Helping the Helpers
Chapter Leadership Brief
By Michele Hall, AFP-NYC Secretary
President & CEO
enCourage Kids Foundation
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
I believe that everyone is familiar with this quote from Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. In this current climate, it applies more than ever to everyone on the front lines battling this pandemic.
AFP members, we are also the helpers. For many of us the vast majority of our careers have consisted of moving resources from where they are to where they are needed. This time is no different.
Here in NYC, the current epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are not unfamiliar with crisis. The people of this city have rallied and rebounded from 9/11, destructive hurricanes, and other historical pandemics. But in every recovery I’ve ever seen, the power to rebound was generated by an incredible feeling of connection - connection that feels dampened by our current reality.
One of the most important roles we have in moments like these is to communicate. It is our job to remind people that there are still ways to stay connected to causes they care about.
Speaking personally as the CEO of a team dedicated to helping sick children, the themes that have bubbled to the surface during the Covid-19 crisis have hit close to home. Speaking about sickness and the prospect of death – and how we meet the challenges they present - is a conversation most people do everything they can to avoid. Speaking about what happens when resources run low, or how to maintain morale in the face of a formidable foe is rarely top of mind for most people in the general population. For many AFP members, these are salient themes in our work. When advocating for our missions, we must understand the scope and scale of our challenge, somehow summon the guts to be hopeful about them and exercise the discipline to craft a playbook to get others to buy into that hope. Many of us have spent years pouring over facts, figures and anecdotes that could easily generate fear, apathy and despair – were it not for OUR ability to refine these narratives into invitations to act.
However, “acting” looks a little different than it looked a few weeks ago. For most people the most radical action they can now take to help improve the lives of others is to stay home. People who built homes while using their vacation days, or passed out meals en masse to the homeless on weekends, supported medically challenged kids, or read books to seniors, are all being asked to stay inside, away from the communities they have steadfastly supported.
You can confine a person, but thankfully you cannot confine their energy. People who have never hesitated to invest a bit of sweat in the change they believe in are still looking for ways to reach out, improve, and connect to the causes and communities they love. You are all working to help guide them now more than ever.
Your superpower is that you have trained your entire career to help people harness their resources and energies in the ways that generate maximum benefit for the missions they love. You have the knowledge and the power to help the helpers feel less powerless, and more involved than they might have ever imagined. You have the power to guide the conversation about how we continue to build towards the futures our communities deserve, even as we weather this storm. We have spent years learning how to convince people that even in the face of intimidating challenges they can individually and collectively be agents for change. That is why we must lean in now more than ever.
Lastly, continue helping each other and looking to one another for support, advice and opportunity. Your AFP-NYC Chapter is dedicated to continuing to provide professional advancement and fellowship opportunities for its members and the fundraising community at large. Together, we will meet this challenge as only we know how.