Our Funding Model

We hope this new information (updated March 1, 2013also available as a PDF) will help give our community a clear understanding of the decisions that have brought us to our current financial position, and the financial plans we have going forward. We welcome your thoughts and questions on the Your Ideas page.

Shambhala’s Centre of the Mandala Resources

In 2010, the Kalapa Council — inspired by the Sakyong’s 2020 Vision for Shambhala — made a decision to invest in providing additional resources from the Centre of the Mandala to the Shambhala community. This allowed for the successful introduction of the Way of Shambhala curriculum and other services needed to help our community move to a new phase.

It was known that this would result in deficit operating budgets at the Centre of the Mandala over the short term.  This was a conscious decision to invest in infrastructure that would allow a new phase of growth across the mandala as a whole.

Rolling out new approaches to revenue has taken time due to the rich diversity of situations and views we find throughout our mandala.  We’ve worked closely with the many individuals and entities that make up our community, listening and adapting to feedback.  While this has meant that the flow of new revenue has been delayed, we feel the process is a reflection of our Shambhala values and will result in strong and sustainable solutions for the long term.

What follows is an overview of the successes that have flowed from this decision, as well as the financial impacts that this investment has produced.

What are the results of this investment since 2010?

This has been an encouraging period for Shambhala with many new students engaging in meditation practice and the Shambhala teachings, increasing numbers of members, and significant growth in revenue for Centres and Groups:

  • Thanks to the introduction of the Way of Shambhala curriculum, local Shambhala Centre and Group Program Revenue has grown over $650,000 annually since 2009 to over $2,500,000 — a jump of over 33% in revenue.
  • Strong cohorts have led to an increased sense of community at the local level with membership growing 18% since 2009 to over 9,100 members.
  • Membership revenue has further increased by 5% to over $2,500,000.
  • Total annual revenue for Centres/Groups has increased by $800,000 from $4,300,000 in 2009 to $5,100,000 in 2011.
  • Cumulative revenue for Centres/Groups has grown $1,400,000 since 2009.

In 2012 alone, over 4,500 people took Way of Shambhala classes.

What has the investment cost since 2010?

Along with the significant results from this investment, there have also been costs in the form of debt, ongoing operating deficits, and reductions in staff and staff pay (the very people that make some of these activities possible).

  • The Centre of the Mandala has increased operating debt to $680,000 to fund this growth.
  • UPDATED: Of the $680,000 of operating debt, $380,000 of it will come due between March and June of 2013.
    ○      UPDATED: To fund this, Shambhala members have come forward to offer 5 years loans to support our growth efforts.  A total of $450,000 in loans is being sought.
    ○      UPDATED: Sangha members have generously come forth with loans to support $250,000 of this amount.
    ○      UPDATED: We welcome others who wish to participate in this effort with 5 year loans of $25,000 or more.
  • In addition, a shortfall of $40,000/month between operating revenue and expense or $480,000 annually must be covered by annual fundraising.
  • UPDATED: We’ve currently received pledges for $225,000 of the $300,000 goal for Shambhala Day. To date, we have not received pledge cards from several centres. We expect more money to be coming in.
  • Three people have been laid off since the initial increase in staff in 2010.
  • Remaining staff have taken a 13% cut in pay (with no near-term prospects of restoring their pay).
  • This means that cash is very tight, especially now (leading up to Shambhala Day) and in the coming months as we manage high levels of debt and work to establish new revenue streams.

What’s the plan going forward?

We have a number of initiatives in various levels of development to change the way the mandala is funded, such as the Unified Giving Model and new streams of revenue. These will take some time to develop fully.

Unified Giving Model (UGM): The reason the investment did not result in more income for the centre of the mandala is because there is currently no way to directly connect local income growth with growth in income for the Centre of the Mandala. To correct that, we are introducing the Unified Giving Model.

UGM will express a new level of understanding and manifestation as a worldwide mandala, unifying participation and funding to go beyond the competition between local Centres/Groups and the Centre of the Mandala. This will mean that growth in local Centres/Groups will also result in growth in the central infrastructure to support it.

Affinity Cards: In the near future, Shambhala will offer affinity (credit) cards through Ashoka Credit Union to members who would like a way to give in the course of regular household spending, so a percentage of your monthly spending goes to Shambhala.

Shambhala Bonds: In 2013, we’ll introduce a way for members to invest long-term in the development of Shambhala vision.

What do our projections look like for the coming year?

Putting all these pieces together, we have the following picture for the next 4 years (click to enlarge):Financial Projections

We are projecting that the combination of UGM, growth in local Centre/Group program and membership revenue, and Affinity Card revenue will place us in a better position to balance our annual budget and pay back existing debt by 2016.  If we meet these revenue projections, it would also allow us to increase our services by $250,000.

