Effective Practices : Development


Community In-reach
Development Section 2

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1. What is community in-reach?
2. Whose responsibility is community in-reach?
3. What are some typical Development Staff functions?
4. How do you develop volunteers?
5. How do you identify, develop and nurture parents for leadership roles?
6. How are the expectations of and about volunteers made explicit?
7. How do you involve parents that work full time?
8. How do you coordinate all the activities that take place at school?
9. How does Community in-reach relate to the schoolÕs vision and strategic plan?
10. Getting people engaged means they need to understand our structure. How do schools make their structures clear to parents and friends?
11. Expressing gratitude
12. How do schools make their needs visible to parents, alumni and friends?
13. What are the key points in your community in-reach and development philosophy?

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What is Community In-Reach?
Community in-reach is defined as the work with the adult members of the Waldorf school community-parents, teachers, staff, alumni and friends-to facilitate communication and build effective working relationships in support of the students at the school. Successful in-reach is the foundation for all outreach, public relations and enrollment programs.

The following article describes the best practices in Community In-Reach as they are practiced in large, mature Waldorf schools. While it is of value for a young school to see where it may be headed in the long term, more immediately practical information may be found by accessing the two articles titled Building an Administrative Staff and So Now You Have a Community Development Director.

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Whose Responsibility is Community In-Reach?
Community in-reach is a responsibility of the school’s development office and, along with fundraising, this “friend raising” activity is the responsibility of the Development Director. In many schools this joint responsibility for friend and fundraising is shared with the Development Committee, a group of active volunteers focusing on various development issues in the school. At times there is a temptation to allow the fundraising activities to take precedence over friend-raising, and the result is a predictable decline in fundraising income. To address this issue of having to balance two diverse priorities, the preferred practice is to divide the development committee and form two separate committees rather than one. In this approach the Development/Fundraising Committee focuses only on those events and activities for which the primary measurement of success is financial (see: Mission Based Fundraising); the Community Development Committee is responsible for those activities that are primarily evaluated on their ability to build and develop a network of friends for the school, both among the parents and with the broader community.

Other groups and individuals share in the responsibility of reaching in to the school community. The school’s Alumni Director, Parent Fundraising Coordinator, and the Volunteer Recruiter all help build the community of the school. The Publicity Director is focused on outreach and public affairs, an important part of cultivating the community beyond the walls of the school grounds.

The Parent Association in schools is another important organ for community building, both through its regular informational and educational meetings for parents and through its network of classroom representatives. Typically a Parent Association has one member of its Executive Committee (sometimes called a Parent Council) named as a room rep coordinator and another designated as Adult Education Coordinator.

One committee that can have a particular effect on the work of building community is one called the Listening Council or Liaison Committee. It is the work of this group to facilitate communication when the usual channels have failed to provide satisfaction and a parent or colleague feels unheard. This group is neither charged with deciding a matter nor with acting as the advocate of an individual, but serves only to support honest, direct and supportive conversation. While matters referred to the Listening Council are confidential, the Council can be quite helpful in recognizing patterns of complaints and in suggesting to the faculty and/or Board how policy, procedure or operating changes might address a category of concerns.

Other members of the school staff outside of the Development Office affect and support the effort to develop community inside the school. These individuals include the Enrollment Director, the Administrator, and the Capital Campaign Coordinator.

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What are some typical Development staff functions?
The Development Director is the key to a successful community development program in a school. Without strong community development work, fundraising activities in the school and in the wider community are greatly limited in their chances of success. As one fundraising expert put it, “Fundraising income is the ashes of the community development bonfire.”

Given the vital nature of friend raising activities, and the large number of people involved in this work, it is vital that the Development Director be far more than a fundraising specialist. The successful Development Director must be able to inspire and lead a diverse group of volunteers and staff members working on multiple and simultaneous projects. The Development Director must be viewed as having responsibility for incarnating the brotherhood/fraternal realm of the school. As such she must serve as a partner to, rather than as a servant of, the Administrator whose focus is on the area of rights (finance and legal matters).

