It’s community impact with a capital I
Words from the heart, mind and soul of a Program Officer

I’ve been lying to myself for years.  I always thought that I was much more interesting than I actually am.  Fortunately, my child has rid me of that hair-brained assumption —he is at the truthful, critical age of 11, and doesn’t really try to sugar-coat his observations.  It’s possible that he’s right—he thinks I spend too much time thinking about “boring” things.  Upon reflection, I get it—I do talk about money a lot.  How much does that cost?  Where’s the cheapest gas? What’s on sale? Where’s the change I left in my car?  They want how much?  Is it worth it?  When do I get paid?  Those shoes cost $150, really?  Have we saved enough for vacation?   Have I maximized my 403b account?  What’s my liquid asset situation?  What’s my credit score? Shopping at Goodwill is chic now, right? Not exactly stimulating conversation topics.  And, when I’m not talking about money, I’m talking about my weight, getting older, what I’m going to make for dinner for my family, what’s growing in my garden, and how I’m going to hang out with friends this weekend; maybe a little more interesting, but barely.

You know what I’m talking about, right?  They say two things in life are for sure—death and taxes.  I know that I’ll eventually have to pay the reaper and the IRS, so what can I do to prepare me to make those things less painful? 

Well, I try really hard to practice what I preach—and if you know me, I do preach!  I am the Program Officer for two of our three focus areas: Health and Income.  I work toward a healthy lifestyle, try to work in exercise and make healthy meals, my husband and I work together on a realistic budget, save for retirement and our son has had his own savings account since he’s been 5. When I slip, I have resources to help me get back on track, the fitness pro at the gym, my mom, or our financial advisor. 

Thank goodness I have those resources (especially Mom!) But what if I didn’t know who to ask? Or worse, what if I didn’t know what to ask or have the confidence or understanding that I can have my health and be financially sound, even if I have too much month left at the end of the money? That’s where my life intersects with my work.

“It’s community impact with a capital I.”  I know a good resource when I hear it, and I heard this phrase turned with eloquence from a board member just this morning.  We fund agencies doing the work the community needs, we convene nonprofit and private sector partners to continually grow your investment in the region. With the help and support of our private industry, our nonprofit partners are on the ground getting those in need ready to take advantage of private market opportunities through coaching, boosting  confidence, and developing the   tools and skills needed for someone  to go after dreams; to make a plan and stick to it.  We impact the individual: the kid in the after school program, the single mother with two kids, the family with two working parents—but living paycheck to paycheck.  The individuals then impact their families, and those families impact their people; and then, before you know it, parks get cleaned up, farmers markets open in low access areas, financial institutions open a mobile bank service and promote credit builders accounts, employers notice a better level of productivity and schools see an increase in abilities and skills and so on, and so on, and so, on.  That’s Community Impact with a capital “I”.  That’s real work, and that’s what we are doing with your investment.

I’m interested in real work and real change, and as an investor, I know you are too.  At lunch with my husband today, he said, “Nobody’s  life has ever been changed by a brochure. The real work is people working together.”  Brilliance.  Maybe my son is wrong, this stuff is very interesting.  I’m glad I get to talk about it, better yet, do something about it.  (When it comes to him, I’ll just have to brush up on Larry Bird facts, Minecraft or popular music.)

Janas Durkee is a Program Officer at United Way California Capital Region.