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Nov 19
Community Articles, Great Lakes
Fundraising with Beginner’s Mind

Current Center

by Marcelle Gilkerson

The Shambhala Meditation Center of Columbus is a small center. For the last ten years, our home has been a cozy-but-beautiful rental suite on the second floor of an office building. With less than 1,000 square feet of space overall, our shrine room can comfortably accommodate about eighteen people, which means we can support most of our weekend retreats and open sitting but have to seriously limit our family programming and Way of Shambhala classes. And so, a few years ago, we began to look modestly outward for ways to attract more space.

When the local Waldorf school closed in 2010, the WEC board generously offered the school building at a price we couldn’t refuse. With only about fifteen members and less than a few thousand dollars in the bank, we needed many consensus-building meetings in order to raise confidence that we could, indeed, purchase the property. What we realized was that although we lacked fund-raising experience, our core group was deeply invested in Shambhala and each other. This empowered and enabled us to approach the process with a beginner’s mind. As we navigate our way, we’ve begun to see firsthand how generosity begets more generosity, on levels large and small. And although fundraising is not always easy, we’ve learned to depend upon each other through alternating experiences of fear and inspiration in order to collectively move forward.

Future Center

Our first step was to dig deep into our own pockets, which yielded the $20,000 required for the down payment. Nearly every council member (plus some others in the sangha) put, as one member joked, “some skin in the game” and contributed between $500 and $1,000, raising about $5,000. Determined to secure the initial down payment, one sangha member was inspired to loan $10,000, which in turn inspired another council member to expand their membership dues to help repay this loan, out of gratitude for the generosity and as a comprehensive commitment to our dharmic community. We then applied for a grant from the Shambhala Trust, which awarded us over $3,000. And finally, good friends and long-time Shambhalians offered a matching gift of $3,000, promising that if the community could match it in one month, they would give the donation. Their challenge was met, and we raised the down payment, and even had a little to spare.

We now own the building, which brings us to our next goal of raising $40,000 for repairs and renovations. This time, however, we must look for funding outside of our sangha members. Not knowing where to begin, our center director called Phil Cass, former president of ALIA and a local resident. Last year the ALIA summer institute convened in Columbus, Ohio, for the first time, and Phil had joined others to raise over $100,000 in just eight months. One of the first things he said was that fundraising works best if your commitment is authentic and deep, that this whole-heartedness makes it easy to talk to others. He advised us to have a hundred conversations like the first conversation, and said that conversations were a way of planting seeds, although we’d have no way of knowing how and when they would bloom.

This practice has worked in unexpected and delightful ways. We began to better understand the energy and flow of money by reading Lynne Twist’s The Soul of Money, recommended by Jim Drescher, the co-director of Windhorse Farm in Nova Scotia. And a conversation with the Dean of the College of Social Work at Ohio State University (OSU) led to our hosting a learn-to-meditate workshop for the faculty in the College of Social Work, which in turn allowed us to attend an Art of Hosting training. Then through our relationship with local leaders affiliated with the Art of Hosting and ALIA training, Shambhala co-hosted a meditation retreat that developed new alliances with extraordinary people and resources in our community, and as a bonus, brought in another $1,400. The income these ventures generated was the unexpected result of forming new relationships that perpetually open opportunities to give back to our community.

Our first formal fundraiser was a sit-a-thon planned by our treasurer, Lindsey Ibanez. She enlisted the support of numerous sangha members, including our director of Web Development, Phong Nguyen, who coded and designed a beautiful website where people could pledge donations for participants, as well as sign up to sit. Lindsey wrote a powerful personal letter to her friends and coworkers, explaining why she practices meditation, inspiring us all to really think about what brought us to this path and how to communicate the benefits to non-practitioners. The sit-a-thon generated about $3,000 and included donations ranging from Shambhala teachers to unaffiliated donors who were supporting their friends and family.

