My brother-in-law, Alfredo, is a trauma paramedic. He works in an emergency room every weekend from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. He shares his workday the way I might share mine. “Had some coffee, saved a life, did some paperwork, saved a life….” And yet he somehow remains connected enough to his work to persevere past exhaustion and stress and chaos. He works with fervor to keep families intact with a passion that inspires us all. Can you imagine a paramedic saying, “Sorry about that stroke, but I have to finish my paperwork.”? Alfredo has a healthy shade of jade—one that I admire and aspire to. (Thank you, Alfredo, for everything you do!)
I have a point (bear with me). I almost cancelled this trip. Days before leaving for New Orleans, I almost cancelled because of the amount of work piling up. The tasks are sometimes daunting, sometimes exhausting. And yet during these times, I find myself fighting for inspiration. Philanthropy may not always mean life or death, but it is still vital. While frontline paramedics are fighting to save a life of a patient, philanthropy is fighting to find a cure. We fight for an end to hunger, homelessness, and disease. We fight for culturally vibrant, engaged, diverse, and revitalized communities. And it is a fight.
There is never enough we can do, and there are never enough resources to do it. Just as a goal is reached, a new one emerges. Ask 10 nonprofits what they think your community foundation should focus on and the answer is, basically, everything. We have to be comfortable enough knowing that a lot of our work will not have immediate results, but we have to be impatient enough to not give up.
Since I first became involved in philanthropy, every single year has been different. It’s brought new challenges, successes, disappointments, and surprises. Yet every day we all walk through the door, grab a cup of coffee (or two), and get to work. I know what I need from this conference: balance. I’m hoping for enough strategy to develop some new thoughts and skills and enough inspiration to keep me invigorated.
Here’s what worries me, and I’d love to hear your thoughts:
We had a great conversation at the ProNet dinner last night. Honestly, it confirmed that so many community foundations are facing the same challenges and asking the same questions. What are you facing, and what are you hoping to find at this conference?
Here’s hoping we all can find and cherish our own healthy shade of jade. Bring it on New Orleans!
Jillian C. Vukusich is director of community investment for the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties in West Palm Beach, Fla.