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  1. Elena Brandt

    This is such a timely and insightful article, Larry, and much appreciated by so many of us. I have discovered that my most successful donor relationships often have included some very intimate conversations related to what I call "circle of life" issues. I now have the in-depth personal life experience to respond in an authentic and heartfelt way–especially important in developing successful long-term major donor relationships–that would not have been part of my life experience as a younger development professional.

  2. H Sostarich Barsamian

    The article is a great confidence booster to those of us who think of ourselves as innovators or "outside-the-box" thinkers; hiring reality, however, does not support this optimistic view. Whether large or small, nonprofits and their HR managers seem to believe that younger (and read into this also cheaper to hire) advancement professionals will meet the high expectations they set for the position. This is where the lack of an experienced "gray haired" professional trumps the timidity to forge through uncharted innovative fund raising strategies.

  3. William D. Kuenning


    Wonderful post -thank you.

    Ancillary to your singular article, I respectfully add the following:

    Your Single Gray Hair For The Universe

    Opinion: (One of Two)
    Of all the quasi-useful things that are discussed, one would think that a discussion around gray hair, of all things, would be toward the top of that air-filling drivel list. However, it has traditionally in most societies, and in our society as a stated but rarely followed cliché, been an indicator of survival, experience and resource. As our society, to its probable detriment, diminishes the importance of age for economic power, youth is seen as simply better. This is nothing new of course but our society, and those societies we affect, are very rapidly honing that attitude of age experience irrelevance-to-exclusion into an art form and adopted norm. Yet, many cultures still hold onto the color gray and their hopes of what it indicates in longevity, survival and saged insight. Ironically compared to our myopic practices, in Japan, some still color their hair gray because it gives them access to a possible level of respect, not afforded youth.

    It is a never-ending source of amazement that we can so ridicule, instead of respect, our own destination.

    In our world, we want cookie cutter reasons for why things do not work or people do not engage. An individual mentioned once that a donor might use facial hair as criteria for non-support. That is certainly possible, human’s are capable of all sorts of dubious criteria for evaluation; yet, to think that is a trend is preposterous unless one thinks that philanthropists are a very shallow, trendy lot. That being said, we are what we grew up to believe and unconsciously react toward.

    “Gray” is as good a reason as any to explain exclusion, and its inevitable aging nature makes us feel better, as if knowing the obvious gives us special knowledge or makes us superior, just as the moronic chant that having cats is an indicator of loser loneliness, when it actually indicates a high intellect of sensitivity. Of course, if one has the power to stay while one is gray, it is generally because of economic leverage in some form and rarely because it is transformationally contributive to society. In other words, if youth sees you as necessary in their power view, you stay, or if you own the system, gray is irrelevant, and you retain yourself -a position where although probably not required, one can save a great deal in the cost of hair tint.

    Youth, even when we were there, was not really the answer to much. Youth is pretty, and it sells. It runs better and can usually jump higher. Theoretically it remembers better but certainly has less to remember. Youth’s attitude of “anything is possible”, when it is allowed to flourish, is certainly healthy for society; however, without mixing that with the knowledge of age, amazing but superficial advances tend to flourish at the cost of benefits to society as a whole. Youth sight is narrow in practice. Age sight is broad by experience. We have perhaps developed a society that is progressively gray blind, and there is a great argument that without that gray, the spectrum of the possibilities for societal progression, toward wellbeing and sustainability, fatally diminishes.

    The healthiest moments in society may come when all ages transcend aging and collaboratively try to solve a societal problem. That is of course much more difficult to do when prejudice of any type creeps into the equation. Since, as humans, prejudice is in part in every equation, I am speaking here of how dominant it is allowed, tolerated, to be. Its dominance in any decision is probably the single most retarding element in practical innovation for societies in general.

  4. William D. Kuenning

    Opinion: (Two of Two)

    If you want to find innovation and enduring collaborative decisions, technical and creative, for society's problems, look beyond youth to lead it. If you want to find ways to leverage and manipulate society toward gain and kitsch, you still have to look beyond youth for the best leaders but youth furnishes the fuel and focus for the endeavors. We should not confuse the roles but we do. The point that we all know so well is that age puts the package together to lead. There really are no exceptions, because even the great young leaders usually become better with age, corrupted or not. This is a fact that we tend to passionately deny.

    Gray is the body's way of saying there have been enough years/experiences to form an actual path. It is an announcement of metabolic and mental changes, the accumulation of living data. Corporations have long missed the point because we refuse to teach otherwise. Some believe that is in fact a great cornerstone in why we progress so slowly and so unjustly as a society.

    When something as small as a gray hair stands so securely between the potential for cumulative wisdom and more relevant and rapid progress, then we are indeed far less nimble and innovative. We may think our youth develops wonderful innovative solutions for societal problems and the “gray line” does not. However, tracing the threads of the flow of poor societal development shows the fingerprints of temporary commitment, required rapid gratification, and the narrower scope for profit -exactly what youth tends to practice based on knowledge and experience.

    So, what do horrific generalizations like these get us? Nothing really, but tint your hair or not, the same person is buried in there, and youth or not, we rarely allow them out to truly interact appropriately to their age and experience level. We force them to manipulate their way out, amidst a dizzying array of norms, expectations, prejudice, denials, and survival tactics. How does that help our society? It does not. It never has. We are truly brilliant at waste and curiously and counter-intuitively tolerate nothing less.

    We are all beneficiaries of our society but rarely learn to give back in an impactful and sustained way. We also do not teach to give back in a transformational way because we have evolved to see everything as transactional, an easy lesson for early youth. It is a human trait, practice, which tends to polarize away from the greater collaborative good.

    If you want something truly creative and practically innovative, go for the “gray” to interact and lead collaboratively with the non-gray. If you want to build it and distribute it, go for the gray to lead and the non-gray to complete. Yet, if you still think that youth have more energy to do these things, then for once try committing to the road more gray and perhaps learn that the color of the hair has as much to do with the person’s abilities and functional insights as the brilliant burst of a supernova, dying star –yes, it is dying but the sheer power of its content is beyond comprehension. What possible value, even though we practice it every day, can there be in taking the route of assuming the opposite?

    Hair color or not, we all get what comes out of the societal pipe in the end. When will we stop tolerating the less than stellar results and cease pretending our progress is so astounding, when it is just a shadow of the possible? Who is fooling who?

    When will we see, and practice, the astoundingly obvious, that gray is the beginning of the end, and that is a most valuable youth of all?

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