The Nonprofit Sector Remembers Nelson Mandela

Tributes on the passing yesterday of Nelson Mandela are numerous. His impact on social justice worldwide will be felt for generations. Here are some of the tributes being released within the charitable sector through direct statements, website announcements, Twitter and other social media.

Diana Aviv, President & CEO of Independent Sector (personal comment)

As you know I don’t usually use work email to share personal musing, but I thought that the passing of Nelson Mandela warranted a brief reflection. Some of you might know that I grew up in South Africa at a time when Nelson Mandela was serving a life sentence for trying to bring equality to all racial groups in that country, a state that had legally mandated racial inequality. The charges against him were created to justify the sentence and in the end he served almost 28 years in a prison, much like Alcatraz, off the mainland of Cape Town.

His generosity of spirit, his kindness, even to his jailors, his singular purpose in bringing equality and dignity to all people of South Africa and his wonderful character were just a few of his great qualities. His work extended beyond those borders as he helped many communities with the struggles they were facing.

I had the honor of meeting him several times and talking with him briefly. Those meetings were among the most treasured in my life. I worked with the leadership of the group that first brought Madiba to the U.S., and then had the great honor of being invited to be part of a delegation to South Africa meeting with him at the first international gathering of those who worked to bring down apartheid. Each country sent a delegation and it was thrilling to be included in the 15-person U.S. delegation with groups from around the world.

I remember so vividly his sense of humor and his ability to tease others and make everyone comfortable. I have a treasure trove of such stories from family and dear friends who spent a great deal of time with him. In Mandela was a person who believed that truth, reconciliation and forgiveness was the path forward. And who other than he could advance such a message?


The NAACP mourns the passing of activist and former South African president Nelson Mandela:

Roslyn Brock, Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors: The Honorable Nelson Mandela embodied the hopes, dreams, aspirations and values of all who seek justice against tremendous odds. He responded to unfathomable violence with peace and courage, and in doing so he forever changed the world.

Bill Lucy, member of the NAACP National Board of Directors and labor leader: The world has lost one of the great statesmen of our time – a man who spent 27 years in prison because he believes in the cause of equality. His loss should set an example for political leaders still here, that there is a need to lead and govern in a manner that is equitable to all people.

Dr. David Emmanuel Goatley, Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the NAACP Board of Directors: Nelson Mandela’s legacy remains an inspiration for the work of the NAACP. In Mandela’s name we must continue to bring attention to all aspects of global apartheid characterized by poverty, inequality, discrimination, and prejudice of all kind.

Lorraine Miller, Interim NAACP President and CEO: President Mandela was humanity’s greatest living hero. His unwavering sense of justice and peace transformed a nation and inspired the world.

United Way Worldwide

United Way joins people worldwide in grieving the loss of Nelson Mandela – a hero in every way. His courage is an example for all, and his life is a testament to the power of believing in a better community. Mandela’s legacy stands as proof that the acts of a single person can start a movement capable of changing the world.

We are thankful for his example, and we send our deepest sympathies to the Mandela family and the people of South Africa.

Vartan Gregorian, President & CEO, Carnegie Corporation of New York

Carnegie Corporation of New York joins South Africa and the world in mourning the death of former South African President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela. Mandela helped bring apartheid to an end without civil war, without revenge, without bloodletting. Revenge has always been easy, forgiveness has always been difficult, but necessary. And forgiveness along with reconciliation is even more difficult. Mandela spared South Africa bloodshed, but more than that, he brought truth and reconciliation, with hope for the future of the country and its democracy. Carnegie Corporation is proud of its work over the past decade, along with a consortium of American foundations, in promoting the causes of higher education, libraries, and research in South Africa.

David Miliband, President and CEO, International Rescue Committee

I was brought up to be a bit skeptical of the “Great Man” theory of history — but Nelson Mandela’s life shows how personal character, values and personality at the top can make and break nations.  His passing after a long, arduous, successful and momentous life is rightly an occasion for saluting and celebrating as well as mourning.

