Your Ideas

We want to hear from you! Please leave comments, ideas for new revenue streams, questions, or anything else here.

71 Responses to Your Ideas

  1. What is the most simple way to give donations to directly to the Sakyong?

    Jan Henzl, Czech rep.

    • Anna Weinstein

      Hi Jan – the simplest way is to make a donation through the Sakyong Ladrang website,

      • Anna, does the $15 payment for online access to the Sakyong’s teaching in Boston flow to the Center of the Mandala? Are those revenues in the budget? Thanks.

        • Hi Michael – the $15 goes to Shambhala Online, which is hosting and producing the online event. Shambhala Online, like the city centres, transfers a percentage of its revenue (including programme fees, like this) to the centre of the mandala. In fact, Shambhala Online is jumping immediately to the target percentage, which is 25% – so these revenues will be included in the calculation of the 25% transfer amount.

          In terms of the budget, inasmuch as the centre transfers are already included in the budget, this is included, though the balance is shifting as centres are beginning to slowly adjust their monthly transfers to come closer to their target percentage in a healthy and reasonable local timeframe.

    • Dear Jan Henzl,

      Nice to meet you…. I have a one question….. What are you doing to collect all this funds related to shambala , what you are finding until now related to this secret place ……… ?

  2. Wouldn’t it be nice if Ven. Sakyong, President Reoch and other Acharyas would graciously give special teachings and hold online interactive assembly for members, general public and those who have taken the shambhala and/or enlightened society vows twice a year? I feel it would energize, enrich and strengthen our entire global mandala. If one third of the membership joins such online retreat for $100 we could joyfully raise $300,000. Just a thought. Maitri to all.

  3. Kristine McCutcheon


    I was looking at the Unified Giving Diagram.
    I noticed that there is a group, Translation/Archives and Land Centres, that seems to be receiving donations from members and non members – but doesn’t seem to be sharing in giving to the centre of the mandala.

    Maybe Samadhi Store and the Shambhala Shop could be in the same category (of not giving to the centre of the mandala)?

  4. Martha D. Roberts

    DISCLAIMER: The view I’m about to express is my own and not necessarily the view of my center’s governance council or its director… While I have concern for the financial challenges outlined, I think you are missing an important point. That being, that many local centers are struggling as well. Without money from the local level, the mandala is a financial house of cards, and I think it would be wise for you to ask the local centers about their financial status before putting your hand out for more money from us. My center, Berkeley, is suffering serious financial shortfalls. In the past Berkeley Shambhala kept in the black by holding many programs in it large meditation hall (the largest and oldest in northern California), some of which were sponsored by other Buddhist groups that paid for the privilege. Since the creation of the San Francisco Dzong, Berkeley has been told large events should be held there instead to build up that community. In addition, we have been told we may not rent our meditation hall to anyone not of Shambhala. Our director has worked long and hard to increase membership and the amount of dues we all pay, but Berkeley is being squeezed. It’s time the Sakyong and his ministers began looking beyond the palace walls at the whole picture before putting their hand out for more money.

    • Hi Martha – we completely agree! That’s why the initial phase of Unified Giving is focusing on helping centres move toward more consistency and stability with their own local and regional funding and structures, to grow and stabilize our whole mandala’s system so that mutually supporting everyone feels healthy and inspiring, and not like a burden. The Unified Giving team is speaking with each centre individually to talk about their specific needs, successes, and challenges. Berkeley was one of the very first centres we spoke with in December (the beginning of the actual launch), and I believe that the Northern California centre directors met last weekend to talk about how to go forward as a region.

  5. In submitting a payment or donation online, one normally receives several confirmation messages: 1) a “Thank you for your donation of $___”, immediately upon submitting payment; 2) a “Confirmation of Payment” message immediately afterwards; 3) immediately followed by an email sent directly to one’s mailbox, containing an official receipt and thank you.

    In making a donation to Shambhala International yesterday, none of these messages appeared. I was left wondering if the donation had gone through, until I checked with my bank today and saw that the payment did go out.

    I seem to remember this happening once before with a donation to Shambhala–no confirmation at all from the website.

    Please, thoroughness in the details is also very important to the success of a fundraising campaign. It helps donors to feel part of the process and to feel confident that their donation will be used well. Thoroughness contributes to the well of confidence that inspires people to delightedly contribute to future funding requests.

    Thank you very much.

    • Hi Diane – I am very sorry to hear about this. I will make sure to let the finance office know about this message, so they can double-check and confirm your donation. Also, we are in the process of upgrading, and one of the primary reasons is to improve the donation page. Hopefully that will also prevent this kind of thing in future.

      In the meantime, thank you so much for your generosity and please feel free to contact me directly if anything else comes up.

  6. Just wanted to thank you all for your hard work. I feel very cheerful and grateful to support Shambhala, especially on stressful days.

  7. Carolyn Mandelker

    Dear Micheal and others,

    We apologize for the delayed response. We are a small team doing a great deal, and we are working out the details as we go along.