In addition, we are working to grow additional revenue sources.  This new revenue would enable further strategic investment.

What’s needed from you?

To accomplish this, we will need to rouse our own confidence in three ways:

  • UPDATED: Offering a gift now for Shambhala Day 2013 can make a huge difference allowing us to manage cash in this investment period and sustain ourselves as we turn the corner.
  • UPDATED: Offering to participate in the community loans to support the growth of Shambhala.  (You can contact Carolyn Mandelker for more information: [email protected].)
  • Offering your continued support and donations to the Centre of the Mandala on each Shambhala Day and during the year through 2016, or until the Unified Giving Model is full implemented.
  • Collaborating to arrive at the right approach for the Unified Giving Model. We’ll be working to incorporate everyone’s feedback on what’s important, what is inspiring, and what new ideas and offers could make this possible.

We share everyone’s aspiration to put Shambhala on sustainable, stable financial footing.  With your help we can achieve this goal and ensure that Shambhala will grow and thrive!

Below are answers to these frequently asked questions that were posted for the launch of this blog (the information above is more complete).
(The questions and responses below are from December 2012.)
What is our current model of funding the annual budget of the centre of the mandala?
How has this model worked until now?
What has changed? Why doesn’t this fundraising model still work?
It looks like increasing services is helpful. Why can’t we sustain that?
What plans do we have to change the funding model?

What is our current model of funding the annual budget of the center of the mandala?

Note: Funding to the “centre of mandala” supports our Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo, and the teams of people and services that Shambhala offers to our worldwide communities. For the complete budget showing what we spend on, click here (members password required).

Our current annual budget is approximately $1.4 million, and is not sufficient to support our needs. This is supported in three ways:
• Individual Monthly Donations
Currently, roughly 30% of our budget comes from individual monthly donations to the centre of the mandala. Only 20% of our worldwide members contribute in this way.
• Transfer payments from centres
Another 25% comes from transfers payments from city and land centres.
• One time gifts
The remaining 45% comes from repeated fundraisers, yielding one-time gifts (on Shambhala Day and other fundraisers throughout the year.)
Back to top

How has this model worked until now?

This model worked fairly well until 2011. Prior to 2009, one time gifts made up about 15% of our revenue.

In 2010, we increased our spending to invest in more central services that would enable us to move forward with the Sakyong’s vision for a Shambhala that could be of far greater benefit to the world. This included funding for new curricula, an Editorial Assistant to receive and work with the outpouring of teachings from the Sakyong, an Executive Director, a Director of Centre and Group Support, and an Executive Officer for the Dorje Kasung. This growth in services was funded primarily by increases in one-time gifts, which now make up 45% of our revenue.

In 2010 and 2011, our centres grew by about 10%. We feel that this growth is related to the investment in services we made since 2010.
Back to top

What has changed? Why doesn’t this fundraising model still work?

In 2012 it became clear that the limits of fundraising had been reached. Despite our best efforts, it seemed that at most 40% of the membership were making one-time gifts, and that $650,000 was the upper limit from those donors.

This level of fundraising is not enough to enable us to provide the services needed for ongoing growth. And with 3 or 4 fundraising campaigns every year, it is tiring to many people and is simply not sustainable.

With 40% donating to the centre of the mandala, and only half of them (20%) making monthly gifts, this model does not provide a broad enough donor base.

Many people experience the fundraising from the centre of the mandala as competing with the fundraising of the local centres and practice centres.
Back to top

It looks like increasing services is helpful. Why can’t we sustain that?

As the centres and groups grow in program revenue and/or membership, this growth does not result in corresponding increased funding to the centre of the mandala. Therefore the centre of the mandala is unable to sustain the increase in services that are contributing to this growth locally. We have had to lay off staff and ask the remainder to take significant paycuts.
Back to top

What plans do we have to change the funding model?

There are several things in progress. The most fundamental change is the Unified Giving Model (see below). We are also looking at other secondary revenue generation sources that will help fund the centre of the mandala. This combination of the Unified Giving Model and new revenue sources would provide the additional sustainable revenue needed to continue to invest in growth.
Back to top

11 Responses to Our Funding Model

  1. Carolyn Mandelker

    Dear Blake,

    Good morning to you! It’s Shambhala Day morning, and I just wanted to wish you a fulfilling year of the water snake, and tell you that you have shared an extremely useful point which I will include in my fundraising pitch today!
    Thank you!

  2. . The monthly payment is the only affordable way for people without large resources to give you money, I think. I agree with this statement and in general with Ross Hunter’s letter. I know I make a monthly. I do not recall what it is or when I last increased it. If when requesting a donation from me you could remind me of my currant giving, I would be able to immediatly respond instead of putting it on the back burner. I may be able to increase my monthly giving but one time giving is not wokable for me. Our center in Edmonton does not have a fund raiser. Can fund raisers be built or must they be born that way?

