Sunday, August 26, 2012

June and July Meeting Minutes

Below is a document collecting together the Strategic Planning Committee meeting minutes for June and July.  June-July SPC Minutes

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

KCC's Financial Resources

On August 4th, The Strategic Planning Committee hosted the final of four focus groups--this one on the financial resources that support KCC.  The committee put out some valuable financial documents during the meeting, and those are reproduced below.  The first table shows our current operating costs based on the 2012 budget.   It includes all the costs associated with the Portland and Goldendale facilities and the revenues generated by retreats, bookstore, and rent, but not capital costs associated with completing construction on the long-retreat cloister.

 KCC's Operating Costs

How do we pay the bills? Each year the KCC bookstore generates about $1,700, and retreats contribute another $46,000 toward our overhead. KCC receives $6,000 in rent from the urban center residents, and we earn about $150 in interest on the money we have in the bank.  Based on our current revenue and expenses, it would take 100 people giving $78.00 per month to cover the rest of KCC’s core operating costs.

Lama’s Salary & Benefits

Caretakers’ Stipend & Benefits


Facilities & Vehicles
Utilities, maintenance, insurance, taxes

Office & Administration Expense

Volunteer Insurance

Connecting with the Lineage

Lama travel to India, hosting visiting teachers, support to Bokar Monastery

Legal & Bookkeeping Fees

Committee Budgets



 Hypothetical Future Operating Costs

The second table is a hypothetical using very rough (and modest) numbers to illustrate the increased costs of owning a new urban center.  The figures aren't an attempt to project actual costs, but placeholders.  We didn't know whether we'd be hiring more teaching staff or operational staff (maintenance, office, volunteer coordinator, executive director), but it seemed likely that we'd have some new staff.  The figures on mortgage and new operating costs are likewise just placeholders--it's easy to think of scenarios where the cost is more or less depending on the fundraising we do before acquiring a center and the size of the new center we acquire.  Using these very rough figures, the per-member monthly costs rise to $160 on those same 100 people.  As (or more importantly if) the sangha grew, the per-person costs would drop--$107/month at 150 people, and $80/mo with 200 people. 

Lama’s Salary & Benefits

Caretakers’ Stipend & Benefits

New Staff or Teaching Position
Salary, payroll taxes, and benefits
Facilities & Vehicles


Utilities, maintenance, insurance, taxes

$500,000 Mortgage on New Center
New Center Operating Costs
Utilities, maintenance, insurance
Office & Administration Expense


Volunteer Insurance
Connecting with the Lineage

Lama travel to India, hosting visiting teachers, support to Bokar Monastery

Legal & Bookkeeping Fees

Committee Budgets



Sunday, August 12, 2012

New Urban Center: A Question of When

Beginning in June, the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) convened a series of four focus groups to talk about central issues raised in our strategic planning process.  The second meeting revolved around the idea of a new urban center and which configuration would best meet KCC's needs.  We broke into small groups, where we considered five different facilities currently on the market.  The idea behind this focus group was to begin to see where the community's priorities lay: a smaller center we could use in the short term, a more expansive center that would accommodate more functions as KCC grows, or some combination of the two.  

One thing that wasn't explicitly on the agenda was when we might pursue a new urban center.  It has been the policy of the board that we first raise all funds necessary to complete the long retreat cloister at Ser Cho Osel Ling; the SPC has therefore been operating under the assumption that this is at least months and probably years in the future.  Yet the opportunity to buy the St Mark's building two blocks from KCC got some members of the sangha excited.  In an email to the Community listserv, one member wrote:
And yet for me, as a relatively new member of seven years or so, the contemplation of an expanded urban center has ignited excitement, enthusiasm, and a heart-felt passion that says YES! We CAN do this! We MUST do this! Our Monroe Street home is a place where we go to sit, to receive superb teachings, and to feel somewhat connected to other practitioners. But it’s not a place where we go to get to know one another very easily. We squish into the kitchen for tea, and hope to find a seat for the potluck lunch on the 1st Sunday of the month.
KCC's current urban center was designed to be a residence, not a meeting place.  It's too small and the configuration doesn't work.  This isn't a new situation, either--the sangha outgrew its current home sometime in the mid-1990s, and that's when members first started talking about moving.  Yet there are also serious challenges to moving.  Next spring, the first of the long retreats begins at SCOL.  We've been building facilities in Goldendale since 2000, and the prospect of launching another major initiative is daunting.  Moving to a new home will cost money and consume enormous volunteer effort.  If KCC were to decide to go into debt to finance the move--something it hasn't done in Goldendale--it would create a new level of financial risk.  Even as some people express excitement at the prospect, others have misgivings; at the financial resources focus group, one small group returned with the recommendation to delay finding a new center for those reasons.