    As I understand the questions, you and others are wondering whether (a) it will still be possible to give money to one’s local centre and not have any of it go to fund the Centre of the Mandala, and (b) whether members will still be able to give restricted donations to certain divisions of the mandala.

    The answer to (a) is that when Unified Giving is implemented, a portion of all revenue received by local centers, either for classes or membership dues, will go to fund the Centre of the Mandala. This will not be a “per person” amount, but rather a percentage of total revenue. Therefore, on that level, it will not be possible to say that one does not wish any portion of one’s dues or class fees to be sent to the Centre of the Mandala, nor could a member restrict the use of the transfer funds going to the Centre of the Mandala. In the Unified approach, we are unifying our resources to support Shambhala’s central mission.

    The answer to (b) is that we certainly want to continue to welcome members to make gifts based on their personal inspiration to parts of the mandala that they feel a special connection to. Restricted donations offered directly to areas of the mandala such as Nalanda Translations, Archives, The Konchok Foundation, the Sakyong Ladrang and the land centres (to name a few), will continue to be possible and encouraged as expressions of our generosity and individual heart connections.

    Thank you for engaging with these complex questions.


    • Thank you, Carolyn, for your clear answer. As you describe the model, then, all revenue from classes and membership dues will be included in the unified giving account, but members would be able to raise funds for their local centre in other ways or to donate money directly to their local centre if they wish.

      • Although the response does refer to revenue from classes and dues, it also says that a portion of “all” revenue and “total” revenue will go to the centre of the mandala. I would interpret that as covering donations as well. Thus, donations specifically earmarked for local are NOT allowable. Perhaps I’m wrong, so clarification would be appreciated.

        I guess I struggle with how such an approach really addresses the problem. It just seems like a worksheet computation. 1) This is the revenue the centre of the mandala needs. 2) This is the % percentage the local centres will send. 3) This is the increase in local centre revenue required to ensure #1 is reached. This requires a massive increase in local centre revenues, implying that dues, contributions and class fees have been inadequate. Is that really a reasonable presumption? And how will the system work? Every time a member makes a donation, the local centre will send a check to the centre of the mandala? Every time a class is offered, the fee will have to be bumped up to cover not only costs but the portion that will go to the centre of the mandala? Again, this doesn’t seem realistic. It’s more akin to a tax. It appears to be a simple worksheet computation that might make sense on paper, but is neither realistic nor addresses the core issue, that is, that the scope of services and related expenses expanded too quickly and needs to be reined in. After all, there wasn’t always was a deficit, was there?

        That’s just my opinion and I urge leadership to reconsider. If not, I expect that the ongoing fundraising appeals will be with us for the foreseeable future.

        • Another question about this program. The UGM description includes the following statement – “As the centres grow, the revenue for the centre of the mandala will automatically grow as well.”

          Why do we simply assume that if an organization grows organically, the centralized leadership structure and related staff will increase in lockstep? Wouldn’t economies of scale result in slower % growth for the centre of the mandala compared with the overall membership? And shouldn’t budgeting for the centre of the mandala be driven first by the scope of its activities, with due consideration of course of financial capacity? Budget increases need not be automatic, mechanically based on membership growth.

          Not that a corporate structure should necessarily be the definitive model for financial management, but I’ll pose the following question anyway. Would a fiscally astute company express a goal of having its central headquarters budget expand in lockstep with sales growth? I doubt it!

  8. This is an excellent vehicle for promoting dialogue, where questions could be raised and discussed, and for demonstrating responsiveness and openness between leadership and membership. Inevitably, some questions might be challenging in nature. Nevertheless, they should be considered and addressed. That’s just being genuine. But some questions pertaining to local centre donations have now been out there, unaddressed, for more than a month. That’s discouraging.

    • From the silence, I’m thinking the answer to whether people will be permitted to support their local centres with direct donations, without a portion going to Shambhala Int’l, is no. The only response I see that addressed this question, Connie’s on September 14, implies that centres will be expected to transfer an unspecified target percentage of their income to headquarters. Centres may be unable to meet that target initially, but it appears that all revenue will be included for the purpose of calculating the total funds due Shambhala Int’l. Please advise whether this is correct, or whether the question is still under discussion. Thank you.

  9. I should have read the earlier posts more carefully. I see that the question I recently raised regarding the apparent conflict that UGM creates for local members and centres regarding their donations had already been expressed by others, about three weeks ago in fact. The question is rather straight forward, as should be the answer. Under UGM, are members welcome to exercise choice regarding the ultimate recipient of their donation? Yes or no? I apologize if there are circumstances preventing an answer to the question, but it just seems like such an important question merited a response. Thank you.

    • Just adding my two ratnas here.
      The attitude that donations to a local center should be exclusively reserved for that center is astoundingly shortsighted.
      The Shambhala International organization is the source of all the syllabi, practice guidelines, teacher and meditation instructor authorizations, source books, etc, etc, etc, without which local centers would not be Shambhala centers. Shambhala International is also staffed by an astonishingly small group of overworked people who should be 1) paid a decent salary, 2) get health and retirement benefits and 3) get the feeling like they’re appreciated.
      The model that Connie and Carolyn describe has been used for Shambhala Europe for a long time and works well.
      Personally, I find it distressing that there are community members out there who think that their little local thingy can survive alone.

