“That Happened to Me!” – Can nonprofit arts organizations figure out a way to quantify personal meaning?

I wrote a strange and pretty bad play.

One scene took place at the World Trade Center in the wee hours of September 11, 2001. A financial analyst for Cantor Fitzgerald berates a brown-skinned file clerk. The scene was meant to be darkly humorous and uncomfortable.

After one public reading, a woman screamed about that scene.

Tearfully, she raged, “That happened to me! The World Trade Center happened to me!”

I asked, “Oh, were you in New York?”

“No.  Baltimore.”

While social impact nonprofits exhibit myriad ways to show purpose beyond basic human needs, arts organizations struggle to show any measurable societal value. However, if we can quantify personal meaning with specific results and stories of value, then we can become successful charitable organizations.

For in every “That happened to me,” the impact is genuinely meaningful.


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