The Myth of Philanthropy

1097965_663631206998986_1578851352_nWe hear inspiring stories of wealthy Americans who give back – through the Giving Pledge or interviews where they tell the background behind their generosity. We think: How nice. How different they are from us.

I’ll admit it. It bugs me that so much of what we hear about “philanthropy” is from those with tremendous wealth. But that makes sense, you say. They have the most to give.

Yet the statistics around giving tell a very different story.

In 2011, $298 billion was given to charity. You may already know that the vast majority of charitable donations comes from individuals—73%—with the remaining 17% culled from foundations, bequests and corporations combined.

But here’s the real story: Fully 74% of the total giving by individuals was offered by households with incomes of less than $200,000. That’s right. Working stiffs like us gave $162 billion. Shockingly, families making less than $50,000 gave 37% of that amount.

I truly admire the Buffett and Gates’ families for their business acumen and for the amazing examples they set for large-scale strategic philanthropy. What I wonder is: Why are their stories the only ones we hear? Despite all their wealth, the Gates’ and Buffetts are not contributing the majority of funding to nonprofits. We are.

Dec. 3 is Giving Tuesday, a chance for us to share our stories. It’s also a chance for us to celebrate the fact that each of us—really—can make a difference. Statistically, it’s exactly people like us who are making that difference.

Imagine joining with others who care about the same issues and giving together. Wonderful organizations like this exist for funding women and girls, such as Women Moving Millions (whose CEO, Jacki Zehner, serves on our advisory board), Women Donors Network, and many local groups like Impact 100. But say your interest is poverty or environment or youth development or health. Or maybe you don’t give $100,000 or $5,000 or $1,000 each year focused on women and girls.

Say you’d like to give a bit less or you’re still learning what will be your big issue. You want to explore what’s out there, but you’d also like to learn as part of a community.

This is really what Giving Tuesday is all about. At Catalytic Women we wanted to be part of this incredible movement to offer a new way of giving in 2013: one that allows a woman to give at any level, to share her story as part of a giving community, to enjoy learning and helping, to make an impact with friends, and to change the world … maybe with just a bit more than pocket change. 

So this Giving Tuesday, I challenge you to brag that you really do have enough to make a difference. Share your story with others. Connect with friends—new or old—over the change you want to make in the world. And then, give together and make that change. Each of us really can make a big impact with not-so-big dollars.

Giving Tuesday has inspired us to launch online Giving Circles, where you can join with others to learn about issues and then, as a group, fund nonprofits doing that work. It’s easy, social, fun and high-impact.

Contrary to what we may be told by the media, your story and my story are the ones that create global change. Giving Tuesday is a day to celebrate ordinary people funding extraordinary work. I mean that as the highest compliment. Let’s change how we talk about our impact. Let’s own it.

It’s time to disrupt philanthropy. Care to join me?

cw_picMelanie01_260As CEO and Founder of Catalytic Women, Melanie Hamburger is passionate about making giving accessible. She believes in the power of women’s financial influence, especially in bringing values to the way we use money. Her vision is to mobilize billions more dollars towards solving social issues by democratizing the way we give and inspiring people to give now, at any level.

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Act Global: Tips for Next Gen Donors Looking to Volunteer Abroad

By Deborah Goldstein, principal, Enlightened Philanthropy

According to groundbreaking work by 21/64 and the Johnson Center at Grand Valley State University, I can be considered a member of Next Gen Donors. The research focuses on Gen X and Gen Y/Millenials ages 21-40 who will inherit $40 trillion in the coming years.

Like me, you may not be anticipating an inheritance. However, you might share some of the traits found among this cohort:

  1. Are you driven by values, not valuables? Next Gen Donors honor the legacy of their parents and grandparents in their giving, while exploring emerging tools and opportunities.
  2. Are you focused on impact? Next Gen Donors want to see an impact as a result of their philanthropy. They are focused on strategic philanthropy.
  3. Do you give your time, talent, treasure, and ties to causes you are passionate about? Next Gen Donors give at a much deeper level, a very engaged, hands-on level. And they’re willing to bring their network or ties to the table, too.
  4. Are you engaging in philanthropy now? Next Gen Donors are engaging in philanthropy NOW instead of waiting until later in life. In the process, they are crafting their philanthropic identity by engaging in ways that allow them to learn more by seeing and doing.