When KCC began exploring the idea of building a rural retreat center in the late 1990s, it seemed like a pipe dream.  Inspirations sprang from the enthusiasm of a small group, and over time, the center continued to discuss it and dream about it.  KCC set up a planning committee to study the possibility.  In 1999, a large contingent from Portland visited Mirik and discussed the prospect with Bokar Rinpoche, who encouraged us to pursue it. By the time the community met for its annual sangha meeting after that trip, almost everyone at the center was behind the plan.

That was a fascinating real-time experiment.  None of us knew anything about running a retreat center, and only a tiny fraction of us had any direct experience with extended retreat.  At the time, it seemed like such a facility would only be used by a small portion of the sangha.  And yet, by the time we decided to pursue it, nearly the entire community (90% or more) had coalesced behind the plan.  What followed was one of the most remarkable projects I've ever witnessed--that a center our size could raise funds and build a state-of-the-art, multimillion-dollar facility is unbelievable.

By comparison, finding a new urban center seems like small potatoes.  But only by comparison.  In the event, it will require a huge amount of effort by dozens of volunteers, a new campaign to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, and months of work and transition.  KCC has proven we are eminently capable of managing a project like this, but the sangha has to fully support it first.  Most things in a small volunteer organization happen when there are champions to make sure they happen.  On the SPC, we're doing our best to assess the energy and support for a new center--that will go a long way toward answering the question of when.  The KCC Board of Directors recently confirmed that we need to complete fundraising on SCOL before pursuing a new urban center.  Whether we begin looking for a place immediately thereafter or wait--this remains a real puzzle.

We'll have to just keep talking to each other.

The posts on this blog have been written to reflect the intention and work of the Strategic Planning Committee.  This post, written by Jeff Alworth, has more editorial content and may not reflect the opinion of the strategic planning committee. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Talking About Money

Financial Resources Focus Group
Saturday, August 4th, 10am to 1pm
KCC, 73 NE Monroe
Food will be provided after the meeting for all who wish to stay
A Dharma center requires funds to operate, and a discussion of finances can begin with line-items on a budget.  Yet even before we get to the brass tacks of donations and budgets, there's the larger questions around our values around money and our relationship to giving and spending.  Every church and nonprofit has an implicit culture toward money.  In our small group sessions during this focus group, we'll consider both halves of the equation.

1.  The question of money can raise an emotional response, particularly when it relates to the precious Dharma.  On the one hand, as practitioners we feel that it should be made free to everyone, but on the other, it takes money and energy to support the activities of KCC.  The way we negotiate this tension creates the culture we develop around money and the Dharma.  Consider for a moment what our culture of giving says about this relationship.  Does KCC have the balance right?  What should our culture be? 
  • Our organization reflects its values by making sure retreats earn a small profit but also offering scholarships to make all retreats accessible, and raising the rest through pledges.  Organizations like public radio have a membership model where people pledge certain amounts; Christian churches ask members to tithe.  Do you have any opinion about how KCC ought to ask for money?
  • How do we think about giving in relationship to our practice?  When is it okay to say no to giving more money?
2.  Now let's think about brass tacks: how to support the activities at KCC.  Over the next five years, we'll begin to see costs stabilize as we operate long retreats at SCOL; still, costs could be as high as $100 per person per month--more money than we currently raise.  That means we could ask members to give more, find another way to raise revenues, or cut back on programs. 
  • How would you feel about paying $100 a month?
  • If you can't afford that much or think it is too much, is there something you'd be willing to get rid of (a new urban center, certain programs, teachers, etc.)?
  • Are there other programs or events KCC might sponsor to raise more funds?
These are weighty subjects, and we don't expect the sangha to balance a budget in this meeting--we're just inquiring to get a sense of your current needs and priorities.  This will be an ongoing discussion as the strategic plan comes into focus.  If you're able to attend the meeting, spend a few minutes thinking about these questions.  If you're not able to attend but would like to forward your thoughts, email them to kcc.portland(at) and we will add them to the discussion.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Report on Programs Focus Group

