Challenge Your Board Members To Do More
In my work as a sign language interpreter, I am called to support service providers, colleagues, and consumers in their interactions with Deaf consumers. My role in each of these interactions is limited to the provision of communication and language access, cultural mediation, and the sharing of resources specific to the needs of the DDDBDHH community. Often, however, I am witness to even greater barriers Deaf individuals face in navigating the complex governmental, education, and economic systems at play in the daily workings of our society. The awkward truth is, but for these barriers, I would not have the career I do. Recognizing this and the feelings of futility and frustration faced by those I serve, prompted me to seek avenues apart from my work to give back and be a part of the solution.
Having had a long time professional relationship with Deaf Action Center (DAC) in Dallas, TX, I was quite familiar with their mission: Providing those who are deaf and hard of hearing the means to ensure advancement through education, economic security, and good health. In 2015, I was honored to be invited to serve on the DAC Board of Directors. In my enthusiasm and naïveté as a new board member, I came to early meetings armed with a list of issues observed in my work that I wanted DAC to address: leadership training for Deaf and a Hard of Hearing young people, support for Deaf refugees seeking to learn ASL and English in their goal to become citizens, financial and health literacy training for the community, mental health and addiction services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals and families, English literacy classes, disproportionate unemployment rates in the DDDBDHH community, etc. Of course, the paucity of these services had not gone unrecognized by the existing board. But, as it was immediately explained to me, the challenge to address these needs as a small non-profit entity was identifying and obtaining financial resources and qualified people to initiate and maintain programming.
It was then that I realized that my desire to “give back” would take not only a commitment of time and energy but a financial commitment, as well.
While I was willing to give as much as I was able, I recognized that fundraising would be a major part of my responsibility as a board member. This is where I faltered initially. I had a distaste for asking friends and family to give money to an organization for which I have a deep passion when there are so many organizations competing for our time and charitable giving in today’s world. I read about donation fatigue, people becoming numb to the ever-increasing requests to give, give, give. Honestly, it was easier to just keep writing checks. Sadly, I simply am not in a position to give the kind of money it takes to operate programs as complex as these.
Then one day, I made a mental note of the number of friends I have on social media. This extensive list is comprised of family, friends, colleagues, former students who have become peers and friends, artists who I have supported for years, and others who share my passion for humanity, justice, and equal access. I imagined that if each person contributed only $10, what an incredible difference that could make in the lives of others. With that, I challenge you to honor an organization which continues to serve and empower members to achieve autonomy and success.