Sustaining Supporter Drive 2024 – Lisa S

June 13, 2024

This week, Lisa S. (a long-time supporter who recently moved back to Portland) shares how recent life events have led her to a deeper understanding of samsara and the value of dharma practice.

I call this photo “Portrait of a Midlife Crisis”, though it could easily be called “My Brain on Samsara”. It was taken in July 2023, on my would-be wedding weekend. Instead of celebrating what many insist should have been the “happiest day of my life”, I was in my basement  , spray painting and clearing out 115 years of grime. My fiancé had ended our seven-year relationship 3 weeks prior: In 48 hours, all my dreams-on-paper–-marriage, beautiful home in Seattle, four stepdaughters, and financial flourishing— were gone. It was the sharpest and deepest low in the sine curve of my life. But, as one friend predicted, it also proved my “holy hour”.

I wasn’t winning any wars against Samsara. I wasn’t going to out-fox suffering with a vision board.  I needed to surrender and truly seek refuge.   I would be returning home. To Portland, Buddhism and KCC.

Born and raised in Portland, I found KCC in 2009, and took refuge on New Years 2010.  It was the kind of community I was longing for: the low-dogma, keep-it-real breed of Buddhism, a bring-your-tea-to-the-cushion kind of place. A community where discerning teachers ask: Do you want the dogma, or do you want the heart of the teaching?

A flood of work and graduate school swept me away from Portland – and practice. But my desire to return never faded.

I found my way back in 2016, delighted to discover I was the uptight one when attending a study group on the Precepts for Causing No Harm. (Yes, I’m still wound up about my chocolate addiction and the time I killed a slug when I was 8.) But by the end of that year, I had fallen in love and moved to Seattle. The practice was once again swept aside.

I shopped for a sangha in Seattle, but never found anything close to the KCC feel. Without attending a single program or even meditating regularly, I started donating $50/month just to stay connected.

A couple of weeks after that photo was taken last summer, I was in the mood for commitment, and got my first and only tattoo. I wanted to mark territory for my next chapter. Tibetan calligraphy, drawn by a Kagyu monk: Precious human existence.

This winter, I returned to KCC. The sangha had seen plenty of changes: new center, new lama, many new faces. But the essence hadn’t changed.

The morning practice sessions quickly helped me establish a daily meditation habit that had eluded me for decades. During a Sunday group discussion, as the mic was passed around, I got goosebumps over all the members who’ve spent decades wrestling with the same questions gnawing at me my whole life. These are my people!

But understanding samsara, this time in my bones, was priceless. I had several gratitude-cries over it.

To me, it seems like this: Many years ago, Portland banned styrofoam because it killed birds. Our feathered friends eat old coffee cups or clam-shell containers, believing it is food. But they can’t metabolize it. Stuffed on styrofoam, they don’t eat. They starve. That was my brain on samsara. Everything I had believed should make me happy in my previous life– career, relationship, house, money– just didn’t. And not because it went away. Filled with all the stuff that doesn’t nourish, I was starved. I yearned for something wholly different.

KCC nourishes. It feels like home: Wise, brave community grounded practices which drill straight to the substrata of wellbeing.

So, I want to nourish right back. Back in 2009 and 2016, I was a flat-broke activist, unable to contribute much financially. Today, my circumstances are different. So before meeting with anyone, or understanding what a “sustaining member” is, I donated.

I landed on an initial donation number by reflecting on the open market: My therapist charges $150/hour. My online feminist thought-work community is $100/month, and their special 6-hour online workshops run $1400 each.  A breath-work coach recently pitched me sessions at $250 per hour!

None of these supports have had the impact KCC has had on my life–just yesterday my therapist of 4 years told me she’s never seen me so well. I told her about the practices.

And with overwhelming generosity, KCC provides this for all, for free!?! Looking around, I see many Sangha members today who are exactly where I was a decade ago, deep in their own experiments with a “bodhisattva lifestyle”, hustling to engage in social justice work, sans cash.

The structure of an annual gift works better for me, so I opened with $2500, the equivalent of $200 per month. I’m already planning my next gift, as the first doesn’t approach the value of the KCC in my life. It’s a small price for all the support in making the most of this precious human existence.


Dharma of Dollars

KCC is committed to providing the teachings of the Dharma freely.  To do this, we must generate enough revenue to compensate our staff, maintain the Portland Center, SCOL Retreat Center and numerous online offerings.

Recently, a newer member said that KCC feels like an organization with a $1,000,000 budget. The truth is that the rich offerings of KCCs regular practices, programs, and retreats are accomplished by dedicated staff, committed volunteers and a small budget of about $350,000.

Like many organizations, KCC is feeling the effects of inflation. The growth of income is not keeping pace with expenses, especially wages and benefits for our five wonderful employees, including Lama Eric, the Managing Director, and our SCOL staff.

  • The Board recently decided to “pause” on filling the part-time Portland Center Operations Manager position due to our projected budget shortfall.
  • The cost of insurance, Zoom and other key software subscriptions continue to rise.
  • The cost of fuel and other essentials for SCOL operations and maintenance have increased, too.
  • Replacement of the roof and siding at the Portland center is also an imminent expense.

Furthermore, the KCC Board is committed to providing Cost-of-Living-Adjustments to staff because KCC compensation is quite low in a high cost-of-living area like Portland, OR.

In 2024, the KCC budget looks like:

  • Projected Expenses: $366,000
    • Projected Employee Wages and Benefits: $207,468
  • Projected Income: $351,000
    • $125,000 from programming; $225,000 from contributions
    • This includes a $30,000 legacy gift
  • Shortfall: $15,000
    • Without the legacy gift, our shortfall this year would be $45,000
Help the KCC community steward its resources and provide a welcoming place for today and tomorrow’s Dharma practitioners.


Sustaining Supporters are the financial foundation of KCC.

During the 2024 Sustaining Supporter Drive, we ask you to consider:

  • Becoming a New Supporter
  • Increasing Your Pledge
  • Making a one-time Donation

Currently, about 130 supporters make recurring pledges.
An average monthly pledge of $175 would balance KCC’s budget.
Give enthusiastically within your means!

Here is some information to consider & guide you:

If your income is $100K per year,
a pledge of 5% of your income would be $416/mo.
a pledge of 2% of your income would be $166/mo.

If your income is $60K per year,
a pledge of 1% of your income would be $50/mo.

If your income is $30K per year,
a pledge of 1% of your income would be $25/mo.


Bi-weekly Raffle! 

During the 2024 Sustaining Supporter Drive, you will be entered into a bi weekly drawing to when you:

  • become a new sustaining supporter
  • increase your pledge
  • make a one-time donation

Make your donation early to be entered into all 4 drawings!


Volunteer Support

KCC recognizes that not all individuals are able to make a financial contribution. Volunteer efforts by sangha members are also invaluable contributions to ensure that tasks vital to KCC practices, retreats, and general operations are completed with care.  Contact Sally Mead to find a volunteer role that supports KCC.