“Free Nelson Mandela” was in a way the political soundtrack for my generation.  His incarceration was the tip of the apartheid iceberg — along with the daily humiliations and irregular killings that were a feature of the regime. (One of my first political memories is of the reporting of the assassination of the wife of one of his political allies, Ruth First).  The campaigns in the 1980s for the West to take some responsibility for change in South Africa seemed so clear to me as a university student urging divestment of college funds from South Africa.  In the end, though, the change came from within.

Nelson Mandela was an example for politicians but also for people, in the way he lived his life and the way he treated others.  Mandela taught humility, principle, loyalty, endurance, commitment. It somehow seems more poignant to have been able to visit his cell on Robben Island this March while he was still alive. The stoicism of our guide Ahmed “Kathy” Kathrada, who was in prison there with him, was an incredible lesson.

In 2007 I was privileged to sit in Parliament Square in London when a statue of Mandela was unveiled. He spoke of coming to London as a young lawyer in the 1950s, and seeing the Victorian generals and politicians commemorated in the square.  Never did he believe, he said, that he would come back and see the statue of a black man in Parliament Square.  I am sure there are flowers being laid there now.

Tennyson’s phrase “the cause endures, the dream will never die” seems especially apt today.

Wade Henderson, President and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

“The loss of Nelson Mandela is felt around the world and with a particular resonance for those of us in the American civil and human rights movement.

As African Americans had begun walking into the sunshine of human rights with the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960’s, Black South Africans were losing their citizenship and their right to vote, to live where they choose, and to seek quality education and health care.

Against this backdrop, American civil and human rights advocates turned our attention to apartheid in South Africa. Nelson Mandela emerged as the cauldron for our fire and our greatest hope that we could all one day be free from oppression.  We poured our hearts, our hopes, and our ambitions for freedom into organizing, educating, fundraising, and pursuing international pressure in support of his people’s just cause.  Mandela’s struggle, along with that of his countrymen, became ours. When apartheid finally ended, we were reminded yet again that an organized coalition in pursuit of justice can achieve great things.

President Mandela often spoke about how the sit-ins, marches, and demonstrations of the United States inspired his work. Yet, in the cycle of learning and dialogue, it would be Mandela’s fearless advocacy for peace in the face of prison, death, and torture that would inspire us.”

Steven Hawkins, Executive Director, Amnesty International USA

Mandela’s courage helped change our entire world. His life of political struggle and self-sacrifice became, and remains, an example to millions around the globe. His name is now synonymous with the struggle of people everywhere for freedom, equality and justice and is a reminder that we must stay determined to confront injustice. http://blog.amnestyusa.org/africa/the-greatest-way-to-honor-nelson-mandelas-legacy/

Marc H. Morial, President & CEO, National Urban League

There are few men or women who leave such an indelible imprint and impact on the world that they are remembered, honored and celebrated by nations near and far for centuries after they depart.  There are few people for whom even all the words in every language fail to convey the magnitude and meaning of their lives.

Without a doubt in mind or heart, I know that Nelson Mandela is one among a very select few.
His dedication, perseverance, forgiveness, and purpose – his life – sparked an inextinguishable fire in the souls of freedom fighters not only in South Africa, but everywhere.  The light that he shared will forever serve as an international beacon for fairness, justice and hope for all disadvantaged, impoverished and oppressed people from every corner of the world.
Nelson Mandela gave new meaning to the word “inspiration.”

After spending 27 years of a life sentence as an apartheid regime political prisoner, he emerged, not with bitterness – but instead with a steadfast resolve to complete his life’s work.  His remarkable journey serves as an indisputable example of forgiveness in the face of persecution and triumph through tribulation.
I consider myself at once fortunate, humbled and proud to have been a part of the great work of Nelson Mandela’s life during the 1980’s here in the United States.  While attending Georgetown University Law Center in 1981, I co-led an effort to boycott the cafeteria operator because of its investments in South Africa.  During this same period, I was a member of the leadership team of the National Black Law Students Association that pushed for divestment of South African investments by U.S. companies.  Early in my career, I was arrested at the South African Embassy as part of a mass, peaceful organized protest led by Walter Fauntroy, Mary Frances Berry and Randall Robinson in support of U.S. economic sanctions against South Africa.

