Posted By Tim Delaney, National Council of Nonprofits,
Monday, January 18, 2016
In the minds of most Americans, the image of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., is of a man standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial delivering one of the finest speeches the world has ever heard.
While we normally focus on his mesmerizing cadence and inspiring words, we neglect to consider that he stood there not as just a great orator, but as the president of the nonprofit Southern Christian Leadership Conference and minister of a nonprofit Baptist church, surrounded by leaders of hundreds of nonprofits who had successfully rallied more than a quarter million Americans to participate peacefully in the 1963 March on Washington to advocate for people.
Dr. King’s astounding rhetorical gifts will continue to inspire generations to come. But equally important to the event’s success that particular day was how Dr. King and other nonprofit leaders advanced their nonprofits’ missions of helping people by flooding the streets of D.C. with a then-unprecedented number of individuals, forcing federal officials to begin paying attention to the power of the convictions of the American people.
This week, as we listen to Dr. King’s immortal “I Have a Dream” speech, I urge us all to reflect on the power that nonprofits can yield when advocating to advance their missions to help people.
When doing so, let’s also reflect on the power of a network, as seen by those working closely with Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to make the March on Washington a success, particularly these luminaries of the civil rights movement: James L. Farmer, Jr., of the Congress of Racial Equality,(now Congressman) John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, A. Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Roy Wilkins of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Whitney Young of the National Urban League.
Their courageous leadership demonstrated that when ignored individuals come together through nonprofits, they can be heard, and when separate nonprofits come together through nonprofit networks, they and those they serve can be heard even better. Thanks to these and other nonprofit leaders, we know that advocating to advance our missions works, and that working through networks works. In sum: Together, we can!