Thursday, April 14, 2011

On Hope and Legacies, and No Slacktivism in Sight

Most of the time, I try not to blend my professional life into what I write about here. But sometimes, something happens that is so inspiring, so hopeful, and just so full of good that I can't help but share. 

Such was last night.  As part of my job, I spent the evening with a group of teenagers from several local high schools.  These juniors and seniors comprise a youth philanthropy board for a local foundation, and last night was the culmination of six months of hard work for them.  Years ago, a local philanthropist endowed a fund with the foundation, instructing them to provide the students with a certain sum of money on an annual basis to award to local nonprofits. 

The students, however, couldn't award the grants willy-nilly or just to favorite causes; as a group, they had to determine guidelines and focus, issue RFPs (requests for proposals), review proposals, arrange for site visits to the organizations, formulate questions for the nonprofit leaders, and then come back together and discuss and advocate as a group for how the money should be spent, announce the awards, and finally - as was last night, organize an awards ceremony for the recipients where they presented the grants. 

It's a lot of work for students who are in the throes of rigorous academics, SAT taking, college decisions, and other extra-curricular activities.  Being on this board is a volunteer gig - and while some may be in it for the brownie points that might garner favor with college admissions officials, I didn't get that sense from any of the students I met last night, nor the students who visited the organization where I work.  They all appeared genuine, passionate about their community and giving back in some small way. And that they did, in a big way, in the form of a check with four digits for six nonprofits (including my employer).

The questions they asked during the grant process were more focused, more targeted, more insightful and more in depth than some I've been peppered with from corporate honchos or foundation leaders with much bigger pursestrings.  Without sounding cliche-like, they did their homework.

In the nonprofit world in which I work, slacktivism is a big buzzword; some of my compatriots are concerned for this generation (and others) who might be inclined to show their philanthropic support by changing Facebook pictures or adding twibbons to profiles or reposting status updates for any bazillion number of causes.  Whether this brand of activism is slacktivism or a new means of raising awareness, I don't know.  In some ways, my professional opinion is that it is a little bit of both.  Changing one's avatar doesn't change lives, but given that it takes an average of 7 times for a message to "stick", then it is actually aiding the cause, right? 

Regardless, what I saw last night on full display was pride and inspiration.  In a world where we hear so much bad news about today's teenagers and in a world where we parents worry about our teens, last night was brimming with good, abundant with optimism for the future, and fueled by the power of a legacy from a donor who believed in all that and made that hope possible. 

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


Elizabeth said...

Sounds wonderful -- thanks for sharing it with us. And I believe every generation complains, vociferously, about the "slackness," before that "laziness," before that "sloth," etc. etc. before it. Every generation has its slackers and every generation has its activists.

Kim said...

So awesome! Thanks for sharing!