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Capturing the Human Spirit in Times of Crisis

This article was written by James Perez. He is no longer with Ostara, but we want to preserve this piece so that you can learn from him and from the work he did while part of the Ostara team.

Jose Marti, a Cuban poet, and writer, once wrote Patria es Humanidad which, in the context of the poem, translates to “Humanity is the only nation.” As COVID-19 continues to inflict damage on our health and the health of our families and communities, I look to Jose’s words as a reminder that we are fighting for something much bigger than ourselves.

Recently my fiancé sent me an article about Captain Tom Moore, a 99-year-old British man that decided to fight and support for something bigger than himself and in his own unique way. Captain Moore pledged to walk 100 laps around his garden (fancy British speak for a back yard) by his 100th birthday. With the assistance of his walker Capt. Moore walked 10 laps (about 27 yards) each day and set a goal of raising £1,000. All of the money raised would go to support the U.K.’s National Health Service Charities, a group of charities that support the staff, volunteers, and patients of Britain’s health care services. In four days, Capt. Moore met his financial goal, which he then changed to £5,000. By April 16th, Captain Moore met his walking goal, which he later changed to 200 laps.

Fast forward to the stroke of midnight April 30th, 2020, the last seconds of Capt. Moore’s birthday. As his JustGiving campaign page closes, the final tally is released…£32,796,405 from over 1.5 million unique donors. Let me write that one more time but in long-form. Thirty-two million seven hundred and ninety-six thousand four hundred and five. All raised in support of the men and women on the front lines of the worst public health crisis of our generation.

I still find myself getting misty-eyed thinking about this. Captain Moore’s true talent was not in some fancy campaign slogan, glossy one-pager, or perfect pitch. I see his success falling into two categories: a clear and well-defined mission and the undying belief that humanity, society, our community, whatever you want to call it, are inherently compassionate and, when called upon, will act.

COVID-19 has a never-ending list of horrors that it brings to our lives, but that same life-threatening public health crisis has shown us what community means and the ability for one to be galvanized. Of course, people are reading this saying, well, what about people buying extra toilet paper or masks and selling them for extreme profit! Yes, those people exist, but I choose to put my energy and focus on people like Captain Tom Moore.

Many of my clients asked in the first days of the stay at home order what they should be doing. Our answer slowly morphed into a very simple response of “call your donors and just talk, make sure they are safe and healthy.” Fundraisers are first and foremost relationship builders and managers. When I was a major gift officer, I never saw my role as asking people for money; I saw my role as a facilitator. If a prospective donor spoke about a general interest in education and believed that access to quality education would be an equalizer, then I would present to them the idea of supporting or starting a scholarship fund. Philanthropy is not sales; we do not provide you with a tangible commercial item. Philanthropy offers something far greater, a transformational impact on the community by a community.

One of my biggest hopes coming out of this crisis is that we 1) see the ability of a motivated and compassionate community 2) find ways to galvanize them that don’t include a public health crisis.

For more stories of hope from our community, be sure to check out the Ostara Instagram page. Every Monday we’ll be highlighting a different nonprofit in our community and how you can support them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are here for you and we will walk with you as you navigate this situation. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you would like to discuss how to shift your fundraising event plans, how to respond to funder inquiries about programs and services, how to manage remote work for your teams, or to navigate fears with donors or volunteers. We’re here to connect.


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