      • Shortsightedness is expanding an expense budget before the financial capacity exists to handle it. The cost of that shortsightedness was layoffs and salary cuts, presumably for some of the very overworked people you refer to. And that result was not caused by a lack of commitment or generosity by “the local thingy’s” you refer to. Concluding that the “local thingy’s” could not survive on their own is sort of like saying practicing Catholics can’t continue to practice without the Vatican. Sorry, that’s just not true. Actually, it’s the other way around. The “big thingy” ceases to exist without the local centres and individual members.

  10. Connie. Thank you for your response. You say that “If you want to make donations directly to the center of the mandala, you will be welcome to continue to do that.”

    The question that I have is the following – If we are welcome to make donations directly to the center of the mandala, will we also, and similarly, have the option of making donations directly (and exclusively) to our local centres?” Thank you.

    • I’m also waiting for the response to your question, Michael. If the answer is no, I predict that some centres will be tempted to accept undocumented cash donations, if donors are adamant about wanting a donation to be solely for the use of the local centre. Such a situation will not benefit the relationship between local and international.

      • I agree with your observation. A growing membership base means growing revenues, which is an opportunity for expanding initiatives. While revenues grow, an organization can expand its scope and activities in line with its expanding financial capacity. Shambhala was in such a position and had that opportunity. Instead, by expanding programs in a manner that exceeded otherwise healthy revenue growth, and based upon expectations that proved to be unrealistic, the cart was clearly put before the horse. By unrealistic, I mean making such assumptions in the midst of a very challenging economic environment. That was a misstep that had obvious consequences. It should be re-thought and corrected. Implementing a quantitative formula based on (once again) unrealistic assumptions that simply ratchet up the level of financial support from individual members, who have been bombarded with recurring funding appeals, is just a continuation of the same thinking that led to the budget shortfall in the first place. UGM or recurring funding appeals? Is there really a difference other than the mechanics? Without a real change in strategy, and UGM is not such a change, the regular funding appeals will continue. Time will tell.

  11. Carolyn Mandelker

    Friends, I thought some of you might not know the position that Connie holds in the mandala, and therefore you might not know how authoritative her response was! Connie is the Chagdzo Kyi Kyap for Shambhala, which translates as the Bursar General. She is also a member of the Unified Giving Development team. She is the best person to answer these questions. Thank you Connie!

  12. Several people have asked about how Unified Giving will effect their donations. For those who are members through a local center, your center donations will continue to be processed by your local center. If you want to make donations directly to the center of the mandala, you will be welcome to continue to do that.

    Centers will continue to manage their local finances as they do today, taking into consideration the need for the financial sustainability of their center, advancing the Sakyong’s vision, meeting the needs of the local sangha, as well as supporting the needs of the mandala as a whole. We anticipate that there will be a target percentage for Unified Giving, and that each center will work with that as best they can, recognizing some centers may already be transferring the target percentage and others may need some time to more fully develop their revenue.

  13. Seems that the current practice of competing streams of donations, local versus central, is to be replaced by a single stream. Local donations, but a portion will then flow to the center of the mandala. How is this to be managed? Who makes the decision as to the amount that will flow from the local centers to the center of the mandala? Perhaps that decision has already been made, say a set percentage.

    I guess I find it hard to accept that individuals, when they make their contributions or pay their dues, no longer are entitled to that choice. When they had the choice, the center of the mandala was underfunded, so now the choice (the “competition”) has been removed? That is very disturbing. Trust and faith are things that are earned.

    I think it would have made more sense for the center of the mandala to better understand why there appears to be a shortfall of trust and faith, in turn resulting in a financial shortfall, instead of removing choice from individuals. “Competition” for funds is not a bad thing. Neither is individual choice. If competition doesn’t work for the center of the mandala, it would make better sense for the center of the mandala to understand why instead of removing an element of individual choice. That UGM seems to reflect a lack of trust by the center for the locals. Sad.

    Many months ago, on this thread, I asked a number of questions regarding financial flows that were not addressed in a meaningful way. For example, contributions to the center of the mandala help fund marketing for publications, personal staff for the Sakyong and family, etc. Yet no publishing revenues flow back to the center of the mandala. I ask how can that be, yet nothing definitive is said. That does not promote trust and the need to implement the UGM is an expression of that lack of trust. If the trust was there, there would be no need for a UGM.

  14. Well done! Thanks for the update.

  15. Hi Carolyn,
    It might be more effective if the videos and emails weren’t just about
    Finances and funding, that can be cool and not as magnetizing as we could be.
    It might be good to express something about community, real care for each other and our vision, expanding and including many, especially others that may feel estranged or unclear with so many changes, newcomers who don’t really understand our vast, societal vision etc.

