The Dana Group Newsletter
Committed to the Paramita of Generosity
What does a Development Officer do?
Sangha member Ming Linsley recently sat down with Lodro Rinzler, Shambhala’s new Development Coordinator, to discuss just what it is he does in the mandala.
ML: Thank you for taking the time to do an interview for your own newsletter. (both laugh) Let’s start off with how you got involved in this role. You were the director of the Boston Shambhala Center before right?
LR: Yes, that’s correct. When I felt like things were winding down in that position I wrote to President Reoch and the Sakyong’s secretary David Brown to let them know that I wasn’t burned out or anything but wanted a change in pace/thought it would be a good time for fresh inspiration to run the center. To make a long story short I was told to hold my horses and my incredibly informal e-mail was read aloud to the Sakyong who thought I should continue to work for Shambhala.
ML: Wow. But you didn’t have a lot of development experience at that point did you?
LR: Only from what I had done as Center Director. But part of the whole naming me the chair of the Dana Group thing was to see if I’d sink or swim on that front. I learned a lot from the professional development officers on the group and took classes on fundraising. Once Shambhala was in a position to hire a development officer I was already a few campaigns deep so it seemed like a good fit.
ML: You came on in April. So what does a development officer in Shambhala do?
LR: I remember being in line at the commissary at Shambhala Mountain Center and someone asking me that. Sangha member Emily Sell turned around and answered for me, “Lodro goes where money needs to be raised.” That’s somewhat true. I’d like to say I go to places where dialogues around money need to be raised because I think that’s an important part of the role.
ML: Where have you gone?
LR: Well I’m based in New York City right now but for the first matching gift campaign, the one that brought Shambhala out of debt, I went to Chicago, Berkeley, Seattle and Atlanta. For this more recent matching grant campaign that benefited local centers Lisa Johnston of The Sakyong Foundation and I went to another ten centers. Plus I sort of pulled double duty by spending a month at Shambhala Mountain Center this summer working to help out their development office while they were between development directors.
ML: Wow! That’s a lot of places. What sort of things do you do there?
LR: As I said before I’m pretty adamant that in our sangha the most important thing to do is open up dialogues around money and giving. Another important thing is to acknowledge and thank people who are already being generous. So I would meet with the local leadership and share some best practices on programming and membership, have a thank you event with the sangha, lead a fundraising training which basically is just how to talk openly about money, and then a community talk that relates the four dignities to our personal relationship with wealth. It’s a pretty full day or two.
ML: So it sounds like there’s a lot of talking about money.
LR: (laughs) Exactly. I think a lot of people hear about my position and think “He’s going to ask for money.” But that’s just one aspect of what I do. The Dana Group was formed explicitly to open up dialogues around giving and people’s relationship to money. A lot of times when we have weekends like that someone will come up to me after and say, “I never thought about it and everyone always thinks topics like sex are so taboo but really it’s money we never talk about.” It’s really wonderful to have an open dialogue about money.
It’s interesting because there has been a culture of generosity in sanghas since the time of the Buddha and we in Shambhala are only now starting to really celebrate the idea of giving. The Dana Group is working to support more teachings on generosity in order to highlight the importance of this paramita for our path as Buddhists.
ML: What's next for you?
LR: Well 2008 was a full year with both matching grant campaigns, the Sakyong Wangmo empowerment fundraising, the new format for the year end appeal and so on but Shambhala Day is around the corner so that's a big deal obviously. Then there's word that the Sakyong would like there to be another matching grant campaign in 2009 to help fund "Sakyong Priority Projects" throughout the mandala. More info on that as it becomes available...
ML: Can't wait!
To contact Lodro Rinzler please click here.
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