When it comes to philanthropy, any little thing can make a big difference.
For some, that’s hard to believe, so much so that the idea of altruism is too overwhelming and then left undiscovered.
But for others, it’s the only way — to finding peace within themselves, to a changed community, to someone’s happiness.
To show love.
Here in South Dakota, we have so many neighbors who are devoting their time, support and energy to charity work. They are invested, with however little or however much they have, and they are reaching out, determined, to make things better.
The South Dakota Community Foundation in Pierre has spent the past 18 months seeking these people out to not only tell their stories, but to show their stories, and the result is moving.
“Philanthrophy Works” is a new video series that promotes philanthropic initiatives in the state. Two videos have been released so far, and 13 more will continue to roll out over the next six months via their website and social media platforms.
“We’re fully invested in the idea of video storytelling, trying to tell the stories of South Dakotans, North Dakotans and Minnesotans and the good work they’re doing,” says Buddy Seiner, the community development officer at the S.D. Community Foundation. This work all began with him, when he started at the foundation three years ago.
“When I came on board, I said that I wanted to do some new things and wanted to talk about doing some videos, just getting more information out there in any capacity.”
Buddy has always seen a need for something like this in South Dakota, and he says the Community Foundation is in a good place to reach out.
“We have an advantage seeing great grant dollars going out into the community every day to nonprofit organizations doing good work, to board members who are connected,” Buddy says. “We have a lot of connections in the philanthropic world, and we can start those conversations a bit easier than most people would.”
Still, Midwestern modesty can be hard to break through.
“So often, these stories aren’t being told,” Buddy says. “They’re just going out and doing good things because it’s the right thing to do,” he says. “Well, if you tell your story, other people might do good things, and other people might be inspired and motivated!”
He’s right, and that’s why we’re here. Buddy would never concede to the influence he has on Pierre, but his own work is a wonderful story to tell as well.
Buddy, your own quiet ambition would make for a beautiful video, too.
Commitment to work
Buddy is a South Dakota native, and he’s incredibly proud of the work he gets to do through the Community Foundation. He works closely with nonprofits, communities and individual donors to help them build sustainable assets “that will give back to the missions they care about most.”
“My work is me talking with like-minded individuals and helping them meet their goals,” he says. “I don’t even consider this work, because I enjoy it so much.”
Even though working with nonprofits can mean traveling on the weekends and taking late-night phone calls, Buddy is all in. Anytime.
“If I get a call from someone who wants to talk about their foundation, I enjoy that conversation, because they’re just real people who want to talk about how to make their communities better.”
Buddy’s commitment to his career stretches across the state.
“I’ve been to almost every community in South Dakota, so I certainly have an appreciation for everything they have,” Buddy says. “I am genuinely interested in the efforts they’re embarking upon.
“I believe in what they’re doing, because I think it’s important.”
Embracing the beauty of S.D.
Buddy also has an immense respect for our region’s landscape, and that passion only strengthens his work.
“I think it’s so important in the creative process to disconnect sometimes, and I can do that so easily in South Dakota,” he says. “I take my dog, and I go to the lake, and I can just clear my head of everything.”
Buddy is a fisherman and tells great conservation stories on a personal blog.
“We take our home for granted,” he says. “There’s too much over-connectedness rather than just taking a walk and enjoying this great place we call home while we have the short time to enjoy it.
“We’re not going to be here long, so we might as well take it all in.”
That perspective of the Midwest contributed well to the video series, and in all 15 pieces, the South Dakota landscape is more beautiful than ever. The video work was done by Passenger, an award-winning production company in South Dakota.
‘Dare to be leaders’
It’s easy for me to see the joy Buddy Seiner has in his work, and that’s hard to find. But it’s enough, and Buddy would agree.
“I really appreciate a quote from Margaret Mead: ‘Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.’
“For many of our communities, that statement holds very true,” he says. “They only have a few caring individuals who are working to make things better for everyone, but it’s important for them to know they are not alone in this effort. Their convictions are shared by other do-gooders who dare to be leaders in their respective communities.
“Their stories have the power to inspire others to act, and that, in its own right, is philanthropy.”
Buddy is proud of the philanthropic efforts that have succeeded with the help of the Community Foundation. He should be proud of his own work, too.
“My work has giving me a front row seat to some of this change, initiated by philanthropic individuals and groups alike,” he says. “From donors collecting and recycling cans to making contributions to their local Community Savings Accounts, and children donating birthday money to causes they care about, to local farmers donating their land to create $1 million scholarship funds.
“Lives are changed daily by philanthropy, and that’s very exciting.”
Follow along, and maybe you, too, can be part of the change.
No matter how big or how little, maybe you can make a difference, too.