Monday, March 14, 2011


Sometimes, I forget why I am doing what I'm doing. I work in an office all day, and I rarely see much beyond my computer. I talk a lot of talk about things I think are important, but I don't see those things go into action. Sometimes, I feel like the work I do doesn't go beyond the computer screen I create it on. Sometimes, I think that everything I feel passionate about--social entrepreneurship, growing and strengthening nonprofits and their programs, finding sustainable funding to support social change--are  fads, ideas that only have value because people like me think they work.

I can feel disconnected working in philanthropy, one or two steps removed from the people who need help. The effects of what I do every day are far removed from the office where I work. The change I help to create is system-wide, and long-term, so I won't see the results for many years. Because of this, I sometimes worry if my work is helping anyone, at all.

But then, I hear a hear a story of a teenager who stopped doing drugs because of a program provided by one of the nonprofits that my organization supports. I walk down a street near my house and see some kids coming out of a school we help fund. While I'm waiting for the bus, I see an advertisement for a health fair sponsored by another one of our investment partners. Then, I begin to remember.

Yes, this is corny. But these reminders do help ground me and remember why I'm doing what I'm doing. Talking about "scale" and "capacity building" and "performance management measurement systems" all day long can be tiring. It sometimes disassociates me from the big goal: helping people who need it. Scale really means doing more to help more people. Capacity building means helping organizations serve people who need help better than they were before. And performance management is just a fancy word for making sure things aren't going wrong.

I don't work in direct service, I never really have, and I don't think I would be particularly good at it. I have great respect for those who do this type of work, but I don't think I have the skills (or the personal strength) to do that everyday. I think I am good at what I do, and I want to contribute as best I can. I wish I could always feel the connection through my work that direct service brings, but I can't. I've started to volunteer at a local service organization, I hope that will further strengthen my connection to my community. It is important to me to have this grounding for my work, and I think this is something everyone who works at a funding organization (local or national) should have. It teaches you about the reality we need to change for the better.

Without these reminders, we forget easily and lose ourselves in the jargon. So take a step outside and look around. See what impact you are creating.

Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners

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