Whether it is issues abroad or in your own backyard, there are numerous ways to get involved and make your voice heard. Most of these tools boil down to a few actions: donate, volunteer or advocate. Each one is powerful and I have found once you really begin to dive into an issue you may find yourself doing all three. As you step forward though, your friendly neighborhood fundraiser would like to ask you to keep the following in mind.
Be selfless. For most of us in the nonprofit field, the work we do is altruistic. Just look at our paychecks! Very few of us are getting rich off of providing counseling, saving the oceans or feeding the homeless. We do this work, because we feel called to do so. We recognized a societal ill. Instead of helping satisfy shareholders or move product, we decided to do something much more personal. The level of compensation coupled with the care needed deserves and demands a certain level of selflessness. As you begin to work alongside and with us on the issues close to your heart, please keep this in mind. When we are on top of our game, we will invite you along, listen and validate your ideas. Some of the most powerful ideas I have ever heard, came from volunteers. In the same breath, some of the most memorable volunteers I’ve worked with in my life didn’t do it for the spotlight. They did it, because they care. Any recognition they received, was secondary.
Be forgiving. The people who walk through our doors may have come to us, because life has been unfair. Decisions they made or consequences they had nothing to do with led them to utilize our services. It takes an insane amount of courage to decide you need help. The bravest people I know walk through the doors of our counseling agency on daily basis. As you encounter those who receive nonprofit services, be forgiving. Judgement doesn’t save lives. Listening, services and action do. We exist to provide the latter. Without a doubt, you will hear things that shock you. Use these moments to dig deeper and find better ways to improve the lives of those who need us. Don’t use them to pump yourself up or shock value at your next dinner party.
Be patient. Human beings are complicated creatures. The systems we create are even more complicated; often unnecessarily. Change is slow. Changing behavior, bureaucracy, culture and lives at times moves at a glacial pace. In these instances, be patient. We love volunteers, donors and advocates, because they provide outside perspective. You often come from the for-profit sector where speed or lack thereof means being first or last. Those who are last rarely get paid. We need your insight and systems thinking. We need you to push us forward and hold us accountable, but also afford us the space to experiment and fail. When we do, innovation is born. In these moments, an alchemy can occur allowing us to change the world.
Be impactful. It also takes bravery to walk through the door of a nonprofit as a volunteer or advocate. Writing checks or making an online donation takes courage. For that, you deserve to be commended. No amount of time or dollar amount is too small, but as you give strive to be impactful. The challenges we face as a society can seem daunting. They require people of all stripes to roll up their sleeves and give the best of themselves. The silliest thing we could do in these moments is nothing, but don’t let a single gift or an afternoon of serving food be the end of the end of conversation. Keep it going. Rally friends, family and colleagues. If you really desire to make a difference in the world, keep talking. Keep pushing forward. Keep donating, volunteering and advocating.
Be Involved. Which brings us to our last point, be involved. I have two issues that I am immensely concerned about: human trafficking for sexual and labor exploitation, as well as access to basic needs. Beyond the work I do for a youth development agency as a fundraiser, I work hard to make regular donations to Love146 and the Rotary Foundation. I push my elected representatives forward with petitions about immigration, trafficking and sexual exploitation. I volunteer with the Southeast Coalition Against Trafficking and Seattle Against Slavery. I don’t have a lot of money. There are other things I could do with my time, but I have been confronted with an injustice and find it impossible to turn a blind eye. “If not me, then who” runs through my mind every time I step forward. I need to be involved. My parting message to you is this; find something you can’t ignore. Find a way to lend your talents and then give it your best. Your community, country and global village will be better for it.
Thanks for entering my world,