Riding the Roller Coaster

I was sitting at my computer trying to decide what to write today that wouldn’t come across as positively surreal given everything going on in the economy and the financial markets when I got an email from Paul Shoemaker of Social Venture Partners. What Paul wrote was better than anything I might have written, so today I let him take the stage:

By Paul Shoemaker

I’m sitting at 6:37am watching the markets take another roller coast dive, Dow down 338 points in 7 minutes. I’ve had a number of thoughts rolling through my head for several days now (as I’m sure all of you have too).

It goes without saying that we are living through a period of time, who knows how long it will last, that is different than anything any of us have ever experienced. It seems destined to make the ’01 dot-bust look like a blip / dip comparatively. You all know that the social needs in our neighborhood, cities, region, nation, world are going to grow and the public funds are gonna concurrently tighten (they have to). Philanthropy can’t begin to replace but a fraction of those dollars and this is going to affect all of us.

When people ask me in the last few weeks how all his will affect SVP, I say I don’t know yet, it’s been so quick. I do know that in ’01 individuals were more persistent and stretched their giving longer and further than institutions did or could, though none of our wallets are bottomless.

But even more important than our financial capital, and I mean this 100%, is our spirit and our human capital. None of us can avoid feeling the stress and pain we are going through, but we can choose to not let it overwhelm and redefine us as human beings and citizens and philanthropists. I’ll share two thoughts I’ve received in the last few days –

“There’s plenty of reason for hope. Following a decade of record-breaking, boundary-spanning philanthropic efforts, bigger dollars and more people are engaged in philanthropy than ever before. By showing bold, effective leadership at a time of such global uncertainty, we could tap latent interest and entice others to join us in this collaborative effort to improve lives.” – Kathleen Enright, www.geofunders.org

“I will not be sending stock. (My gawd, it’s sooo LOW that would be crazy), but I will send a check tomorrow. And just so you know, I thought about backing off, but in these times, figured it was even MORE important to continue giving – at least to those orgs that are efficient & effective.” – SVP Partner, 10/22/08

What we can do is be role models, we can persist, we can be the kind of people that don’t lose hope and remember that history shows there is ALWAYS a new AND better day on the horizon, no matter how far off it may appear. America, SVP, each of you, and countless philanthropic and non-profit organizations WILL persevere and we will make a huge difference in the lives and institutions that we all care about deeply. Our wallets are not bottomless, but our courage, our optimism, and our fortitude can be.

At SVP, we have spent nearly 11 years building a model and body of work that has leverage, effectiveness, passion – we need to amplify and accelerate our efforts, not back off. We need to look upward and outward and work harder, not hunker down.

It’s 51 minutes later now and the Dow is down another 131 points … I was looking for one specific quote from Martin Luther King to close with – “The ultimate measure of a human is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where she stands at times of challenge and controversy.” And as I was searching for that one, I found many others that might speak to each of us personally and intimately so I’ll share a few of those too, just in case one of them speaks directly to one of you.

I suspect times will get tougher before they get better, but we have each other and we always have our hearts and minds and souls and strength to continue to make a positive difference in our world, especially when it is needed most. Carry on!

Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle … A human can’t ride you unless your back is bent. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

Every person must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.

Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A human should do her job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.

The commentary above regarding the economy are Paul’s and do not necessarily reflect those of Sean Stannard-Stockton. (Sorry, gotta stay compliant)