Freedom from what?

As Americans, what are we actually free from? And what does this mean?

06 Jul Freedom! Freedom from what?

Freedom. It’s what binds us and defines us as Americans. It’s what we celebrated this week on the 4th of July. The great independence day filled with fireworks, watermelon, pools, boats and the sporting of the timeless red, white and blue. But the interesting and oft unexplored part about freedom is that it’s contingent upon something, some circumstance from which to be set free.

A legacy of freedom-making

Our country’s founding fathers fought a bloody Revolutionary War to secure freedom from the British Empire. In 1776, after eleven years of American rebels calling for “no taxation without representation,” congress voted to approve the resolution of independence for the thirteen colonies from Great Britain.

These brazen, strong-willed leaders revolted from the injustice of their tyrannical government. They established their own alternative government to coordinate efforts against the British Crown. The ultimately inevitable war secured freedom and established the early beginnings of the American people. John Adams reminds us in a letter to his wife, Abigail, of what he hoped this monumental moment would be remembered as:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance…It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

Oh if he could see all of the pomp of July Fourth (not second) now!

After that time, America has become known as the land of opportunity. Rebels, revolutionaries and ordinary folks who want a chance to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” have immigrated, sometimes even fled, to America in hopes for freedom from poverty or oppression.

But as we know, America hasn’t always been a land of freedom for all. Oppression has remained in various forms and we’ve watched many brave Americans fight for freedom for people groups within this country. Poignant examples include the fight to end slavery, the women’s suffrage movement, and the civil rights movement. So while not fully achieved, that pursuit of freedom is what continues to refine our great country.

Freedom “from” – the mission of nonprofits

The spirit of freedom, this driving force behind our founding fathers, is the undergirding motivation for most nonprofits we’re able to serve. These nonprofits continue to fight for freedom. They advocate for the poor, the marginalized, the disabled, veterans, formerly incarcerated individuals, orphans and the homeless.

For nonprofits to be effective, they must be able to clearly communicate their mission in a way that shares:

  • WHO they are freeing
  • FROM WHAT they are freeing them
  • HOW they are freeing them

For example, Hope Reins frees hurting children from isolation and suffering through one-on-one sessions with an equine counselor (a horse) and a session facilitator.

Curamericas frees moms in forgotten communities from unsafe, unsanitary birthing practices through public health partnerships.

The Wade Edwards Learning Lab frees high school students who aren’t equipped to succeed beyond graduation from apathy or failure through a holistic set of afterschool enrichment programs.

Freedom “to” – the vision of nonprofits

Not only is it crucial to understand what someone has been freed from, it’s just as important to identify what they’ve been freed “towards.”

Without the vision of what our release from oppression enables us to, the sacrifice for freedom may not seem as worthy. Ultimately, we live enslaved to something, a ceaseless desire for achievement or obsession with preserving our autonomy. But if we gain clarity about what we are freed “to,” therein we find our greatest freedom, our deepest purpose. This is our vision.

For nonprofits, it’s essential to communicate clearly: TO WHAT or FOR WHAT are you freeing your “who?”

This is where we find the vision. If you can invite your donors and other stakeholders into the vision, you’ll capture their imaginations for a lifetime. Be clear and persistent about the freedom to which your efforts are directed and then equip folks to be on a mission to bring that purpose to fruition.

I’m so grateful for the legacy many courageous men and women in America have left. I’m especially grateful for those still on the frontlines today, fighting for the freedom of residents in our country and beyond. It’s their story we get to tell and their cause we get to advance!

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