Happy Birthday, RFC

I’m writing this on September 4th, 22 years to the day after I started working as the RFC’s first Executive Director in a rent-free office in a friend’s law firm. Today also marks the first day of my last year at the RFC’s helm.

I’ve always viewed the day after Labor Day as the onset of the work year. Perhaps that’s because it is the day I started my first few years of school. It is also the time during the annual cycle when the relative ease of summer, complete with a vacation, is over and it is time to buckle down to work again. Whatever the reason, I’ve always thought of the Tuesday after Labor Day as the perfect time to embark on a new venture.

Starting the RFC was both exciting and scary. I was 43 years old and I’d spent the previous 20 years moving from one job to the next, unable to figure out what I really wanted to do when I grew up. I relished the prospect of working every day to build an institution that would carry out a mission that would give me so much personal satisfaction. I remember feeling incredibly lucky to have my job be the thing I wanted to do most in the world.

But what if it didn’t succeed? It was frightening to contemplate being unable to realize my dream. I had planned carefully and had almost all of my annual budget for the next four years covered by donors’ pledges. But what if I couldn’t fill in the final pieces or if people reneged on their pledges, or perhaps worst of all, what if I couldn’t attract the thousands of supporters I’d need to generate sufficient funds to meet my original goal of giving away $100,000 annually? I’d taken a giant leap of faith, and I couldn’t even think about how awful it would be if it didn’t turn out well.

But it did and the last 22 years have been the most fulfilling of my work life.

And a year from now I’ll again be reconfiguring how I spend my days. I’m not sure exactly how I’ll apportion my time. I’ll remain part of the RFC project even though I will no longer be in the office directing its day-to-day operations. I’ve already described the endowment building project I intend to pursue, and I’m sure between now and next September I’ll write more about that. I also plan to continue blogging, although after next September Out on a Limb Together may become independent of the RFC. Finally, I intend to write another book. That, plus grandchildren, gardening and traveling should keep me pretty busy.

Some may wonder why I feel it is time to pass the Executive Directorship on to my daughter, Jenn. When I started the RFC our backers were comprised mostly of people of my parents’ generation and of my own: in other words, the activists of the 1930’s and the 1960’s. Unfortunately, many of the former are no longer with us, and the latter aren’t getting any younger.

It is time for a new cohort to employ 21st century communication tools to engage their age mates and lead the RFC into the future. I can’t succeed in making the RFC the multi-generational project of my dreams without passing the torch to someone coming after me. I want the RFC to be a dependable source of support for the children of targeted activists for decades to come. I wish the need would not last so long. But it looks like my daughter, and most likely whomever succeeds her, will have plenty to keep them occupied.

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