    Being in Boulder, many feel like the vision might be contracting with the Scorpion Seal encouraging exclusiveness, so that might want to be clarified as a community.
    I think if you could express not only the need but why we would want to give to Shambhala, that may touch hearts more. I think starting with letting people know
    That -everyone- is important and cared for, and that warmth
    can inspire others. Care first, no so businesslike, than the money might increase. Maybe even a phone tree so that everyone is contacted (via Delegs) in a personal way like we did way back when I first came in in 1990 would be good.
    Hope this feedback helps,
    Best to you,

  16. Excellent presentation! Very good ideas. I particularly like the on line auction suggestion. might I suggest an on line shambhala art bank of sorts; art that in some way relates to the teachings. Thanks for your dedication, and hard work..

  17. Carolyn,
    Thank you so much for this video and please keep up this good work. We want to make Shambhala Central strong and vibrant financially – to match the strength and vibrancy of the extraordinary staff and their work. I’d love to give some wonderful object to an auction.


  18. Thanks for the explanation of the unified giving system, Carolyn, but it leaves a major issue untouched, which is what does this system do to the autonomy of local centers. If our yearly donations go to Halifax, who decides how much of it returns to our local center? And how the money is spent and for what? These are ethical as well as economic questions, it seems to me. Thanks for considering.

    • I appreciated Carolyn’s gentle presentation, and agree that there needs to be coordination in funding locals and international. I am familiar with other church models in which all contributions go to local congregations, and the congregations then decide how much to give to the larger body. Is this the way you envision it working? It seems that there always needs to be local control of local funds for local needs. I hope that is part of the picture.

  19. Thanks Carolyn, let get on with it everyone, we have started in Victoria, lets just start doing it!!

  20. Thanks for the lovely video. I know that the center of the Mandala is underfunded and I support a search for a solution. People can see the needs of their own center first-hand and feel motivated to help. This will not go away. I do not see how the central office can decide for the local chapters what they need. I think that funding the local centers from a distance would be difficult to do fairly. Still, we need to assure that the central Mandala is appropriately funded, so by necessity, we need not to over-simplify the structure.

    IT MUST ALSO BE NOTED that it is the vibrancy of the individuals in a local center that inspire all of us to give more than we thought we could, in order to maintain this local spirit. I would hope that extra gifts to a local chapter for a specific purpose would not become “illegal”. I believe this would be counter-productive to the whole system. I think we do not want an inflexible single system, and do not imply that this is being contemplated. I need to learn more. Thanks for the opportunity to comment. Ruth P.

  21. thanks for the video, Carolyn. you referred to the Sakyong’s house; don’t other live there as well? Isn’t a Court more than someone’s home? The true court principle is about non-ego rather than territory, not exactly somone’s home.
    Asking artists to donate art when many artists struggle to make a living? the arts are not financially supported or valued often in our society in North Americal.
    I would prefer to have choice in where my donation goes: local centre vs Shambhala International.

    • I, too, wish to give seperately to my local center and to Shambhala Int’l.
      I was told this would definitely be possible. It simply isn’t true that every individual is able to be totally involved locally–for reasons of physical inaccessibility, or distance, or whatever. Please reassure us that this choice will remain.

  22. Carolyn, I really like the method of communication through a video. I found it way easier to digest and take in what you were saying. The endless emails and appeals are hard to read over time so this is great and I hope you do more. Best, Erika

  23. Hi Carol…I’ve watched your video and read some of the above comments. Raising funds for any organization is tricky. For those of us who cannot afford to make outright monetary donations, in-kind offerings make sense. I will have a painting to donate for the on-line Shambhala auction…Just let me know the details. One other thing worth remembering about enticing people to donate, is the power of fun and immediate reward… such as a (fund raising) dinner or concert …Certainly more work and organization involved but worth the effort …and general profile raising for Shambhala.

  24. I would give, I guess, but there’s no support anymore for the practices that are close to my heart, and so there’s a lot less connection, you know? I love practicing the Six Dharmas, but that particular practice, and the yidam practices, have been shelved, in spite of the occasional online presentation. If I want to go further with these practices or hang out with like-minded Kagyu practitioners I have to go to Nithartha (in my town) or other organizations.

    • Lucille Celestino

      Dear Bran,
      This is an interesting dilemma that is not yours alone, I imagine, in this context. Do you relate to Shambhala teachings at all? Do you feel Shambhala International is your community? Do you feel it is continuing the vision of our Root Guru Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in expanding access and practice of Shambhala dharma? We were often provided access to other Kagyu teachers when VCTR was with us. Is it such a bad thing to continue to access Kagyu teachers and practices on our journey? And still feel loyalty to the Shambhala community? I think the answer can be “yes” to anyone of these questions and in that case putting Shambhala International on your worthy charities list would be a great thing to do.

      • I can’t really keep practicing with the Shambhala community or support it that much if the practices I do aren’t supported. But that’s ok…I got a lot from doing the full ngondro and the Vajrayogini and Chakrasamvara practices. I wish you all the best, and I’ll be watching from afar. Good luck to all of you!

  25. Hey, what happened? Why has everything after mid-December been deleted?

  26. The latest posting on Shambhala Times (“We Need to be Warriors”) includes the following quote – “Bravery is the key instruction in the Shambhala teachings. This is why these teachings use the image of a warrior: when confronted by great challenges, warriors rise to the occasion. When cowards are confronted by difficulties, they withdraw.”

