Jeremy Gregg

3-time TEDx Speaker | Social Entrepreneur | Author of "Daddy's Time Out"

A Poem for Mr. Rodney Walter, Upon His Retirement

Another of my fellow teachers at Cistercian Preparatory School in Irving, TX, Mr. Rodney Walter has retired after a lifetime of service to the school. In his latter years, he served as the archivist and historian of the school, gathering photos from its early decades and cataloging them for posterity.

Poem for Mr. Rodney Walter

Who gathers up the dust of dreams,
of memories left beside the road?
Who sweeps them neatly in a box
and seals them with a father’s kiss?
Who places them, now wrapped and neat,
on shelves our future selves will see
and pull back down, to open up,
revealing truths we left to find?

Who knows that all we hold most dear
is nowhere else than here, at home?

Oh precious friend, who guards our heart,
what service you have rendered long!
May God, who graced us with your art,
now lead the swan of this: your song.

Villanelle (For My Creative Writing Class, Fall 2015)

This poem was written for the students who had the great misfortune to enroll in my Creative Writing class at Cistercian. It is an imitation of “Do not go gentle into that good night,” by Dylan Thomas (available here), which I taught during our class on the villanelle.


cisterican hawks logo

The Cisterican Hawks

Do not go gentle into this good form,
Young age should fly and shriek in villanelles;
Shriek, shriek within the poem’s storm.

Though young men in their haste detest the norm
Imposed by metered rhymes that feel like cells,
Do not go gentle into this good form.

Good hawks, the next wind up, screeching how warm
Their fierce wings may yet burn in azure quells,
Shriek, shriek within the poem’s storm.

Wild birds who soar and hunt alone, no swarm
To teach how soon the once-calm wind rebels,
Do not go gentle into this good form.

Glad flocks, near birth, whose boiling blood transforms
Deaf hearts, can pierce the sky with caws like bells,
Shriek, shriek within the poem’s storm.

And you, my students, there in the lonely dorm,
Curse, bless me now with your new poems (not hell’s).
Do not go gentle into this good form,
Shriek, shriek within the poem’s storm.

How do you find serenity in #prison?

Why are you still, my brother?
The lights go out in an hour, the guard is waiting;
why have you stopped here to gaze at the stars?

“Did you know they burn in silence?”

The whistle blows. Feet shuffle. The guard’s eyes rise.

What good is a flame that gives no heat?
What use is a blaze that cannot roar?

The guard draws near. The path grows clear.
Lights out,

Anapestic Ghazal, for Aylan Kurdi

Photo by Nilufer Demir (Turkey’s Dogan News Agency)

Tell me who sent the boat that was flipped in the waves?
Tell me who is the boy who was slipped in the waves?

Oh no, please, do not talk of the wars that we wage,
or about all the others we’ve lost in the waves;

for my heart cannot stand the mere sight of the sand
that held him in its hand as he slept in the waves.

Yes, I know there is much we should change in the world,
yet I know that all change comes in drips, comes in waves.

And so tell me, J. Gregg, who was drowned, who was saved,
who will weep by the grave of the boy in the waves?

A Dedication, for Willard Spiegelman

dr willard spiegelman, (photo via SMU)

Dr. Willard Spiegelman (photo via SMU)

I was surrounded by talented teachers throughout my life. Almost all were good, and some were truly great. But among them all, there stood none greater than my dear W.S.

An announcement from my alma mater: “For over forty years, Willard Spiegelman, the Hughes Professor of English, has inspired generations of SMU students with his unique and energetic teaching style. Now, as he leaves full-time teaching as well the editorship of The Southwest Review (celebrating its centennial in 2015), former students of Professor Spiegelman are organizing an event in his honor.”

One of the many poets whom Willard brought into my life was James Merrill, whose poem “A Dedication” has frequently served as a source of inspiration to me. In honor of that gift, I offer this imitation of that poem.

A Dedication, for My Dear W.S.

