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Let’s Get Off Our Butts and Make Change Happen!

July 1, 2010

by Terri Lee Freeman
President
The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region

How do you make change happen?  By getting up off your butt — or at least that was the perspective of Devin Schain, President and CEO of Campus Direct and panelist at our recent annual meeting titled “Give Back, Get Results:  How the Right Combination of Time, Talent and Treasure Creates Change.”

The theme for the meeting was, as Mark Kramer calls it, “catalytic philanthropy.”  By definition, to be catalytic or a catalyst is to start or speed up a reaction, which suggests that there must first be an action.  Too often we find ourselves sitting on the sofa, reading the paper or watching television and responding to what is most often bad news by asking why nothing is being done about crime, poverty, disease, hunger — the list goes on and on – when, in fact, it’s our lack of action that allows these circumstances to persist.

While we may not be able to single-handedly end crime, maybe we can start a neighborhood watch group, or coach a sports team that provides an alternative activity for young people, or fund a local theater to establish a youth drama camp.  The possibilities are endless.  And this was the message our panelists left with our audience of donors, trustees, nonprofit organizations and financial advisors – just do it!

Creating change in our communities and society at-large requires civic engagement.  Each of us has to recognize the power we have within us to make things different, to make things better.

In the case of our panelists, Samuel Parker, Jr. wanted his community, Prince George’s county, to take responsibility for creating its destiny, so he became the spark that ignited the Envision Prince George’s planning process.  DC attorney Jane Lang has always loved the arts and believed in and fought for justice and equity for all citizens.  She embarked on a 10-year journey to renew the Atlas Theatre in Washington, DC and, in so doing, became the spark to the redevelopment and revitalization of the city’s long-neglected H Street corridor.  Devin Schain has been committed to education both personally and professionally since he was 19 years old and provides as many young people as possible with access to a college education by awarding scholarships tied to his business goals and accomplishments.  His philosophy is “doing well by doing good.”

Each of these individuals has his or her origins in different places, with different resources, and different life experiences.  But the one thing they have in common is the commitment to making a difference and hopefully encouraging others to do the same.

So I’ll end where I started — it’s time for each of us to get off  our butts and make change happen, no matter how small or how large.  We can have an impact by creating a reaction through our actions.  Our communities need us!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. callum82 permalink
    January 19, 2011 8:16 pm

    Absolutely agree. And though there are many examples of such a ‘can do’ attitude in the nonprofit community I have to share one that I personally have worked with. The Young Nonprofit Professional Network of DC (www.ynpndc.org) has in 7 short years become a vital resource for nonprofit professionals in the DC area. The all volunteer team that drives it is always asking itself what it can do better and as a result continues to grow and innovate. I know it has made a profound difference in my nonprofit career and is a major factor in my decision to continue to work in this community.

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  1. 2009 giving data for Greater Washington… Foundations exceed payout requirements [News, 7.1.10] « Washington Grantmakers Daily

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