Recently, at Duke University’s Commencement, technologist and philanthropist Melinda Gates stated to the assembled graduates:
“Technology is just a tool. It’s a powerful tool, but it is just a tool. Deep human connection is very different. It’s not a tool. It’s not a means to an end. It is the end – the purpose and the result of a meaningful life – and it will inspire the most amazing acts of love, generosity, and humanity.”
Dr. Gates went on to suggest to the graduates that they should view the use of technology throughout their lives as a means to make the world much smaller. To create a global neighborhood of people who learn from, share with, understand and care for each other.
In our work as advancement professionals, it is easy to get caught up in the tools we use. Maybe its producing the best app for our alumni, or building the most technologically-advanced website, or producing the most inspiring case statements. And it’s not that these tasks are unimportant – it’s simply that they are just tools. And if we get lost on perfecting our tools and lose focus on what the tool is supposed to help us achieve, we become far less effective.
Stephen Covey is quoted as saying, “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” I would suggest that our “main thing” as advancement professionals is very similar to what Dr. Gates is talking about. We are to create understandings, to educate, to care, to empathize, to involve, and to encourage. In other words, we are called to create “deep human connection.” That is our “main thing.” And that work, indeed, is very different from the tools we might use.
When we keep our focus on creating “deep human connection,” we become our most effective selves. Because it is that connection – and not the tools – that truly will “inspire the most amazing acts of love, generosity, and humanity.”