  3. Thank you for the information about the new funding model. It is very helpful to have this information and a place to pose questions. Thank you to all who are working on this — it seems to be a very good way toward making Shambhala finances sustainable.

    The UGM refers to local centres and the centre of the mandala. What about the land centres? For example, with the UGM will we still get separate requests for funds from KCL and SMC (like we did at 2012 year end)?

    • Dear Eve,

      As of now, the land centres are not included, so you will still hear from us. I know there is the aspiration to really be unified, but I recognize it is complicated to include us all to start with. I personally hope it comes soon!


  4. Happy New Year to all! In Chinese system year 2013 is a year of Snake! That gave me some chills! Then it is just a rope. Ancient Chinese wisdom says a Snake in the house is a good omen because it means that your family will not starve.

    Whoever did the pie chart with warm colors did a good job. Really I don’t know whether I should comment here not knowing much about fundraising or accounting. Now to me it seems many members are not liking monthly deductions. And more of our fund is coming from one timers. So can we study the demoraphics of these people. Also may be give members a choice of what percent of their monthly or onetime contribution they like to offer to nourish the center. And may be we can initiate idea or project-based giving with creative names. So people would learn how they are contributing to develop the mandala. And thank them for their contribution to achieving the goal.

    May be there is room for low budget community-based programs that will attract both new and past members to the center. This may broaden the base of one-timers. We need to know our members and guests well in order to serve them. This is something shambhala guides may be able to help with. Blessings for peace and joy!

  5. I thought it might be helpful to be able to look at the funding for the centre of the mandala in the context of the funding for the entire mandala. Here is a the link for the document: funding.shambhalatimes.org/files/2012/12/The-Shambhala-Financial-Mandala.pdf

  6. Dear Carolyn, you say “many Shambhalians are strongly connected with their local community, but do not have a relationship with the centre of the mandala” but I would amend that slightly to say “do not have a direct relationship with the centre of the mandala”. People attending a talk at a local centre may well have no idea of how the mandala operates but without the central organisation of teaching materials, a curriculum, teacher training, advanced programmes and so on, they wouldn’t get to hear the talk. So they do have a relationship albeit an indirect one. If this logic can be communicated hopefully people will accept this Unified Giving Model as creating local benefit.

    • Dear Merlin,
      I am the Unified Giving Model Project Manager. I think you make an excellent point here to say that each center and sangha member is linked to the center of the mandala via services and support. It is also important to note that not all centers’ experiences are the same. Some centers and members feel very connected to the center of the mandala and the global Shambhala community.
      Right now, we have a select group of centers engaging in the Unified Giving Model pilot. Through working with these centers and other sangha members, the pilot will identify what the center of the mandala and local centers can to so that everyone walking into a Shambhala Center can feel supported by and connected to the mandala as a whole.
      Merlin and other, please feel free to email me if you have ideas or input you would like to share. I would love to hear your ideas about how people can connect.

  7. Could someone say what a “significant portion” of the revenues is exactly? (that will be expected from the local centers.) Would that be 10%, 20%, 30%? I would imagine you have some working number, could you share that? Perhaps if we knew some of us may be inspired to send that % to the center of the mandala, based on on local personal membership giving. This way a member could be participating in a portion of the Unified Giving Model prior to its full roll out. Thank you.

    • Hello MB,

      I am the Shambhala Chagdzö Kyi Khyap, and have been working on the development of the Unified Giving Model since the idea was initially proposed.

      We expect to have 3 levels of transfers from local centres to the centre of the mandala. A basic level would apply to program revenues and most memberships, and the target for this is 10%. The other 2 levels would be for members who wish to give higher levels of support to both their local center and the centre of the mandala, with much higher transfer percentages, e.g. 30%. We expect that these higher levels will appeal to some of the people who currently make monthly gifts to the centre of the mandala, and want to consolidate their 2 monthly gifts into one gift through their local centre.

      It would be very helpful if people want to start making an extra gift, which you could do either through your local centre, or directly to the centre of the mandala – it all helps! Anyone can set up a monthly gift to Shambhala via this link http://www.shambhala.org/giving/

  8. Thank you for this overview (found from Carolyn Mandelker’s linkin this topic on the Network).

    I agree the two fundraising sources compete with each other. Fatigue is a huge factor. My monthly payments to my local center are planned into my life and present no fatigue, only pleasure as every month dawns that I continue able to pay 😉

    The center of the mandala is welcome every month to a portion of my local payment, and I’ll increase this payment if necessary. The monthly payment is the only affordable way for people without large resources to give you money, I think.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *