Remember the Rain that Made Your Corn Grow

There’s a saying in Haiti.

“Remember the rain that made your corn grow.”

Like most modern companies, nonprofits are turning towards metrics to display their impact. We did X amount of work today. Over Y people served by our programs. Some percentage of something reduced.

When we first started, we couldn’t figure out how to tell our impact in numbers. Numbers are hard. I got 17 percent on a chemistry midterm once. That’s a bad ROI: instead of studying, I could have partied for two weeks straight and still failed.

But metrics are kickass. We love data. Last week, I watched my coworker, a full-grown man, get misty-eyed while discussing data collection techniques.

But the thing I love about Team Rubicon and any volunteer organization can’t fully be told with numbers. How do you measure the increase in the size of your heart when you get a high-five from your teammate? Does this cold beer taste 73 or 1,000 percent better at the end of long day in the field?

TR has done some amazing things over the past couple of years, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the most impressive and compassionate people this world has to offer. I watched one friend carve a crutch out of a tree branch for a little girl with a broken leg. I’ve seen a couple travel across the country to cook a big Thanksgiving dinner for a bunch of tired, dirty, and grouchy volunteers. I’ve seen big, tough, tattooed dudes kneel down and pick up orphaned puppies. I watched one girl stuff envelopes for four hours straight. Do you know how many paper cuts that is?

The numbers don’t do it all for me. It’s about the stories. The stories travel; email, via a phone call, they become lore in the organization.

And when we’re neck-deep in the suck, finding new ways to measure output and calculate statistics, we’ve got to remember the rain that made our corn grow. Those stories, those volunteers, those tired and endlessly energetic and compassionate volunteers who give their all. That’s the rain. It takes a lot to make this organization work, and it’s not all glorious or fun.

So tonight, I’m going to crack two beers. One for me, and one for you. You, the long-time volunteer. You, the newly-registered volunteer. You, the steadfast husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, brother, sister, mother, father, whatever, supporting from afar. You, the donor, providing equipment and training. You! This beer is for you!

And if you’re waiting on the sidelines, cut it out. A friend once said, “Inaction is not an option.” So if you’re ready to join the Team, it’s time to fucking join. Don’t have weeks to spare for a deployment? There are always quick service projects to lend a hand on. Don’t know the first thing about disaster relief? We can teach you. Don’t like getting dirty? That’s lame, but it’s also okay, there’s a lot to do.

Written by Team Rubicon’s Communication Coordinator Mike Lee

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