Willard, there are moments when the class
Resolves itself into a pair of dancing feet, or hands
Scratching to pluck from the deep well of a book
That vigor they do not yet need to pack away.
These are the moments, if ever, a songbird sweeps
Into the school, like sunlight into the heart of a
Diamond, for its gift of clarity.
There are moments when teaching is but a hand pressed
Firmly and lovingly against the student’s back.

Shifting the Collaboration Paradigm Between Funders and Nonprofits (guest blog for The Miles Foundation)

The Miles Foundation

The Miles Foundation

Below is a copy of my interview with the Miles Foundation, “Shifting the Collaboration Paradigm Between Funders and Nonprofits.” My sincere thanks to Sara Redington, the Director of Communications for the foundation, for her assistance with this post.

This interview was conducted in February 2015 shortly after I presented at the Dallas Contributors’ Network.

You can also download a PDF of the article here.


 

Shifting the Collaboration Paradigm Between Funders and Nonprofits

Unknown-1

Jeremy Gregg. Image via TEDxSMU.

Guest blog post from Jeremy Gregg

Jeremy Gregg is a three-time TEDx speaker, an award-winning communicator, and an experienced leader in both the entrepreneurial and nonprofit arenas. We heard him speak at a local funders’ luncheon earlier this year, and were captured by his frank characterization of the current “dysfunction” present in the philanthropic community. As so many funders (including us) work to collaborate more effectively with our nonprofit partners, we asked Jeremy to dig into this issue and give us tips for improving our partnership model. Below are Jeremy’s thoughts on how funders and nonprofits can better work together so that we can affect change and positively impact the communities we serve.

1.   What is wrong with the current foundation/nonprofit dynamic, in your opinion?

The current dynamic is too centered on “otherness” and overlooks the shared mission that should unite foundations and nonprofits. This does not foster much honest communication between the two, let alone a transparent conversation about common challenges and shared goals.

In a way, there is a systemic flaw in the nonprofit financial model: the source of capital (donors) is almost entirely disconnected from the use of capital (clients). Nonprofits become a link between the two, which creates a scenario in which a nonprofit’s financial stability depends far more on fundraising excellence than on programmatic excellence. As a result, a nonprofit’s long-term goals become more focused on financial sustainability than on systemic change… leaving grantmakers frustrated because many of their foundations were created in order to change broken systems.

So, as it turns out, philanthropists interested in systemic change might need to look first at changing the system of philanthropy itself.

2.     What are some real-world examples of this dysfunction?

The clearest example of this dysfunction is the fear with which nonprofits court foundations for grants. All of the power is on one side of the transaction. When nonprofits seek money from foundations, they often act like the freshman kid trying to ask the homecoming queen to the prom. It’s just silly how imbalanced the conversation is perceived to be.

As a result, nonprofits spend hours reviewing long lists of foundations whom they can solicit for money. They debate whether and how to contact them, afraid to merely pick up the phone and call the foundation lest they be added to “the black list.”

From the foundation side, there is also a powerful conflict at play. Foundations are concerned with sustaining their investments while simultaneously wanting to harness the power of those investments to transform society. As I recently shared with the Dallas Contributors’ Network, I see this dysfunction in several ways:

  • Foundations may not provide general operating grants to support overhead, yet they desire longitudinal outcomes. How can a nonprofit make the investment to measure such impact without unrestricted funding?
  • Foundations may not provide grants to expand fundraising programs, yet they desire for nonprofits to achieve scale. What business – nonprofit or for-profit – can achieve scale without money?
  • Foundations do not provide “risk capital” in the form of unrestricted grants, yet they demand innovation from nonprofits. The ability to innovate is intimately tied to the ability to fail; if nonprofits can only receive funding based on their “best practices,” there will be no innovation.
  • Foundations often do not provide ongoing funding year-after-year in order to avoid creating “dependency,” yet they demand a plan for financial sustainability. This creates a scenario in which nonprofits are almost punished for success; if they increase individual giving, for example, they might lose their foundation funding. A foundation’s decision to make a grant should focus more on what the nonprofit will do with their grant rather than worrying about whether someone else might be able to pay for it, instead.
  • Foundations rarely consider multi-year grants, yet they demand long-term planning from nonprofits. Considering that the average nonprofit has less than 60 days of cash on hand, long-term planning is impossible without some visibility into future cash flow.
  • Foundations often shy away from grant requests for advocacy…yet they desire to create systemic change.

