Of late, there seems to be a palpable sense of urgency as charities struggle to raise operating and program funds. The beleaguered economy, worrisome domestic and international events, and other measurable factors are challenging philanthropies more than ever. Despite unyielding budgets and limited resources, it’s astonishing that multitudes of earnest, committed volunteers continue to work so diligently for worthy causes. Indeed, it’s vindication of our national character and evidence the great American experiment is a resounding success. Without that deep conviction to civic virtue, there would be no American experiment at all.
America’s framers knew a nation is governed best not by fear and favor, but by gratitude and friendship. They recognized Americans were a uniquely civic-minded lot—precisely the characteristic that would functionally protect citizens from tyrannical, coercive power. With their ideas put in practice, an inherent commitment to civic responsibility, driven by benevolence and decency, constituted America’s greatness—not only as a nation but also as a people. It’s our capacity to give that makes us strong, safe, and prosperous.
In the Peoria area there’s certainly no scarcity of social involvement. Civic responsibility thrives in all realms philanthropic, community, and political. We have a vast philanthropic economy measured in dollars and time, seat and intellect.
Consider, for a moment, how many thousands of people run, walk, bike, swim, etc., for disease research and victim support—and the many more thousands who contribute relief to the destitute and the distressed. We have dozens of programs that support education, prevent problems, and provide opportunities for our children. Our religious institutions are vibrant and often act cohesively to foment a better community.
With respect to community development, consider the regional museum, our regional workforce development efforts, and the retooling of Peoria as a nexus for high technology and intellectuality. Throughout the region are many coalitions, consortiums, and councils improving economies, governance, and quality of life. Our elected officials and political parties are busy at nearly every level.
Local corporate philanthropy is the stuff of legends. Peoria area businesses are financially generous even as they encourage and support the community action through their employees. Moreover, they seem to clearly understand the purest and most valued charity is conducted in anonymity. Most reasonable Americans despise avarice, and these days corporate greed is considered particularly distasteful behavior. So there’s a backlash when charity is turned into a PR tactic. While some corporations allow themselves to be publicly named to motivate others, it’s the intent behind that disclosure that differentiates charity from corporate voracity. Peoria boasts such corporations that lead with honor, decency, integrity, and modesty.
The singular authenticity of selfless charity improves lives, enthuses communities, inspires employees, and creates opportunities—albeit indirectly—for corporations to prosper, and generosity prevails yet another day. Whether you find the authority for your belief in religion, our political-social structure, or pragmatic approach to business, it’s difficult to deny the more selfless your benevolence, the more everyone ultimately benefits.
And one more observation: the most successful volunteers always seem to have the most fun. Even in the most pressing, stressful moments, the sheer pleasure of collaboration is one intangible, immeasurable factor that often defines the success of a philanthropic endeavor. If you can’t enjoy the hope of success, then you can’t hope to enjoy success.
Perfection is achieved by doing exactly what you said you were going to do. When volunteers enjoy themselves, they do just that: they finish the job in a flourish. When a corporation takes pride in the charities it supports, everyone prospers in abundance. As volunteers and benefactors become lethargic, lazy, and thus inconsequential, it’s because they aren’t receiving their natural recompense—that is, the enjoyment of serving some meritorious effort.
Civic virtue is an American tradition—maybe the singular American tradition. Being involved with our community, neighbors, family, and friends creates opportunity for everyone on every level: economical, social, political, personal, and spiritual. The material and practical benefits of giving pale in comparison to the spirit of giving and the human energy it generates.
In central Illinois, we’re unquestionably very generous people, and the impact of one—one hour, one dollar, one person, one business—can be monumental. You can be that one to make such an impact. Just do it. IBI