On Remembrance and Thanksgiving

The following guest post was written by, Michael Durnil, President and CEO at SYF.

If you have been a regular reader of the SYF blog, you will have caught on to the fact that each month we have asked a member of the staff to be a contributing writer. I was thrilled this year when I was assigned the month of November.

November has long been the month of the year often associated with remembrance and thanksgiving; driven in part by two very iconic American holidays – Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. And while I could give you several paragraphs about my thoughts for those themes, I am going to use a bit of dramatic license and co-op those themes into how I see them come to life in the workings of Simon Youth Foundation.

Fall is the busiest season for us at SYF. Amid the regular routine of back to school, our annual conference, the coming year’s budget preparation, committee and board meetings, SYF also is the beneficiary of several large scale fundraising events hosted within the Simon Corporation. In fact, the Foundation raises nearly 75% of our operational budget in the last quarter of the year through these events.

Through the generosity of our Simon colleagues, several regional fundraisers are hosted across the country. I am thrilled to report that these are on track to raise over $1.2 million dollars in 2016. In Foundation terms, that represents enough donations to help SYF see a years worth of Simon Youth Academy seniors to graduation day. Additionally, our Simon colleagues participate in our Employee Contribution Campaign which showers our mission with an embarrassment of riches – moneys from our colleagues own pockets that serve as a testament to their belief in the work of our students, teachers and staff across the country. I have the great privilege to represent the Foundation at many of these events. While it is easy to recite the chapter and verse of the statistics that we know about our work, for me it is the ability to tell the story of our students, our partner teachers and the impact that such giving has on all of us.

Telling our stories, remembrance if you will, reminds me of what our work is all about.

As I tell the stories about our students and their great ability to overcome the overwhelming challenges they face, I catch myself letting my mind wander and thinking about the nearly 8500 graduate’s hands I have been so fortunate to shake over the last several years. I try to remember as many of the graduation speeches as I can. Sometimes, I will see faces or have flashes of moments of conversations with a graduate and their family; but what I often remember most is the feeling of joy for them, what they have accomplished and now what possibilities lay ahead for them.

This time of year, too, allows me to acknowledge and celebrate the great thanksgiving for the generosity of all of our donors. While I tell all our donors about the impact of their gift, it is easy for them to see how a donation can impact a single student. What I want our supporters to know is that their donation isn’t just a one-time thing, but rather an investment in the future.

So in this season of remembrance and thanksgiving, I challenge all of us to fully appreciate what cumulative impact our graduates and scholarship recipients have in our communities. While we use our resources to provide programs in the present; the true fact is that we do not know where or how the investments in our students will show dividends in the future. In fact, our donor’s gifts multiply exponentially when they invest in SYF’s students, faculty and staff.

This is SYF’s “butterfly effect”.

Definitely something to remember and be thankful for this season!

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