The Community Development Committee is responsible for both reaching in to the internal school community and out to the larger external community. The CDC often has a number of subcommittees, each responsible for a particular event or activity. Examples of their work might include planning and coordinating activities of the Learning Institute (a continuing education program for adults), coordinating the Grandparent’s Day festivities, overseeing a community art gallery, promoting and producing a community jazz concert. In one school this group sponsors a memorial brunch that honors a deceased teacher by offering the opportunity to hear from an exciting speaker, recognize volunteers and raise funds for an important project at the school. These last two events, the jazz concert and the memorial brunch, illustrate an important aspect of the work of the Community Development Group. While both of these events do have a fundraising component for the school, it is quite clear that the purpose of these events is to reach out or in to the community, recognizing and expanding the circle of friends who know of and support the Waldorf school, and it is this basis that is used by the school in evaluating the success of these events.

The Alumni Director is responsible for maintaining connections with the alumni of the school, and with the parents of the alumni as well. Details of this aspect of community in-reach can be found in the Alumni section of this web site.

The Parent Fundraising Coordinator is often a volunteer member of the Development Office, appointed jointly by the Parent Association and the Development Director. All fundraising activities done by parents are approved by and coordinated through the Parent Fundraising Coordinator. It is her responsibility to ensure that the proposed events fit the school’s guidelines for fundraising events and that they are well placed on the school’s calendar to prevent conflicts with other fundraising events or general activities of the school. The Parent Fundraising Coordinator is not responsible for implementing any of the various parent fundraising initiatives, but serves rather as a link to the Development Office and provides general guidance and support. It is interesting to note that some schools have made the decision that parents may not fundraise for individual classes. In these schools the decision has been made instead that parent-led fundraising initiatives will go to a school trip fund, with funds being disbursed each year for specified major trips such as the third grade farm visit, and the eighth grade and senior class trips.

The Volunteer Recruiter staffs all sorts of committees and work groups, with a primary focus on the various development subcommittees and task groups. People outside of the development area who are looking to add members to their committee often check in with the Volunteer Recruiter. The Recruiter can offer suggestions and often is able to provide helpful feedback on possible candidates. More information on the role of the volunteer Recruiter is given in the section on development and coordination of volunteer efforts.

The Publicity Director is responsible for publicity and public relations in the school. In addition to working with the local press, the Publicity Director is often responsible for creating the various promotional materials for school events, the enrollment brochure and annual report, editing of the weekly school newsletter and developing and maintaining the school web site. It is easy to see why in some schools this person is named the Communications Director. See the section on Publicity and Public Relations for more on the work of this key person in the development office.

The Parent Association of a school includes all current parents at the school. The Association typically has three areas of focus:

  • Foster community spirit and enhance communication between parents and with other organs of the school,
  • Provide ongoing education for parents on the unique qualities of Waldorf education, and
  • Support the school’s fund development efforts through active parent leadership and participation.

A Parent Association typically has an executive council or committee with members each assuming responsibility for a particular aspect of the Parent Association’s work. The Council president often serves as a member of the Board of Trustees at the school, and the vice-president is viewed as the incumbent for the presidency in the following year. Other members of the council include the PA treasurer, room rep coordinator, Scrip sales coordinator, parent fundraising coordinator, and the chairs of the various community development sub-committees such as the Holiday and May Fairs, community concert, and the Parent Education coordinator.

This may seem overwhelming to a smaller school. You can’t do it all, so don’t try! You can focus on developing capacities for recruiting skilled volunteers, and especially for developing reasonable plans that have a hope of being sustainable and don’t lead to premature burnout and social challenges. Success in recruitment and evaluation will foster conditions that encourage volunteerism. See: Committee Goals and Objectives and Community Development Director.

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How do you develop volunteers?
The work of identifying and developing volunteers begins the moment a new family enters the community. Typically the Parent Association sponsors a welcome tea for new parents at the beginning of the year, and provides information then on the committee life of the school. Other schools have new parent buddy systems, often sponsored jointly by the enrollment office and the Parent Association. These buddy systems strongly encourage personal conversations over coffee to help new parents get acclimated at the school. Parents hear early and often that their skills and knowledge are recognized, appreciated and of great value to the school, and they have many opportunities to share those gifts in meaningful and convenient ways.

