15 years. February 13 marked the 15th anniversary of the day I went to work as a professional temporary at UK to create what was originally called the UK Center for Nonprofit Management, then I became permanent staff as the work evolved to become UK’s Nonprofit Leadership Initiative and now we are the independent 501 (c) 3, Kentucky Nonprofit Network – your state association. For the most part, 15 years has flown by – I’m sure many of you can relate. There are days that have become routine and leave me questioning, “what’s next” – for me and for KNN. And then, there are days that serve as an important opportunity for renewal and remind me of why I am so passionate about you – Kentucky’s nonprofit sector. I am grateful for these opportunities that remind me of why I do the work I do. It’s you. Your work is what inspires me.
The afternoon following KNN’s successful 12th annual Kentucky Nonprofit Day at the Capitol, I boarded a plane to Washington DC. Regardless of how many trips I make to Washington, I hope I never lose the feeling of awe as the monuments and Capitol come into view from my cab. I never want to lose the incredible sense of pride I feel in my country when I visit. I certainly never want this trip to feel “routine.”
I traveled to Washington DC to participate in a Charitable Giving Fly-In organized by the Charitable Giving Coalition. Along with KNN members, Guy Adams of Christian Appalachian Project and Mike Delzotti of Markey Cancer Foundation, and a few other “adopted Kentuckians,” I remained in awe of our Nation’s Capital as we met with Kentucky’s members of Congress and their staff.
I even ran into KNN members lobbing on behalf of the Affordable Care Act at Senator Mitch McConnell’s office – Emily Beauregard of Kentucky Voices for Health and Cara Stewart of Kentucky Equal Justice Center.
Our small, but mighty crew traveled from meeting to meeting – eight stops in only one day. But I wasn’t tired. I became more energized with each meeting. I was renewed not only because we were urging Congress to expand the charitable giving tax deduction to increase philanthropic investments critical to our sector, but because we were also sharing important stories about the value of your work. Eyes were opened, brows furrowed in surprise and notes were being taken as I talked about the economic importance of Kentucky’s nonprofit sector – employing one in nine Kentuckians. Heads were nodding in agreement as Guy and Mike shared their respective missions – how fighting poverty and conducting ground-breaking cancer research are essential to improving the quality of life in Kentucky. It was a powerful day. I realized my awe had shifted from the grandeur of Capitol Hill to renewed awe in our sector and an important reminder of my sincere passion for helping KNN members tell their stories.
As the day wrapped up and the sun began to set, fatigue finally set in. My awe, renewed passion and fuel had nearly run out. Instead of taking advantage of the subway to hit a few of my favorite shopping spots before my late flight, I instead went to the airport to relax for a few hours (for those who know my love of shopping, I know – shocking). I’m certainly glad I did because I got to have dinner with
Rep. John Yarmuth at the airport. I promised not to bother him when he sat down, yet he wanted to know why I was in Washington and was eager to learn of the issues facing Kentucky nonprofits. Another opportunity to share the story of our sector and I was energized again!
What could have been a routine trip to Washington, originally filled with awe for our Nation’s Capitol, became an unexpected opportunity to renew my awe and passion for your work. Yes, I achieved my goal of successfully communicating the importance of charitable giving and made important connections with Congress members and staff that will be critical in the months ahead. But I gained so much more – exactly what I needed on my 15th work anniversary. I suspect many of you often hit this spot, personally or professionally, where you need to reconnect with your passion – why you do what you do. If you are in this place, a spot where you need to feel awe and inspired – I hope you find what you need to keep doing your important work. The days ahead will require all of us to be passionate about our missions and the larger nonprofit sector.
As is outlined in our latest public policy blast, there are significant threats and opportunities at the state and federal level. Our collective passion and unified voice is essential to advancing the sector. I realize that for many who are fighting your own organization’s battles to protect or advance an issue, asking for your help with sector-wide issues is asking for a lot. I promise to make it as easy as I can for you to stay engaged and updated.
I share my little trip to Washington story with you because I hope you will find what renews your passion for your work, if you need it. I also share this story as an opportunity to thank you. You are the backbone of our communities. I know you are skilled in touting the importance of your mission – but do you really take time to reflect on the power of what you are doing? The lives you are changing? The ways you are strengthening communities? There are important stories to tell – whether they are stories about the impact of charitable giving on your mission, the reasons remaining nonpartisan is essential to your community effectiveness or how AmeriCorps is helping you serve your neighbors. These stories deserve to be heard and now is the time to tell them.
Your stories are why I do what I do. I hope you will take a moment to reflect on why it is you do the work you do. And then let’s work together to lift our collective voice. It’s a privilege to stand with you.
P.S. An easy step to life your voice on an important issue – Sign on to the Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship.