I grew up in a town of 1,000 people in southern Illinois. As the saying goes, “everyone knows everyone,” and the people who reside there believe in the importance of looking out for one's neighbor. You support them when times are tough—maybe not always with money, but with time, emotional support, food, and whatever else you can offer.
In the area where I grew up, the belief in helping someone close to you was rooted in deep tradition. You stand up for people in need. You know them personally, you care deeply, and you build relationships with the people surrounding the families. There is something to be said about rural philanthropy and contributing to a community when you know the beneficiary personally.
This is how I grew up. This was my perception of philanthropy and the way the world worked. If someone needed help, you stepped in. If someone experienced a tragedy, you were on call.
As I grew up and left this small town in Illinois, I noticed things were slightly different in the rest of the world.
I traveled to cities and took jobs in philanthropy. To my surprise, people would help those they didn't necessarily know personally. They would react to a story, a symbol, and a dream of what life could be. Not someone they knew.
Early into my first job in fundraising I realized I was taking on the role of storyteller—the one conveying the hurt to those able to make it possible. I was the one who made the issue, the need, the pain come to life. And ...