Hawksbill_Sea_Turtle_(Eretmochelys_imbricata)_(6161757878)In August 2013, I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua for two weeks to work with two conservation organizations—the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative (or ICAPO-Iniciativa Carey del Pacifico Oriental), and Paso Pacifico. I have been passionate about sea turtle conservation for decades and was finally able to personally rescue sea turtle eggs for protection in a hatchery and release hatchlings safely into the ocean.

For those of us who are Next Gen, experiences like this are critical to our engagement with philanthropy. They help us understand the issues and craft our philanthropic identity in a way that merely writing a check cannot.

Have you been looking for a way to give back and have some fun too?

If so, I urge you to JUST DO IT!

Three Tips for Volunteers:

  1. This is NOT a vacation. The term volunteer “vacation” is a misnomer. You will be lending yourself to the organization to work. This doesn’t mean you won’t have a blast along the way, but you have to remember, you’re there for work and not play.
  2. Be open to how you’ll be helpful. I hadn’t imagined any type of work except for helping rescue turtles. So, when I was asked to put together a brochure that promotes ICAPO’s tours and volunteer opportunities, I realized I had the skills to help the organization in an unexpected way.
  3. Learn the language. When you’re in a remote part of the world, the likelihood of the locals speaking English is slim. While I’d brushed up on my Spanish prior to departure, I couldn’t speak at length with the locals who patrolled the beaches or managed the hatchery. This is one opportunity I feel I missed—being able to really connect with the people with whom I was interacting. Thank goodness for sign language and smiles and laughter AND translators!

By the end of my second week in Nicaragua, I felt fully immersed in the culture and its conservation issues. I left a more emboldened and passionate advocate than I had arrived. I left with the fulfillment of having traveled for a purpose—to learn more about a cause that is important to me and help conserve endangered species. And I left with a desire to travel more often with a purpose.

So, what are you going to do with your dream to help others? The ends of the earth really are your only limit!

1Deborah Goldstein is the principal of Enlightened Philanthropy and is dedicated to guiding the next generation in giving. She advises multi-generational families and youth as they explore the world of philanthropy. She is also a certified 21/64 trainer. More thoughts on her trip to Nicaragua can be found on her blog

Empowering Women: The Story No One Knows

gpi_reporters_at_work_2013By Suzanne Skees

San Jose, CA: Dusk settles early on an autumn evening this month. It descends slowly in layers of orange and purple over tree-lined office parks in Silicon Valley, where tech stars never sleep and the rest of us dream of getting by. Inside Cisco Systems Building #10, a small group gathers to talk about their efforts, both here and abroad, to end poverty by connecting women with education, healthcare, and jobs; small-business ownership, activist journalism, and political office.

“California has the highest poverty rate in the country,” proclaims a woman in her twenties. “It takes three full-time minimum-wage jobs for a single parent of two children just to get by in this state.”

1.4 billion people on this planet live in ultra poverty,” adds a man in his thirties. The group brings nonprofits and funders in a conversation hosted by Catalytic Women, a network of small- to high-net-worth changemakers working to “disrupt” philanthropy via crowdfunding, collaborating, and grassroots partnerships. “Studies have shown,” says Catalytic Women’s founder Melanie Hamburger, “that when you give women a chance they reinvest in education, family, and the community.”

You may have heard the statistics. You may have heard Hillary Clinton’s bold claim that empowering women is key to any country’s economic and military stability:

“There is a stimulative and ripple effect that kicks in when women have greater access to jobs and the economic lives of our countries: Greater political stability. Fewer military conflicts. More food. More educational opportunity for children,” Clinton said. “By harnessing the economic potential of all women, we boost opportunity for all people.”

Maybe you’ve hear of exciting projects led by Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof (Half the Sky), Nike (The Girl Effect), Oprah and Angelina and Melinda: organizations and women of world-renowned power are reaching a hand back to pull humankind forward through gender equality and opportunity.

2What no one knows, though, is the story I got to hear from the back of the room in the Cisco cafeteria. As the sky grew thick and dark outside floor-to-ceiling windows and inside, fluorescent lights blared on five ordinary people who shared their extraordinary stories.

