Roberta S. Clark

Is Passion Always Enough?

In the nonprofit – and for profit – world we often, rightfully, praise an individual (or organization or business) for their passion about a particular topic or cause. Many of us are inspired and motivated by a discussion presented with a high level of emotion. Sometimes we don’t agree with the idea but respect the sincerely held belief and are challenged to consider the fact that our perspective isn’t the only valid one; these instances certainly have the ability to bring value to individuals, organizations and businesses.

But is passion enough to impact positive change?

Maybe, but maybe not.

Our world seems to be polarized in every way possible. You are either with me or against me, and therefore you are either friend or foe. Nuance seems to be a rare option in tough discussions in today’s world. One passionate perspective often draws an equally opposite passionate perspective – which sets the stage for disagreement, all too often unkind comments, and a passionate mess where those engaging or observing end up creating an unhealthy environment (short or long term) and doing little to move the needle on issues of concern.

Yes, I do believe that there are times when a passionate presentation of an idea or cause motivates some of us to take action to help (serve at a soup kitchen, paint a house, sort food at a pantry, etc.), volunteer to be on a committee to help set policy, and/or donate to an issue of concern (participating via work, wisdom and/or wealth). Often that action is one and done – a quick supportive moment that doesn’t have a long-term impact.

Real and sustainable change occurs when we combine passion with education and strategy.

Impacting real change – in individuals, organizations or businesses – requires committing to a marathon, not a sprint, and includes:

❖ Making and taking the time to ask those who are also passionate about the issue or idea – but not necessarily for the same reason you are – to join you at the table to discuss what you want to accomplish (creating a core leadership group);

❖ Creating a goal (or goals) – deciding what a successful outcome looks like which could be:
1. The number of people who register to vote, who sign up for recurring volunteer
opportunities, who become a mentor in the workplace, etc.; or
2. Designing and implementing new inclusion policies; or
3. Developing a new process for the organization or business to determine when
and how public statements are crafted and delivered.

❖ Researching opposing perspectives to understand what obstacles to desired success exist;

❖ Designing opportunities for others outside of the core group to raise concerns in a
respectful way (in their delivery of – and in your receipt of – their thoughts);

❖ Crafting a message (or messages) for selected audience(s) to inform them of an issue/idea;

❖ Being willing to edit messaging and medium of delivery to best meet goals (to have the humility and understanding that being open to a learning curve often increases and enhances your ability to impact change); and

❖ Planning ways to engage others to help them understand the issue/idea – have a subject expert speaker or someone impacted by the issue/idea speak, and/or visit a place where related work is occurring to observe firsthand.

I initially wrote these thoughts down long before the horrors of October 7, 2024. I feel the advice still rings true for successful efforts within and outside of the Jewish community to hear each other’s perspectives, strive to bring stakeholders together, create realistic goals and engage with others to strive to impact positive change. Tikkun Olam – that value many of us put into our writings – isn’t an action, it is an aspiration to work towards through concrete actions.

Real change occurs when real work is put in the “make it so.” It is easy to be really happy or really angry about something going on. It takes much more effort and long-term commitment to combine that passion with education and strategy to impact positive change.

About the Author
Roberta S. Clark is a Jewish communal professional who holds dual MA degrees in Jewish Education and Jewish Studies from Gratz College in Melrose Park, PA. She currently serves as the JCRC executive director at the Mikwaukee Jewish Federation.