    After multiple appeals for financial support as well as requests for comments, some time passed and the funding goal was not met. The progress chart (re the December goal) was removed. It’s puzzling that there hasn’t been any substantive communication regarding the financial appeal, its status, or conclusions regarding the path forward? Can we expect anything soon?

    • Hi Michael – it’s true, we didn’t meet the goal for December, although what we did receive is a big help! We are just regrouping now, tabulating the final results, preparing messages to thank the people who participated and let everyone know the final results and what will happen next in terms of fundraising and continued efforts toward transparency and communication. There aren’t very many people available to work on this, so unfortunately it takes longer than any of us would like. But it’s coming!

      • Yes, I can understand that it’s a challenge! Thank you.

      • Hi Anna – I see the note that thanks people for the donations, communicates the results and indicates that the funds will cover expenses through January (which is just about done). It also says to stay tuned for info about different projects. It didn’t say anything about next steps with respect to finances, fundraising, and transparency. Should we expect something? Given how critical the issue is and how much attention it received earlier, I’m surprised that there hasn’t been even a mention of it, except in response to my earlier question.

  27. My idea is to try to move away from a curriculum first model for the community. Currently it seems like most of our outreach seems aimed at connecting people to the Shambhala path of practice, and then at some later point they become members and start supporting things financially.

    I think we should try to offer a large set of community groups and activities which are independent of the practice path. The idea would be to create something that could inspire people to join the community and help fund it right away, without waiting for them to attend a bunch of classes.

    • I appreciate Gordon’s comment. I feel like that the changes in the curriculum are unintentionally causing the community to become more fragmented and it worries me.

      One way that I think we could use curriculum to build community and even funding would be to make room for a non-linear curriculum under which the community could gather regularly. I don’t think that such a curriculum would even need to be created because I see it right here on my book shelf, thousands of pages of unrestricted teachings given to us by our Sakyongs. I also think that this community has many qualified teachers who are not Shastris or Acharyas that could share these teachings in such a setting.

      It seems possible to me that this would not only build community, but also improve funding and growth, and support our formal curriculum.

      The power of Shambhala comes out when we get together. I think that we should find ways to do this more often. Everybody together, beyond prerequisites and practices.

      • Good comment and recommendation. It makes perfect sense. But prerequisites, titles and badges of honor (to distinguish the more advanced practitioners from the newbies) are the tangible results of well-ingrained spiritual materialism. At my local centre, group discussions sometimes morph into contests of one-upmanship, where “more experienced” members rattle off buzz-words, drop names, and let everyone else know what advanced levels they’ve attained. Sort of cultish and quite a turn off for newbies. I don’t think it’s intentional, but the approach at the world-wide level helps create the environment for this sort of behavior at the local levels. It would be a brave step indeed to make humility a subject of attention and downplay the titles, prerequisites, etc. As you said – “Everybody together, beyond prerequisites and practices.”

    • Kristine McCutcheon

      Gordon – thanks.
      I too like considering an approach that encourages people to find reasons to be a member of the community that is not simply classes and curriculum.
      When we give to our small groups, socially and financially it is creating and supporting a greater community. And it gives to us 🙂

  28. With the December fundraising appeal, the ball was placed squarely in the membership’s hands. But only about 40% of the goal of $150,000 was raised. That result is in line with the larger fundraising appeal shortfall that led to the financial shortfall in the first place. So now the ball is back in the leadership’s hands. Their response will set the tone. There’s been plenty of time to think about it. What next? Any conclusions? Maybe a re-think about the overall approach? Perhaps some serious rationalization in terms of scope and expenses? Or the status quo (same expansive scope, some more layoffs and pay cuts, same convoluted structure, more fundraising appeals, etc.)? A non-reaction will say even more.

  29. I think that the “demand” for services should be connected with revenue. What people say they want and what they are willing to pay for it are often quite different. Linking the two will not only provide better budgeting, but likely improve the quality of output since there will be deeper communication between demand and providers.

    I also think there are too many threads of funding with unclear objectives. These are very uncertain economic times . Seems to me that now is the time for very disciplined financial management.

  30. I often think about how much food is bought and thrown out after ST receptions at local centers. I wonder how much of the program fees are taken up by these food costs? If we simply asked staff to donate simple treats, reduced our food intake expectations, reviewed what we perceive as the teaching on abundance in offerings and how we are actually expressing these perceptions…local centers might end up buying less food which might then result in a surplus at the end of the year. I don’t think it needs to be a complicated process. One program coordinator could make a personal aspiration to try something new to reduce overhead.

    The money saved could be split between SI and the local center. I would try it myself if I were able!

  31. The revised 2012 budget on the website is $1.6 million. What does the $1.4 million cited in the posting on “Our Funding Model” refer to?

    The “Our Funding Model” posting says that the fundraising model worked until 2011. Well, in 2011, revenues were actually well above budget and the prior year. This should have been a great thing. Instead, it was more than offset not only by a massive increase in the expense budget, but by a huge overrun of actual expenses over the higher budget. How can there be such a disconnect between what was budgeted and what was actually experienced?

