With kids inundated with advertising from as early as preschool, the accumulation of things threatens to become the goal and measure of what a person is. But kids need to understand, says Susan Crites Price, author of "The Giving Family: Raising Our Children to Help Others," that happiness doesn’t derive from what you buy, but in greater measure from the good you do.
To create a giving person, it is critical to start young so that giving becomes a habit and part of the child’s value system, says Crites. The motivation for her book was to help the people who are raising this generation of kids – parents, teachers, and leaders of scout troops, religious institutions, and businesses – with the goal of developing adults "who care about others and will be good stewards of the community and the world."
In the wake of the horrifying back-to-back devastation of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, children and adults are asking for ways to give back to the community, and Price offers ideas in a talk on charitable giving and volunteering on Wednesday, September 28, at 5 p.m. at the Nassau Club. Sponsored by the Princeton Area Community Foundation, the free talk will be interactive, including time for questions and discussion. For more information, call 609-219-1800.
"When tragic things happen," says Price, "it can be very frightening, and taking action like volunteering helps kids feel less out of control." In these cases, volunteering can be a coping mechanism, helping kids "work through the inevitable things that are going to happen." She says that many kids are raising money for hurricane victims, and urges parents to use this generosity as "a teaching moment."
Price has a variety of pragmatic ideas about how to motivate kids to help others:
Communicate your values. To serve as role models, parents must communicate with their kids. Even in families where parents are active volunteers and write lots of checks to charities, they may not be telling their kids what they are doing or for whom.
"Parents are missing an opportunity to teach kids about how they will have to make tough decisions," says Price. "There are many people in need, and they will have to learn to sort out where they want their time and treasure to go."
Make the community’s needs real for kids. Make the child’s involvement as direct as possible, says Price. For example, rather than just collecting canned goods, "close the circle by taking them to a food pantry, packing the food, and, if possible, seeing it delivered to a family." Or take the child to an animal shelter to see what it needs. If dog biscuits are on its wish list, go home and bake some with the children.
Get involved with nonprofits. Nonprofits are opening themselves up more to family visits and volunteering, and to teens coming on their own to help. "I tell nonprofits," says Price, "that it is important to be open to how kids might be involved with them – those kids will be their donors, board members, and volunteers some years from now." She observes that kids can serve as interns and even on an advisory board, especially if the organization’s client population includes kids.
Give kids choices. "The things I might like to do are not the things that kids want to do," says Price, adding that when kids have unsatisfying volunteer experiences, it is often because "they got pushed into something they were not interested in or not comfortable with." Kids have different interests, skills, and passions, and it is up to the adult to help them find a volunteer opportunity that works for them.
One example she gives was a shy boy who was a whiz on computers. He taught senior citizens one on one to use the computer, and then these same seniors provided online help to kids in an after-school program.
Find business allies. Price points out that some businesses have recognition programs for kids who have been good volunteers and others have volunteer days for kids and their parents. She cites as an example the Kohl’s Kids Who Care program, which gives scholarships to kids who have been nominated as outstanding volunteers.
Move kids beyond volunteering to charitable giving. One simple mechanism is to give kids an allowance out of which they are encouraged to give a portion to charity. Another approach is to create what Price calls a "dinner table foundation," which gives kids experience making decisions about giving. A few times a year, sit with your kids at the table and discuss charities that might benefit from your family’s contributions. One approach is to let each child select one organization, and another is to have the entire family agree on the recipients. When kids don’t have a lot of money to give, parents may want to match their donations.
Create a family foundation and involve your kids in the decision-making. A family can either set up a family foundation or a donor-advised fund in a community foundation. Sometimes parents or grandparents will create one of these mediums for giving to help their children and grandchildren develop responsible giving behavior. These giving mechanisms also serve as opportunities for families to gather together on a regular basis.
Price earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ohio University in 1972, and then worked as a general assignment reporter for a small newspaper in Ohio before going back to Ohio University for a master’s degree in international affairs. She worked as the assistant public information director at the university, but after having a child began to work as a freelance writer, her career for the last 18 years.
With her husband, she wrote "The Working Parents Help Book," which addresses juggling kids and careers from both parents’ perspective. After it appeared, she was invited to appear on the "Today Show" and on "Oprah." She also wrote an Internet column on parenting, which caught the attention of the Council of Foundations. The group hired her to write "The Giving Way" for them. She has subsequently joined the foundation as managing director of Family Foundation Services.