  • Cassie Chandler runs a healthcare program for 5.4 million microfinance clients in 24 countries for Freedom from Hunger. She’s seen whole communities change when women gain access to adult education, financial management, and family healthcare. She’s used to training local partners on the ground, particularly in Latin America—Cassie’s niche—but tonight, she talks about how Nandini in rural India transformed herself from a struggling small farmer who bought seeds through a loan shark, to a trained pharmacy vendor and village educator whom her neighbors trust enough to call “Dr. Mom.”
  • Kimberly Ellis works within a 14-state network to get more Democratic women elected into office via Emerge California. Having graduated from the program she now leads, Kimberly also serves as commissioner for community development in Richmond, CA. She believes many civic problems could be solved through balanced political gender representation (currently 25%), and that all families could benefit significantly through equal-pay salaries (currently ranging from 77 cents on the dollar to 64 cents for Black and 55 cents for Latina women). Simply put, she just wants parity. “If you don’t have a seat at the table,” Kimberly quips, “you’re probably on the menu.”
  • Steve Schwartz cofounded a nonprofit that creates jobs for ultra-poor women in India. “Handouts don’t work,” he says, “because what our clients want is long-term, sustainable, dignified employment. He says in just over two years, Upaya Social Ventures has helped three businesses (dairy farming, weaving, and domestic labor) create 506 jobs; and they’ve made a very public pledge at the Clinton Global Initiative to double their numbers in the next year. Steve served in the Peace Corps in Benin, West Africa with his wife and walked the city slums and country paths in India with the women he now considers his reason for being. He shows a picture of an employee, Poonam, spinning thread from tussar silk. Poonam’s family tripled their income and jumped from one to three meals a day when she got her new—permanent—job. “Poonam learned the fine art of silk weaving from her grandmother, who learned it from her grandmother,” Steve tells us. “Now she’s got a reliable income stream at a fair wage.”
  • Brynne Speizer’s mission with Opportunity Fund is to connect California’s working poor with access to savings, loans, and business and financial training. Rattling off statistics on poverty and unemployment, she halts mid-sentence. “Doesn’t it make you mad?! It makes me mad, that in this beautiful place where we live, life is so hard for millions of families.” She talks about two clients who inspired her: Kiara, an East Palo Alto student who opened a savings account and socked away $6,000 to help realize her dream of attending Wesleyan College; and Tina, a restaurant owner famous for her barbecue who almost lost everything in the Great Recession. She took out a loan (average small business = $7,000) and is now cooking up a storm. “All these women need is access,” Brynne stresses.
  • Cristi Hegranes landed her dream job as an international journalist in Nepal, but it only took her two weeks to realize she was all wrong for the job. “Local women had everything I didn’t,” she said, “except access to a major publishing outlet.” She created the Global Press Institute to train and employ women to write quality investigative, activist features. Currently, Cristi manages 26 news bureaus and employs 135 women, and she’s building revenue by distributing their stories through such outlets as National Public Radio and Reuters. Cristi talks about Rwandan reporters Gloriose  and Noella, whose award-winning series on sexual predators has influenced new legislation there. Here with Cristi is one of her first employees (2009) and the embodiment of her ambition—Manori of Sri Lanka, who just got promoted from reporter to regional editor for Asia. “We’ve asked, and 98% of the women who’ve been through our training program report feeling empowered as a result.” And the percentage employed by GPI?—100.

1My family and I feel incredibly lucky to be the wind beneath the wings of 29 organizations working to create equal opportunity for all, in the U.S. and around the world. Join us by getting to know our world-changing partners at Skees Family Foundation. Whatever your gender, log onto Catalytic Women, join a local event or giving circle, and share your story. Let’s talk about what ordinary folks can do. And let’s take up more space and volume than the corner of a corporate cafeteria: Between us, we could have stories to fill a coliseum.

SuzanneSuzanne Skees works in international development as director of the Skees Family Foundation, which supports innovative self-help programs in the U.S. and 37 developing countries in education, enterprise, health, infrastructure, and peace.  Writing for online and print media, Skees shares stories of what can happen when students and survivors, entrepreneurs and families, receive tools they need to build a life of choice from such organizations as Dayton Christian Center,Dayton International Peace MuseumFreedom from Hunger, Jamii Bora, Karimu,PBMR Hub Center for Chicago Youth, Summer SearchThe Ihangane Project, The School Fund, Summer Search, Upaya Social VenturesV-Day, and Vittana.

