It's Not About the Medals
I watched the Olympic figure skating competition and was amazed at the perfection of each contestant. I understand that each athlete spent years practicing his or her craft with a goal of securing an Olympic medal in Sochi, Russia.
In truth, only a small percentage of athletes ever receive medals. At the 2014 Olympics, approximately 2,800 athletes competed for 294 medals in 98 events. Statistically, only 11 percent or so of these athletes went home with the gold, silver or bronze award. Success for the majority of these athletes is the experience gained from Olympic competition. In many ways that involvement and engagement is priceless.
In the not-for-profit world, it is never about medals. In fact, you live so that others receive glory. The volunteers, prospects, donors, staff and others engage with you on an ongoing basis. You continually seek ways to motivate, inspire and recognize these individuals on both a short- and long-term time period.
I love to witness the joy in people's faces when they receive praise for their contributions of time, talent and treasure. Your hope is others are inspired to engage and jump on the bandwagon. The reward of service in this sector should be an intangible by-product of one's actions.
My silent "medals" and rewards from this profession include examples of the following scenarios:
- Being hugged by a nursing student when she received a check from a donor for her continuing education that she couldn't personally afford;
- Successfully securing funding for a cancer patient who would have died without life-saving surgery that the family couldn't possibly afford;
- Being kissed by a small child when she received a bike for Christmas donated by someone else;
- Obtaining the funds for a new wheelchair for a teenager with special needs;
- Being asked by a family to be in the family photo when one of the family members, whom I had become friends with, received the outstanding student award by a university;
- Watching a terminally ill child sob with delight when she learned her wish of going to Disney World was going to be a reality;
- Watching several seniors cry with emotion at their 50th homecoming bonfire knowing they would never be back on campus and see each other again;
- Listening to a dying patient thanking me for directing a campaign to build a new hospice;
- Enjoying the thrill of teaching a group of volunteers Fundraising 101, as each wanted to learn how to solicit others for gifts;
- Giving hundreds of free hours of consulting advice, council and guidance;
- Mentoring many individuals through the years and watching their careers progress;
- Helping a number of professionals land jobs when they lost their positions through no fault of their own;
- Pursuing my love of speaking for free just to share a career of experiences with others.
The list goes on and on.
As your career continues, your personal book of grace and humility will grow. You will gain satisfaction watching others perform through your efforts from the wings of the stage.
All of us share a unique profession. We work every day to build communities knowing it is never about personal rewards or medals. It is about people and making a difference for one person at a time.
Have you ever thought about the satisfying feeling of finishing last in a race? As we age, we seek to enjoy the trip as much as reaching the destination. Medals are worn on the outside. It is what is inside that truly counts in life.
F. Duke Haddad, EdD, CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he is also president of Duke Haddad and Associates, LLC, and freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the past 13 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration, master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University in business administration, with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.