March 12, 2013
Veterans For Peace has very little grant income for an organization our size. That is because there are not many foundations whose focus is national grassroots groups whose main work is advocating policy change. And many of these foundations were severely affected by the financial crisis beginning in 2008. In recent years we have even sought help from professionals in the field not found good opportunities. Two workshops I was able to attend recently on grant research and grant writing are suggesting a few new approaches.
I am not a beginner in grant research and writing so I was not sure how helpful a two day workshop provided by GrantWriting USA would be. It was quite worthwhile. The teacher has 30 years of experience in the field which she has distilled into a concise and clear methodology. She also has a very useful supply of advice and resources.
One important thing I learned in that workshop was that the resources available in the professional version of The Foundation Center database are significantly more helpful than the public version. Not only does the great St. Louis Public Library have the professional subscription, yesterday they offered a workshop on getting the most out of it. The search tools allow us to seek funding for specific purposes like conferences, training, communication and planning. It allows us to easily see who has funded organizations similar to VFP, what size grants they make, etc.
Grant writing is always a long-term process but I am glad to have a few more paths to pursue. A year from now it may make a difference!
February 12, 2013
Here is a peek at what various people are working on in the office these days:
- Mike is preparing to attend the David Cline Memorial Celebration in New York and the Northern California regional gathering in Ukiah, CA.
- Shelly is coordinating the preparation of a members’ only section for the VFP website that will offer access to non-public documents and will be used this Fall for voting!
- Casey is working on developing a calendar of events and supporting materials for the year to provide opportunities for chapters to act together for greater impact. A very big task!
- I am preparing renewal mailings, helping coordinate the coming newsletter and tracking various odd financial situations. VFP seems to have unclaimed money being held by the state of California, and we have the opportunity to claim some portion of a class action settlement against MasterCard and Visa. The California situation seems to be significant; the class action may come to almost nothing. We’ll just wait and see.
- Doug is working with the Development Committee and calling people whose membership lapsed in December.
- Chrissie is entering all the data on your many generous donations and filling and shipping store orders. And baking wicked good brownies!
It's ordinary time.
January 08, 2013
The end of the calendar year brings the end of VFP’s fiscal year and therefore a variety of year-end financial activities for me. Now that I’ve been through them several times I don’t find them stressful and I enjoy working with professional accountants to accomplish them.
At the end of each month, Angela, a local accountant reviews our accounts looking for any errors I have made during the month and reconciling our accounts to the banks’. Monthly financial reports are reviewed by the Executive Director and Board Treasurer. Monthly income and expense reports are also provided to the 5 or 6 VFP national projects whose funds are handled through our office.
Angela is a true accountant. She loves finding a puzzle to unravel! In January she also identifies any money spent in the old year for services that will actually be received in the new year and books them accordingly. These are the kinds of things accountants think about.
Sometime in January, a CPA from a different firm will come in for a day to do an annual review of our books and provide a statement that serves in lieu of a full audit – which would be very expensive indeed. Larry is also a pleasure to work with. Along with looking at the numbers he counsels on financial policy, making sure we have appropriate policies in place for handling projects, endowments, etc. and that we are following them in our practices.
We will use the Financial Review numbers to provide a summary annual report for members and supporters. They also go back to the monthly accountant to prepare our 990 filing with the IRS. However, this report is not due until May and needs less of my participation.
This how VFP makes sure the resources you provide are accounted for and used as you intended. Thank you for making it all possible!
December 28, 2012
Over the Holiday period, I am reminded by VFP Members I speak to of two major military events that took place during the cold of Winter.
One was the Battle of the Bulge (16 Dec 1944-25 Jan 1945); I never neglect to call one Texas vet in particular whose twin brother died in that struggle. The other event that always comes to mind is the Battle around the Chosen Reservoir in Korea.
This year, a "Frozen Chosen" veteran recommended A Little Pond, a 1999 Korean movie available on Netflix. A Little Pond is as true a story as can be told about the deliberate murder of Korean civilians by United States military. We get to know the children, the pre-pubescent boy who constantly teases the girls, the girl who resists and insists on being treated with dignity, the young Lovers, the Mothers and Grandmothers, Fathers and Sons, the beautiful choir made up of mostly young girls, the architecture of their homes, fields and pathways. We are not let off the hook by the usual anonymity, when we hear that "some" civilians might have died "unnecessarily" .
This movie, this story ...wounds .. Blessed Be. It is way past time. Everyone's suffering, everybody's children, everybody's village must be(come) our own if we are to one day move away from War.
December 21, 2012
As I make these Membership Renewal calls to Members of Veterans For Peace, I hear from many of you about the books and films you have seen. One such film is "The Front Line" a 2011 movie out of "South" Korea.
Hear the voice of the Korean grunt at the brunt of the Chinese Army’s overwhelming attack and experience that war from the perspective of a "North Korean" sniper. Merciless film, as is war. It is good to see this war from a perspective other than North American. I have heard nothing but trash talk about the Korean soldiers ... they killed and they by-God suffered.
