So, I’m going to level with you. As I walked into Shelton Auditorium at the Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) on Tuesday, November 6, my first thought was not on the Distinguished Visitors Panel, presented by Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy, CTS, and 2018 Spirit and Place Festival.
I had heard Dr. Brad Braxton and Reverend Starsky Wilson speak during a lunch and learn earlier in the day, and I had listened, entranced, the entire time as they discussed their own backgrounds in philanthropy and the work they are doing in the field. I knew that the evening panel, which also included Ms. Aimée Laramore, would be just as riveting.
However, as a woman and a passionate student of history, during this particular Tuesday night, I was thinking of the midterm election. Not to dive into a lesson on history on a philanthropy-focused blog, but women have had the right to vote for less than 100 years, and every time I vote, I ponder, in reality, the short amount of time that we have been able to use our voices and our minds through the ballot box to speak our truth, our current realities, and our hopes in this challenging world.
But then, as I was driving to work the next morning, I realized that the distinguished visitors used their voices during the panel to do the same thing. That is, they shared their wide-range of experiences and vast knowledge to speak about their truths, their realities, and their hopes. They focused on “intersections,” and how faith and diversity have shaped and molded their own understandings of what philanthropy is and what it can be.
Without going into too much detail (I could ramble for a while and you can watch the entire lecture on Lake Institute’s Annual Programs page), I thought I’d highlight the key points I took from each panelist.
Reverend Wilson – If you work in philanthropy, be a philanthropist. In addition, be a part of the communities that you’re doing change in.
I think this concept in philanthropy is often touted, but not often practiced. It includes not only being in your community, but actively listening and engaging with those in that community to institute the change that they want. Also, if you are working in philanthropy but not investing your personal time, talent, and treasure, how can you tell others to do the same?
Dr. Braxton – Philanthropy comes from a place of profound abundance.
This concept is emphasized by Lake Institute, but again is quickly discarded or forgotten. I think it’s one of those core principles that we overthink. Philanthropy has its rightful critics – it’s dominated by the wealthy and therefore undemocratic, it’s not responsive to the communities it’s trying to help, it’s becoming too technical or professionalized, or it’s not technical or professional enough. While these are important issues to consider, Dr. Braxton’s point remains one that we should consider when we are dissecting all of the “wrongs” in philanthropy.
Ms. Laramore – The first community foundation was the black church.
I interned at a community foundation over the summer, and while I don’t imagine that I’m an expert in community foundations or the history of philanthropy, Ms. Laramore’s idea really hits on the idea of black philanthropy as a reality for hundreds of years, and not this “new” or “emerging” trend. Ms. Laramore and Dr. Tyrone Freeman are much more eloquent than I am on this subject, but I think her point bears deep thought. Are we utilizing the black church and the African-American community as a guiding point in how we can be more responsive and adaptive in our philanthropy, as they have been for hundreds of years?
In addition, Ms. Laramore had another point about philanthropy – we often forget the fourth “T.” We discuss time, talent, and treasure, but we forget testimony and the power of stories. As a writer and coordinator of content, this hit home for me. Thus far, my professional career has been focused on collecting stories and illustrating impact. I don’t always realize how significant this is, but Ms. Laramore’s thought was an important reminder of the power of testimony and how it can be harnessed to inspire change.
It was a great evening – even the constant update of election results could not distract me from the important messages from the panelists. And mark your calendar for Lake Institute’s Lake Lecture next spring, featuring noted author, speaker, and consultant Lynne Twist. If it is half as good as the Distinguished Visitors lecture, you (and me!) are in for a real treat!
Did you attend the panel or watch the video? Leave a comment with your thoughts below!