is not the only benchmark in grantmaking. I want to put
in a word for satisfaction, too.
Conservation is my life
work, so it is the focus of most of my grantmaking. I
manage family lands for commercial forest products, harvesting
trees and selling them to sawmills. I currently chair the Maine Chapter of the Nature
Conservancy, which holds land not to produce commodities
but to protect natural communities. Annually, I lead a
wilderness rite of passage in which we give up all thought
of using nature; we simply return to the land as a humble
member of her community.
All this work is satisfying,
but only some of it can be quantified. Sawlogs can be
measured by board feet, annual growth, and income generated.
We can count species on a preserve; ascertaining ecosystem
health requires more guesswork and intuition. The results
of a successful rite of passage are profound, yet they
defy quantification. I derive deep satisfaction from each,
although I'm not sure that I can define the work in terms
My involvement in conservation
issues has increasingly moved me to value bringing opponents
together to find common ground-because I believe that
the greatest movement comes from shifting how people think.
I have funded and led many collaborative efforts that
help change people's thinking. It's hard, though, to assess
the effectiveness of this kind of work. It doesn't offer
the immediate results of laws passed or fines assessed.
But looking back over ten years, I can see that foresters
in Maine now instinctively include protecting habitats
as they lay out cuts, and that the industry now supports
the previously (to them) unthinkable notion of setting
lands off-limits to harvesting to protect and better understand
When initiating or supporting
these efforts, however, we didn't have the benefit of
hindsight. We had to call on our intuition as well as
our minds to assess the good faith of participants and
the quality of the process. Many other potential funders
decided the odds for success were too long, the outcomes
too fuzzy. But, to me, the work felt right. Watching defenses
melt was satisfying. And ultimately, we can see the effort
was indeed effective. But focusing only on effectiveness
might have prevented this watershed work from getting
underway in the first place.
I have also funded projects
where I am not at all a participant. For almost ten years
I have supported the American Indian Institute, whose
sole purpose is to help indigenous elders from around
the world get together for mutual support, teaching, and
ceremony. The leader of the Institute is a white man who
has dedicated his life to this work. His involvement has
been to communicate a vision to funders and then stand
back and let the elders work. For years he sat outside
the gathering place as the elders met. The work was for
them and their culture, not him. In wilderness rites of
passage I have touched a profound connection with the
natural world that seems similar to that which informs
the work of the elders as they seek to care for their
peoples, their traditions, and our Earth.
Is the Institute effective?
I assume so, because more elders come each year. What
difference is it making in the world? I don't know, but
I find it deeply satisfying to support the elders in maintaining
their way of life. I, too, am sitting on the outside,
supporting, following my heart, and trusting these tradition
carriers to know what will serve them best.
So in my view, effectiveness
is but one metric for successful grantmaking. Trusting
your heart and following your intuition can bring a different
kind of satisfaction, and ultimately, even greater success.
- anonymous author
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