Blessed by the Universe with the Generous Spirit (Nov 04)

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Over this past week, I have been interviewing people who are reported by their peers to be really good board chairs; this is for an upcoming article in the Winter issue. The people I have talked to are all over the country. We wanted to get a sense of what characteristics excellent board chairs bring to that role and I’ll tell you, their words are inspiring.

These are people who put their backs into whatever is in front of them. They just see an unfinished — and perhaps in their lifetimes — an unfinishable, but worthwhile, job and they are driven to not just pitch in, but to help guide the progress of whatever work it may be — documentary film making to reduce violence in our schools; keeping the local hospital connected and accountable to its community; or capitalizing economic development in low income neighborhoods. They see these things that they could choose to ignore as somehow their own job – jobs that they have to work hard at and to sometimes take significant personal risks for.

But that is what makes our work in this sector so rich — we are blessed by the universe with the generous spirit, the creativity and good sense that people bring to their attempts to make their communities more healthy or beautiful or responsible to the most vulnerable.

We, as nonprofits are made powerful through this willingness of ordinary people to engage in making some part of the world better. It is, as I have mentioned before, our competitive advantage. That’s why it irks me when we don’t pay sufficient attention to the processes that gather people around us and get them thinking about, and taking action on, the things that concern them.

The attached article, entitled: Grassroots Rising: A Conservative Call for Philanthropic Renewal, is about the critical issue of the engagement of people in public life and comes from a strange bedfellow (for me) in Bill Schambra. I don’t agree with all of its analysis but, then, I don’t have to. Let’s mix this up a little…talk back to us, him, and each other about this article.

Take a shot – offer a different analysis. But let’s make sure we know what we are all here to do.