On June 23rd, KCC conducted the first of four public focus groups as a part of our strategic planning process.  We asked people to consider four questions in advance of and during the focus group:
  1. What do you feel you need to help your practice grow now and in the coming years?
  2. The mission andvision included a number of aspirations related to programs and activities. Are these aspirations being fulfilled for you personally?
  3. Lama Michael recently said, “If long retreats hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t be here at all.” What kind of connection do you see between long retreats and the benefits you receive at KCC?
  4. During the SWOT in January, the Sangha raised a number of ideas for programs where the Sangha would interact and support each other more.  [A list was included.]  How important are these for you, and how would you see yourself being part of this?
Thanks to the hard work of Peter Frothingham, we now have the responses available for you to peruse.  In the embedded document below, the first four pages were the responses given by small groups at the focus group and the second four were written responses.  

Roughly 30 members were able to attend the focus group, and the small group discussions were rich and varied. After the meeting, the Strategic Planning Committee met and discussed what we learned from the process, and we all felt it was most useful.  The programs of meditation, retreat, and study offered at KCC mainly fall in the purview of Lama Michael Conklin and the the Program Council, but your candid responses will help shape the way they think about those programs, how they prioritize them, and will inform program development in the coming years.

It was a great joy to see the sangha's interest and engagement with the first focus group.  We hope to see you this Sunday from 2-5 pm for the second focus group.  If you can't make it, consider commenting at the blog.  I will report back about that meeting in the next week or two.  

Program Focus Group Input

Monday, July 2, 2012

So You Want a New Urban Center?

The Urban Center focus group will be held at KCC on Sunday, June 8 from 2-5pm.  Hanna Karlin is arranging a post-meeting feast.  Please come if you can--


KCC is in the midst of a strategic planning process, and we're seeking sangha input during four summer focus groups.  In the second of the series, we will discuss the issues involved with finding a new urban center.  This issue has easily been the longest to mature.  As one of the strategic planners, Dora DeCoursey has pointed out, we've been considering it for 17 years.  Over the course of those years, members of the sangha in forms official, quasi-official, and wholly unofficial, have taken tours of buildings all around the city.  (I--Jeff Alworth--remember visiting a very cool site in Multnomah Village in about 1998; West Siders may know it now as the Lucky Lab.)

Even as we've been preparing for this focus group, the interest in an urban center has inspired a new wave of visits to sites in North and Northeast Portland.  If you cock your head just so, every one of them has the potential to be our next center.  Indeed, in some cases you have to tilt your head very little to imagine a tranquil room full of meditators.

But when any two people begin talking about a potential building, they wonder how well it would "work."  Turns out this is a thornier question than it sounds.  What works for one set of assumptions doesn't with another set.  So we decided to step back and consider KCC's needs separate from any particular building.  A number of criteria have been worked up over the years, like a size range for the meditation hall, number of rooms for interviews, classes, office space, and so on, the need for ADA accessibility, parking, and location.  We've compiled those for handy reference.  But there are a range of strategic areas that can't be quantified.  As the strategic planning committee considered this, we started with KCC's vision statement, which has a number of useful hints.  Then we made up a list to try to capture the variables:

1.  Size and Phasing.  What type of building should we be looking for and on what timeline? 

KCC currently has an active sangha of 100 people, and we can squeeze only about half that into our meditation space.  What size building do we need in the short term, the medium term, and the long term?  How do we build flexibility into the building and allow for change in sangha size we know will come over the years and decades?  Should the building be an interim or final destination?

2.  Physical/logistical criteria.  How well does the building serve the needs of the sangha in the full cycle of a week, month, or year?

How will the building handle current activities and future needs?  Will someone staff it during the day?  Will there be residents on-site?  How it will be used when formal practice isn't happening?  Does it it encourages incidental sangha interaction (can sangha members drop in, do practice, and do committee work)?

3. Financial sustainability.  Can we afford to operate the building?  Will the building help pay for itself by drawing people in and supporting our activities?

Buildings cost money, but they also make it possible for money to flow in.  A very small building that doesn't encourage sangha growth and engagement may make worse financial shape than one that brings in and sustains a larger, healthier sangha: what elements do we need to encourage a positive balance?  Is there a way for the building to generate funds or otherwise support KCC?

4. Place of Engagement and Support.  What do we need to consider to create a place where people want to come together and where they feel supported?