Defying Expectations

Last month my organization, Global Press Institute (GPI), had the honor of being showcased at a Catalytic Women event on women’s economic empowerment. Something that Melanie said to the audience that night really struck me: everyone in the room could do something to make a difference. Everyone – no matter what your level of income or wealth – could be a philanthropist. sample-image-blogWhat really resonated with me about this message was its fundamental similarity to a lesson I learned in Nepal ten years ago.

After a few weeks in the country as a foreign correspondent, I realized I was the wrong person to be covering the Nepali civil war. I had just two things that “qualified” me to report on this country I knew so little about: a Master’s degree in journalism and a credible news platform. Yet the local women around me had everything else that I lacked in order to tell important, powerful stories: access, language, context, and trust.

When I met Pratima, the community matriarch of a small village in Eastern Nepal, I handed her my pen and asked her to write the story of her community. That moment was not only the birth of GPI, an organization dedicated to training and employing women in the developing world to report on their local communities. It was also an inspiring life lesson about how the roles we have come to expect for ourselves are often dramatically and silently dictated by the force of history – in other words, by the way things have been.

Isn’t it obvious that a local woman with knowledge of her community would be better poised to report on it than a foreigner parachuted in for a few weeks? And yet the entire model of international journalism has been built around the use of foreign correspondents.

Likewise, it is obvious that we do not need high-paying jobs or sizable fortunes in order to be thoughtful, generous, and impactful givers. Just because we have always thought of philanthropy as the purview of the wealthy doesn’t preclude us from making a difference with our resources.

If you wonder whether this is really possible, consider that each GPI news story (25% of which lead to demonstrable social impact, such as changing laws) costs on average between $100 and $200 to produce. We and other organizations are able to use modest donations to create significant impact on the world.

The lesson here is that we can access certain roles and opportunities in life, even if that means bucking the way things have traditionally been done. After all, if a former sex worker, or a member of the Dalit (“untouchable”) caste, or a woman with a fourth grade education, can become an award-winning professional journalist, then each of us can, in our own ways, become philanthropists.

cmhheadshotCristi Hegranes landed her dream job as an international journalist in Nepal, but it only took her two weeks to realize she was all wrong for the job. “Local women had everything I didn’t,” she said, “except access to a major publishing outlet.” She created the Global Press Institute to train and employ women to write quality investigative, professional features. Currently, Cristi manages 26 news bureaus and employs 135 women, and she’s building revenue by distributing their stories through such outlets as National Public Radio and Reuters. Cristi talks about Rwandan reporters Ritha Bumwe, whose article on sexual predators has influenced new legislation there. Here with Cristi is her first Sri Lankan employee (soon after their 2006 launch) and the embodiment of her ambition—Manori of Sri Lanka, who just got promoted from reporter to regional editor for Asia. “We’ve asked, and 98% of the women who’ve been through our training program report feeling empowered as a result.” And the percentage employed by GPI?—100. 

Want to Build Your Startup Skills? Pitch and Pitch In

If you’re looking to develop your startup leadership skills, try volunteering for a non-profit or attending a pitch conference. 

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Having spent most of my career in the corporate and nonprofit worlds, I can tell you that there isn’t much reward for risk-taking. Two of the smartest things I ever did to build my leadership were: go to a pitch conference and volunteer.

Six months ago, I attended Launch. It changed my perspective on everything about my work. Specifically, it made me more focused on profitability and more fearless about playing with the boys. (Sorry to admit it, but seeing them get up there and struggle with pitches made it seem a lot more accessible to someone like me, a working woman new to startup culture.)

Last weekend, I got to walk the talk. I pitched an idea at SF Startup Weekend Women’s Edition. Out of 41 pitches and 14 finalists, our team came in third (with a product to offer impact investing to young professionals). The experience was crazy and awesome – totally out of my comfort zone. I went into it not really knowing anything about the process; at Launch I’d only seen the final result of what happens when you join a team of strangers for 36 hours to make a dream tangible.