Some schools have gone even further, and have created new parent orientation events for all new families entering the school. Parents receive a copy of the parent handbook and information on how the school is organized. Key philosophies such as direct communication and consensus decision-making are highlighted, and new parents have an opportunity to meet and speak with their assigned buddies for the year. One school combines the new parent orientation with the back-to-school workday by offering a special session for a few hours in the middle of the day. This allows new friendships to arise through shared work and conversation in the classroom, and an opportunity for parents to start the new year with a clear overview of the school’s organization.

The Volunteer Recruiter creates a volunteer survey form that is included in the back to school packages each year. Parents have an opportunity to indicate their areas of interest, time availability and any particular skills that might be of value to the school. The Recruiter then works with the chairs of the Development and Community Development Committees to match committee vacancies with parent skills and interest.

On a less formal basis, room reps often organize social events such as back to school picnics and workdays to paint and freshen a classroom, or organize parent volunteers to help with a field trip. These are opportunities for parents to get directly involved with their child’s education, and in the process to meet other active members of the school community.

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How do you identify, develop and nurture parents for leadership roles?
Participation on a school committee is viewed as a developmental opportunity for parents. Often times a volunteer will begin work on one committee and then, having learned more about the school, will move onto another committee where there is a greater match between the committee’s purpose and the volunteer’s passion. After a period of committee membership a volunteer may feel called to step up to serving as the chair of the committee or to serving in one of the important positions on the Parent Council. Committee chairs and Parent Council members are frequently looked to as possible members of the Board of Trustees.

In many schools the Development Director or Volunteer Recruiter must give approval before any new member can be added to a particular committee. This check-in helps to ensure that talented people are used where they have the greatest interest and they can be of greatest service to the school. It is a frustration when a committed and energetic parent agrees to run the annual gift wrap program just a few days before the Board chair planned to ask her to serve as the honorary chair for this year’s annual giving campaign, and checking in with the Development office ensures that parent volunteers are well used but not over extended.

After a period of participation in the committee life of the school it is often helpful for volunteers to participate in various Waldorf conferences or in task specific training. Attendance at a Towards Healthy Waldorf Schools conference can expose parents to the Waldorf movement and provide them with an opportunity to meet and share ideas with other committed parent volunteers across the country. Task specific training such as attendance at a grant-writing workshop can also be very valuable. Both sorts of exposure allow parents to become more valuable members of the school community and also help them to feel recognized and appreciated for the important tasks they take on.

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How are the expectations of and about volunteers made explicit?
Some schools have created a written policy regarding the use of volunteers. This policy is intended to make the school’s guidelines regarding volunteers explicit, and is reviewed annually with the faculty so everyone is clear on the agreements in this area. The school recognizes that its volunteers are a very valuable resource, and it works actively to protect and support them. In addition, the Parent Handbook makes it clear that volunteer participation is welcome and expected. It is strongly suggested that volunteers who serve in classrooms on a regular basis, for example reading group leaders or handwork assistants, may not begin this work until they have undergone a criminal back ground check similar to that used for teachers and staff. See: Volunteer Policy.

It is the responsibility of the committee chair to articulate to current and potential members the expectations for committee participation. Usually the situation is fairly clear-the budget is X, the goal is Y and volunteers can expect to attend Z meetings a month.

Over time many schools develop event notebooks for each major recurring event at the school. These manuals provide a general timeline for putting on the event, list suppliers and quantities of materials needed, and include samples of previous year’s promotional material. Expense summaries and income statements from events are also included and updated each year, allowing new committee members to stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before them, rather than feeling the need to recreate the wheel each year.

Potential members for the Board of Trustees receive a job description from the Board Nominating Committee. Communication guidelines are also helpful so that new members can quickly get up to speed on “how” the governing bodies work, especially if they are not familiar with horizontal governance structures and consensus working. (See: Principles of Group Working.) The Development Committee also provides Board members with a menu of fundraising and development work that includes expectations for fundraising participation.

