September 12, 2014

David Letterman, Benedict Arnold and the Ice Bucket Challenge

Posted in Awards, Donor Spotlight, Events, Grants tagged , , , , , at 11:14 am by Lund

“I believe that philanthropy is a good thing.  It’s hard to go wrong when you’re acting out of a place of generosity. We shouldn’t fret so much about philanthropy. We shouldn’t let the joy of giving be muddied by the intellectual pursuit of the best, most effective and perfect giving,” said Stuart Comstock-Gay, President and CEO of the Vermont Community Foundation at their Annual Meeting on Wednesday September 10, at the Basin Harbor Club.   His speech began, as so many things do these days, with the ice bucket challenge and he quotes from a Maclean’s article on it, “The marketing gimmick is very clever, it’s short, immediately understandable and like the most clever forms of slacktivism, it’s easy to do, entertaining to watch and narcisstically self promoting.  It’s a great way to raise money but a horrible reason to donate.”  But then spent the rest of this speech advising the assembled crowd of grantees, supporters, donors, board members and friends not to be caught up in criticism and cynicism around popular philanthropy.  Stuart warned us all not to let our David Letterman-ness (thinking constant critique and close mindnessness is the height of intelligent cool) get in the way of our ice-bucketness.  He’s right.   $100 million raised for ALS reseach is a good thing, however is happened.

It was obvious at this meeting that Vermont is a unique and special place, not just because it took place at the spot where Benedict Arnold launched the USS Philadelphia in 1776 and then went on to trounce the British at the Battle of Valcour Island, but also because of the people present.  Underneath the tent on a warm early fall afternoon were some of the state’s most influential philanthropists, business people and representatives of non-profits doing important work.   These people are the true power of community.  “I see collaboration, passion, creative problem solving by many philanthropists. All of them working on complicated issues, all of them working on new ideas and visions, all of them with belief even though it’s hard and sometimes the issues are so complex you could cry,” described Stuart as he looked out over the crowd.

As well as this inspiring speech from the CEO, the meeting also included financial overviews, a humorous report from the audit committee (yes, that’s correct, humorous, I did say these people were special) and the presentation of the Community Impact Award to the Addison County Parent Child Center and their long time supporters Michael and Cindy Seligmann.  This award honors the relationship between a donor and the organization that they support.  The Addison County Parent Child Center provides support, education and resources to young families.   Lund is a Parent Child Center for Chittenden County.  It was a privilege to watch a video about the great work that this organization does for parents and children in Addison County and to witness the incredible support given to them by the Seligmanns.

Stuart’s last assertion from the podium was that we all need to believe, “Believe. Believe in people, in ideas, in Vermont. Believe in yourselves, believe in each other.  Allow a little wonderment to creep into your lives. Don’t be so quick to shoot down someone’s idea. Snarkiness is not something to be proud of.  It’s certainly ok to have questions but don’t let that get in the way of other people’s enthusiasm.  It doesn’t mean you have to believe everything but it does mean that you cannot disbelieve everything . Don’t rain on the belief parade of others.”

It was easy to believe in Vermont when you look at the important, effective and widespread work of the Vermont Community Foundation.  We thank them for their support of Lund in so many ways over the years and for their leadership in our state.

In all my enthusiasm about belief and cutting back on cynicism, I only managed to take a photo of the spot where Benedict Arnold might have stood to admire the USS Philadelphia.  You'll just have imagine the large crowd of Vermont philanthropists and leaders behind the camera.

In all my enthusiasm about belief and cutting back on cynicism, I only managed to take a photo of the spot where Benedict Arnold might have stood to admire the USS Philadelphia. You’ll just have imagine the large crowd of Vermont philanthropists and leaders behind the camera.

 

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