    After the experience in 2011, budgeted revenues were set at a level 24% above 2011 actual revenues. It’s great to be optimistic, but for budgeting to be of any value, it must be realistic. How can such a huge increase be budgeted for 2012 in the midst of such a difficult economic environment? As if this wasn’t enough, budgeted expenses for 2012 were set at a level 18% above actual expenses for 2011. This is a perfect example of spending money that you don’t have.

    To say that the financial model doesn’t work is not accurate. Revenues have increased quite a bit. That part of the model works quite well. The problem is with the expense side of the model. Spending has gone through the roof, well above and beyond what should otherwise be viewed as a solid increase in revenues.

    The posting says that “Only 20% of our worldwide members contribute” through “individual monthly donations.” ONLY 20%? Aren’t the same members already contributing through their local centres and with “one-time” donations, which happened to be an amazing 48% above budget in 2011?!?!

    The Unified Giving Model is primarily a change under which a larger proportion of individuals’ payments to their respective centers will flow to the “center of the Mandala”. Doesn’t this mean that less of individuals’ contributions will flow to their local centers? This change in the model is an oversimplification that, like recent budgeting, is not realistic. Leadership is simply saying that there isn’t enough money flowing in to support was has been a tremendous increase in spending, so the “center of the Mandala” is going to increase its share of individuals’ contributions to their local centers! In the absence of other more tangible changes (again, how about some clarification about those revenue flows that aren’t going to Shambhala International?), I find this whole approach disappointing.

    • Hello Michael,

      The current monthly budget, after the cuts made earlier this year, is about $117,000 or $1.4 million per year. The reason the revised budget for 2012 is $1.6 million is because the cuts were not made until after June, so the monthly expenses for the first half of the year were higher than the second half. Put another way, the current expense level will produce a 2013 budget of $1.4 million.

      After 2010 we began increasing 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. So this increase in expense in 2011 was planned, and most of it was covered by increases in donations. We specifically asked for more donations so that we could fund the new services, and people really responded.

      As we entered 2012, there was much more we wanted to do, partly due to the demand for more services brought about by the growth we were experiencing in many of our centres and groups. So we took another leap in investing in our future, and found that we had reached the limits of what could be raised through fundraising. That is the point at which we reassessed what we could do and how we could best move forward. But we remain committed to a growth strategy that will allow us to increase revenues so that we can invest more (yes, spend more), on the services and initiatives needed for that growth.

      As we implement Unified Giving Model, many of those who currently contribute to both their local centre and the centre of the mandala, will consolidate their giving, so that their monthly gift will be a single monthly gift to their local centre. This is part of the transition for those who are already members. But UGM is oriented towards the future, to the new program participants and new members who have not yet come to Shambhala. From the beginning they will be part of and supporting the whole situation, both their local centre and the centre of the mandala. They will not receive donation requests from someone they don’t know to fund something they don’t understand and that feels remote. With UGM, this growth at the local level will fuel the growth at the centre of the mandala, which in turn supports the local growth.

  32. To repeat and expand an observation I’ve made before regarding transparency of financial arrangements, I perceive quite the opposite.

    Some examples –
    (1) A Shambhala website announces the offering of a new currency, the “ratna”. Does an offering through such a purpose help alleviate Shambhala’s financial crisis? I learned that the answer is no because that’s a Sakyong Ladrang initiative.
    (2) Shambhala websites and resources are tapped to promote a publication (e.g., Running with the Mind of Meditation). Given Shambhala’s role in marketing and promotion, does Shambhala benefit financially if the book is successful? Again, I learned that the answer is no because that’s a separate “business activity” outside of Shambhala.
    (3) I recently received an e-mail from Shambhala Media promoting a special holiday sale of all sorts of items, unquestionably Shambhala in origin, such as t-shirts, photos, publications, etc. I’m sure many or all other Sangha members received the same e-mail. But I see no line item for Shambhala Media revenues or related expenses in the Shambhala budget or financial statements. If I buy a photo, where does the money go? Is this another separate “Shambhala” business activity, like the ones above, whose proceeds do not go to Shambhala International?

    I can understand the need for a financially challenged organization to reach out to its members for support. But such an appeal rings hollow in the absence of transparency regarding financial arrangements (like the items noted above) and an undisciplined budgeting and planning process (as evidenced by a total disconnect between expenses actually incurred and what had been budgeted).

