‘Viewpoints’ invites guest authors from outside of Wells Fargo to share an important perspective related to their work. Today, we welcome Natalye Paquin, president and CEO of Points of Light.
Nearly 30 years ago, our founder, President George H.W. Bush, recognized there were ordinary people — “points of light,” he called them — taking extraordinary action to improve communities and help neighbors. We believe now, as he believed then, that there is a light in all of us — and it can and must be used for good.
During National Volunteer Week, which occurs annually each April, we take special time to recognize the people whose light shines the brightest — those who go above and beyond, in big and small ways, to volunteer and support causes they care about.
We celebrate not just the power of people — but the power of the best of people. People like Annie Moore, a Daily Point of Light honoree who is transforming one of the toughest corners of Atlanta, and people like Gabby Frost, a Daily Point of Light honoree in Pennsylvania who created an online community pairing teens with buddies to help prevent suicide and self-harm, and raise awareness for mental health.
The evolution of a civic life
As society changes and members of the digital-first generation take interest in social causes, we are seeing an evolution in how people give back and get involved. People are activating and supporting issues in so many ways, including social media, their spending patterns, their choice of employer, how they vote, where they volunteer, and to whom they choose to donate their hard-earned wages.
Civic life, and the collective action of society, demands that we frame our work in a new way. It is no longer sufficient to simply ask how we get more people to volunteer. We must ask a new question: How do we create a society where we remove barriers and make it easy for people to get involved?
People are engaging in ways that authentically fit their life. If you think about environmental causes, for example, there are so many ways to lead and lend support. You can work for a company focused on sustainability. You can “vote with your dollars” by shopping at stores that are eco-friendly. You can participate in more traditional volunteerism, like going to a beach cleanup, joining a rally, or donating to local charities that support environmental efforts. When it’s time to vote, you can cast a ballot for a candidate whose environmental values align with yours and call legislators to persuade them to support bills. Perhaps you are able to bike or walk to work, carpool, or use public transportation and raise your voice on social media to influence others to do the same.
Volunteers and volunteerism in the traditional sense is evolving, and the spectrum of tools available to individuals seeking ways to impact an issue is growing.
Mobilizing people to change the world
As the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service, Points of Light inspires, equips, and mobilizes people to take action that changes the world. Working in 250 cities across 37 countries, we sit at the intersection of individuals, nonprofits, and corporations — like Wells Fargo — helping people to lead and lend support to causes they care about most.
Every day we work with our nonprofit partners, who are living out this mission in communities around the world. We provide learning opportunities — like our annual Points of Light Conference — to bring people together, ask probing questions, discover innovative solutions, and share best practices.
And for our corporate partners, we have continued opportunities for learning through our Corporate Service Council, in which Wells Fargo is a longtime member, as well as our annual awards, The Civic 50, which recognize the 50 most community-minded companies in the U.S.
Whether we are coordinating with a nonprofit or supporting a corporation, each partner and their ecosystem is simply a collection of individuals, working with a common purpose toward common goals.
Throughout the year, and particularly during National Volunteer Week, we celebrate the individual. The person who sees an issue or challenge, and who stands up and says, “I can help.”
When historians look back at this time — a period where information is abundant and technology accelerates its access, where consumers demand more from their brands, and individuals draw upon their light within and use every tool available to support an issue they believe in — perhaps they will call it the “Civic Century.” A time when people got involved, because it was as easy to help and nearly impossible to stand on the sidelines.