Price says her mother was a "huge volunteer" and her father also volunteered to some degree. She says that her generation got more exposure to volunteering than kids do today – through churches and organizations like the Girl Scouts. With today’s kids, she advises, "expose them, talk about it, and let them come to it in their own time." Some kids are generous with money and not time, and some the other way around. She says her own daughter was not a big volunteer in high school, "but when she got to college, she became a super volunteer."
Giving is not a prerogative of any class or group of people. "It doesn’t matter how much you have," says Price. "Kids with nothing can give." She gives as an example a school in New Mexico that heard about another school where kids didn’t have books. They wrote stories and drew pictures, and the teacher had them bound.
She also recalls that an adult she met expressed the concept of giving succinctly, "When I didn’t have money, I gave blood." Most children are not eligible to give blood, but this story is a good one for them, illustrating that it is important to think of creative ways to be part of the giving community well before they can write checks.
Repetition Equals Marketing Success
Take a higher road in everything you do, says Allan Gorman, and soon you may actually become one. Gorman tells how to "walk the walk and talk the talk" to be successful on Wednesday, September 28, at 6:30 p.m. for the Princeton Media Communications Association. His talk is entitled "Break On Through: Achieving Market Leadership by Building a Better Brand." Cost: $15 for non members, including a buffet dinner (www.movingimage.org).
Gorman, who also speaks Tuesday, October 11, at the New Jersey CAMA luncheon at the Doral Forrestal, has a creative services boutique, Brandspa LLC, a branding and creative consultancy in Montclair. Among his awards is the Gold Lion from the Cannes Film Festival. His website (www.brandspa.net) offers these marketing secrets for building a sexier brand:
"Selling" defines a commodity, while "marketing" builds a sexier brand. Define and understand who your real customers are and then market to them by defining the reason why they should choose you over all the rest.
"Map" the brand by researching what your customer really finds attractive. What about you makes customers feel they have a relationship with your brand? Can you use this to position yourself more attractively?
Align your internal reality with the customers’ perceptions. Everything the customer sees or hears conveys something about what he or she can expect.
Articulate a clear and easily understood brand story. Everyone related to your brand, from the CEO, to the person answering the telephone, to your customers – even people who don’t buy from you – can be empowered as brand ambassadors if they are clear about your story.
Position yourself as first to be perceived as best. Does anyone really remember (or care) who almost won the Stanley Cup? Or who was the second man to scale Mount Everest or fly around the world? Leadership is defined by being first; and true or not, in most of our eyes, first also means best.
Create an effective "mind trigger". What makes a logo or philosophy line memorable isn’t really the symbol or the words, it’s the emotionally relevant idea that’s triggered.
Create a buzz by being outrageous and newsworthy. The positive effects created by a unique and compelling brand story endure, as competitors who promote features, methods, and price soon become just "me-too" commodities.
Repetition, repetition, repetition. Did you get that? Repetition. Customers might not be in need of your services today, but very well might be six months or a year from now. Consistently drip, drip, drip your marketing message – like a leaky faucet.
Deliver on the expected promise. Brand loyalty is created by value. If the customer is happy, he’ll keep coming back again and again. Why wouldn’t he?
Cultivate and nurture a total brand experience. A new customer is a new friend, and he needs to be immersed in a brand experience he truly enjoys to assure his return.
Mastering the Art Of Forecasting
One of the main failures of Soviet communism was its complete inability to forecast. How many shoes will our 286 million citizens require next year? What sizes? How much coal? It wasn’t the system, it was the size. Planning the communal Passover feast for 12 disciples and one leader was no great strain. But balancing every need – from guns to butter – for more than one quarter billion people overwhelmed the Soviets and the empire collapsed under its own weight.
The lesson here for businesses is not to stop growing, but to expand and sharpen predicting tools accordingly. For the owner who wants high-level MBA-intensive training in the subject, Raritan Valley Community College offers "Forecasting for Your Small Business," on Thursday, September 29, at 6 p.m. Cost: $42. Call 908-218-8871. Career consultant and business course designer Anthony Sturniolo says that this session aims at providing the individual owner with some basic tools for measuring all aspects of his operation.