What kind of spaces will make this a center where people are drawn to do practice and form a healthy community?  One way to think of this is different cohort groups--young people, families, older people.   Another way is to think of different functions, like a common meeting space (with or without an espresso machine!) or as a place with a dharma focal point (think of how the Kudung Shrine room functions in Bokar Monastery). How could the space inspire? What kind of atmosphere should the building provide?

5. Integration with SCOL.  How does the urban center support the coming and going of sangha on long retreat and serve as a place where that deep practice can benefit the larger community?
Should the building have residential space for retreat transition or space for personal retreats?  What other ways might the building help those preparing for or coming out of longer cloistered retreats?

Parameters For a New Urban Center

Over the years, the KCC Board, committees, and sangha members have contemplated a new urban center, and the fall 2010 sangha meeting focused on this. The following considerations have emerged. This is not a formally adopted list of criteria, but more a summary of the conversation so far.

Qualitative considerations for a new center
• Room to grow
• Close-in location
• Easy access by bike and public transport
• Homey feeling
• Inspiring space
• Proper zoning
• Simple, avoid volunteer burn out
• Economical, avoid debt
• Quiet ambiance 

What will we actually do in our new urban center? What does the facility need to support? The following list includes an expansive vision of what could happen at a new urban center. KCC will need to decide which of these activities must be accommodated, which ones are "nice to have," and which ones are not on the docket at this time.
• Regular group meditations
• Classes and study groups for adults
• Dharma day care and programs for children, teens
• Gatherings of the Sangha for center business
• Operations, bookkeeping and other management activities
• Meetings of the Board of Directors and Committees
• Personal interviews with teachers
• Informal sangha interactions
• Potlucks and urban retreat cooking
• Urban retreats
• Periods with two concurrent programs (e.g., Sunday sit and weekend retreat)
• Storage for chairs, tables and other equipment for regular and special events
• Hosting visiting Lamas- lodging and food
• Bookstore
• Library
• Outdoor gathering, contemplation, children's play
• Housing for residential trainees, volunteers, and/or long retreatants in transition
• Parking--car and bike 

What does a building need to have to accommodate the uses?
• Meditation hall to seat 150-200 people, about 1800-2000 sq ft.
• Second practice space to seat 20, about 250 sq. ft. (could double as classroom)
• Kitchen
• Eating and social area
• Class/meeting rooms, 1 or more
• Kids' rooms, 2 or more
• Office, 1 or more
• Interview room, 1 or more
• Bookstore area or room
• Storage room, 1 or more
• Possibility to make ADA accessible
• Parking
• Outdoor space
• Residential space (depends on use)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Focus Group: Saturday, June 23

You are all cordially invited to our first Strategic Planning Focus group.  The event is Saturday, June 23rd, from 10 am to 1 pm, and we'll serve pizza for everyone who can stay to the end. 

With less than a year to go before the inaugural long retreat at SCOL, KCC is setting out a strategic plan for our future.  As any organization grows, it must consider weighty topics in order to continue to meet its core mission.  For KCC, that mission "is to support practitioners in their process of spiritual awakening. The emphasis in the training is on the cultivation of insight and compassion in both formal meditation and in daily life."  This first focus group gets to the heart of that mission--our programs. 

In preparation for the meeting, we've created a worksheet to help you pre-think some of the topics (see the bottom of this post).  And, if you can't make the meeting, consider filling it out and returning it to Dora DeCoursey; instructions are on the sheet.  We've also included some contextual information--useful even if you can't come.

We hope you can come join us.  KCC is a trust held by all members, and we know that keeping it aligned with its mission is so important to the sangha.  If you can't make this meeting, there are three more throughout the summer.  Put them on your calendar and come when you can:

Sunday, July 8, 2 pm to 5 pm
Our Urban Center: Finding our new home
Saturday, July 21, 10 am to 1 pm
Our Selfless Service: Working together
Saturday,  August 4, 10 am to 1 pm
Our Financial Resources: Creating the means to flourish
Hope to see you Saturday--

Focus Group Handout (Programs)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Finding Agreement on Goals: Culture of Practice

From March 22 to 26, members of KCC's leadership (Board, Program Council, and others) met to discuss the strategic plan. Our intention was to hone in on our key goals in four categories: Facilities, Programs, Organization and Staffing, and Financial Resources.  We weren't looking for agreement on the goals themselves--we'll need Sangha input for that--but rather agreement on what the big issues are.  Today we'll discuss some of the issues that came up around culture of practice.