Our second fundraiser was also the product of spontaneous generosity. Inspired by a raffle at the Akron Shambhala center, our former center director, Rose Krouse, purchased gifts and practice supplies such as offering bowls and incense, shawls and art work, dharma books and other inspirational items. She arranged them into thirteen themed groups and photographed and numbered them so they could be displayed. We then sold raffle tickets for them, with many of us buying tickets for other sangha members as gifts of appreciation. Our dekyong, Kate Curlis-West, helped launch the raffle at the Harvest of Peace, and we concluded it a month later, raising about $1,000. Sangha children selected the winning tickets, many of which had been bought on behalf of others.

Our next opportunity is an art auction. Local gallery owner Carol Hershey has offered her High Road Gallery to us next January, and both artists and leaders in the community have volunteered to help us plan. The event will feature affordable arts and crafts donated by supporters. We hope to provide the ground for many new Shambhala conversations to open up among the artists and students, and people in local businesses and schools.

Further out on the horizon is our idea to produce a book with a collection of 21 stories about the experience of basic goodness. We are asking for submissions from teachers, practitioners, and friends in Shambhala and aspire to publish it by Children’s Day. The book would be distributed online for $20, with 15 percent of the proceeds going to the center of the mandala.

In addition to the more formal events, we also held a yard sale, which provided an invaluable opportunity to meet some of our new neighbors; and our director of Membership, Albert Vernon, launched a membership drive that included beautiful postcards and online resources to make automatic monthly payments.

Overall, we’ve raised more than $35,000 and aspire to raise $25,000 more, all the while aligning our efforts with our values and the Shambhala vision. We are finding that the result of our efforts has been more than just monetary — our forays into fund-raising have spurred a reciprocal demonstration of extraordinary generosity, kindness, and appreciation. The decision to purchase and uplift our building has quietly motivated the Shambhala Meditation Center of Columbus to forge ever-widening relationships with a new array of communities. Many of us have realized anew just how central Shambhala is to our lives and how committed we are to seeing our center grow and flourish, both in and for our city.

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If you would like to share your basic goodness experience, please submit stories to Marcelle at [email protected]

From: Columbus Shambhala Center Blog

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6 responses to “ Fundraising with Beginner’s Mind ”
  1. Your diligence and good heart has inspired many centers (Windhorse Farm for one!)
    the riding of the energy through; personal and group practice, social transformation,
    digging deep and letting go, hard truths…on and on…

    A journey and a transformative and transforming story.

    Thank you for your storytelling.
    Powerfully helpful!


  2. Suzanne Trahey
    Nov 23, 2012

    congratulations! This is fantastic Marcelle!

  3. Marcelle Gilkerson
    Nov 21, 2012

    Thank you Pru. Many people contributed to this article and it was a beautiful opportunity for us to look back over the year an appreciate what we’ve learned to do together. At the threshold of Phase II (a.k.a. “Hard Work”) it is especially heartening to read your words and amazing to see what others are doing everywhere. As you say “So much evidence of Shambhala and enlightened society in practice, as we work together – the whole is certainly greater than the individuals.” We take such courage from this example.

  4. Marcelle Gilkerson
    Nov 20, 2012

    Dear Anne,

    Thank you for reading this and taking time to connect back with us. I love your comparison of movement for the body (sangha) – including stillness – as a harmonious way to live and use energy in community. We, in Columbus, have appreciated the work you do in Shambahla Art and in LA. Perhaps we can persuade you to come teach at our center next year!

    With joy and appreciation,
    Marcelle (on behalf of SMCC)

  5. What an inspiring story of trust and holding true to your belief in basic goodness. Thank you for sharing so openly each of the ideas and the fruits of your efforts. So much evidence of Shambhala and enlightened society in practice, as you worked together – the whole is certainly greater than the individuals. We take courage from your example.
    Thank you, Pru

  6. Anne Saitzyk
    Nov 19, 2012

    Ki Ki! So So!

    What an inspiring story. Thank you so much for outlining your journey and including the creative ideas that you used. It sounds like your situation has really opened up, providing benefit for many more beings in your community. Makes me think of the benefit of movement for the body – including all aspects of a harmonious way to live and use energy – including stillness and movement – but applied to the larger body, the sangha and the community.


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