Celebrating the real on #GivingTuesday November 29th.
How do we capture the hearts and minds of our community? This is the question we “non-profiters” are always thinking about, especially when #GivingTuesday is upon us. It is not enough that we know our work is important, that our community needs the services we provide, the lands we protect and the time we dedicate to improving our society. If no one else knows, if no one sees, if no one understands, we cannot continue to do the things we know need to be done.
I have struggled with this concept throughout my career, as I have worked for different non-profits, some large, some small, some field based, some not. Each doing really important stuff. In my early days I just couldn’t understand why the work didn’t speak for itself. I know that it should, but now, with everything digital (and our 8 second attention spans), there is precedent to find more ways to have the work look perfect, beautiful and sexy. We have to have vibrant photos, humorous quotes, beautiful videos and captivating stories of success- a presentation of perfection.
After a year and half into being a mother for the first time, I am more than aware of the imperfections of life. I can find myself enraged when I look at the internet and all I see is the perfect beautiful home, with the perfect beautiful family and the seemingly perfect beautiful children that would never throw a tantrum in the parking lot in front of cars at the grocery story laying down in a puddle while it rains down on you and you forgot your raincoat and are starved for sleep and food. No, that would never happen to those internet people.
This feeling of needing more honesty and reality is what burns in me right now. Non-profits are unpredictable, chaotic, and rarely linear and they are running on a shoe string, they are fixing their printers, taking their recycling home and literally holding our communities up. They pride themselves on being efficient so that every penny they save can go into programming, saving land, protecting children, looking out for the future. It is astounding how much each group loves and believes in their work. I think, these days we need these organizations and the people who work for them, more than ever. We need people who are working for our communities. We need people that care, that see the bigger picture. People that feel their contribution of time every day is changing their community, slowly, but creating change. These organizations, these people, this drive to work so hard for change is what gives me hope.
Maybe it is my shortened patience from too many negotiations with a toddler, but as we enter this holiday season and recover from our election fatigue and weariness, I would like to stop pretending to be perfect, stop waiting for the most glorious picture to inspire me or expecting someone to make me laugh with an ingenious meme.
Let’s think about what we need to live as a community, in this place we call home, and who is out there doing it. AND GIVE! Support them in their work! Give to the little non-profit, give to the big non-profit, just give, they need it, all of them! Give because you believe in what they do, give because your friend works there, give because you know the world, your city, and your neighborhood will be better because of your gift.
As I splash in the puddles with my daughter, and appreciate that my basement is dry in the rainy season, and visit green, natural places in my neighborhood, I know that the computer screen I stare at and the hours and hours I spend away from my kid are important. It is my contribution to my community because my work protects wetlands and wetlands make this place work. They give me clean water, protect me from floods, supply me with food and make Oregon, Oregon. These community organizations, they are resilient, they are not picture perfect but they work hard every day to keep this place I call home safer, healthier, cleaner and more beautiful.
Look around your community, look deep, look past perfection and find what makes it work, and give on #GivingTuesday, you won’t regret it!