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How do you involve parents that work full time?
In these times of two-income and single parent households, it sometimes seems that no one is available anymore to spend time volunteering at school. However, it is just these busy individuals that possess the organizational skills and results-oriented approach that are so necessary to effective project management at the school. This problem can be solved if school employees and committee members are willing to take advantage of modern communications technology. And busy professionals are honored when they are asked to contribute in their area of expertise, rather than just to bake cookies.

One school, a residential stand-alone high school whose parent body is spread across North America reports great success using conference calling and email to get work accomplished by volunteer committees. With a well-planned agenda and strict attention to time it’s possible for a meeting to take place productively over the phone, with all participants understanding clearly what their responsibilities are before the next meeting. The use of email to communicate between meetings is also helpful, allowing members to be kept abreast of progress and new developments without requiring that this exchange take place on campus.

For example, a committee planning a Grandparent’s Day celebration could assign each member one area of responsibility. At the first telephone conference the committee could agree on the theme for the day and make assignments. One member might be responsible for printing invitations and the program, a second for logistics such as securing a hall or renting a tent and chairs, a third for refreshments, a fourth for arranging an alumni panel to make presentations and answer questions from grandparents, a fifth for flowers and decorations, another for arranging greeters and hosts, and the last for coordinating the various offerings by the children. This approach allows each individual to carry a small piece of responsibility for a large project, and allows each volunteer to work fairly autonomously. Experience shows that the greater freedom an individual is given in taking responsibility for some task, the greater the degree of commitment to the success of the project the individual feels.

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How do you coordinate all the activities that take place at school?
The coordination of all the various activities that take place at the school is a significant task. Most schools begin the process of planning their general school calendars late in the winter of the prior year. This allows all of the people that sponsor regularly occurring major events to be polled for their preferred dates and for any conflicts in schedule to be worked through. The school calendar will be finalized before school adjourns in June, and made available to parents as soon as possible. Many schools make these calendars available on-line through their web site, and mail a hard copy to parents in the back to school package in August. (See: Community Life - Calendars and the Rhythm of the Year)

The Development Office is an active participant in helping to develop the school calendar, as its events often require sizable amounts of planning and long lead times for quality execution. The Development Director and her staff, and the chairs of the key Development and Community Development Committees meet early on and develop a schedule that seems to suit the event and meet the needs of the community. The Development Director will then act as the point person regarding any questions or conflicts that arise as the whole school calendar is being created.

This approach to calendar planning allows volunteers to get started early on in their planning of events. Many development activities have long lead times, requiring graphic design and printing, renting of facilities, and promotion of the event. With a date firmly established for their event, committee members can plan activities at a healthy pace, rather than continually feeling the need to slide in home just under the ball.

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How does Community In-Reach relate to the school’s vision and strategic plan?
Schools are well served when they have a clearly articulated statement of the vision for their institution. These vision statements are often augmented with statements of mission (what we do) and value (what we cherish or believe). A strong Board will support the school in translating these statements of vision, mission and value into a strategic plan. With a strategic plan firmly in place each area of the school can clearly see its role in relationship to the successful achievement of the plan.

Often times the mission statement will clearly address development issues by including a statement such as, “The Waldorf School is a community resource that seeks to create a place in the greater community for lifelong learning and enrichment.” Another example is, “The Waldorf School embodies a community effort to enliven cultural life through the education of children.” These general statements of principle are supported with specific activities and events that are either key elements of the strategic plan or provide direct support for those elements.

Some community in-reach activities relate directly to the student’s education. One example is the Community Art Gallery in one school. The gallery is located in the hallway of the middle school, and students pass through it on a daily basis. The show changes every two months, starting with a faculty art show, and later including work by parents and grandparents and alumni. The artwork has an influence on the students and enhances their educational experience. The gallery underscores the importance of art in life, and develops appreciation in he students for both the product and the creative process.

Some schools report that they have many of their beautiful buildings and facilities as a result of continuous efforts at external community building. Involvement in community affairs and active citizenship has allowed schools to receive substantial grants from the public sector and loans from the public and business sectors. Clearly community in-reach and outreach are both intimately tied to and supportive of the school’s vision.

