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Five Things We Learned In Our First Year At Plenty: #1 Plenty For Everyone

Jeff Shuck
November 17, 2014

Next week, the Plenty team will celebrate our first birthday. In the scheme of what we want to accomplish, it is only a small milestone. As we say in our manifesto, “There is plenty to do. We aren’t there yet.”

At the same time, our first birthday is a natural point to take a quick breather, look at what we’ve learned, and look forward to what is coming next. All this week members of our team will share their thoughts from our first year.

For my part, I’ve learned far too much to fit it all into one blog post. Over the last year, campaigns like the Ice Bucket Challenge have vividly shown us why peer-to-peer fundraising is the future of development, unlocking literally millions of dollars in days.

We’ve seen the continued increase in the importance of tracking, managing, and learning from data, as computer models – and the expectations of our constituents – become increasingly sophisticated.

We’ve watched the maturation of social media as not only a personal network but as the de facto standard for how we communicate with one another. We’ve become part of a new age in which a centuries-old communal fabric has been digitized and accelerated.

The recent elections and the tiresome campaigns leading up to them reminded us that authenticity and real impact are more critical than ever. Our donors and participants are yearning for change that extends beyond sound bites. They increasingly look to our sector for visions of what is possible.

I’m fascinated by all of these developments, and I’ve appreciated the chance for Plenty to be at the leading edge of them. But I think what will most stick with me after our first year is the central role of people in all the change we seek to create.

Technology is essential, vision is indispensable, a forward-looking attitude is a necessity – but at the end of the day, the people with whom we surround ourselves are the single most important factor in our professional success and our personal satisfaction. I’m grateful that the people of Plenty – our fantastic staff, our wonderful clients, our network of motivated partners, and their constituents, volunteers, customers, participants and donors – are people of integrity, good humor, and passion.

When I was in my early 20’s, I spent a few years mentally lost, trying to decide what I cared about, where I fit, and what life meant to me. I devoted a lot of time to figuring out who I was. Like many on that quest, the search turned me deeper and deeper inside myself, until I probably spent more time lost in my own thoughts than any person has a right to.

I never did find the answers – instead, I met a wonderful woman and got engaged. That in turn led me to changing careers, which led me to a new, broader, more challenging set of people. Those people led me to a new set of interests, and a new career, and eventually the chance to start several companies, pursue graduate work, and partner with my wife to launch our grandest production of all: our family.

At each step of the way, I was thankfully exposed to more and more invigorating people – people who challenged me, inspired me, mentored me, cajoled me, encouraged me, and even befriended me.

Twenty years later, I know exactly who I am: I am passionately committed to creating plenty for everyone. The secret to finding the answer was to stop looking inside myself and to start serving others out in the world.

I’m reminded of that reality as I reflect on our first year. The answers are always out there – but more often than not, they don’t know how to find you. They are in faces of people hidden behind the challenges of the world. We find our answers by seeking them through diligent action and service. We work our way to them.

There is plenty to do. And more than ever I know, there are plenty with whom – and for whom – to do it.

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