    • Hello Michael,

      Here are a few answers to your questions.
      (1) It is true that the Ladrang receives the financial benefit from the ratnas. It is also true that the Ladrang provides significant support to the lineage. For example, the Ladrang paid the costs of the Sakyong’s most recent retreat to Asia. This is enormously helpful to Shambhala, as these retreats are part of what enables the Sakyong to write so prolifically, and to provide spiritual leadership and strategic direction for Shambhala.
      (2) It is true that revenue from book sales goes directly to the Sakyong. I think it is also true that anything the Sakyong does as a spiritual leader has an impact on the Shambhala organization, inspiring those who come to our centres as well as those who are members of our communities. Of course it is not easy to make direct connections – how many people have read “Ruling Your World” and then came to a Shambhala Center? Or how many people came to a Shambhala Center to learn to meditate, then discovered and purchased the Sakyong’s books?
      (3) Unlike the centre of the mandala, which currently only raises money through donations and transfers, Shambhala Media is actually a business. It’s main operating unit generates revenue from sales, and those sales finance it’s operation, essentially at break even. If you buy a photo, it goes to cover the cost of the photo and the website and the office and the staff that mailed you the photo and processed your payment. Because it does not rely on funding from the centre of the mandala, we have not included Media in the central budget.

      • Hi Connie,
        Thank you for your reply. Your answers to my questions confirm what I’ve been saying, that there are financial flows relating directly to Shambhala, promoted through Shambhala media, that do NOT flow to Shambhala International. I don’t doubt the sincerity of your response, but the explanations you provide are not justifications for the practices I’m questioning.

        Shambhala’s own Policy on Financial Transparency and Integrity says that “As a matter of financial policy, Shambhala is committed to transparency. This means that all members of Shambhala, on whom the mandala’s financial support depends, are invited to receive accurate information, both detailed and summary, about the
        organization’s finances. ”

        Well, the current setup is anything but transparent. And financial information provided to membership is not the complete picture. If the policy noted above means more than just words, then I suggest the following.

        > Provide membership with financial information regarding ALL the Shambhala financial flows I’ve mentioned (and that you noted in your response) that are NOT flowing to Shambhala International.
        > End the practice of Shambhala International being used regularly as an uncompensated marketing vehicle to promote revenue flows that do NOT pass to or through Shambhala International. This practice is particularly inappropriate when membership is being asked to contribute more.
        > Finally, change the structure once and for all so that ALL Shambhala-related inflows and outflows of funds, such as publishing, Ratna sales, Shambhala Media, etc. will actually flow to and through Shambhala International. That’s the only way the budget and financial reports of Shambhala International will ever present a comprehensive view of the true financial situation.

        If these steps are not possible, why not? If they are not to be adopted, then I suggest that the policy noted above regarding Financial Transparency be revoked because it is simply not true. Like you, I’ve had a lot of experience with respect to financial disclosure. And I think we both know that when financial information is distributed that is incomplete, as is presently the case, then it is neither accurate nor detailed, as called for in the policy.

        • Hi Connie,

          My apologies if I am being redundant. I am simply trying to get my arms around what is, at least to me, a VERY confusing arrangement.

          The “Our Funding Model” discussion focused primarily on the $1.4 million budget for the “centre of mandala”, whose funding shortfall is clearly identified as the primary objective of the UGM. However, later in the discussion, the ultimate broader scope of the UGM was addressed. It stated that “It is the long term goal of the Unified Giving Model to be able to provide all of the fundraising needed to cover the operations of all the entities: centres and groups, land centres, centre of the mandala and specialized entities/projects. Even with UGM, we will still have to fundraise for capital/building projects, but the day-to-day operations will be covered.”

          So, the goal of the Unified Giving Model is ultimately to cover activities that currently require about $6 million per year. Capital Investments of $2-4 million per year will continue to require separate fundraising outside of the UGM.

          The Shambhala Financial Mandala document certainly clarifies that the financial picture is a whole lot bigger and broader than the Center of the Mandala, which I presume is what the Shambhala International Budget and Financial Statements cover.

          Getting back to clarity and transparency of financial information, is “accurate and detailed” information available for all the other activities identified that are part of the $6 million annual goal of the Unified Giving Model? Obviously, the available budget and financial statements are only a piece of a much larger puzzle. It appears, based on your reply to my questions, that the Sakyong Ladrang and publishing activities do indeed play an important part in the Mandala. If so, I see no reason why they should be excluded from the bigger picture. And why not include the Capital Investments within the scope of Unified Giving and financial disclosure as well? Clearly, they are part of the Shambhala Financial Mandala too. These steps would truly clarify the situation and provide a clearer view of the financial situation for the membership. They would also make “Unified”, as in Unified Giving Model, an accurate description.

          I continue to recommend a change whereby the confusing labyrinth of entities and financial flows are consolidated into a single entity for purposes of budgeting and financial reporting.


  33. Peter’s post prompted me to add that he is not the only one in this situation. Coming from another Buddhist organization, I often feel that there is a discrepancy between solicitations to donate and accessibility to the Buddhist teachings at Shambhala. The centre of the mandala seems to be a forbidden land accessible only to the initiates. We are asked to have faith and support them remotely. Something that I have been doing for years as I trust the vision of Chogyam Trungpa. The new fundraising model, though, does not address the hesitations of the ‘large base’, farther away from the centre, members. Actually, it gives a sense that we will even lose sight of how our membership to a particular centre will be used (I support two centres in two different countries). Will we have a say at the local level on how much will be sent back to the centre of the mandala and for what purpose? It is a matter of perception. Transparency is key about how money gets spent (do we really pay for airplane tickets to extended family members of some acharyas?), who decides how it is spent (why?) and the process by which we, the large base, can give some feedback and be heard. I would like to support what others have posted: a monthly fee that includes all programmes and services, maybe with a two tier system, and free for unemployed participants, let say 50 to 100 dollars a month, and over 100, plus a few hours of mandatory volunteer work for members who then would have access to programmes without having to pay each time a teacher is in town to teach a week-end, or with a discount compared to non-members. More would attend programmes and the community would be more vibrant and stronger.

