Pierless Bridges

The Joan and Ralph Lane Center for Catholic Social Thought and the Ignatian Tradition

May 2020 Contemporary Experience with Tradition

Philanthropy Is an Act of Love: Aiming the Flashlight

By Francesca MacCormack
A mission statement posted on the website or on a poster can be just words; I believe that it is through our community — our voices, experiences, and relationships — that the mission comes to life.

“I’m going to help people.” This was my simple answer to my mother’s bespectacled NPR-loving bookclub friends’ questions about what I was planning to “do” after college and how to make sense of a major in family and human services. This answer always seemed so straightforward and clear to me. It was uncomplicated, direct, and open-ended, a reflection of my young adult self. Given all of the world’s complexities and challenges, I felt like the best job for me would be the one where I could simply love others and one day find a career path that would allow me to do that. And I did. Over the past decade, I have worked directly with youth, teens, and families in a community mentoring organization, as a campaign fundraising manager, and now at the University of San Francisco (USF).

At USF, our Jesuit Catholic mission and our institution’s support of students is why I was drawn to work at USF as a staff member and instructor, but it is my love for students that keeps me here. A mission statement posted on the website or on a poster can be just words; I believe that it is through our community — our voices, experiences, and relationships — that the mission comes to life. Participating in the People for Others initiative of the Joan and Ralph Lane Center for Catholic Social Thought and the Ignatian Tradition expanded my view of our mission and how we each personally, and collectively as a community, play a role in contributing to, perhaps even challenging, our mission as it lives in each of us. Philanthropy is defined as love of humankind; in our work in Development at USF, our goal is to raise funds by connecting donors’ values and interests with initiatives and areas of campus that speak to them. The impact that philanthropy has on the lives of USF students is exponential, just as is their potential. I like to visualize our mission as the spark, philanthropic support as the fuel that helps spread the flame, and our students who go out into the world and set the world alight as the fire that kindles other fires. Donors are not saviors, but their philanthropic support has exponential results in our students’ individual lives, relationships, communities, and in our broader world. I have the distinct opportunity to reflect the impact of philanthropy back to our donors and broader campus community and give students opportunities to share their own stories.

Fr. Greg Boyle1 illustrated this point with the visual of light: “We cannot turn the light switch on for anyone. But we all own flashlights. With any luck, on any given day, we know where to aim them for each other.” A donor establishes a scholarship, an alumna mentors a student, a professor or advisor encourages them on their path; we’re aiming the flashlight, not simply turning the light on. Gifts to USF aim the flashlight, and those impacted by the light learn how to locate and use their own light to pass it on.

If educational access, empowerment, and opportunities are made possible by giving philanthropically, or of one’s time or talent, this, to me, is the truest expression of the love of humankind and is the greatest gift of all. I realize now that my answer for post-college plans should have simply been, “I’m going to charge up my flashlight.”

FRANCESCA MACCORMACK is director of Stewardship and Donor Reporting in the Office of Development at the University of San Francisco. She has served as senior fundraising campaign manager for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and as director of programs for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lane County. She began her career in the for-purpose sector as program manager for Committed Partners for Youth, a community and school-based 1:1 mentoring organization. MacCormack holds an MBA in nonprofit management from the University of Portland and a bachelor of education in family and human services from the University of Oregon. She is part of Lane Center’s 2019–2020 People for Others program, which is dedicated to building community around Ignatian values.

References


  1. Greg Boyle, SJ, “I Thought I Could Save Gang Members. I was Wrong” in America Magazine (March 28, 2017) available at www.americamagazine.org. Retrieved on April 1, 2020.