the money.