Tara statue in the morning light
In drawing up the blueprint for a strategic plan, the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) looked at four areas: programs, financial resources, organization and staffing, and facilities.  During our discussions at the Leadership Retreat, a category surfaced that we had missed.  It's the idea that all the elements we were discussing actually fall into a larger context--the goal of making all our activity elements of our practice.  KCC is not only a place that supports practice, it is itself an expression of our practice.  This culture of practice relates to everything we do at KCC.  The SPC's next steps involve refining our sense of our strategic goals, and this element will be explicitly included. 

Possible Goals
In other categories, we had a hard time separating the goals from strategies to achieve them.  In the are of culture of practice, what emerged really do look like goals.  Strategies are less obvious.  As always, we would love Sangha reflections on these:
  • Embrace service as practiceDiscussion.  This refers to volunteer work at KCC, and how to relate to it and experience it directly as the practice of the Dharma.
  • Encourage giving as practiceDiscussion.  In the discussion of financial resources, the question of giving--central to the practice of the Dharma--emerged.  Members of KCC have always had conflicts about money and supporting the Dharma (on the one hand, the Dharma is precious, so it should be free, on the other hand, the Dharma is precious so it should be the most important thing to support financially).  Being explicit about the practice of generosity might clarify these conflicts.
  • Use collaboration to foster a sense of practiceDiscussion.  Working with one another in service of the Dharma is a potent support for practice.  Integrating collaborative methods like good communication, coordination, information-sharing, trust-building, and accountability would help create a container for the goal of service-as-practice.
This may be the juiciest and most joyful line of inquiry, and possibly the most inspiring.  Please feel invited to comment on this thread and consider coming to the Sangha meeting tomorrow (Sunday) following meditation (roughly 11:15 to noon). 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Finding Agreement on Goals: Financial Resources

From March 22 to 26, members of KCC's leadership (Board, Program Council, and others) met to discuss the strategic plan. Our intention was to hone in on our key goals in four categories: Facilities, Programs, Organization and Staffing, and Financial Resources.  We weren't looking for agreement on the goals themselves--we'll need Sangha input for that--but rather agreement on what the big issues are.  Today we'll discuss some of the issues that came up around financial resources.

Current Situation

KCC is nearing the end of a longer-than-expected fundraising effort to find land and build facilities to house long retreats.  Remarkably, the center raised millions of dollars without going a penny in debt.  However, taking on a separate facility brings with it new costs, both in maintenance and increased program costs.  Meanwhile, the urban center has seen revenues drop in recent years.  This is in part due to a decline in regular pledging sangha (who were formerly called "dues-paying" sangha).  A few years ago, KCC had 90-95 members regularly supporting the center, but today it has fallen to 68--even though attendance hasn't changed at all.

KCC is currently offering a far deeper range of programs than it has in two decades.  This is made possible by a team of teachers, three of whom offer their considerable time to KCC without compensation.  This is not sustainable in the long-term (and possibly not in the medium-term).  Things will only get tighter as we begin one-year retreat.  Finally, part of the strategic discussions include possible plans to acquire a new urban center, which would have significant cost implications.  If we did move to a new urban center, it would likely cost more over and above what we spent on it.

Possible Goals
Below are a list of goals the Strategic Planning Committee and Leadership group identified.  While the groups have spent substantial time thinking and discussing them, they are only a starting place for further discussions.  The SPC hopes members of  the sangha think about KCC's situation, its needs, and its resources and offers feedback and suggestions.  Have a look:
  • Create a business planDiscussion.  The moving parts that affect finances are many and complex.  It's difficult to conceptualize our needs and resources, and a business plan would clarify a number of issues.
  • Develop a culture of givingDiscussion.  This topic will actually be addressed in a separate post focused entirely on culture changes. The idea is to better integrate the idea of giving (among other things) within our practice of the dharma. 
  • Support the unpaid teachersDiscussion.  This was the least fleshed out in terms of strategy, but there was a broad sense that it's unsustainable to expect teachers to be able to devote the equivalent of a part- to full-time job to KCC without having some means of compensation. 
  • Begin an urban center campaign, but only after the cloister at SCOL is fully fundedDiscussion.  This is less a goal than a matter of tactics, and one that the group was split on.  Does it make sense to have two campaigns going on simultaneously?  Or put in the reverse--would two campaigns focused on different goals really compete with one another?  
As you might imagine, there were extensive discussions behind each of these proposals--and one doesn't have to look too hard to foresee extensive discussions in the future.  We hope you'll join us.  Please feel invited to comment on this thread and consider coming to the Sangha meeting this Sunday following meditation (roughly 11:15 to noon). 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Finding Agreement on Goals: Facilities

