Last week I flew back West to attend my Grandfather’s funeral. As a child I knew my Grandfather was very involved in his community, he was always busy, always shaking hands in public. As a teenager I realized my Grandfather spoke a lot of ‘board meetings,’ ‘steering committees,’ and ‘capital campaigns.’ As an adult, knowing my Grandfather as an older twice-retired man, I knew him as a the Chairman of the Board of our local university and someone who was well respected and loved. I didn’t realize what all these snippets truly meant until I was sitting as his funeral. The previous President of the University, his best friend from college and my Uncle spoke of his life, including his vast work as a humanitarian. I knew my Grandfather was exceptionally smart, caring and hardworking but had no idea how many lives he touched.
The pastor brought the microphone out and allowed the audience the opportunity to speak, sharing memories of my Grandfather. There were those who knew him when they were college students he mentored, teachers from the community where my Grandfather volunteered as a math coach, church members who he’d helped when they were building on a new side wing. Then, there was the mass majority of the memories starting with “I knew Tom when I was executive director at Red Cross..” “Tom and I had the pleasure of working together at United Way.” “Without Tom’s help our community foundation would have been forced out of the building.” and so on. There was one particular memory that significantly struck me:
The man speaking was a the development director of a large nonprofit serving the northern part of the state. He discussed the fact that there are many ways for people to help and my Grandfather understood this better than anyone he’d ever met. My Grandfather was able to walk into a situation and realize that sometimes getting your hands dirty and giving your time was more effective and longstanding than any temporary financial contribution. He also had an uncanny knack of reading the table and seeing when a well timed financial contribution and no extra opinion was precisely what an organization needed. In this particular memory he spoke of how my Grandfather helped them negotiate terms in a document. He was an outside opinion with intellectual experience and skills no one else on the board had. He came as a recommendation from another nonprofit (the community foundation who he helped save the building). Without being involved as a board member, volunteer, or sponsor my Grandfather read their arguments and documents, realized he could help and made a huge difference.
I was very proud to be his Granddaughter. I’ve never been to be a funeral where there were so many different community members present and all had a story to share. Proud of the humanitarian legacy he left – more than just in dollars but in time, sweat, tears, and good old fashioned work. I hope to carry on his legacy in my work with nonprofits. There is so much good to do in this world, his funeral invigorated me and made me even more excited about the work we’re doing here at Nonprofit Media Solutions. More than anything, we want to allow smaller nonprofits who struggle to get funding or get their message out the opportunity to shine and be successful. My Grandfather was declining the last few years and had a hard time remembering details, so he never truly knew what Betsy and I were creating with NMS. I hope now, on the other side, he can see that his example of nonprofit work and dedication was passed along.
In closing, his close friend shared this quote and felt it summed up my Grandfather’s life and legacy.
I hope this can be said for all of us when we are no longer here.