Who Are We?

Who Are We?

I am looking for a respectful title for those who give their talents and expertise to not-for-profit work.

Recently my college’s Alumni Magazine listed the profession of each member of the Board of Trustees.  To my surprise, among the “CEOs” and “Partners” I found myself listed as a “Philanthropist.”  While I am charitable, “Philanthropist” is not how I would describe myself.

After college, I spent 11 years on Wall Street and retired as a Vice President in 1990.  Since then I have volunteered my time, with the pure aim of furthering the organizations and institutions I care about.  It has been exciting and rewarding work, whether raising money, developing strategic plans or chairing the board. I, and scores of others work for love, not for pay to advance our communities as well as the world beyond.

Few will dispute that we who volunteer time, energy and resources to our schools, hospitals, communities, churches and synagogues, strengthen the fabric of our society and contribute in ways that few communities or organizations could afford, were we to be salaried employees.

“Volunteer” doesn’t begin to suggest the value of our unpaid work. Nor are we “philanthropists,” although “love of people,” (the root of the word “philanthropy”) is one of our motivations. What then are we?  Are we Civic Leaders? Social Activists? Change Agents?

If none of these titles seems quite right, perhaps it is time to be creative, to invent a new word. It is noble work that we do, and we deserve a title that gives us as much pride and satisfaction as the work itself. Please help me to move this conversation forward.


We Need A Better Word For “Volunteer” was last modified: by

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