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August 01, 2005

Tragedy, Community, Gratification

While I was in Banff, I received the horrific news that one of our members had been the victim of a homicide. A few weeks later, I was placed in touch with the member's sister who was seeking assistance in closing down her brother's accounting practice. Although we don't have a program in place to provide a service like this, I sent letters to other practices in the member's area to let them know about the situation and how to place a bid for the practice. Last week, I learned that the practice was purchased by another one of our members in the member's community. The sister couldn't have been happier with the outcome. I also learned that the member's killers were captured and are to be arraigned this week.

As association professionals, we get calls all the time from students writing research papers, random people inquiring about the industry we represent, and members (or nonmembers) with myriad oddball requests. This was another one -- a distraction from my core responsibilities. I could have just said, "Sorry, we don't do that." But I took it on as a pet project.

I kept our staff apprised of the police investigation. I spent hours composing and printing the letters (about 15 minutes alone fighting with an HP printer), fielding phone calls from interested members and corresponding with the sister. And finally it paid off.

It felt so good to help and to have made a difference. I'm still processing it, but this could be the most profound and satisfying experience so far in my career. Better than the best event, better than any number of members renewed, better than surpassing any goal. This served as a needed reminder about the blessing it is to work in the nonprofit sector. To be mission driven, not profit driven. I'll remember this the next time I get an oddball request.

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