Our Elevator Pitch

The following presentation constitutes an “elevator pitch” for Our Better Angels, a qualified nonprofit subsidiary of the Wisconsin Leadership Institute. This elevator ride begins in the lobby of the Empire State building and goes up 102 stories to the observation tower. At every tenth floor, the elevator stops for fifteen seconds to let off and take on passengers. You can get off the elevator whenever you wish. If you read at an average rate, the whole trip will take you less than four minutes.

Empire State Bldg

In the Lobby: The basics. The mission of Our Better Angels (OBA) is educational and philanthropic. We model, promote, and celebrate courage, compassion, continuous learning, and community service for aspiring leaders in all walks of life. We oppose the toxic myth that human behavior is becoming more violent and more depraved – a myth bolstered by some segments of popular culture, where stories of violent depravity generate huge profits, and by some extreme political groups who appeal to partisan fear and anger for political gain. We are guided by many models, the most immediate of which was the Ice Bucket Challenge of 2014, wherein many individuals challenged their friends, neighbors, and family members to support the battle against ALS. OBA reflects the verifiable research-based insights of the Positive Psychology movement, which emerged in the 1990s. In the most general terms, Our Better Angels aims to help others help others. We simply ask others to help us help others help others.

At the Tenth Story: What we do and how we do it.

  • Our Better Angels sustains a membership community to help others help others by supporting schools, colleges, libraries, service clubs, youth groups, animal shelters, environmental groups, faith communities, and Good Causes of all sorts. We depend on their credibility, their integrity, and their trusting relationships to nurture the OBA Community. Individual members are invited to adopt Good Causes to support in addition to the Better Angels Community itself.
  • OBA spreads stories of courage, compassion, continuous learning, and community service. We encourage members of the OBA Community to share their own Angel Stories, Angel Ideas, and expressions of Thanks and Hooray.
  • We support our Good Causes through a perpetual, reciprocal, worldwide crowd funding process through our website, our You Tube channel, other social media, Google Nonprofit advertising, and special projects.
  • We maintain a monthly newsletter (The Herald Angel) and a Speakers Circle to spread Angel Stories and Angel Ideas to audiences on line and in person.
  • We produce educational materials about effective leadership skills and values and market them to schools, service organizations, libraries, and other relevant audiences.
  • In order to fund our activities, we rely on several sources of income:
    • Annual membership dues ($20 – for organizations and many individuals, almost nothing).
    • Gifts, grants, and donations that match membership dues and fund our educational mission.
    • Sponsorships and Partnerships with organizational Good Causes and good corporate citizens.
    • Special events and activities in collaboration with our Good Causes, Sponsors, and Partners.
    • Sale of educational materials and Angel-themed products.

At the Twentieth Story: How you can help us help others.

  • Join the Better Angels Community for just $20 per year.
  • Spread the word, especially to organizational Good Causes. In return, we support your efforts to support your Good Cause and OBA itself by providing materials and instructions about how to spread the word effectively. The “network effect” of social media, including word of mouth, can multiply your ability to reach out to potential Good Causes many times over.

At the Thirtieth Story: How you benefit from membership in the Better Angels Community

  • We promise that all OBA members will experience a healthy sense of meaning, purpose, and belonging within OBA’s global improvement movement.
  • We promise that all OBA members will experience an occasional squirt of oxytocin, a brain chemical that promotes positive, trusting relationships.
  • OBA members receive our monthly Herald Angel online newsletter, which recounts Angel Stories, Angel Ideas, Angel Video, and useful research from the world of Positive Psychology.
  • OBA members can share their own Angel Stories, Angel Ideas, and expressions of Thanks and Hooray on our website, our You Tube channel, and our social media.
  • OBA members receive significant discounts on OBA’s educational materials and Angel products.

At the Fortieth Story: How your Good Causes benefit from the Better Angels Community.

  • Good Causes you choose from our roster of current participants and new ones that you adopt enjoy financial support from everyone who joins their own Angel Community. For example, your high-school alma mater can adopt lots of alumni, students, parents, and local supporters and receive a share of their annual dues. Those members can then adopt other new members and choose additional Good Causes as well; the OBA perpetual, reciprocal, worldwide crowd-funding plan allows you and your Good Causes to earn income from a variety of other Good Causes in the “bonding and bridging effect,” a special case of the basic economic principle of the “network effect.”
  • All OBA Good Causes are eligible to benefit from OBA’s Google Nonprofit advertising program.
  • All OBA Good Causes will be celebrated on OBA’s website, social media, and You Tube channel.
  • If you’ve read this far and are still interested, then you are ready for:

The Rest of the Stories: The intellectual and spiritual genesis of Our Better Angels. Our Better Angels takes its name from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address. Hoping to prevent a civil war over the profound moral crisis of slavery, Lincoln ended that address with an impassioned plea: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. . . . The mystic chords of memory . . . will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched . . . by the better angels of our nature.”

Between 1861 and the creation of Our Better Angels seven score and fourteen years later, the human community witnessed massive upheavals in technology and culture, both positive and negative. Shortly after the Second World War, the newborn United Nations issued its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Marshall McLuhan declared planet earth a global village, third-world nations subjugated during centuries of European domination gained independence, and social scientists began studying the human potential for generosity, creativity, and altruism. Since the middle of the 20th century, the nonprofit sector of the world’s economy has grown faster than the for-profit market sector or the government sector. As the third millennium drew near, a “fourth sector” of the economy emerged among business enterprises (“benefit corporations”), which act like mission-driven nonprofit organizations. Meanwhile, psychologists turned to the study of emotional intelligence and launched the field of Positive Psychology in books like Learned Optimism, Authentic Happiness, Positivity, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, and Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny.

A tipping point came in 2011 with Steven Pinker’s monumental study of the human struggle to emerge from barbarism to global knowledge-based civilization. In The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Pinker marshaled an array of evidence 24,000 miles wide and 10,000 years deep, demolishing the popular but cynical media-fed myth that people are getting more violent and more depraved. Pinker’s analysis traced transforming factors over several millennia, including written laws enforced by governments, trade and commerce requiring cooperation across geographic boundaries, religious institutions bolstering moral reciprocity (in various Golden Rules), widespread literacy, democratic forms of social organization, the escalator of reason, the widening circle of empathy, and the growing impact of women in public life.

Metaphorically, this elevator pitch has now taken you to the top of the Empire State Building. Enjoy the view as you contemplate the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt the power of a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens to change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”