When we created The Nittany Valley Society, the founding board agreed that we wanted to enculturate a different mentality than the typical nonprofit. We didn’t want to speak in fadish jargon about things like our brand or think about our work in terms of programming.
We decided instead that we would seek to first be real and better friends with one another. We would think of The Nittany Valley Society’s mission in terms of its potential to change one person’s perspective rather than mass perspective. We would foster a spirit of fraternity amongst the board and the community that made the community feel like a more special, even magical place to visit and live.
This explains why we created Nittany Valley Press to release a special literary collection about the myths, history, and culture of the community—to help people think differently about the place. It explains why we created The Willow Gathering as an annual event to bring people together from across the community—students, townspeople, professors, trustees, alumni—in a context where they could come to know one another over craft beer or fine music rather than within the context of the typical stilted cocktail party focused on only one purpose of constituency.
Another mentality-shift I hope takes hold with The Nittany Valley Society is the value of pageantry to make life a bit more magical. What is pageantry? “A formal event performed on a special occasion;” or “a rich and spectacular ceremony.”
It was with pageantry in mind that The Nittany Valley Society board presented Chris Buchignani, our president, with the University Chair in the photo above. On one level, it was simply a way to thank Chris and his wife for the countless hours they have put into building the nonprofit from the ground up. On a higher level, it was a way to infuse a bit of pageantry into the board’s culture.
Let me try to explain what I mean. A simple toast to Chris or a quick shot at the bar after the board meeting in thanks would have been a vanishing sort of thanks. A great gesture, but not particularly special or lasting.
In other words, not something referenciable for his wife or something that could take on historical meaning for him or his family. Not something that can be pass into the future. Leaders need things worth passing along—not just lessons and ideas, but physical things and emotional experiences. And not little trophies that end up in boxes, but beautiful and practical tokens.
These little acts become as much an honor for the person as an heirloom and testament to the time devoted to the mission.