Unlike many business prognosticators, who chart the future from behind their sales and marketing desks, Sturniolo comes to the trade with an on-the-line engineering background. Sturniolo was born in Old Bridge and attended the New Jersey Institute of Technology, earning a B.S. in industrial engineering in l971. After granting him his MBA, the administrators of Dowling College invited Sturniolo to stay on as an instructor – a position he still holds. He also teaches and designs courses for South University Online.
Outside the academic halls, Sturniolo has held several executive positions, including managing a Fed Ex operation. He now runs Sturniolo Associates, an Old Bridge-based management consulting firm.
For Sturniolo, business forecasting is a recipe with a never-ending list of ingredients, and one that should only to be attempted by cooks with a fine eye for detail. This said, there are some basic categories that can transform this confusing mass of variables into employable tools.
Naive forecasting. Look at what you produced and sold last year. Assume you want to expand five percent, and produce five percent more. Sounds simple, and it is. Oversimple. Operating on this premise, one of Sturniolo’s software clients had fixed its December, 2000, production figures based on the same season a year ago. In an uphill battle, Sturniolo got company executives to reopen l999’s books. Much to their chagrin, they discovered an amazing December sales blip due to the Y2K computer hysteria. They re-adjusted their figures and saved themselves a 20 percent overage.
In short, reviewing your production and sales history – all of it – makes for an excellent forecasting start. But only a start.
Total analysis. Which one of your horses is pulling harder and which is lagging. Since they are all hitched to a single trace, it is not always easy to tell. Similarly, forecasting by the single yardstick of sales or production neither accurately measures results nor indicates problems. Sturniolo sees sales, cash flow, investment, production, bottom line earnings, and original equipment expense shifts each as individual predictable items that go into a final company estimate. "There is no part of a company that is not interdependent, and thus does not need to be measured and considered," he says.
Trend analysis. Ask any book retailer. He does one-third of his annual business from mid-November to Christmas. Firms have long learned to adjust plans to consider Mothers Day, school vacation slumps, and all the various sales fluctuations that the holidays bring about. But most have not quite caught on to the increasingly important international scene.
Do you know when Boxing Day is in Canada or Guy Fawkes day in England, and how it affects sales? Are you familiar with the fact that Germany virtually closes down during the month of August as the entire nation takes its holiday? And, right here at home, will you expect more customers of the Islamic faith on Friday or Saturday?
More individually, Sturniolo suggests charting your own industry and your own company’s ebb and flow of needs throughout the month. Compare these short term situations with your shipping and storage capabilities. The key is to keep putting in all the variables.
Check and reevaluate. Once you have meshed sales potential with production capability, attend to cash flow projections. Check to make sure suppliers are being paid on a good schedule and that clients are being fed what they require. Sturniolo notes that you should assume some disruptions, particularly those resulting from any newly manufactured item. But try to trace the potential disturbance ripples before plunging in.
The entire forecasting process needs be ongoing. Sturniolo advises checking past projections against actual present results and adjusting appropriately. The more frequently one can review past estimates, the more precise future ones can be made.
Finally, Sturniolo suggests that owners consider the source of all forecasts. "Sales and marketing people always paint the rosiest possible picture, while CFOs are always glumly stating that you can’t do the project," says Sturniolo. Once you learn to factor in each employee’s estimate embellishment quotient (and your own), you may just come up with a fairly accurate judgment.
Green Faith, Green House
Two Gulf coast hurricanes in one month have sent energy prices soaring, so it’s the optimum time to harness everyone’s concern about the environment. A faith-based conference and a "green" house tour address this issue this weekend.
Conserving the world’s energy has both practical and theological implications for the religious community. An interfaith conference, "Ground for Hope: Faith, Justice, and the Earth" is set for Thursday, September 29 to October 1, at Drew University Theological Seminary. Cost: $25 including lunch. Call 609-394-1090 or (www.greenfaith.org).
The conference co-sponsor, GreenFaith, encourages members of faith communities to mobilize their congregations to help preserve the environment.
GreenFaith was founded in 1992 by Jewish and Christian leaders who thought it important that there be an organization to help houses of worship engage in environmental perspective from a religious perspective. It is based at 714 South Clinton Avenue in Trenton (609-394-1090; fax, 609-394-2199, www.greenfaith.org).
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities contributes about one third of GreenFaith’s $370,000 budget, and GreenFaith will put solar panels on 25 houses of worship in the state by next year.
Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director, is a 1985 graduate of Princeton University who went to Union Theological Seminary and spent 10 years as an Episcopal parish priest before joining GreenFaith. The organization offers a three-week curriculum on the relationship of religion and the environment. Called SPLENDOR (Spiritual Life, Ethics and Nature, Deepening Our Respect), it is available in adult and teen sessions.
Every year the Green Buildings Open House, held on the first Saturday in October, offers a chance to see first-hand how clean energy and green building practices can be put to work. On Saturday, October 1, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., a dozen homes that use "green" technologies will open their doors for a Green Buildings Open House. It is part of the American Solar Energy Society’s National Solar Tour held throughout the northeast.
"The Green Buildings Open House demystifies green buildings, proving that they are comfortable, affordable, and attractive," says a press release. Homeowners and building managers will be on site to answer questions. What you wil see and learn:
Basic principles of green building, such as designing for solar heating ("passive solar").
Energy-efficient building techniques, such as superinsulation and air sealing, safe indoor air quality, and resource-efficient and healthy building materials.
How solar hot water is collected and stored.
How photovoltaics can be placed on or integrated into the shell of a building to produce electricity.
How wind can be used to generate power.
Here is a sampling of the homes on the tour. For details, including contact phone numbers and driving directions, go to www.nesea.org and click on the open house listings, then choose Central New Jersey.
6 Bainbridge Court, Hamilton Square has grid-tied photovoltaics and is billed as a "quaint, split-level home" in the heart of Hamilton.
These homeowners installed new, double-paned windows before they put in a solar electric system. "The combination drastically reduced their electric bills," says the press release, "and more importantly, now offsets the production of 23 barrels of oil every year." No pets are allowed here.
New Age Solar, 2 Oak Hill Drive, Clarksburg, This 2,500-square foot four-bedroom home sits on a hill with a steep, winding driveway. With a photovoltaic hybrid system with battery backup, it uses 9800 KWH of electricity annually plus natural gas. It is the first in the state to have an all slate Sunslates solar roofing and the first to install an OutBack UPS inverter system.
From afar the roofing looks like an all slate roof but closer inspection reveals that the slates are covered with 545 solar cells.
54 Walnford Road, Cream Ridge, was designed by Douglas Kelbaugh, who also designed the pioneering solar home on Princeton’s Pine Street.
"This unique home was built to take full advantage of passive solar heating," says the press release. "A 20-foot foot solarium warms the home to the mid-70s even in the dead of winter. (And a full house fan allows efficient cooling in the summer.) A two story trombe wall (masonry wall coated with a dark, heat-absorbing material and faced with a layer of glass) offers around the clock warmth on the coldest nights.
A batch heater provides 30 percent of the water heating; and phase changing crystals placed at the solarium help take advantage of the full southern exposure. A recent 3.8 kW photovoltaic system on the roof provides ample electricity for the home. In addition, you can check out the organic garden, five acres of mature, sustainable managed forest, and recent remodeling done with recycled materials and non-toxic products."
Also on the property is a vegetable-oil powered truck and oil recycling system.
132 Millstone Road, Englishtown, with a solar design by Neptune-based Ecological Systems. David Sims built this ranch with a full basement and garage in 1982 and it was converted to solar this year for $29,670. With grid-tied Kyocera photovoltaics, it uses 4,500 kW annually.
Twenty Kyocera 167 watt panels are mounted on the roof and are not visible from the front approach. A Magnatek "Auroroa" inverter is installed in the garage.
Basil Bandwagon Natural Market, 276 Highway 201/31, Flemington.
The natural products retail store will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will feature a cooking demonstration. Proprietors Alice & Ralph Celebre, certified energy consultants, can provide information on energy conservation, photovoltaics, passive solar, solar domestic hot water, and solar pool heaters. The store sells solar attic fans, solar tubes, solar toys, and other products that will help people reduce their personal environmental impact (www.basilbandwagon.com).
Built in 2003 and heated by natural gas, the store has solar tubes, grid-tied photovoltaics, daylighting provided by additional southeast exposure with thermal glass, high efficiency cooling, heat recovery ventilation, high efficiency fluorescent lighting, recycled content ceramic floor tiles, and an instantaneous gas hot water heater. It has double the required ceiling insulation, Energy Star refrigeration, and non-formaldehyde wood cabinets. Its bathroom stall dividers are made of recycled milk bottles.