This is a heart-breaking movie and I apologize for pretending that it has led me to any understanding. I could not sleep after this movie; it prompted me to pick up Halberstam's posthumous "The Coldest War" again and to greet the morning sun with a broken heart, a wondering mind and a restless soul. My Step-Dad Jose Del Real was there. It helps me to understand his silence and his love of life.
That's right - IT WAS A WAR!) "Police action" describes the war of Occupation in Oakland, South Dallas, and South-Central. Thanks to my VFP Elder, a Korean War veteran for this gift.
December 10, 2012
There has a lot of talk throughout VFP about the expansion of international chapters since the board's approval of the United Kingdom chapter last month.
In the past couple of weeks we have had inquiries from veterans in a number of countries, including the Philippines, Australia, and most recently, Ireland. Veterans in Ireland are actively recruiting and working with members from the UK chapter to develop a chapter in Northern Ireland.
Expanding internationally will help us increase the efforts of pro-peace veterans and build this worldwide movement. We are excited to see VFP going in this direction, and hope to welcome more international chapters in 2013!
December 04, 2012
Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. It is all but unbelievable for me that industrial capitalism would celebrate a Holiday signifying the birth of a baby whose parents could provide no better place than an animal's stable for a delivery room.
I love this Holiday because I go about talking about this myth in a way that Texans have not heard. “Really, I ask? Are we really expecting that the most important person born on this planet on Dec 31, 2012 will be born to a hungry single Mother on the streets of East St Louis, Detroit or West Oakland?” Hmmm. It is one of those teaching moment. The compassionate vision of an Important Child born into such circumstances opens hearts and makes the work I do for VFP all the more enjoyable.
So, Beloveds, over the next few weeks - between now and mid-February - I will be making hundreds if not thousand of phone calls to Veterans For Peace Members. I will be asking some of you to renew their Memberships, others to convert your Annual Memberships to a Recurring Donor schedule (Monthly or Quarterly).
In this way we wrap up our loose ends and prepare for another year at the barricades. I will also take the opportunity, when you are willing, to hear about your personal miltary histories and the Stories that brought you to VFP and made you a Peace Veteran.
November 21, 2012
This week Mike, Casey and I were able to re-initiate the webinars on Building Member Involvement. We are excited to be bringing the tool of a focused one on one conversation to our chapters. Many organizations have used this process successfully and we feel it will help us be more intentional in building and sustaining commitment to VFP. We will continue to reach out to members to encourage them to participate.
The Fall VFP Newsletter should be reaching you soon and our last letter of the year to request your financial support is on its way. Shelly is posting news to the web page daily and produces the weekly news blast. I hope you’re checking it out each Friday. The variety of information about VFP activities always encourages me. Chrissie sends out merchandise almost every day and keeps the various acknowledgement letters getting out to you on schedule. Casey is working with a number of chapters that are forming or re-forming and significantly increasing VFP’s presence on Facebook.
More behind the scenes, Mike is working to bring an AmeriCorps volunteer into the office, Shelly is researching ways to unite the functions of our two databases into one, and Chrissie and I will be constructing new shelves in our storage area. Adding the new sweatshirts to our stock pushed us beyond our current shelf limits. Such are the less visible activities that help hold VFP together.
Most of all, Happy Thanksgiving! Working with you each day via phone, mail and email provides the support, nudges, wit and commitment we need.
October 30, 2012
The Holidays are upon us! The end of year holds special relevance to every nonprofit organization, as it is the time to evaluate the progress of the work undertaken and to wrap up loose ends, preparing for yet another year.
The Holidays are the time of the year that we are especially encouraged to think about generosity and belonging. For me the Season begins on Halloween, when I get down to Sixth Street in Austin at Midnight on October 31 with my freaky allies, the tens of thousands of ghouls, goblins, witches, warlocks and Zombies to celebrate outrageousness and marginalized imaginations.
It appears that there is nothing more outrageous in our society than to suggest that we can and should end the institution of War - nothing more marginalized than groups like VFP organized around the concept of Oneness and Mercy.
Then comes Thanksgiving, a Holiday replete with racist implications and self-serving myth but simultaneously, an opportunity for families (of all kinds) to convene and do a spiritual practice together, that of celebrating Gratitude. I am awakened each morning by an email from gratitude.org and emails or social media contacts from a dozen or more of you.
Color me grateful for the outrageous Spirits I encounter in Veterans For Peace and for the end of the year work. I am gateful for the chance to speak to more of you than at any other time of the year and to serve VFP and the cause of World Peace.
October 23, 2012
Fall has arrived. Great color in St. Louis this year. Bird migrations casting off the old and bringing on the new. Completed ballots returning to the office in great number. Members of Chapter 61 faithfully volunteering to do the counting on November 1.
Technology issues continue to dog us a bit. The phones are still not always clear. Shelly is still not networked to the printer or to the rest of us. As always, the solution seems to be just on the horizon.
Casey is creatively building support around the country for Bells for Peace events on Armistice Day (Veterans Day). This campaign was initiated by Chapter 27 as a call to return to the original intent of the holiday.
Mike, Casey and I enjoy working on design projects together when we have them. Lately we created a new holiday card for this year (now available at the web store) and a graphic for the back of hoodie sweatshirts that will be available soon. We hope you will like them as much as we do.
The daily is blessed.