05 Jun CAUSE & EFFECT: Love Actually or Love Mandatory?
When I walked into our office break room last week I was greeted by the aroma of bar-b-que, a beautiful bowl of tomatoes, fresh bread and a homemade Texas sheet cake. For a split second I panicked because I couldn’t recall a special occasion at the Foundation, and I am supposed to know these things.
I made my way around the office to greet our team and see if I could find any clues to unlock the culinary mystery. I didn’t ask too many questions as I didn’t want to alert anyone to my lack of being in the loop if a party or celebration was in the works.
No one mentioned anything so I went back to my office to wait on the announcement that would bring everyone around what I was sure to be a party table at some point in the day.
As the day wore on, lunch time passed and all the delicious food remained intact my curiosity grew. The fare was clearly homemade and packaged with love and attention and I still had no idea what was behind this feast.
Later in the day I was meeting with a team member who solved the mystery. She mentioned in passing she knew someone who worked closely with us was going through a tough stretch and could think of nothing to do to lighten the load so she simply cooked food for the family. Lots of food in an act of support and love.
No one had arranged it or suggested that everyone get together and bring a dish. There was no company-wide email exchange or planned outreach. It was simply an act of kindness that had no mandatory strings attached. Just one person doing something kind for another person in need. I felt inspired by this act of service.
Later in the week I had the opportunity to speak to a group of high school students who I knew were required to complete community service at their school. This is not unique as over the last 15 years or so volunteering has become a cornerstone of academic settings. It had always been a part of Jesuit schools and then made its way to the private and public school settings. I can’t tell you how many frantic calls I receive at the end of a school year or semester from kids and their parents desperate to fit in a year’s worth of service hours in a weekend.
I know this is not what anyone was aiming for when these mandatory systems were put in place. Just like any policy or idea there are pros and cons. I meet so many college students who have changed their career path due to an experience they encountered through graduation required community service. But would they have served anyway given the opportunity to decide on their own?
I am not sure the discussion needs to center around mandatory or non-mandatory but rather inspiring students to think differently about philanthropy and service. I couldn’t help but draw some parallel to my office mate and these students.
Instead of measuring things by hours served, we should engage them in more conversations about what they hope to impact in their communities. It doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition.
How can we expose next generations to the future of philanthropy and giving, inspiring them to pursue the love of humanity in all that they do rather than in set aside charitable activities? Get good grades, engage in extracurricular activities, and as an add-on complete community service hours. What if instead we found a way for students to lead with how their everyday actions could change the world?
As the future of work is shaped by millennials and beyond, more focus is on purpose in the workplace and using strategies from the tech fields to guide and influence giving. Many of today’s philanthropists made their fortunes early in their lives and are ready to apply the same tactics they used in their start-ups to solve social problems.
Are we providing the opportunities to systems that help our youth think of service in this new world?
As I shared with both the colleague in my office and the high school students, I don’t have the answer but I am willing to walk alongside them to find out. If you have some thoughts, I’d love to hear them because as you know I am listening. Drop me an email to [email protected], call, Facetime or Skype me.
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, last year the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.