Both wonderful and illuminating elements of this job are the conversations with industry insiders, often only for background. You get info about the deals that put programs and initiatives together. You hear about who is stabbing who in the back and of people who are good intentioned but horrifyingly out of touch for what they wish to accomplish.
Three of those conversations occurred on a recent Monday, as Russian tanks were advancing toward Kyiv. The conversations evolved from world events to politics in the U.S. and the upcoming midterm elections. Sector leaders who might be considered on the more progressive side of the political spectrum expressed exasperation at some of the more diplomatic, slightly less plugged in members of the sector.
Given the challenges of getting even basic legislation through the polarized Congress, all three of the insiders want more action at the grassroots level and believe those convening “conversations” need an awakening from sleepy academic-like pursuits. It appears some of the conveners have forgotten the name and teaching of a certain “community organizer.”
They might also be unacquainted with organizing that is legendary in Cook County, Illinois and Hudson County, New Jersey. No, it is not the rumors of dead people coming back to life and voting as if it’s an episode of “Glitch.” Take as an illustration the early presidential caucus in Iowa and primary in New Hampshire. The influence and conversations need to be street by street, neighbor to neighbor. You are not going to convince everyone but at least each voice is heard, every hand gets pumped, and baby kissed.
The late great former Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill used to say, although he did not coin the phrase, that all politics is local. Winning hearts and minds can’t be done from an oak-paneled club room with committees appointed and reports prepared.
A new neighbor on our street of mostly blue residents had a huge Trump flag flying in front of his house during the election cycle. A Yankees banner was an unfortunate precursor. Everyone was out there recently shoveling snow together and using snow blowers to clear driveways. There was common ground. The snow needed to be moved. There might even have been a shared bottle of a brown-colored elixir. Nobody spoke of elections but of the question why the borough’s snowplow drivers insisted on curb to curb after all sidewalks had been cleared, pushing snow back onto sidewalks. Snow removal, and the lack thereof, is politics.
This election cycle starts with primaries and then the main events in November. It is critical for sector leaders to work to get candidates elected who are sympathetic to charities, social justice, and the nation’s social safety network. They need to work against candidates such as those who have paraded out “ideas” that Social Security should be abolished to incentivize seniors to go back to work.
There is a lot on the line come this fall. It is not a red or blue issue. It is community conversations without threats or intimidation, and, OK, maybe a few raised voices. Everyone pretty much agrees that snow must be cleared. That’s a start.
The COVID-19 pandemic is waning just in time for conference season so people can, pardon the expression, zoom over to an in-person gathering. Each conference has a luncheon when someone is honored during what is alleged to be dessert.
The Nonprofit Alliance Catholic Development Council recently held its Faith & Fundraising 2022 Conference in Milwaukee, Wisc., including the dessert interruption. It was worth putting down the fork. One of the sector’s good guys, Charlie Cadigan, received the Distinguished Service Award.
Cadigan is a product of the Sisters of Mercy and a Jesuit education, has worked with dozens of religious and secular organizations throughout his long career. He traveled to war-torn El Salvador in 1995 with Catholic Relief Services, He’s currently senior vice president of NonProfit Services Division at the agency Wiland.
With a Wiki memory for names and events, Cadigan is one of the sector’s go-to people who will always volunteer to help and offer expert encouragement. The distinction was well deserved.