28 Jan The Relevance of a Couple Few
As Shelly said a couple of weeks ago, ‘We’re back’! That means my blog’s back, too. Hurray! If feels good. I’ve missed writing it. I’ve missed the words. I’ve missed you. The truth is, Lilly Endowment Inc. blessed Grant County with what I think Texans call a couple few grant opportunities. I’m not sure if that term is a real thing or not. All I know is that the GIFT VII grant opportunity knocks on more than a few doors and less than some doors—so, a couple few doors. And we’re not about to make them knock twice.
As soon as news of this huge investment Lilly Endowment Inc. made in Grant County arrived in my inbox, a different couple few things happened immediately: (1) I ran to ring our celebration bell to harken anyone who happened to be in hearing distance at the time to the workroom, (2) I took a big breath and then announced this amazing donation, (3) cheers of elation ensued, (4) followed by an unchoreographed happy dance, (5) then 12 quiet seconds [typically timed on Meagan’s cell phone, for accuracy—since 12 seconds is much longer than you think] to think about this amazing gift just long enough for that moment to forever be registered in our brain’s hippocampus, and finally (6) setting ourselves up for success by integrating the new workload into the old workload, without the ability to add extra hours into the 24-hour day. Thus, the reason our eNewsletter and blog had to take a brief hiatus. We missed them; we hope you did, too. And, we’ll be taking advantage of the next several publications to get you up-to-date on all things Community Foundation—including where we stand on each of the six gift opportunities that Lilly Endowment’s GIFT VII bestowed upon us.
But first, let me catch you up on a few Brown family things. My husband Jerry was tired, so he retired from the MPD and is now a Police Officer with Marion General Hospital’s new police department. Griffin graduated with honors from the Kelley School of Business and Dalton is back from Afghanistan and currently residing on U.S. soil once again. Despite the many changes in our family and the inability to be together for any of the holidays in 2018, we were finally able to spend Christmas Vacation together—four glorious days and nights with all four of us under the same roof, in the same county, in the same state, in the same country. The best present a mom could ever ask for. But it wasn’t the same, nor should it be. We’re older. They’re older. Our family is growing and morphing annually. And with that, some traditions are changing, too. We’re embracing these changes, rising to the occasion, and renewing our roles as our family makeup is shifting. In other words, we’re remaining relevant.
I’ve been thinking a lot about relevance lately—and how important remaining relevant is in all aspects of life. When the kids in our family were still in single digits, it was fun opening presents from Santa and going outside in our slippers to spread out a batch of reindeer food for Rudolph and the antlered eight—which apparently are all female since male deer lose their antlers in the winter. But I digress. Now that we’ve all entered double digits, we’ve upped our game. To truly be relevant, we had to deepen the connection to our growing family by re-inventing our festive Christmas Eve Eve tradition. We always start celebrating with a big Christmas party held on Christmas Eve Eve at our house. In other words, I’ll see your pajama-wearing Christmas pics, and I’ll raise you a Cousin Eddie. This is probably where you’d say ‘Oh, no, she didn’t!’. Oh, yes, I did. To match our Christmas Vacation pajamas, I surprised my husband with the classic Cousin Eddie pajamas, and let’s just say he embraced the role. I don’t think we’ve ever laughed that much in our lives. Trust me, fun was had by all. We enhanced our traditions and made memories they’ll never forget. Relevance.
This whole concept of relevance reminds me of a new show on Hulu I’ve been watching called ‘5 Levels’. It’s a show with short 15-20-minute segments where subject-matter experts explain complex concepts in five different ways: to an elementary student, a teen, an undergrad majoring in the subject-matter area, a grad student, and a legend/colleague. I love the show because I always learn something new about a topic I’d probably never encounter in everyday life–like blockchain or CRISPR. The point here is, when they explain, say, virtual reality to a 5-year-old, they know they must adapt that explanation to be relevant to a high school student. Otherwise, their superficial knowledge is deemed useless and their relevance is gone. The cycle continues as, obviously, that same explanation can’t be given to a grad student—you’d lose all credibility. This applies to essentially everything in work and life. You’ve simply got to up your game to remain relevant. Imagine if technology hadn’t advanced since 1990. The United States wouldn’t be the superpower that we are today. We must put in the hard work that reinvention, upgrades, and updates require. If we don’t, we’ll be left managing the decline and ultimately telling the last person who leaves to please turn the lights out. That friends is what happens when you become irrelevant. Being relevant requires looking through the windshield toward the future, not the rearview mirror of the past. You can build on history, but you can’t live there and be relevant.
And that takes us back to GIFT VII. Besides the three matching challenges, Lilly Endowment is also upping the relevance ante of every community foundation in the state of Indiana. We’ve always had the same business model, which includes asset development, grantmaking, and community leadership. But our early years were spent focused on increasing the assets in our endowment and using the income from investments to bolster local grantmaking. Community leadership was always there, but not in the forefront. However, as community foundations mature, community leadership makes a bigger presence. And that’s where GIFT VII comes in. The GIFT VII grant has given us three opportunities to grow our relevance through community leadership. Currently, we’re deeply entrenched in the Planning Grant part of GIFT VII, where we’ve been collecting data in many different ways. It’s been trickling in, and we’re in the midst of synthesizing it so that the numbers tell our story. Once that happens, we’ll be releasing what we learn to our Board and donors initially, then to the Grant County masses. The way we look at it, data is only valuable when people have it, know it, own it. Once the data is analyzed, we’ll integrate the results with data-driven solutions into the final two opportunities they’ve given us—the Implementation Grant and the Concept Grant. Both are much-needed in order to change the landscape of Grant County and to increase the community leadership footprint of the Community Foundation. Both address relevant issues, so they naturally require an enormous amount of work. Both have revealed data that’s difficult to read. Hard to process. Impossible to ignore. But, at the same time, we’re discovering data that must be read when times are difficult. It’s data that must be processed because people’s lives are hard. It’s data that seems impossible to defeat, but only if it’s ignored.
So, yeah, that’s why our eNews and blog have been on a brief vacay. We’ve dedicated an enormous amount of time figuring out how to collaborate to solve systemic problems, which will ultimately help more of our friends and neighbors thrive. This is perhaps the most relevant thing any community can do. And, we’re doing it. It’s no membership in the Jelly-of-the-month Club, but like Cousin Eddie says, it truly is “the gift that keeps on giving the whole year!” So, it was worth missing a couple few blogs last year—but now…we’re back!