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)