Doing Good is Good

Know a Do Gooder?

A decade ago, William Coplin, a professor of public affairs at Syracuse University who also had a hand in starting the Leadership & Public Service High School in New York City, wrote an amusing column about why Americans shun the label “Do-Gooder.”

Good question. And one I’ve asked myself time and time again.

Coplin had just finished a book about the value of doing good deeds in one’s everyday life. But his publisher — along with many of his colleagues and students — thought his proposed title, “A Guide for the Genuine Do Gooder,” had to go. The very term “do-gooder” was associated with being naïve and impractical. Professor Coplin speculated that we Americans reject “mushiness and want to appear tough and pragmatic.”

He bowed to pressure and changed the name of his book.

Two years ago, following historic world events and dynamic shifts in how we live, work, communicate and yes, give back, David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, wrote a marvelous column titled, “Thoroughly Modern Do Gooders.” He talked about the new generation of tough, pragmatic social entrepreneurs who are using their philanthropy — their “do-gooder” work — to tackle the toughest social problems. He wrote about how fashions in goodness change, and whereas an older generation of “do-gooders” thought that service should be like sainthood or socialism, the new generation thinks it should be like venture capitalism. At the Brooklyn Community Foundation, we see it this way: Doing Good is Good.

A do-gooder, in its most natural state, is a person who helps people or institutions. A humanitarian. Someone who gives back. And those who Do Good, as we see it, ought to be recognized.

That’s why, as a foundation whose very motto is to Do Good Right Here, in Brooklyn, we have embarked on a mission to identify Brooklyn’s Do Gooders. We want to recognize and honor these individuals for their everyday, and often anonymous, generosity and service to the diverse communities of the Brooklyn family. And so, we are asking people to join the Do Gooder movement by nominating their favorite Brooklyn heroes — those who embody the highest values of giving and community service using our new online communities at Both the public and a distinguished judging panel will vote for their favorite Do Gooders to be publicly recognized on November 3, just following Election Day. Five winners to represent five categories — Arts for All, Caring Neighbors, Community Development, Education and Youth Achievement and Green Communities — will receive $5,000 each to be reinvested in the Brooklyn nonprofit of his or her choice and thus the circle of Doing Good Right Here grows stronger. Now, more than ever, Brooklyn needs Do Gooders and their creative, reasoned approaches to building a better world.

Whether they are doing good in the public, nonprofit or private sectors investing their time, skills or money to find new ways to solve age-old problems, we want to find and salute these critical and often unsung heroes and thank them. We hope you’ll join us.

Nominate your Brooklyn Do Gooders now through September 30 by visiting Vote October 1-15, and help us celebrate these exceptional individuals with other engaged Brooklynites on November 3.