Please keep reading... I won’t ask you for money.
The word philanthropy means "love of humanity" in the sense of caring for, nourishing, developing, and enhancing "what it is to be human". I love that definition because it means that there is a relationship between the donor and the receiver, a shared purpose rooted in love. And for those who choose to be present in that relationship, giving can be a spectacular way to nurture our common humanity.
Recently, I visited the campuses of Northwestern Mutual to see some ‘love of humanity’ in action. The Ballet was invited to share the story of one of our outreach programs at both of Northwestern Mutual’s United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) campaign kickoff luncheons. UPAF is the single largest contributor to the Ballet, and indeed to the performing arts in Milwaukee. Each year, their campaign raises over $10 million and distributes those funds to 32 diverse arts groups. Northwestern Mutual has the largest and most successful UPAF employee giving campaigns in town with over $1 million in gifts and pledges from their company and their 5,000+ employees. This year, they have committed to a goal of $1.5 million!
The Ballet brought along a class of Relevé 4th graders to demonstrate the impact of the arts on young kids from some challenging socio-economic backgrounds. Relevé, a community outreach program for 200 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders in underserved Milwaukee public schools is supported in part by the Northwestern Mutual Foundation and funding from UPAF. Relevé, a French ballet term which means “to rise”, offers free ballet lessons once a week during the school year, proper ballet attire, an end-of-year recital for their school, as well free tickets to student matinees and other workshops. And, it gives them a chance to rise above their challenges and succeed beyond even their own imaginations. As Director of Community Outreach, Alyson Chavez, said, “Ballet gives these kids so much more than dance training – the discipline, focus, and confidence will help them throughout their whole lives.”
The children were quite nervous to be in a fancy building (‘Why are there plants, on the inside of the building?!’, I overheard more than once), about to perform in front of strangers. But, they rose to the challenge, and did their best to show what they had learned this year about the positions of the feet and arms, why Ballet has French terms, and how much they love getting on the bus to go to their Relevé classes each week. In an interactive moment with the audience, 4th grader Tyler walked around checking the adults’ feet in first position!
In the morning before their trip to Northwestern Mutual, teacher Roberta Wittig asked the students to write a journal entry about the Relevé program. Carlos entry was pretty powerful.
The following day students shared their thoughts about the program as well. Diana said, “What I like about ballet is getting exercise. It also helps me get over being shy.”
So, when you get a fundraising call, or receive a request to GIVE, to the Ballet, to UPAF or to other non-profits, take a few minutes to read or listen for that special opportunity to nurture those beautiful things that connect us to eachother. The room full of Northwestern Mutual employees, with their feet turned out and their arms in 5th position, excited to go out and help raise money for UPAF, helped me reconnect with the true power of philanthropy, to express care for humanity…Thank you to UPAF, Northwestern Mutual and all of YOU who GIVE!
YOUR Milwaukee Ballet