From March 22 to 26, members of KCC's leadership (Board, Program Council, and others) met to discuss the strategic plan. Our intention was to hone in on our key goals in four categories: Facilities, Programs, Organization and Staffing, and Financial Resources.  We weren't looking for agreement on the goals themselves--we'll need Sangha input for that--but rather agreement on what the big issues are.  Today we'll discuss some of the issues that came up around facilities.

Current Situation
Dawn at SCOL.
KCC is nearing completion on a long-retreat cloister that will be used in a one-year retreat that starts around April 1, 2013.  The remaining elements are a fence and cooks and retreat cabins.  The fence is funded and in-design, the pre-fab cabins are on their way to being funded.  The board sees no barriers to completion before retreat. The wonderful facilities at Ser Cho Osel Ling have served short-term group retreats and individual personal retreatants for the past few years, but these won't be possible when the cloister is occupied by long-retreatants. 

The Urban Center is more problematic.  It has for nearly two decades been too small, both as a place for sangha-wide meditation and meetings, as well as having too few spaces for activities like multiple-year children's instruction.  The house wasn't designed to serve the needs of large groups, lacks basic features like large meeting space, a commercial kitchen, and parking.  It effectively caps sangha growth, and KCC has had a stable membership of around 100 people for 15 years.

Possible Goals
Below are a list of goals the Strategic Planning Committee and Leadership group identified.  While the groups have spent substantial time thinking and discussing them, they are only a starting place for further discussions.  The SPC hopes members of  the sangha think about KCC's situation, its needs, and its resources and offers feedback and suggestions.  Have a look:
  • Find a larger urban center that has the space we need to conduct current programs as well as room to grow Discussion: there are multiple ways to accomplish this, including renting a facility, purchasing a facility, joining with another group/sangha to get a new facility.  Many people have noted the expense associated with such a move and this is a huge factor.  How much appetite is there among the sangha to raise funds for a new center?  Will it compete with the completion of the cloister--or, put another way, how do we phase it in while the cloister is being completed?  What kind of facility do we need to meet our programmatic needs?  This last point led some to consider the next goal.  Related Goals: Finish fundraising for the cloister before any fundraising on the urban center;
  • Include a residential component in an urban centerDiscussion: One way to meet the needs of a sangha more deeply connected to retreat activities at SCOL is by having rooms available.  This would allow people transition time before and after retreats.  It would give KCC the option of offering a work/practice or lay training option to some members who wanted to live at the center.  (Some Zen communities have experience with this.)  
  • Create a low-cost, seasonal option for group and individual retreats at SCOLDiscussion: The idea here was to use tent platforms and tents or other seasonal facilities so KCC could continue to host short-term and individual retreats at SCOL.  One theme that has emerged in all our discussions is the need to integrate the facilities in Goldendale and Portland programatically.  This has been easier when KCC could host the winter retreats, the annual Mahamudra retreat, and other events at the cloister, but will be harder during long-retreats.  And yet, this may be the time when integration is most potent and valuable.
As you might imagine, there were extensive discussions behind each of these proposals--and one doesn't have to look too hard to foresee extensive discussions in the future.  We hope you'll join us.  Please feel invited to comment on this thread and consider coming to the Sangha meeting this Sunday following meditation (roughly 11:15 to noon).

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Leadership Retreat Update

Hungry after a long day of meeting.
This past long weekend, members of KCC's leadership (the board, Program Council, and others) met at SCOL for their annual retreat.  The practice grew out of a retreat the board held annually and expanded to three full days--Friday through Sunday--with travel days on either end.  The goals change year by year, and for 2012 we devoted the whole thing to our strategic planning process.

I can't imagine anything more boring than describing a meeting, and in coming days I'll detail the emerging questions and decision points.  But in case you have the tiniest interest, we used a technique of taking an overarching topic like "finances and fundraising" and breaking up into small groups to discuss it.  Each small group stayed together the whole time, so members developed a rapport.  After a period of discussion, we came back together to report our thoughts.  Because each group inevitably took the discussion in a different direction, the reports provided an amazing overview of the topic. 