    • Hello Veronique,
      I think one of the aspects of Shambhala that is quite different from most other similar organizations is that we have over 200 centres and groups around the world offering personal instruction, classes and programs. Even though the vast majority have no paid staff, the costs of being able to offer these facilities and this programming is quite significant – nearly $8 million annually. Another $6 million is needed annually to provide our residential land centres. A breakdown of the worldwide financial mandala can be found at

      While all these facilities mean a lot of expense, they also mean we can provide many people with the opportunity for a first hand, in person experience and the opportunity to be part of a sangha in their local community.

  34. Richard Heilbrunn

    I understand the Unified Gifting Model is already used in Europe to support the European Mandala. Will they now contribute to the Center of the Mandala??

    • Shambhala Europe provides about $44,000 per year in support for the center of the mandala. This transfer is on behalf of all of Europe, including the European centers and groups and Dechen Choling.

      Connie Brock

  35. joshua bradshaw

    Below is a copy of my post in “Sangha Wired” group on Shambhala Network – for more detail, see that thread. This is a summary of Chögyal Namkhai Norbus’ Sangha and their successful funding.

    “$$$$$$ and HELP……?????

    May want to pass this on to Halifax Fundraising (?).

    This part may be unpopular with some, but it appears to be a major way in which CNNr’s Sangha funds it :

    -To be a “Member” of the Sanghas’ RESOURCES department (ie:access to Texts, A-V, and Live Webcasts) you pay dues , yearly. Its about 125$ year if unemployed and goes up from there based on your income and what level you want to help at. They probably have 10k-20k (or more) Members, so that is at least 1,250,000-2,500,000$ yearly (if eveyone paid the lowest amount, which most pay more) in extra funds. I am not fluent in how Halifax does this, but Dzogchen Community has this part done STRICTLY – in other words , they make it so you CANT access much unless you are ACTIVE in Dues and Help (they have free access for those that can prove they are unemployed and struggling). Almost everyone is a member as you CANNOT access any Restricted Webcasts or Texts, A-V, and NO Playback of Webcasts, unless you are (and have the Transmission) – thats the Carrot used here and how it DIFFERS from us it seems – it would be like NOT having access to Vajradhatu Books A-V , UNLESS you are a Member and to do that, must Pay Dues. A Member ID is issued and updated yearly. – describes WHY they need it and how it helps the Sangha, to new members.


    This is also REQUIRED (perhaps it is “Mandated Volunteerism”). It is similar to a Global ROTA, where the Members need to build up their ROTA Credits, in order to PROCEED to the Next Level of the Path (it would be like if someone took Shambhala Level 5, they would need to THEN accumulate so many ROTA-Volunteer Credits at their local Center, or by being an IT Volunteer, or some measurable altruistic action, BEFORE they could go on to Level II, and so on up to Scorpian Seal ___). Its not much BUT it IS MANDATED, so then you end up with say (minimum) 10k people at 25 hours year=250,000 extra hours of Volunteered help , yearly (and probably more).


    This system (could be tweaked) could add;

    – $1,250,000-2,500,000 (or more) … A SET amount is allocated for A-V/Web since that is PART of the “Product” the Members get, so it should be of Quality, the rest goes to Book-A-V Store, and Sangha Proper-Local Centers, it appears.

    – 250,000 (prob more) Hours Volunteer work-guess is this would be a 50% (+) increase if were MANDATED.

    It struck me as shocking, but upon contemplation, its seems a good way to keep the Sangha strong.

    CNNr and TWR travel alot, and it appears that a tech goes WITH them , and they broadcast Webcasts almost monthly from wherever (assuming Net is avail) , some are Public (no membership) , others are Restricted.”

  36. Here is an idea for Shambhala to consider in the future, hopefully soon. various nonprofits (hospitals , consumer reports, etc) are able to offer annuities based upon gifts to the organization. if feasible this would be helpful to shamhhala. aging members may have some money but worry about running out of money in old age. so it could be helpful to both. for an example you cold contact consumers reports. the organization probably works with an insurance company.

  37. Peter Mt. Shasta

    For many years it seems that every email I receive from Shambhala is a request for money, yet when I request to buy a book or attend a teaching I am told that I do not have the prerequisites. As I live in a remote mountain village far from any Shambhala center and have a very minimal income, it seems that the Shambhala form of Buddhism is closed to me. This makes me sad as I was a student of the Vidydhara, who was a constant outflowing of wisdom and inspiration without regard for petty tyranny. I wonder if Shambhala has become the embodiment of the spiritual materialism he drew the sword of discriminating intelligence against?

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