Catalytic Women gathered in San Francisco in June to hear three experts talk about engaging younger women who are defining their own ways of giving back. While I may not be of this generation, it was such a treat to hear from them and to feel their energy. This is my favoriate audience for our work – the enthusiasm, creativity and optimism is absolutely infectious.
Our panelists were, likewise, three dynamic young women:
- Erin Geiger, whom we caught transitioning from her role at Kiva to a new role as Chief Development Officer of Family Independence Initiative
- Leigh Moran, officer of the Strategic Initiatives team at Calvert Foundation
- Lana Volftsun, Executive Director of the One Percent Foundation
Lana made clear some of the obstacles for giving that younger donors face:
- Affordability. So many images of “philanthropy” are of older donors, often men, making very large gifts. This is ironic for 3 reasons: women make most giving decisions; the cumulative impact of individuals giving at modest levels now can be so much more significant than a single, large legacy gift; and few of us see ourselves as able to make million dollar donations.
- Knowledge. With over 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S., thinking about finding the best fit is downright daunting. It can be hard to know where to start.
- Impact. We all want to know that our dollars, at whatever level of giving, make a difference. Sounds so simple, but it’s not.
I’m a big fan of the “dumb question” – I find it opens dialogue by making it OK for others to admit not knowing it all. Erin answered mine: What is the definition of a Millennial? And, as expected, lots of others jumped in to ask their own questions. None were dumb.
Millennials are between 18 and 25 years old. Next Gen seems to have a broader interpretation, including Gen X and Gen Y. Panelists agreed that these latter tags relate more to life experience and association than to quantitative standards.
We heard other illuminating answers to words commonly used in discussing social impact. Not surprisingly, these answers led to some of the vehicles that young women are using to engage as donors and social investors.
- Microfinance is a platform, a portal, between those of us interested in making smaller gifts (or loans) and those living in poverty without access to banks and traditional financial resources.
- Crowdfunding is an online platform where many people can support a single project.
- A giving circle is the reverse: a group where many people work collaboratively to find one or several organizations to support.
- Impact investing creates both a return on investment (ROI) and a positive social and/or environmental impact.
- Impact considers a company or organization’s ability to create positive benefits that are social (e.g. provide jobs or affordable housing) or environmental (such as sustainable land use or clean energy).
Leigh shared Calvert Foundation’s philosophy of changing the way that capital flows: it is not mutually exclusive to raise money from investors and to deploy it for social impact across the global. Their Community Investment Note allows an individual to invest as little as $20 in creating a financial and social return.
One Percent Foundation has the goal of mobilizing Millennials to give just that: 1% of their income. This September they will launch new giving circles – and Catalytic Women is excited to be partnering with them.
Younger donors aren’t the only ones struggling with learning about options for impact and building financial confidence in how to fund change in the world around us. As Leigh put it, one of their goals is for Millennials to see themselves as investors. By offering ways to invest in causes that are a person’s passion, through initiatives like Women Investing in Women (WIN-WIN) and Engaging Diaspora Communities, Calvert Foundation is exploring ways to engage some of the largest groups of potential funders: young adults, diaspora communities with a common origin in a geographic region, and women.
Camp Start Up, Kiva’s summer program launched this year in partnership with Independent Means, provides financial education to young adults and inspires social entrepreneurship. At either end of the spectrum – extreme poverty or extreme wealth – it can be difficult to discuss money.
DoSomething.org is the largest network in the U.S. educating and mobilizing teens for social impact. Why wait until we feel that we have enough to give? All the better if we can start that education earlier (or, in my case, help my daughter build her financial confidence and impact).
One participate asked, If an investment can be made in either a nonprofit or for-profit enterprise, what’s the difference between an investment and a donation? As more hybrid options become available, this line seems to blur. Perhaps the larger question is, does it matter? Yet the metrics used to evaluate social impact, such as Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS) and IRIS, are a good place for us to create awareness about impact in any kind of funding for social change.
Storytelling is a powerful way to engage and create impact. One young woman told of a call from her alma mater telling her she was a VIP among alumni donors. She wondered how this could be, with the modest amount that she gave. Yet others were giving less; to them, she was an example of action and impact.
How can young women fund social impact? Their options are available to us all. Here were some of the many possibilities that emerged from the conversation with our experts:
- Invest a small amount and get hooked. Put as little as $20 into a Community Investment Note through Calvert Foundation or take $25 to start a lending team with Kiva.
- Tell your story. Even better if you tell your story in your own voice – take a video on your phone and post it to Facebook or LinkedIn.
- Connect with others around giving. Join a giving circle to meet other women who give, or bring a giving circle – like One Percent Foundation or Catalytic Women’s giving circles – to another group, like a professional network.
Catalytic Women has resources on all the above. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll point you in the right direction for making your own, personal impact in your own way.