When women choose to invest their energy and leadership capacity in virtuous philanthropy, they envision an energetic, diverse and vibrant community of which they are a part. This means the human community of relationships, not cold steel buildings.

In 1910, suffragist Rheta Childe Dorr proclaimed, “Women’s place is in the home, but home is not contained within the four walls of an individual home. Home is the Community.”

The modern thinking, planning, self-governing, educated woman came into a world that is losing faith in the commercial ideal, and is endeavoring to substitute in its place a social ideal. One hundred years later, community is still home. It is the sanctuary for women, sensitive to the nuances of eclectic and nontraditional ideas, to gather and surround themselves with the free flow of information and knowledge so desperately needed to transform problems into solutions.

Service to others not only heals and makes us happy; it creates a trusting, transparent environment in which to maximize our leadership capability. Empowerment gives us the leverage, the tools, to use our strengths collaboratively, which, in turn, builds the social, intellectual, spiritual, and financial capital of trust, leverage and capital (TLC). And it has never been so important to build TLC that sticks, that has teeth and can manifest itself in a virtuous legacy and the doing of good, practical, solid works that mend the world.

Social Capital (the “C” in TLC) 
It is the synergy of TLC that is the foundation of community. And, for women, it is in community that there is an abundance of trust, the collective leverage of financial and intellectual capital, and an innovative network of social capital working to focus on ways to promulgate the love of humankind. As Dorr says, “home is the community.”

Community takes on an even greater significance as women use that newly identified zest we keep referring to as the pursuit of eudaimonia, the well-being of the soul and their true identity of self. In addition, at a defining moment in their personal search, there is a moment when women come to realize that when they address the needs for the greater good, they also find peace, joy, and unexpected self-satisfaction. For women, their community is a microcosmic view of the world in their own backyards; to effect change somewhere else, women first need to effect change within their own community.

“Where is the money going? I want it to be local,” says business owner Jody Bond. “It has to be helping the communities where my family and children live. I care about this community; I care about the people, because they also have shown they care for me.”

Some might challenge that self-interest is the source of the decision to first effect change in your own community; after all, self-interest is the self-absorbed behavior associated with the me generation. But such an assumption is unfair the generation whose self-interest ignited a nation in the 1960s to move forward with radical social, political, and educational reforms that today are part of the mainstream and main street.

For boomer women, expanding their sense of community is a continuation of defining a culture that is more inclusive of diverse social, economic, religious, and political ideology. Community then becomes a nurturing environment in which women can pursue their self-interest through values they consider paramount for the creation of a more compassionate and caring society. Indeed their self-interest arises from a strong idealistic moral center for the good of society as a whole. In hindsight, history may well prove that boomer women were the first generation to fully implement the principle of self-interest by their legacy of virtuous philanthropy and their ability to build consensus in their reshaping of society.

Construct your own TLC 
What is your definition of community? How has that definition evolved or changed over the past 40 years?