September 25 – There is no denying the interest of sitting among the heads of global corporations, heads of state, and movie and television stars, and casually exchanging business cards and chatting with my seat companion who is the CEO of a company that has just committed $1.5 billion for innovations in energy & climate.
Just the afternoon before, I felt like a kid in a candy store moving from booth to booth in the Sheraton ballroom, meeting staff members and volunteers from NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) who were eagerly sharing their stories about their important work in education, energy and climate, global health, and poverty alleviation. A favorite was learning more about Ceres, whose work is more timely than ever.
When President Clinton interviewed Bill Gates yesterday in casual chairs on the stage, the two of them looked gleeful when they shared that they were having the most fun that they have ever had in their lives doing their philanthropic work. I know what they mean. I have had the greatest job in the world for over 15 years, helping very busy, business executives find the nonprofit boards that they will fall in love with. And then helping those boards and organizations move to higher levels of impact and performance.
That joy was shared via Blackberry with a board member I placed with Root Capital while CEO and Founder Willy F. Foote was being recognized on stage by President Clinton for his organization’s commitment to action in pioneering finance for rural communities to alleviate poverty in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
Today, EngenderHealth CEO Ana Langer, M.D. will be honored for its commitment, and its message will be spread on YouTube. Once again, I’ll be cheering on the CEO and her team and texting with a passionate and devoted new board member who will thrill at the opportunity for this important organization to gain new support.
While CGI provides a platform for people of great stature and wealth to convene and commit their names, time, expertise, and fortunes to important causes, there are thousands of business executives and professionals of all ages, from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, who engage productively, especially through their participation on nonprofit boards of directors. And there are organizations in every community that help build a better future. Only a few get the spotlight at CGI, but all the board members who are truly advancing good work get to experience that joy that President Clinton and Bill Gates exuded.
President Clinton’s message is that a fundamental definition of being a global citizen is to be a productive worker, a productive voter, and a productive giver. His ask is that everyone move from “I wish” to “I will.” President Clinton ended the program by asking everyone in the audience, “what will be your commitment.”