Today is my mother’s birthday. She’s been gone for nearly 20 years now but her legacy lives on in the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren that are part of her family line.
Today she is the focus of an article about legacy because she is the perfect example of the phrase we use in our work: anyone can leave a legacy. As a first-generation American who lived through the Depression mom didn’t have much, yet what she did have she shared.
She gave in simple ways, in the church collection plate and by leaving food on the porch for people passing through the community who had no home. Those may seem small contributions but like the story of the starfish being thrown into the ocean one at a time, her gifts made a difference for each hungry person who came by our house.
As I have aged I have come to realize that it was my mother’s example that led me to become a giver. In some ways it was also she who led me to become a fundraiser. I certainly didn’t seek to raise funds because the idea of picking pockets, being a beggar or asking people for money appealed to me.
I do what I do because, like my mom, I believe that giving is about changing and saving lives (sometimes of the donor as much as the recipient). I have been honored to serve nonprofits as a staff member or consultant.
That work has enabled me to plan and implement capital campaigns, coach and train executive directors and board members, and assess fundraising performance through implementation of development audits. I have also found a new passion for planning and implementing planned giving programming, for enabling people to determine what their legacies will be and how they might leave a legacy.
Mother, I will continue to honor your legacy through this work. In addition to consulting I will continue to help prepare the next generation of fundraising leaders. Probably as you appreciated seeing your children grow, I enjoy coming to know and help teach students in Penn State’s all online Certificate Program in Fundraising Leadership.
I didn’t say it when you were alive, thank you mother. Thank you for giving me life and for being the role model that you were, you may be gone, but your legacy lives on.