As co-leader of the New Orleans Anti-Apartheid Coalition, I helped to successfully advocate for the New Orleans Public Employee Pension Board’s divestment in U.S. companies who had holdings in South Africa.  When the U.S. Congress ultimately passed sanctions against South Africa, I could only hope that Nelson Mandela knew that his army now extended beyond the borders of South Africa to subsequent generations of freedom activists and advocates around the world – even in the world’s greatest democracy – helping to continue the work he started.

After the election of President Mandela, as mayor of New Orleans I signed an economic and friendship agreement in 1994 between Johannesburg and New Orleans, one of the first U.S. cities to do so.  It was an indescribable honor.  Nelson Mandela’s efforts to create a new, multi-racial democracy weren’t just an example of unwavering leadership, humanity and compassion for me, but also for the countless millions who will follow and study him as one of the world’s great leaders for centuries to come.

I often wonder if his parents knew when they named him Rolihlahla (common translation: “troublemaker”) how prophetic that was or how ironic it would be that he would grow up to be an international symbol of peacemaking.  But the “troublemaking” that Nelson Mandela undertook was of a different kind.  It was the kind that sees legislated injustice, race-based inequality and economic despair and seeks to disrupt an institutionalized system of oppression and discrimination.

It is the kind that motivates all of us in the Urban League Movement to continue to fight for opportunity parity and economic equality every day in hundreds of communities across America.
Nelson Mandela gave a voice to those who had been silenced.  He brought hope to those who had been stripped of their dreams.  He awakened a nation – and ultimately a world – to the boundless possibilities of following one’s purpose.

Today, we stand with the people of South Africa and with the international community in mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela.  We remember, honor, and celebrate his extraordinary life and legacy.  The world could use a few more “Rolihlahlas.”

Kevin Jenkins, President, World Vision

“Nelson Mandela has been, and will remain, an inspiration for many of us around the world involved in humanitarian work,” says Kevin Jenkins, president of World Vision International.

“Mandela was probably the greatest leader of our age, a tireless, fearless advocate for the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our world, particularly children. He believed in justice, and wasn’t afraid to do what he thought it would take to achieve it.

“Mandela’s death is, of course, most keenly felt in his home country, and we join with South Africans in sending our condolences to his family, and in mourning his loss.

“Many of the children we work with, and our staff, have life-changing stories to tell of meeting Madiba over the years. All talk of his great compassion, and his tireless commitment to seeking justice and change.” http://bit.ly/1gJYnhl

Brent Wilkes, Executive Director, League of United Latin American Citizens

“Nelson Mandela believed it to be his life’s duty to better the lives of the people of South Africa. 

”As part of that duty, he led the movement which ultimately ended apartheid and was elected as South Africa’s first black President. Upon his release, after being imprisoned for 27 years, Nelson Mandela noted, ‘As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.’ It was this resounding belief in forgiveness that set the standard for reconciliation in a country that was left scared and vulnerable to racial tensions by years of apartheid. Through his valiant efforts to rid racial divisions, poverty and inequality in South Africa, Nelson Mandela became a unifying symbol not only for the people of South Africa but for the world. Nelson Mandela’s life’s work should serve as an inspiration to all of us who care about and fight for equal justice for all people.”

UN Foundation

We are all saddened by the passing of Nelson Mandela, a great friend and a man of remarkable courage, compassion, and principle.  On behalf of the United Nations Foundation, I send my deepest condolences to Graça Machel and to Madiba’s entire family. Madiba dedicated his life to the causes of freedom, equality and opportunity, and our world is a better place because of him.

Skoll Foundation

The Skoll Foundation mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela and expresses its deepest sympathy to his family. A true visionary, Mandela’s leadership and advocacy for justice and equality has inspired people around the world.

