Musings from George

Noblesse Oblige
May 26, 2006, 5:51 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I talked this week with cityzenjane ( on the phone, a medium I don't use very much. Email has given me a time-shifting capability, coupled with a memory so much better than my own, that I just don't use those 400 minutes very often.

I know cityzenjane from years back, when we worked at a company that went from the "Gee Whiz" cover of Business Week to a chapter 11 filing last month. The alumni buzz went from musings about the good old days to alarmed postings over what medical claims are no longer being paid (apparently our old employer self-insured, and that's never a good thing when your old employer is bankrupt).

But to the point / title, she is involved with a nonprofit that has been promoting green policies and self-sufficiency for years. We talked about people that would be interested, and people that could help. One of those underlying questions that every charity and nonprofit has to address is "what does it take to recruit volunteers and to raise money?"

I have been asked many times why I spend so much time and energy on nonprofit causes, and have been told by some that I make them feel guilty about their own efforts or contributions. My general response is that I give back because it makes me feel good, and when I stop enjoying the results of my efforts I scale back or drop out (the benefit of working at a nonprofit is that you can always STOP doing it, unlike a job that gets boring or turns sideways). But left unsaid is what KEEPS them (and others) from doing more, rather than wondering how I find the time. Why do some give so much, and so many give little or nothing? The rule of thumb I have heard is that 5% of the people do 90% of the work for nonprofits, and that feels about right from my past experience with churches, alumni associations, and fraternal organizations.

Do we volunteer or donate out of guilt? out of a sense that we owe society something? out of a holy mandate? An oft-quoted sentence from the Bible is Luke 12:48

"For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."

My grandmother was incredibly active in her church, as is my mother. Side note, I have odd memories of being bribed to memorize quotations from the Bible, and who can say that those $0.25 homilies didn't cause me to do more good deeds than others? My father was active on the local community council, and did many good things (from fire trucks to conservation bonds). From them all I developed a sense of owing society, of needing to give back — of feeling good about helping others. How different would the world be if we _all_ tried to find a way to make our communities better, to make the world better, to feel better about helping strangers as much as we enjoy helping our friends and family?

I attended a nice event this week to receive a grant to a nonprofit that I am active with, and it was great to spend time with generous donors and with other worthy recipients. It occurred to me that the audience was nearly all white, mostly old, and mostly female — and it also occurred to me that today's soccer moms are less likely to be involved in local societies than their mothers were, and that today's soccer dads are less likely to be helping out the Scout troops. Where will we be when the current crop of doers are done, and when the Scouts die and camping experiences are something we shop for online ("do they have canoes?")?

Just a rant, no point to make today. How do we get more people to do more, and to give more, than they do today? Motivate someone to get involved this month, and feel good about your efforts.



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It was wonderful to touch base again George!

As for me, having been in the go-getter world I felt every single day that I was paddling in one direction for 8 hours and then using what little energy I had left to peddle is the right direction! “Right Livelyhood” became an idea that would not let me go. I do miss the money sometimes, but I remember that I was as unhappy as I ever was when I was making the most money I ever had. To me happiness and being truly useful are intimately intertwined. So I’m still a go-getter I’m just applying that zeal elsewhere.

As I am footloose and fancy free I have great liberty to decide what being ‘truly’ useful means. Raising decent humans is absolutely critical to our future….where do those people come from… they come from people like you that take the time to inspire the young ones!

Again – lovely to chat!

Please encourage ALL your friends to see An Inconvenient Truth as soon as they can!

Comment by cityzenjane

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