Movement Profile: Bob Horton
Bob Horton grew up in Spokane, Washington and moved to Chicago in 1981. Four years ago, he and his husband moved downtown after living in Northwest Chicago. He spent his career in banking and finance and is now in his second career as a long-term volunteer with Crossroads Fund, the Lincoln Park Zoo, Center on Halsted, St. Pauls House, and others. Bob is a currently a member of the Finance Committee and previously served on the Board of Directors. We sat down with Bob to talk about how he sees his role in movement work and the non-profit sector.
Is there a current social justice movement that you feel strongly or passionate about?
It’s hard not to be passionate about social justice because we’re so challenged right now. It seems like it should be universal for everybody to say “I believe in social justice” but I’m not sure right now whether all people would say that and that’s scary. I don’t always agree with some of the positions of the groups that are funded by Crossroads Fund, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think they should be funded. Progressive groups that are passionate and have a strong social justice plan should be given the space to fight for their cause and see what they can do – if some fail that’s ok. My point is that I’m passionate about having a more community approach that can lead to being challenged by ideas and people who you disagree with, for whatever reason. As long as we’re faced with the political situation that we have right now, we need to unite and not go into our little pockets – to do so is unhealthy.
How’d you come into movement/justice/non-profit work and why do you think it’s important?
I was always politically involved and curious but I wouldn’t call myself an activist. How I actually came to activist, movement work was coincidental and accidental. I had worked on campaigns a little bit but I was more aware than involved. When I retired, I wanted to remain engaged so I found lots of different volunteer opportunities. I wanted to give back and I wanted to be around smart people. It was probably just fortuitous that I had a friend on the Finance Committee at Crossroads Fund and that got me in the door. It’s been my only activist movement experience in my life. I want to be around people that are passionate about what they do and Crossroads Fund fits that.
How has your relationship to Chicago changed since you’ve been at Crossroads Fund?
If I had stayed forever in my own niche, I would be missing out on a lot of the diversity that exists in Chicago. You know the corporate finance world isn't exactly known for its diversity, open-mindedness, or thoughtfulness towards progressive or social issues. Being involved in Crossroads Fund clearly got me involved in a much bigger community of people with different thoughts than my own, different backgrounds than my own, and different agendas than mine. Crossroads Fund brings a lot of different people and groups together. There are places where these groups intersect and have the same goals and places where they have different goals. But it's critical that people are brought together and listen to each other. I would not have the views I have today if I hadn't been around Crossroads Fund and been willing to listen. Lots of people have convinced me of things without knowing they have influenced my thinking. If you’re not open-minded or if we are separating ourselves into little groups that don't cross-pollinate, you're never going to change people's minds. We can’t lose allies because we're so busy being in our own little boxes.
Do you have advice for Crossroads Fund and other organizations on how to retain good volunteers?
I have been incredibly lucky as a volunteer at Crossroads Fund because I’m appreciated. No one's ever shut me down if I have an idea. No one has to adopt anything I say but people let me think, let me participate, let me contribute where I can. So what should Crossroads Fund do? What it’s doing. It's an incredible place just to be. I guess if you ask any volunteer who has actually volunteered at the office and come here and spent two or three hours on a weekly basis over a period of time, I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who didn't say it was a fantastic, eye-opening, and educational experience. I’m not being gratuitous when I say I've learned a ton from the staff, the Board of Directors, and from the grantees at Crossroads Fund. Since retiring, this has been my job and my passion because I've been allowed to contribute in a meaningful way than at other places. This has sort of become my home and my spot to do things that I think are beneficial.
How has your presence changed Crossroads Fund and how has Crossroads Fund changed you?
Since I've been volunteering, Crossroads Fund has been in a period of tremendous growth and I believe that’s because what Crossroads Fund does is so necessary. Over time, we've increased our fundraising tremendously so we have more money coming in the door. Part of my role here has been to try to figure out how you manage the money better. How to spend it most efficiently. The whole budgeting process is more complex. We have endowments now and that's more complex. So I think I've been helpful in that. I’ve said this before, I also benefit and that’s through seeing how our grants are supporting important initiatives and having results across Chicago.
How has being connected to Crossroads Fund deepened your commitment to racial, social, and economic justice work?
You cannot be in the Crossroads Fund office on a weekly basis without learning a lot and being around people who are passionate about a variety of social justice issues. You can’t help but learn by being around the people that are here and by being around the grantees that come through the door. I ultimately ended up not only on the Finance Committee but on the Board. So I was around the other Board Members, who are all incredibly active in movement building and that was bound to influence me. I don't want to imply that I wasn't interested in social justice before I came here. My political views have evolved to the point where I care and I hope most people care about social justice, equality, and equal opportunity for folks to make their way.