As we pause to give thanks for all of the things we take for granted throughout the rest of the year, I wanted to share with you some of the interesting experiences I’ve had this fall, and the insights I’ve gained about the nonprofit world and the role it plays in giving so many so much to be thankful for.

At this time of great uncertainty and conflict in our global society, charities in particular are feeling the pinch. Across the board, nonprofits are competing not only for dollars but also for the time and attention of dedicated and qualified volunteers, and for an audience that hears their message of advocacy. We at The Junior League are no exception. We find ourselves in the midst of an historic transformation to make us more relevant to today’s women and to define more concretely the value The Junior League can bring to their lives. We are reaching deep into our legacy to reconnect with the values that have resonated with women for an entire century: tackling society’s most difficult issues in order to improve the lives of those in need, and in the process, equipping women to go out into their communities to serve as effective leaders who champion the needs and rights of the under-served.

The universality of this notion struck me just a few weeks ago when I attended the National Human Services Assembly board meeting and leadership institute and heard a resounding chorus among attendees—leaders of the largest health and human services nonprofits from around the United States–for more compelling value-based stories from the nonprofit sector. The thinking is that if nonprofits can articulate exactly how important their mission is to the life of society as a whole, how important funding and donations are and how giving service enriches a volunteer’s life, the better chance the nonprofit will have not only of recruiting volunteers, but also of ensuring their own vitality for the future–and thus the fulfillment of their mission to serve those in need. An illustrative example of this was the National Council on Aging’s new video story-telling campaign, entitled “OneAway,” which depicts seniors whose experiences underscore the importance of advocacy for older Americans.

Late last month while at the International Women’s Forum World Leadership Conference, where the theme was “Balance & Power,” I was moved by what was said by the Right Honourable Susan Greenfield, CBE, a British scientist, writer, broadcaster and member of the House of Lords. She said that our society as a whole has experienced a decline in empathy and that there is a critical need for collective mind change in this world. This concept was echoed by Dr. James Canton, founder, chairman and CEO of the Institute for Global Futures, who described our current condition as being “answer-rich and question-poor”–that it is in our nature to rush to solve problems without first understanding fully what those problems are.

And finally, at the Second Annual Congress of Vision 2020, an initiative to achieve equality for women in the U.S. by 2020, the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote, where the theme was “Equality in Motion,” I was reminded that women’s issues are family issues and that regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum, women need to make sure that political candidates are addressing these issues because resolving them is the key to a healthy and thriving society. While corporations talk about women having “the power of the purse,” one speaker said, we should remember that women can also have “the power of the vote.”

While all of this shared wisdom has given me a lot to think about, enough so that I wanted to share it with all of you, it has also solidified more than ever the importance of what the 155,000 women of The Junior League are doing each and every day to improve the lives of those in their communities–and to give a voice to those who otherwise would not be heard. I speak not only for myself but also for the rest of the AJLI Staff when I say that I am thankful for the privilege of serving you, the members of this Association, in the fulfillment of your incredibly important Mission to serve the world around you.

Susan E. Danish
Executive Director
The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc.