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  • Empower Orphans

Measure Everything For What it is, Not Just What it Could Be

Dan Lordan (Senior)

There’s always a huge push to be the best, to raise more money than last year, to be better than another organization, to have more people at an event or in your club. In some ways, this competitive nature pushes us forward – incentivized competition is one of the easiest ways to garner support and bond people together. The problem, however, is not forgetting the overall picture, it’s when you forget all those little things that you do and you did to get there. It’s not when you lose the forest for the trees, but when you lose the trees for the forest.

In 2014, Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, a cause that many of our members also are engaged with, raised over $13 million for pediatric cancer, an unparalleled feat of university undergraduate philanthropy. The largest student-run philanthropy in the world came back the next year and raised about $400,000 less, and by THON weekend 2016 we had dipped below $10 million.

Alternatively, in 2016, a bunch of college kids got together and raised almost $10,000,000 for pediatric cancer. That is staggering, absolutely staggering, that along with their schoolwork and their lives and their internships and their other clubs that a group of students could work together and make that much of a difference in the world.

The way I heard people talk about THON 2016, the disappointment that I saw when we didn’t crack eight figures, is a mark of how much people care. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t push ourselves, that we shouldn’t have goals, but at the end of the day what matters is the work you’ve done, not the work that is left unfinished. Every time you do one thing for someone else, you did one thing that wouldn’t have been done without you.

Every time you do one thing for someone else, you did one thing that wouldn’t have been done without you.

One more time for the people in the back: “Every time you do one thing for someone else, you did one thing that wouldn’t have been done without you”

I was disheartened at not reaching the goals I set for myself as ED in our first year. I wanted to see us an established club with a hundred members and a ton of money and tap right into the incredible scene of Penn State philanthropy. I had my head in the clouds a little bit, and when I came back to earth I felt like I had failed the club and my board and the parent organization when everything didn’t go as well as I had thought it would.

Alternatively, we built a club. By the end of the year we had three community partners, we had run a host of fundraising events, we had established our space in the philanthropy community, we earned a HUB Office and had twenty-five committed individuals. We spent time in our community working with local schools, moved 17 bags of clothes to kids that needed them in New Jersey, and hopefully got more University students engaged in non-profit work.

When you push yourself it’s easy not to measure against zero. Your average work starts to look unimportant, your best work doesn’t seem as good in comparison to others. My philosophy is to look back at everything against zero. What happened today that wouldn’t have happened without you? What did you do today that made a difference, no matter how large or how small? Donating $5 to charity is $5 more than would have been donated without you. Donating $10,000,000 to pediatric cancer is $10,000,000 than would have been donated without THON. Making two visits to an elementary school is two more than would’ve been done with Amelia and EOPSU in our first year.

Always strive for greatness, but never let the perfect get in the way of the good. Always look back at what you’ve done in a positive light – it may even give you the purpose to try harder in the future, that drive to do better next year or next time. But never forget that without you, that day or that organization or that purpose would be missing something. No matter how small or large you feel in a community, the community would not be the same without you.

I’m proud to be passing down this great organization into the hands of people much more capable than myself. Josh, Neha, and the other directors have really overwhelmed me with their commitment this year. Next year I have high hopes as well, but I’ll always know now that whatever purpose we serve, whether in ten years we’re serving a population of 500,000 or 5, that we’ll make a difference in every life that we touch.

My favorite quote about philanthropy, and the one I attach to all my EO emails, is from Mother Theresa. “If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed just one.”

Every time you do one thing for someone else, you did one thing that wouldn’t have been done without you

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