I’m in New Orleans at the National Conference for Volunteerism and Service. Over 4,000 people have gathered to learn how to mobilize citizens to do good. My people! Everyone radiates optimism. People wear loud print patterns and offer hugs instead of handshakes. There is a sense that service redeems our humanity.
Day One Highlights: Monday, June 6th
Most thought-provoking quote: During the Opening Ceremony, there was an interview with a New Orleans elementary school principal. She said, “It’s difficult in New Orleans because everyone who returns, returns with baggage.” You can’t rebuild New Orleans simply by rebuilding physical structures – to rebuild New Orleans you have to fix those deeper wounds – those dark passengers that sit with people, sometimes dormant, for years.
Last night I was talking with my roommate, the lovely Debra Askanse, about this issue. What’s the best way to heal the emotional wounds of a geographic place? We think that it depends… but that it has to be driven by the local people. Outsiders can provide relief by rebuilding the physical structures, but only the people from that place know what it will take for the community to feel whole again.
I had an epic dinner with incredible people. David Ray, the Director of Strategy at Points of Light! J.D. Lasica, the Founder of SocialBrite! Jessica Kirkwood, the Director of Digital Strategy at HandsOn! George Weiner, the CTO of DoSomething! Richard French, the COO of Raise the Roof! Ben Ridgby, the CTO of Sparked! MariJane Miller, the editor of WhatGives! These are not names of celebrities, but they are celebrities to me. Last year at the conference, I was an anonymous volunteer, directing people between conference rooms like cattle. This year, I was sharing wine and flounder with the thought-leaders in the service sector. I could have melted in happiness. Following dinner, we bought feather boas and walked through Bourbon Street, eventually nesting in a bar to watch a piano jazz show. Amazing.
Most relevant conference lesson:
I attended a session led by Alison Rapping and Debra Barcuch called “The Third Generation: Nonprofit and Business Relationships Evolved.” They discussed how businesses are no longer satisfied with writing checks to nonprofits. They are no longer satisfied with having their logo on a banner, or a table at a pretentious gala. They want to be collaborative with nonprofits, sharing their resources to tackle community issues in holistic, meaningful ways. 84% of corporate execs believe that society now expects businesses to take a much more active role in environmental, social and political issues than it did 5 years ago. But they also want to know what their businesses can do that is bigger than cash. The session definitely helped me think about my strategy for approaching corporations in the future.
Sigh. Loving the conference.