On Wednesday, I tuned in, like many people, to listen to the Their Eyes Were Watching God radio play, hosted by The Greene Space in New York. Prior to Wednesday, I had not heard of a radio play and was intrigued to listen to the dramatic reading of this well known novel by Zora Neale Hurston (best writer ever). As I was listening, I recognized a familiar voice as the narrator, Phylicia Rashad. What a treat! Phylicia Rashad is a favorite in my personal actress category, so I turned up the volume and enjoyed the regal sound of her voice. One word that has described Ms. Rashad since her portrayal of Claire Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” is classy. I have never heard her articulate her classiness, and yet if I were to look up “classy” in the dictionary, her name would be there (not literally). She is an example of how actions speak louder than words because she exudes lady-like elegance on and off the big screen. Even during the radio play, her pronunciation of every passage had “classy” written all over it. To paraphrase my mother, “if you have to tell people you are lady, you aren’t. Someone should know you are without you flapping your gums.” The same is true for nonprofits.
The “lady-like elegance” of a nonprofit should be that of it having a positive impact on the community it is serving. In other words, having a good reputation. How effective would it be for Volunteer Maryland to have the mission of “building stronger and healthier communities by empowering Marylanders to take action…,” if there was not evidence of us fulfilling that mission? Fortunately, Volunteer Maryland has more than enough highlights from last year’s VM23 class, to showcase how Maryland communities are being enhanced by AmeriCorps members. As Barb mentioned earlier this week, the VM23 class recruited and managed 8,800 volunteers, who served 65,000 community members! I have faith in this year’s VM24 class to top the service stats of last year.
Now I pose a few questions to you, does your organization have lady-like elegance? Do people know what to expect when they see the name of your nonprofit attached to a specific cause, event, or partnership? It is no longer enough to say that we, as part of the nonprofit sector, are making a difference across the state of Maryland. Our “elegance” should be known without us saying…like Phylicia Rashad.