This week, I watched along with much of our nation as George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, was laid to rest. It was particularly meaningful to me. Washington is my hometown, and I was fortunate to interact with President Bush and can attest to his attributes of kindness and genuine interest in others. Much has been made of these qualities – as well as his impact on issues that would shape our world for generations to come, including the end of the Cold War.
But if I put on my professional fundraiser hat for a moment, the phrase that plays over and over in my mind is one he coined before he was even elected president: “a thousand points of light.”
In 1988, George H.W. Bush described his vision for America as “stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.” He reprised the phrase months later in his inaugural address to the nation. In so doing, he was calling upon us to draw on the synergy of our diversity and our collective spirit of volunteerism to support our fellow Americans.
Politically speaking, he was taking a “smaller government” stance, speaking of how individuals and communities could provide support and services to each other that government could be viewed as ill-suited to provide. The spirit of volunteerism among Americans, he thought, could do so much more to lift up those in need than government programs ever could.
However, no matter where you land on the political spectrum, whether you support “big” government or “small,” as fundraisers, we are inspired by our organizations’ missions for much the same reason.
The power of individuals to support one another through both volunteerism and philanthropy is what allows humanity to thrive. In fact, an ethos at Graham-Pelton is that humanity depends on philanthropy.
As fundraisers, we offer donors the opportunity to be the heroes in stories that matter to them. Imagine for a moment a world in which schools were unable to provide scholarships to deserving students, hospitals were unable to offer the highest quality of care to patients, and social change organizations were unable to advocate for those in need.
It’s not a pretty picture, and it’s not a world in which any of us would want to live. We, as humans, have an innate desire to make our world a better place.
Acts of generosity, both volunteerism and philanthropy – and make no mistake, the two are inherently linked – are worthy and noble pursuits. With the legacy of our 41st president fresh in our minds and the holiday season of giving already underway, now is the time to encourage donors to commit to the non-profits they support, not just because it is the end of the tax year or it’s “what we always do,” but because doing so allows individuals to help realize a vision for something greater than themselves.
Amidst the apathy, self-indulgence, and even rancor that is all too prevalent in the world today, our role as fundraisers is to show donors that they too can be points of light, ever illuminating a dark expanse of sky.
Gina Vaughn is a Senior Consultant at Graham-Pelton Consulting. Contact her by email or calling 1 800.608.7955.