“Madiba leaves behind a long legacy of compassion and an unwavering commitment to justice,” said Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation. “He inspires us all to continue to drive toward a more peaceful and prosperous world.”

As advisory board members for The Elders—a group of global leaders founded by Mandela—Skoll Foundation Founder and Chairman, Jeff Skoll, and Sally Osberg have had the privilege of benefiting from and supporting Mandela’s vision for peace, justice, and human rights.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The moral space Nelson Mandela occupied during his extraordinary lifetime will not be filled soon, but his place in history is secure and so is his place in the hearts of all people of morality and integrity.

His life was inspiring. He overcame obstacles that few people can imagine to lead his country on the path to national reconciliation, and at the same time he stirred people around the world to advance the idea or a more humane and inclusive society.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation began its work in support of building black African leadership in South Africa and other African nations in 1986. In 1997, the foundation launched its post-apartheid program, which targeted social and economic development in rural areas.

Since that time, the foundation met with him twice and partnered with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Children’s Fund, the Children’s Hospital and the Metropolitan University in projects that embrace our shared value of improving the lives of children, families and communities through leadership and community development.

The lessons Madiba taught all of us about strength, courage and perseverance are many.  But one belief he put forth is at the core of our philanthropy: that once a person is determined to help themselves, there is nothing that can stop them.

Mandela once said: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

The example of human dignity and human achievement he gave us is so remarkable it will serve as a beacon of inspiration and hope for generations to come.

Tributes and statements via Twitter feeds include the following.

First Book: We join the world in mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela and celebrating his legacy and inspiration.

American Red Cross: #NelsonMandela — activist, leader, and true humanitarian, your legacy of service to all mankind will forever be an inspiration to all.

(RED): Nelson Mandela’s unwavering courage, forgiveness & hope touched & inspired people all around the world. Rest in Peace.

Jatrice Gaiter (Volunteers of America): Dear God, Thank you for your messenger of peace, strength and grace, @NelsonMandela #racialhealing. Man of #love in the face of hate!

Bill Gates: Every time Melinda and I met Nelson Mandela, we left more inspired than ever. His grace and courage changed the world. This is a sad day.

President Bill Clinton: Today the world has lost one of its most important leaders and one of its finest human beings.  And Hillary, Chelsea and I have lost a true friend. History will remember Nelson Mandela as a champion for human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation. We will remember him as a man of uncommon grace and compassion, for whom abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was not just a political strategy but a way of life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Graça and his family and to the people of South Africa. All of us are living in a better world because of the life that Madiba lived.  He proved that there is freedom in forgiving, that a big heart is better than a closed mind, and that life’s real victories must be shared.

Case Foundation: We’re so sad to hear about the passing of Nelson Mandela. He was a true fearless hero.

TechSoup: We send our thanks for the inspiration for social justice that Nelson Mandela brought to the world. #RIPNelsonMandela

World Wildlife Fund: The world has lost an iconic hero today. We extend our sympathies to his family, friends & the people of South Africa.

Points of Light Institute: We honor the enduring legacy of #NelsonMandela, a true point of light for millions. May he rest in peace. #RememberingMandela

DoSomething.org: In the fight for justice, he spent 3 decades in prison. Then, for the sake of of justice, forgave his captors when released. #NelsonMandela

UNICEF: ‘We have all lost a hero. #Madiba touched the lives of millions of children’ our Exec Dir Anthony Lake http://uni.cf/1coJjF1  #Mandela

UNICEF: A true hero, a champion for children. We join millions around the world mourning the loss of Nelson

Special Olympics, Tim Shriver, Ph.D., board chair: Asked #nelsonmandela for counsel:”have humility and simplicity. Keep the ego out;know you need so little for happiness.” A beautiful soul.

Half the Sky: “[T]ravel around Africa and the world, and you see his imprint, his legacy, his spirit. Mandela lives.” http://nyti.ms/ISXffU  #Madiba

Oxfam International: ‘He was ‘the most consistent and powerful voice for social justice in the 20th century’ @Winnie_Byanyima http://ow.ly/rv2iA  #Madiba