We by no means came to agreement on every issue--but that was in itself a good thing.  Those points of divergence will be the areas we'll focus on for discussion, particularly during our forthcoming focus groups with the sangha.  Look for more on that.  In the meantime, get your thinking cap ready--the issues will be coming soon.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Leadership Fun

Smiles, blue dots on the foreheads, and Spring sunshine--things must be going well at KCC's annual leadership retreat.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Onward to Issues!

On Monday, the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) met and voted on four "issues" that will form the basis of our strategic plan.  In our lexicon, the issue is the largest category of interest--call it a domain or focal area.  Identifying issues is the grossest step in a process we will fine tune over the coming weeks--with your help.  Our issues:
The long view.
  • Programs.  While all the other issues support one another, programs really knit everything together with the mission and vision.  The programs KCC offers will create a fabric that includes those that happen at both the Portland and Goldendale sites.
  • Facilities.  The physical space where the programs happen, these must be mutually supportive of one another.
  • Financial resources.  This includes the financial plan and funding strategy.
  • Organization and staffing (including volunteers). Particularly in the SWOT, we heard many issues related to the organization and staffing.  This includes communications, the way we tie volunteerism into our practice as a center, and making sure we are able to support all our programs.
While these four issues may appear to be the definition of obvious, the committee spent a huge amount of time discussing them, expanding them, contracting them, and  deciding which were not really parts of other issues.  Should we separate SCOL and the urban center when thinking about facilities?  Should communications--clearly a critical issue--be considered separately.  Finances and funding models also have a complex of related issues.  Sometimes you have to wander a long time around a neighborhood before you wind up at the place you expected to go.

Next Up
In the strategic planning model we've adopted, the next level of fine-tuning is coming up with "goals" and "strategies" under each of these issues.  This is where we'll turn for Sangha input.  A goal is "an outcome, an overall accomplishment, a projected state, or an end point."  A strategy is an "approach, plan, or way; how we accomplish the goal."  The SPC will collect together a menu of goals and strategies that Sangha members can discuss at the Leadership Retreat later this month and in Sangha meetings.  Many of these will be mutually exclusive--we'll look at our current situation, look at the options, and make choices.

Take the issue of fundraising as an example.  (These is a total hypotheticals that the committee hasn't yet discussed, and shouldn't be considered actual goals and strategies.) We might say that it is a goal for KCC to have a stable source of funds that come from outside the structure of dues and program-generated revenue.  One strategy is to hire an Executive Director who will work half-time as a fundraiser in order to achieve a more focused, robust major donor fundraising effort.  A different strategy is to create a revenue stream out of teachings and other publications. 

There's a Sangha meeting this Sunday (March 11), when we hope to spark some discussion about these items.  The SPC meets again on Monday the 12th, and then the Leadership Retreat begins Thursday, March 22nd.  We will definitely keep you posted as we make progress on goals and strategies.

    SPC Notes for February 6th and 20th

    Below are the minutes to our February 6th and 20th meetings.

    Feb 6th:
    Meeting Notes - Feb 6, 2012

    Feb 20th:
    Meeting Notes - Feb 20, 2012

    Tuesday, February 28, 2012

    Update: A Useful Thought Experiment

    It's been a bit quiet on the blog lately--my apologies (this is Jeff writing).  The Strategic Planning Committee have been busy beavers, but our work hasn't exactly been easy to summarize.  We're in that soup of confusion that contains a few meaty chunks of insight--and we've been trying to sort it all out.

    Our work has centered on trying to identify the major issues KCC needs to address in the next 3-5 years.  It's a process of sifting and sorting and--painfully--choosing.  Those of you who were at the SWOT meeting know that the Sangha identified dozens of potential opportunities for us to pursue, from securing a new urban center to setting up hospice care.  The SPC has to take that huge pool of suggestions (plus even more we came up with), sort them into categories, and see what needs immediate attention.  We've been meeting as a group on our regular Monday night sessions (see schedule in the left-hand column) and also in smaller groups to continue chewing on these issues.

    Things are beginning to come ever so slowly into focus.  At a smaller group meeting this Sunday, we dug into one issue very deeply--a new urban center.  We tried a thought experiment where we looked forward 50 years to see what that facility looked like and how it complemented SCOL.  Our idea was that this might help shed light on some of the other issues we've been considering, like the finances and fundraising, teacher support and succession, and the menu of programs.  It worked!

