13 Feb Spreading the Love
by Dick Allen
When Alexis de Tocqueville, a French political thinker and historian, toured America in the early days of our democracy, he observed that philanthropy was very different in the United States than in any other country. Our giving spirit was “uniquely American,” as we set about the journey of building our budding democracy. Fast forward almost a century and a half and I believe the same philanthropic dynamic exists today. As Americans, we are very generous people. As such, we consistently lift up our neighbors and those in need to help them as they deal with obstacles in front of them.
As technology and transportation have impacted our daily lives, our world has expanded well beyond that of our local neighborhood. Today, most of us take a broader view of the world than we did in the past, looking to our city or state or country as the relevant communities that shape our lives. However, when it comes to helping others, I believe that the local effort is still the strongest and most successful way to make a difference. We cannot rely on Washington, D.C. or Sacramento to address the problems presented by those who are underserved in our own backyard. Philanthropy is powerful when it’s done locally, and it is the key to improving people’s lives.
My wife and I have been involved in active philanthropy for over 25 years. In those years, I’ve observed that it all too often exists in a vacuum with very well-intentioned, but unfortunately siloed efforts. There are literally hundreds of terrific private nonprofits doing exceptional work, but because that work isn’t coordinated with other similar efforts, it falls short of reaching its full potential. It lacks “connectness.” This is where I see the power of ConnectOC. It’s about bringing private philanthropy and mission-aligned, but disparate and independent organizations together so that collectively they can have far more impact. When we focus on the local situation with this kind of an approach, we will come closer to solving problems that cannot be accomplished by siloed efforts.
Interconnectedness is a process. It’s not just pulling together donors and nonprofit organizations. That’s clearly necessary, but it’s not sufficient if we are to do successful charitable work. To complete the picture, other critical “players” – local government, educational institutions, and corporations – must be part of the partnership that works together to solve our local problems. People doing their own thing independent of each other don’t achieve synergy. We need to spread the love, so to speak.
Through ConnectOC, we have a great opportunity to make things better for our neighbors in Orange County. I encourage you to spend some time going through the community report on this site. You will discover the deep need that exists, but you’ll also gain hope knowing that there is a collaborative effort you can join to make a difference.
Dick Allen is healthcare executive and venture investor. He is a member of the board of directors for the Orange County Community Foundation.