What was so special about this Startup Weekend? For one, it focused on women entrepreneurs. And, it created a space where we could be in the majority, doing something that we do so well naturally – collaborate and problem-solve. It also made me think about another ecosystem that has been central to my career success: nonprofits.

Nonprofits offer a safe place for women to build leadership skills. The U.S. Dept. of Labor says that in 2012, “women continued to volunteer at a higher rate than did men across all age groups, educational levels, and other major demographic characteristics.”

Let’s face it, we like to roll up our sleeves, get involved, and give back. Yet there’s another, more personal, reason for women to volunteer – it builds leadership skills that can launch our careers, especially in male-dominated professions.

No one tries to solve big problems on limited resources like a nonprofit. Volunteering – especially on a committee or board – is a great training ground for public speaking, budgeting, project management, and sales and relationship building (skills key to fundraising). Points of Light Foundation (which also has a Civic Incubator – how cool is that?) and VolunteerMatch list thousands of opportunities to get involved.

Women bring unique skills to the table. We knew that even before Lean In. If you’re not getting the leadership opportunities you want at work, get them by volunteering. And then bring them back to your company.

Your success may depend on it.

By Melanie Hamburger (CEO & Founder, Catalytic Women)

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This article was originally posted on Women 2.0 on September 20, 2013.

Volunteering. It’s never too early to start

What’s the best age to start piano lessons? How about gymnastics or soccer? If you’ve seen toddlers meandering around a soccer field, staring at the sky, you know that some parents think it’s never too early to begin.

volunteeringAs parents and role models, we want to expose our children to all sorts of enriching experiences, and one of the most rewarding is volunteering. There are three powerful reasons I think middle school is an ideal time to introduce kids to the concept of serving others.

Volunteering is an excellent way for middle-school students to learn about their community and themselves. They are mature enough to understand the concept of civic responsibility, the value of helping less fortunate people and the significance of donating time, money and service.

Second, adolescence is typically a time of an intense focus on oneself and peers. It’s a challenging time of self-discovery. Volunteering eases that relentless inward glare by encouraging tweens and teens to connect with people of different ages, experiences, backgrounds and values.

Finally, a solid foundation of volunteer experience that begins in middle school shapes a young volunteer’s view of the world and amazes college admissions officers. One important way to tell a student’s story in an interview or college application is through lessons learned in volunteering and community service.

Jeannie Burlowski (http://www.bebrilliantincollege.com), an expert advisor on college applications that stand out from the pack, offers vital advice about how to approach middle school: “Begin early to create the long record of service and leadership so important for future scholarship applications.” She says the middle school years are not too early to begin keeping a written record of community service hours. If you Google for “community service forms”, you will find dozens of links to record-keeping forms.

And remember that volunteering as a family is also a terrific way to learn about organizations in your community and make them part of your family charitable giving strategy. That strategy can be as simple as a change jar in the kitchen where everyone drops spare coins and bills that are regularly donated to the local homeless shelter.

Here are four on the San Francisco Peninsula that offer volunteer opportunities geared specifically for kids:

The Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto is planning its seventh annual Mitzvah Day (to take place on Martin Luther King Day, January 20, 2014). If you have suggestions or want to get involved, please contact Luba Palant at (650) 223-8656 or lpalant@paloaltojcc.org.

My New Red Shoes has a mission all kids can relate to: to provide new clothing and back-to-school shoes for low-income kids. The Burlingame-based non-profit offers a number of service events centered on families, including kids as young as four years old: http://www.mynewredshoes.org/get-involved.html

Home & Hope (formerly Interfaith Hospitality Network) provides homeless families with temporary housing at local churches and synagogues. Families can volunteer to cook and serve dinner at the host site, play with the younger guests and even babysit. Find out more at http://homeandhope.net.

There With Care provides fundamental support services to families and children facing critical illness during medical crisis. Volunteer opportunities range from visiting children in the hospital to sorting in-kind donations at the TWC office in Menlo Park. Learn more at http://bayarea.therewithcare.org/.

I’d love to hear about how you encourage your children of all ages to volunteer and take part in improving their community. What volunteer work is meaningful to your family, and how do your kids participate?

It’s never too early to start.

