Show Your Work

Show Your Work




If you’re never around kids you need to change that.  Kids are insightful.  Kids are truthful.  Kids are downright funny.  My son and I were having a lazy Saturday conversation with my niece, Katie, who was telling us all about how she knows algebra.  Uh, she’s 8.  We asked how she could possibly know algebra as a 3rd grader and she said, “Easy, y = 25.”  Well, there you have it folks.  All of you who may have struggled with algebra in school just needed to know the super-secret formula y=25.  Upon further questioning, to better understood the logic of the 8-year-old mind, we discovered that (1) apparently you only solve for y and nothing else and (2) y is the 25th letter of the alphabet; thus, y=25.  After the explanation, the look she gave us was clearly face language for “Duh!”.


Flash forward a few weeks and I’m helping my 10-year-old niece, Kamryn, with math homework.  She’s exasperated.  She’s brilliant and even aced the iRead test last year, but doesn’t think math is her thing.  So, there is sighing and erasing and clock-watching.  After a brief 15 minutes of changing fractions to percentages and a celebratory fist-bump, we are done.  And she says, “That took 15 minutes!  My teacher said it would only take 5 minutes!”  That’s when the ‘real’ homework started…a life lesson that will far exceed the benefits of converting fractions to percentages.  Three little words that take extra time, set you apart from the crowd, and guide your journey to a successful destination:  show your work.


The reality is this…things that only take you 5 minutes to do will take you 15 minutes if you show your work.  That extra 10 minutes is your investment, your insurance.  We see this every day at the Community Foundation.  We literally receive hundreds of scholarship applications each year; students seeking scholarships to ease their college costs.  And, every scholarship has an essay question or two…or three.  Some scribble a quick retort, hopeful that the burden of filling out the first of many lifelong forms will soon end.  Others show their work.  They’re thoughtful.  They realize that a generous donor selflessly gave their own discretionary dollars so that they, someone they have never met, can go to college, get a degree, and have a better quality of life than they do now.  So, they prepare.  They edit.  They revise.  They tell their story.  Those students end up being our scholarship recipients. Show your work.


We currently have 13 BIG IDEA grants under consideration.  These grants can be as large as +/- $150,000.  That’s a huge investment.  And, yes, we hope we find a really big idea.  But, we also want to be inspired.  We want to see how the idea could possibly come to fruition.  We want to imagine the world with this amazing idea in it.  We need them to show their work.  Anyone can have an idea.  The stories you tell about the work you do have a huge effect on how people feel and what they understand about your work, and how people feel and what they understand about your work effects how they value it.”  In other words, it’s not obvious.  You have to make your case.  Stir people.  Dig deeper. Prove that you’ve thought this through and that your mission is not only attainable, but a game-changer. This not only leads to outstanding work, but it helps you stand out.  Show your work.




show4Showing your work can really pay off as you’ll see from some really great news we received this week.  The Little Giants preschool program at Marion Community Schools was awarded their full Early Education Matching Grant (EEMG) for $550,000 from the state of Indiana.  This will add 230 4-year-old students living in poverty to the Little Giants Team over the next two years.  We could not have applied for, or received this grant, if local donors hadn’t raised $600,000 to match those state dollars. (That was 4 weeks of my fundraising life I’ll never forget!)


Preschool is great, yes; but not all preschools are great.  However, Marion Community Schools was able to show their work.  They have a quality program with ROI and academic results worthy of writing home about.  This made it easy for 43 donors to understand how their donation would be a good investment.  The Little Giants have standards and best practices that painted a masterpiece so magnificent that they earned a $550,000 grant.  That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for Little Giants.  Big wins like that happen when you show your work.  Yes, it’s hard.  And, it takes longer…if Kamryn’s math homework is any indication, about 3X longer.  But, making your case, telling your story, and showing your work leads to deeper relationships, bigger donations, and ultimately changing the world for the better.  Just imagine what a wonderful world it would be if that guy in charge of daylight savings time would have had to show his work! Show your work, friends.

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