3.     What would the ideal or improved collaboration model look like?

Nonprofits have almost no power to adjust this dynamic. Change can only come from the donor side, and it involves several significant adjustments in their approach to grant-making. However, the fundamental shift is from being a “funder” to being a real “partner.”

What does this look like?

  • Realize that funding is only one tool in your arsenal. You also have knowledge, relationships, influence…invest all of them in your nonprofit partners.
  • Make multi-year financial commitments of unrestricted capital. Or, better, commit to an amount of monthly funding that will not change. This provides the visibility into long-term cash flow that is critical for nonprofits to scale.
  • As a result of these two items above, you should limit your grant portfolio from dozens of grants to a handful of serious partners. Don’t be afraid to go deep instead of broad.
  • Encourage nonprofits to do all of the things that you want your for-profit investments to do: invest in technology, in staff training, in systems that create long-term ROI.
  • Remain focused on the broader goal of systemic change. Challenge and encourage your nonprofit partners to share their best practices with others, to develop meaningful collaborations with others, to advocate for the broader adoption of their solutions at the public level, etc.

Essentially, change the dynamic from one in which nonprofits are the fortunate recipients of your largesse to a system in which you are rolling up your sleeves alongside the nonprofits in order to drive systemic change in the areas that matter to both of you.

4.     What change does that require from both sides?

Both sides need to realize that neither can exist without the other: they are merely different sides of the philanthropic system.

In addition to the changes I mentioned earlier, foundation staff need to focus on becoming experts in the areas in which they want to deliver change. They are not in the weeds every day in their issue areas, which offers them a higher view of what is going on in the field. For example, if the foundation is focused on education, they can see many different approaches, learn what is working and what is not working. And they then need to share that knowledge with their grantees, including helping them to establish the partnerships and to develop the tools that they need to deliver the best results.

For nonprofits, they need to be bold and confident, not timid and apologetic. They don’t need to be rude, but they need to stop acting like the leper who was invited to the ball. They need to realize the tremendous value that they bring to the equation: without them, philanthropists cannot do their job. Nonprofits need to realize that they are worthy of the grants that they seek; indeed, they are doing philanthropists a favor by giving them opportunities to achieve their purpose. What a gift to be able to give someone!

On both sides, there needs to be much more boldness and much less fear. Philanthropists do not need to fear becoming too close to a nonprofit – that should be their ambition, to become so close that they seem like a part of the staff. And nonprofits do not need to fear sharing their honest struggles with their foundation partners.

5.     Where have you seen this model work (i.e., can you provide some examples)?

The best example that I ever saw was at CitySquare (formerly Central Dallas Ministries). The organization has a handful of foundations that make serious, long-term financial commitments to the growth of the organization. These commitments provide the base funding that allow the organization to not only focus on doing its work, but on developing bold plans that can drive systemic change.

But here is why it worked so well: as the model succeeded, the original donors did not step back…they leaned in. Their investments increased because they saw the exponential improvements in the organization’s impact that have come from their unrestricted support.

The organization has a very high-profile leader who serves as its face to the community. This is the case with almost all successful nonprofit organizations: they need that dynamic champion to represent the organization. Yet, behind the scenes, the sincere commitment of the agency’s board members and closest donors are driving much of its success. CitySquare is a very effective model for how philanthropists can partner with nonprofits to maximize long-term impact on the people whom they aim to support.

6.   How can funders and nonprofits take the first step towards building “mission-critical partnerships” together?

In a way, all they need is the ability to speak honestly with each other without the “elephant in the room” of funding.

Think of a human courtship. You begin dating, and you only reveal the best parts of yourself because you want the person to like you. And as you approach marriage, some of those guards begin to fall so that you can sense whether the connection is legitimate. And once the couple is married, hopefully, all of those guards are down…and they can really begin to focus on what they want to achieve together because they can take for granted that they will stay with each other.

