Sunday, March 2, 2008

what is habitat for humanity?

remember when i told you that one of my goals in retirement was to spend more time "giving back"? i spent 3 years serving on the board of directors for a non-profit based in san francisco..but with the work a million hours/travel constantly thing, i really did not get to spend much time actually volunteering..i just attended board meetings. once i left the corporate life i vowed to combine the two..serving on boards for non-profits and actually volunteering. my former company encouraged..actually expected..their executives to join non-profit boards. they felt it was the right thing to do and set a good example for the other associates. the chairman of the board for my company gave me some terrific advice. he said if i wanted to do something that felt good..volunteer. if i wanted to do something that would really help a non-profit succeed in the long term..join their board..and then give it your all..just as if it was your corporate day job..they needed a team of people with the ability to provide governance and fiscal oversight..just like a for-profit company.

well i wanted to do both..volunteer and witness what giving back was all about..and join a board to offer some of my 25+ yrs of management and leadership experience. i hit the jackpot with habitat for humanity. everyone has heard of this organization...mostly people think of jimmy carter...but i find that many people are unclear as to what we provide. habitat's mission is to eliminate substandard, poverty housing worldwide. their motto is to provide a hand up not a handout. the basic premise is this...habitat works in partnership with a prospective homeowner. we build the home..through mostly volunteer labor, donated materials and monies raised through constant fundraising activities..and sell it for below market rates with an interest free loan. we hold orientation meetings for interested prospective homeowners and explain the program. we create a pool of eligible the most eligible and begin the build. so the first question you probably have is..what constitutes eligibility? well, the family must prove 3 things..need, ability to pay and willingness to partner. need= income below upper income limit..usually 50-80% of median income for the city/town and currently living in substandard housing, ability to pay=must be able to pay the monthly mortgage..remember, the home is sold below market rate with a no interest loan and be able to make a $500 down payment, willingness to partner= each family must put in 500 sweat equity hours actually helping to build their home, help with habitat activities and attend homeowner classes.

let me tell you something..when these families become homeowners..magic happens! the excitement, pride, hard work and dedication that goes into the homes cannot be easily described. people change..lives change...homeownership..a dream for actually achieved. without exception..the families talk about giving back..they volunteer for future habitat home builds..they maintain their homes in such a way that they are usually the pride of the neighborhood.

for me, giving back is best when long term change happens. i thoroughly acknowledge the importance of helping with immediate needs..i.e. feeding the homeless and the poor..and give to these charities whenever possible. but this seems to be a bit of a band-aid cause change does not happen. i like to work to find solutions to eliminate the need for a charity and to me habitat is not a is a solution. remember the hand-up not hand-out motto? how can we create models for charity organizations similar to habitat's? if you have ideas..or volunteer/serve on boards and want to share their missions, please post a response or send me an email..i answer every one.

now, i started this post talking about volunteering vs. serving on a board of directors. i do both with habitat. there are millions of stories..really fun and heartwarming regarding volunteering..cause this is where a bunch of volunteers actually build a house...and stories a bit like the dilbert comic strip regarding board work...these are people that you mostly love..sometimes want to kill..and unlike for-profit companies..can't fire!!! many, many, many of my posts will be about these stories.

i also look forward to sharing stories of habitat families with you. these people are truly amazing. for additional information about habitat for humanity please check out our website. this is the site for the solano-napa affiliate.

napa farmhouse 1885™


Anonymous said...

Wonderful reading - great idea. And I feel like I know you
better. ...And, I'm in it! But Alphonse wants to know where his
treats are. He's eager to be a taster!

I'd also like to create a blog sometime. What a wonderful idea.


Anonymous said...

My complemets, I already knew it, but this blog confirms that you really understand our mission, non profits boards and what it is really all about. You are going to make a super fine President some day.

some times I can publish with my name and some times I have trouble and just go with Anonymous but sign anyway.


Anonymous said...

I am on the board of directors for Habitat in Boston and love what we do. Habitat is truly a blessing.