Doing-it-yourself may add meaning to your life

DIY: In the months that Make magazine editor-in-chief Mark Frauenfelder lived on a remote island in the South Pacific with his family, he found that the most memorable and rewarding experiences involved collecting, extracting and cooking coconut with his young daughter.

When he returned to Los Angeles, he promised himself he would find an equivalent to "coconut day."

Slowing down your busy life to make your own food or work on a special project is the stuff life is made of, says Frauenfelder, author of the recently published do-it-yourself book "Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World."

"For too long, my family had been outsourcing and paying for convenience, such as ordering takeout, while at the same time losing the connection and the fun that comes with making something yourself," said Frauenfelder, who is also a founder of the popular blog BoingBoing.net. "If you can make these small but meaningful projects a daily ritual, it can improve the quality of your life."

Frauenfelder suggests working on small DIY endeavors such as carving a wooden spoon that you would appreciate with every use, or making your own sauerkraut or yogurt. The mistakes you make along the way and imperfections embedded in your final product only add to the value and character of what you've created.

His DIY passion? Building three-string guitars out of cigar boxes and old wood.

"Like many other things, musical instruments can seem really mysterious because we might not know how they're made or why they are the way they are," said Frauenfelder. "When you make one yourself, though, it has a unique sound and personality. It becomes a part of you."

Letting donors get the tab

Raising money for your business or for a good cause is difficult, especially during tough financial times.

The most important thing to stress to a potential donor is that you will be especially careful with their money, says John Mutz, co-author of "Fundraising for Dummies." That may mean letting them get the check for a meal.

"You don't want to give the impression that you have all of the money in the world to wine and dine people," says Mutz, who is also a former chairman of the United Way Campaign of Central Indiana. "If they offer to pay, let them. Just remember to let them know that every dollar you don't extend will go to the cause that you support."

Mutz offers these tips for fundraising in a difficult economy:

- Make sure all board members for the nonprofit organization have made contributions themselves.

- Be absolutely sure that you have clearly stated what the mission is and what the money will be used for.

- Define who will benefit from the work that your organization does.

- Never question the giver's motive.

"There are many reasons people give, whether it's because they are deeply impressed with the cause or a member of their family has been affected by the issue or disease," Mutz said. "Sometimes, people just want to be associated with an elite organization like an art museum. Either way, by questioning why they are involved, you may inadvertently insult them or come off as intrusive."

- Be sure to utilize all forms of communication and social media. Still, nothing should replace personal contact with your top donors.

- Remember to thank those who are giving to your cause.

© 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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