That is what we need in the philanthropic world. We need a model for meaningful commitment that focuses on maximizing each side’s impact so that both are fulfilled.

In other words, the model needs to shift from “transactional” (i.e. grants in exchange for reports) to “relational.” Foundation directors need to get to know the heart of the nonprofit’s mission: not just show up for site visits, but really join in the daily effort of changing lives.


Written by Jeremy Gregg, managing director of Gregg Partners. Gregg Partners is a Texas-based fundraising consultancy that specializes in grantwriting for nonprofits.

Nonprofit Dysfunction and the Beloved Community

“Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”

~~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ~~

Yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. As the nation reflected on the legacy of MLK, I was reminded of Dr. King’s belief in “the beloved community.”

That concept — which the King Center articulately differentiates from the idea of the Peaceable Kingdom — should be the ultimate Vision Statement for the nonprofit sector. Whether we are in the business of feeding the hungry, healing the sick, educating children, or creating art … the goal of the nonprofit sector is to build The Beloved Community.

And yet, I believe that we face a systemic dysfunction — a structural challenge in the very financial model of philanthropy — that prevents us from doing so. This morning, I am speaking to The Dallas Contributors Network on this very topic of nonprofit dysfunction.

My theory:
The nonprofit sector struggles from a disconnect between the source of capital (donors) and the use of capital (clients); this creates a scenario in which financial stability depends more on fundraising excellence than on programmatic excellence (i.e. the development of the beloved community). As a result, a nonprofit’s long-term goals become more focused on financial sustainability than on systemic change.

To solve this, I believe that nonprofits need to return to their original purpose: to build The Beloved Community. To do this, we need far more than funding for our missions; we need to build movements that shape culture.

More (much more) to come in the future.

UPDATE: After posting this, I found this TED talk from TEDxAtlanta in which Doug Shipman shares “The Secret to Creating the Beloved Community.”

Earlier tonight, I republished on StackStreet an old blog that I wrote a few years ago about the amazing organization “Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.” As I was doing so, I dropped by NFTE’s Twiter feed . . . and was grateful to discover the list below.

A great list of videos worth watching (and “ideas worth spreading”) from the NFTE Blog | NFTE: “Nine  TED Talks Every Entrepreneur Should Watch”

  1. TEDxNewHaven – Steli Efti – Entrepreneurial Happiness
  2. Secrets of successful entrepreneurs: Prasad Kaipa at TEDxBayArea
  3. 3 pearls of entrepreneurial storytelling: Michael Margolis at TEDxMillRiver
  4. Let’s raise kids to be entrepreneurs: Cameron Herold
  5. Using the Entrepreneurial Mindset to Unlock Youth Potential — TEDxKids@BC – James Sun
  6. The Art Of Entrepreneurship — TEDxFullerton – Frank Peters
  7. The responsible entrepreneur — four game changing archetypes: Carol Sanford at TEDxBerkeley
  8. Challenges for young entrepreneurs: Max Gouchan at TEDxBergen
  9. How the entrepreneurial mindset can change you: Henrik Scheel at TEDxSacramento

I would also add one to the list … featured above, Simon Sinek‘s “How great leaders inspire action.”  If that doesn’t get you pumped up about the possibilities … you are definitely not an entrepreneur!

(Watching Simon’s talk is what inspired me in my own first TEDx talk)

Would You Pass Up Parole to Serve Others in Prison? This Man Did.

Today, my friend Mark L. was released from prison … 20 years, 1 month, and 13 days after he first entered in October of 1994.

I met Mark when he joined the Prison Entrepreneurship Program in 2013. He was a member of PEP’s Class “Tenacious” 20, and he graduated in December 2013. Through PEP, Mark earned a Certificate in Entrepreneurship from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business.

As impressive as this certificate is (particularly for someone in prison), Mark learned something far more valuable than how to launch and grow a business. He learned how to live a life of purpose through service.