    By building SCOL, KCC has embraced an ambitious vision that will require quite a bit of financial and volunteer/staff support in coming years.  How would an urban center help provide that?  How would the urban center interact functionally with the retreat center at SCOL?  Would it make sense to have an urban center that had residential space for people coming in and out of retreat or for people who want to have a quasi-monastic live/volunteer arrangement at an urban center?  Could we keep the current house at 73 NE Monroe as residential space and get a small meeting hall with offices elsewhere? 

    The thought experiment led us in the direction of having a residential component.  It also awakened our awareness of the sharp increase we'll have in expenses, as SCOL and a new urban center come with attached costs.  Of course, it also opens the possibility of a much more integrated fabric of programs, which is the exciting part--and the reason we began this project in the first place.

    I invite you to try out the thought experiment yourself.  The year is 2062, and KCC is a wonderful, self-sustaining center with an urban and retreat site.  What do those facilities look like to you?  What programs and retreats are happening?  How does the center pay for itself?  How big is the community? Where do teachers come from?  Allow yourself to think of all the possibilities--a monastery, hospice, school, whatever makes the vision sing to you.  What's your vision?

    Sunday, February 26, 2012

    Other Models of Strategic Planning

    The Strategic Planning Committee is fairly far down the road to be considering which model of planning to adopt (more on that with an update post tomorrow), but Peter Wood found a nice resource that includes several different approaches.

    It's a pretty quick read, and useful.  We seem to be following the standard approach (number 1, "Goals-based strategic planning") with leavening from approaches two ("issues-based planning") and five ("organic or self-organizing planning"). 

    Have a look.

    Sunday, February 12, 2012

    Meeting Notes for January 23

    See below.

    Meeting Notes - January 23, 2012

    Friday, February 3, 2012

    Taking Stock and Looking Ahead

    Below is a document Bill Spangle prepared for the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC).  Bill and Dora will be doing retreat most of the month of February at SCOL's winter retreat and they won't be able to attend the next two meetings.  In it, Bill outlines in very clear terms KCC's current position, the situation of the planning process, and the next steps we confront.  The SPC hasn't had a chance to discuss it formally in a meeting yet, but there was quite a bit of enthusiasm about putting this out in front of the whole Sangha as soon as possible. 

    We want members of the Sangha to have the opportunity to comment on and influence this process while it's happening.  As you'll see, Bill has already incorporated SWOT results into his analysis.  It is a very useful document--easily worth the 5-10 minutes it will take to read and digest.  If you have feedback, please use the comments section below.  


    These are some ideas to get thinking started for the strategic plan goals and preparation for the Leadership retreat. There are three parts:
    • A review of progress since the last vision statement.
    • A summary of current situation based largely on the SWOT process.
    • Some thoughts on the next steps leading up to the leadership retreat and the focus groups.

    A Review
    Ready for action.
    At the time the Vision statement was drafted many of the items in the vision were in fact just ideas, shared visions of the future. In the 13 years that have passed, many of the elements of the vision have come to life in some way. The sparely stated intention to create a retreat facility has manifested in the acquisition and development of 7000 square feet of facilities at Ser Chö Ösel Ling and we now stand on the verge of beginning long retreats. To meet the growing needs of the sangha there are now 4 teachers at KCC, the Mahamudra program is in its 16th year at KCC, and the programs of instruction and retreats have expanded significantly. But some elements of the vision have only partly been implemented and others, most notably the vision for a new urban center, are still just ideas.

    While the accomplishments are by themselves substantial, it is important to note that what the community did to accomplish these things has itself been transformative. The process of acquiring, planning and building the facilities at Ser Chö Ösel Ling has pushed both the organization and individuals to develop new skills and abilities and working relationships. Retreats, land stewardship activities and the task of managing Ser Chö Ösel Ling have had a significant impact as well. In the area of pastoral care, members of the community have risen to the challenges of supporting each other through birth, old age, sickness, and death. Families have come together for mutual support. Long time members have deepened their practice, and a new stream of younger people have become associated with KCC. It is clear that the community itself has matured and evolved along the way.

    Current resources and challenges
    Based on this review of the recent history and the sense of the current situation derived from the SWOT process it is possible to put together a sense of the resources and challenges KCC now faces.