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Getting people engaged means they need to understand our structure. How do schools make their structures clear to parents and friends?
Most schools publish information on their structure and governance processes in the parent handbook and on the web site. The information provided in these locations gives the responsibilities of the major bodies at the school (faculty, college, board, parent association) as well as those of key individuals and committees. A section on where to go with various types of questions is another important guide for parents that are new to the community.

Other important opportunities for sharing information on organization and how work gets done are the new parent orientation and back to school night presentations. Town hall meetings are often held once or twice a year, and the focus is frequently on the budget and related decision-making processes. Welcoming committees and new parent “buddies” can describe the organization initially and then direct parents when specific issues come up. It is also helpful for Board and College members to speak once a year with the general faculty about their respective roles and to describe the collaborative approach to decision making used between these two bodies.

Other publications such as letters and the weekly school bulletin are helpful means of making the organization’s structure and priorities visible. Members of the school’s leadership can use these forums to write brief updates on the tasks and perspectives of their various portions of the school. The bulletin also describes the meetings of various committees and working groups scheduled for the coming week, and can be used to summarize important decisions or keep people posted on the progress of various projects. Many schools keep a bulletin board in a well-traveled location, and use it to post the minutes of the various committees and groups that have met recently.

The general rule of thumb is to tell people and then tell them again. People learn about the various parts of the school organization through experience and interest, and telling someone something once won’t get the message delivered. This is an area where schools must learn to be “repetitively redundant”.

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Expressing gratitude.
A school must make a strong and conscious effort to say thank you whenever people are a help to the School. In some schools the names of all volunteers for an event are divided among the event committee members and thank you notes are sent to each person. The Development Director sends thank you notes for all donations, but also recognizes gifts of volunteer time. An important feature of the annual report is the donor list, which is described in more detail in the annual giving section. The weekly bulletin can also be used to thank individuals and groups publicly for work well done. One school identified two parents with strong writing skills, and they created a weekly column that highlighted the work of a different volunteer in each issue.

Several schools host a special evening for major donors each year. These donors like to feel appreciated, but also don’t want to see the school spending precious resources on their behalf. Setting just the right tone is important so both of these criteria can be met. Getting to know donors and how each likes to be thanked is an important part of donor cultivation. In one school the donors are invited to a special back stage tour followed by tickets for a stage show, all coordinated by a friend of the school who is affiliated with a major theater group. Some schools send small gift baskets at year-end containing seeds or cooking supplies that can be shared with a young child. Schools that print calendars or note cards often make a gift of these items to their major donors.

In one school the Volunteer Thank-You reception is a responsibility of the Development Office. Every parent in the school is invited to the reception, and it provides an opportunity both to say thank you to volunteers and for parents to become aware of the work their peers are contributing to the school.

Committees often end their year with a luncheon to say thank you and to share fellowship. In addition some schools provide their committee chairs with gift certificates for a dinner or a massage during the winter holiday. The end of the year assembly is another opportunity to say thank you to especially active volunteers who are leaving the school after many years of service. Outgoing Board members are also recognized at this time.

Key volunteers for significant projects such as a building addition are recognized at the dedication ceremony, and also receive a memento of their support for this important milestone. These mementos can be crystal paperweights or a small engraved clock; the gesture is to provide something of value that the volunteer can see as a reminder and use regularly.

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How do schools make their needs visible to parents, alumni and friends?
Each school has its own preferred methods of making needs that are not covered in the operating budget visible to their community. Regardless of the approach taken it is important that these requests be well coordinated and carefully considered. While it is great when a parent or friend can make a special gift possible, care must be taken not to leave parents feeling nickel-and-dimed or concerned about the large number of unmet needs existing at the school. Schools repeatedly mentioned that when asked about needs outside of the budget that the first response is that parents can help most by participating as generously as possible in he annual campaign. If more specific needs must be communicated then it is suggested that just one or two areas of focus be selected and communicated to the parent body. Some of the approaches used by schools are listed below:

  • The Grants Committee, a task group for the Development Committee, surveys various constituencies to determine needs so these can be worked with in an active way.
  • A general letter to the community is often used, and may be the first notice that a special event will be held to raise funds for a particular area of focus. Often times a monthly status letter is sent from the school, and smaller items of need are noted there rather than in a separate letter.
  • The budget committee may provide a copy to the Parent Association of items that were requested by teachers but not included in the budget for the year. This short wish list recognizes that parents like to have the ability to select an item that excites them and then to arrange activities that can channel support to that need.
  • Board members and teachers speak at class meetings about the vital role that annual giving plays in the school, and the importance of achieving 100% participation within the community as a precondition for being able to raise money from outside sources.
  • At times major donors are approached with a request to fund a particular item or project not covered in the operating budget. These could include consultant fees, feasibility studies, and seed money for a new project or program such as web site design. These needs are communicated face to face rather than through a letter, and are generally in response to particular areas of interest or passion that the donor has previously expressed.
  • The web page can become an important source of information for parents, alumni and friends. Information about the capital campaign should be published there, and people should be able to make pledges or donations online as well.
  • A representative of the school attends alumni gatherings throughout the country. Although the purpose of the visit is social, if asked the representative is prepared to speak about the needs of the school and ways in which alumni can help.
  • Active alumni associations have a class rep meeting once a year. The representatives of each graduating class come together and hear what is new and needed at the school so it can be shared as appropriate with other members of the class.
  • Press releases to the local media for special events are designed to encourage attendance at school events. However, information on the special need that the event will help underwrite is always included.

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What are the key points in your community in-reach and development philosophy?

  • Development work is about relationships. Friend-raising must come before fundraising.
  • Alumni relations are absolutely critical now, and can’t be put off for later.
  • It is important to provide opportunities for positive personal experiences at the school. Programs such as workshops for adults provide a road inside for many people. Friend-raising doesn’t happen just by being nice; there needs to be an active connection.
  • Anyone who walks in the building is to be treated with warmth and respect. Fellowship is valued during all meetings and events held on campus. Our focus must be on more than just getting the job done; how it gets done is just as important.
  • Everyone is expected to give to the annual campaign. Articulate this in the parent handbook, and at orientation meetings for potential parents.
  • Each faculty member has an active role in fundraising. They must talk about it with parents and others, and all are expected to give to the annual giving campaign.
  • Ask and ye shall receive. If you don’t ask, people won’t know what you want.
  • It’s important to provide donors with options. Don’t assume you know what the donor wants to support.
  • Work from a belief that people like to give to something that is strong. Talk about accomplishments, never about saving the sinking ship. That kind of communication can generate short-term cash but undermines the organization in the long run.
  • You can never say thank you enough.
  • The best development advocates are informed “ambassadors”. The more various constituencies are kept up to date, the better for fundraising.
  • Host events that are aimed at getting people to visit the school.
  • Encourage alumni in particular to come back and visit. Let them visit classes and participate in school activities during their stay.
  • Meet people where they are. Send representatives to alumni gatherings around the country, and encourage those representatives to meet with current and prospective donors while visiting in those areas.
  • Electronic media can be a big plus if used well. Studies show that 80 percent of alumni, parents and older students use email and web sites, and the school can use this technology too. Teleconferencing is another way to get active participation from friends who would otherwise be too busy or too far away to attend.
  • Keep a mix of old and new members on each committee, trying to add one or two new members each year. This prevents the feeling that it is always the same few people doing all the work, alleviates volunteer burnout, brings in fresh ideas and perspectives, and provides an opportunity for succession planning for the leadership of each committee.
  • Let volunteers start slowly, exploring the school and finding areas that match with their capacities and interests.
  • Articulate a clear message of the school’s vision, mission and values and share it frequently with the community. State your purpose, say what you do and you are, and share your core values and unshakeable principles.
  • People learn through active participation. As the Native American proverb says, “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may not remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.”
  • Personal contact is vitally important. Although technology can be very useful, there’s no substitute for the personal. Handwritten notes, conversation over coffee, or a well-timed telephone call are invaluable. People give to other people, and the human connections are the ground on which all development work rests.

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