Servant Leadership

Mark Lewis in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program

Mark Lewis in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program

After he graduated, Mark could have spent the rest of his incarceration the way that typical inmates do … watching TV, exercising on the rec yard, etc. But instead, Mark asked to return to PEP as a “servant leader.”

In the prison where Mark lived at the time, there were 520 inmates. Over 300 of these were currently involved in PEP: either as participants in the current class, new recruits awaiting the start of their journey, or past graduates who were still incarcerated. Within the latter group were a few dozen remarkable men who, like Mark, were volunteering to guide the classes that came after them.

PEP only has two staff members inside of prison on a daily basis… creating a student:teacher ratio of more than 125:1 (and needless to say, these are not your typical students). Their work would be impossible without the support of these extraordinarily committed servant leaders. These generous volunteers are the true hands and feet of PEP’s daily operations inside of prison.

Fearlessness

Servant Leaders at the Prison Entrepreneurship Program's facility near Dallas, Texas.

Servant Leaders at the Prison Entrepreneurship Program’s facility near Dallas, Texas.

After guiding Class 21 from their Kickoff in January 2014 through their Graduation in June 2014, Mark was one of ten servant leaders who received a special invitation:

Transfer to another prison
on the other side of Texas
to bring PEP to other inmates.

Unlike their current facility, this new prison would have twice as many inmates… 1,040. And the men who accepted this challenge would be the only ones who were involved in PEP. The other 99% of the prison would be filled with members of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice‘s general inmate population.

Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to instill a new culture within this prison… a culture based on brotherhood, on love, on peace. You will be outnumbered 100-to-1. The other inmates will likely not share your values. But you will not be allowed to waver in your own.

These servant leaders knew that they would be subjected to harassment. They knew that physical, social, and emotional dangers would possibly confront them on a daily basis as they sought to transform the lives of the complete strangers around them.

And yet 10 of them accepted that call. And in August of 2014, they courageously joined PEP’s effort to expand into a new prison near Dallas, Texas.

Self-Sacrifice

Mark Lewis on the Day of His Release from Prison

Mark Lewis on the Day of His Release from Prison

Even among such servant leaders, Mark’s self-sacrifice stood out.

Shortly before he transferred, Mark was offered early release from prison. After more than two decades behind bars, he would finally be given his freedom.

And yet … he declined it and opted to stay in prison. Why?

With a level of sincerity and humility that I have found increasingly common among the men whom I have met in PEP, he told me:

I was chosen for a reason. My job is not yet done, and I am going to see it through to the end.

By sacrificing months of his own freedom, Mark equipped nearly 40 other inmates to complete this new program in PEP. He showed them a profound example of the transformation that would be possible in their own lives.

And today … after 7,349 days behind bars … Mark is free at last.

Welcome home, Mark!


ABOUT PEP

An independent evaluation from Baylor University determined that the Prison Entrepreneurship Program outperforms all nine other prison rehabilitation groups in Texas with a long-term success rate as high as 95%. This study determined that every $1 donated to PEP generates at least a 340% ROI. Learn at www.PEP.org.


 

This story was originally posted on November 14, 2014 on LinkedIn. It was later distributed via StackStreet.

Coleman Barks reads Rumi’s ‘I See My Beauty In You’

Stunning reading of a gorgeous poem … with the perfect musical accompaniment. Amazing.

(Click here if the video below is not working.)

Coleman Barks reads Rumi’s ‘I See My Beauty In You’ from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

Here is the text of the poem, taken partially from this site with some minor adjustments that I made:

“I see my beauty in you. I become
a mirror that cannot close its eyes

to your longing. My eyes wet with
yours in the early light. My mind

every moment giving birth, always
conceiving, always in the ninth

month, always the come-point. How
do I stand this? We become these

words we say, a wailing sound moving
out into the air. These thousands of

worlds that arise from nowhere, how
does your face contain them? I’m

a fly in your honey, then closer, a
moth caught in flame’s allure, then

empty sky stretched out in homage.

I see my beauty in you.

I see my beauty in you.”

« Older posts

© 2019 Jeremy Gregg

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