Waiting for the Pause

It’s been a jarring, complicated time in our world in recent days. From that sunny day in London in June 2016, when I learned the news that the UK voted to leave the EU, to that rainy day in Washington when Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States, I’ve waited for a pause to take stock of what these cataclysmic events mean–for myself, for our world, and for philanthropy. That pause has not come. Philanthropy, I have found, also does not pause. Organizations continue to need what philanthropy has always given, in calm times and in chaotic ones.

And at a time when the trend is to “circle the wagons” and make borders less porous and “higher,” cross-border fundraising continues to have an important role in moving funds, talents, and solutions from country to country. People rise to the occasion and share their resources toward the vision of a world that is more just, compassionate, and peaceful.

An unexpected example of rising to the occasion: Main-stream media and journalism itself have been deeply bruised in the aftermath of the UK and US elections. At critical moments, journalists let us down by not holding the powerful accountable. Indeed, the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2016 was “post-truth.” But society urgently needs journalism that we can trust.

Perhaps that is why nonprofit journalism organizations saw a significant bump in their end-of-2016 fundraising. Donors came forward, contributing amounts large and small, to support journalism that makes a clear-eyed, nonpartisan analysis at the political and corporate forces that shape our individual lives and our communal well-being. In the days ahead, we will need powerful, explanatory, investigative journalism desperately.

And because journalism is priceless but not free, philanthropy must play a role to protect the “fourth estate.”

Robin Heller at the iconic Tower Bridge in London

Full disclosure: I’ve led the fundraising for a nonprofit journalism organization and have several clients who are journalism organizations. I’m proud of the role they are playing in creating a more just world.

Returning to the Oxford Dictionary again: “philanthropy” is defined as “the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed by the generous donation of money to good causes.” World events do not alter the human desire to promote the welfare of others as we share this small planet.

In these complicated times, the simplicity and beauty of this definition inspire me. Perhaps you’re inspired as well. What are your thoughts?