070d8d0Emilie Goldman began her career in personal finance in 1993 as an investment analyst. In 2003, she earned the CFP® designation from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. Emilie was a partner with Blue Oak Capital in Palo Alto, chief wealth management officer with Sand Hill Advisors in Palo Alto, and a portfolio manager with Hutchinson Capital in Larkspur, CO. She holds an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and received her undergraduate degree in finance and marketing from the University of Denver. She is a Certified Financial Planner TM professional and a Chartered Financial Analyst. She is a member of the CFA Institute, the Securities Analysts of San Francisco, and the Financial Planning Association.

 

Prosperity, Sisterhood, and Honeybees

Two years ago, in my work as founder of Honeybee Capital, I was trying to describe investing that is truly connected to the world, to the people, to the products and entities that provide meaning and value to our communities. The language I needed was elusive. I examined terms used in the various “integrated health” indices for economies, but Gross National Happiness, while a great broadening from Gross National Product, did not quite hit the mark. Sustainability is also a wonderful term, but I was aiming to describe something even more than that. A type of investing that is regenerative and renewing, thoughtful and full of (dare I say it?) joy.

Prosperity – that is the word that truly describes what I sought.prosperity_opportunities This is a term with both depth and breadth. Prosperity is defined as “to thrive or succeed in a healthy way.” That little word “healthy” is so important – it nods to a more complete view of success, one that includes physical, mental, emotional, and economic well-being; one that extends beyond the individual to include whole families and whole communities. Another layer of meaning is found in the root words – Latin terms for “hope” and “fortune” are, quite literally, the roots of prosperity. So Prosperity is success, yes – but it’s healthy success, broad-based and full of hope.

It was right around this time that I met Prosperity Catalyst, the nonprofit, and Prosperity Candle, the sister enterprise that serves as product marketing specialist. Siiri Morley, the Executive Director, presented to the Pipeline Fellowship, a women’s angel investor training network, where I was a member. So right from the start, we were united by the idea of women helping other women. Actually, much more than that – women investing in other women, and in their prosperity.

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Prosperity Catalyst does not come by its name lightly – it earns that name every day, in the work of all who are connected with the group. The organization trains women to run their own businesses. Prosperity Candle, the sister organization, provides the direct link to the market for the Catalyst’s women to sell their creations, ensuring that all of that training and production is both useful and use-able. With this model, Prosperity links locally-focused training and business leadership to broader global markets. This is not an isolated process of training for training’s sake, but a strategy that melds strategic and tactical. Plus, the candles are so beautiful! Siiri and her team helped me to plan the first-ever corporate gift for Honeybee Capital, a beautiful beeswax candle.

The light from those candles is lovely, steady and clear – but it is nothing compared to another sort of light I see coming from Prosperity Catalyst. The most important element I have come to appreciate in this organization is a subtle one: it’s how their program and the people involved are modeling leadership in a powerful and different way. Siiri and the entire Prosperity Catalyst team demonstrate leadership that is bold and attention-grabbing – while also service-oriented and nuanced. They are effective and efficient – and still deeply human. They are determined and devoted – while embracing flexibility and creativity. This is the kind of leadership I want to see in the world.

For all of these reasons, I am delighted to be able to support Prosperity Catalyst. I hope you will join me.

katherineKatherine Collins is Founder and CEO of Honeybee Capital, and author of the forthcoming book, The Nature of Investing.  After a long and successful career in traditional equity management, Katherine set out to integrate her investment philosophy with the broader world by traveling as a pilgrim and volunteer, earning her MTS degree at Harvard Divinity School, and studying the natural world as guide for investing to add value in an integrated way, beneficial to our portfolios, to our communities, and to our planet.  

See more about Katherine’s work at www.honeybeecapital.com or follow her on Twitter @honeybeecap.

 

Our Young Selves: Learning, Serving and Celebrating

With the new school year approaching, I’m thinking about fresh starts—for my 15-year-old daughter and for me. She and her peers seem interested in volunteering, but I wonder if it’s more about building a college résumé than offering community service. A study last year reports that the Millennial generation (roughly ages 18-29) actually volunteers and donates more than any previous one. The trick is connecting a young person to a community need that resonates, prompting a lifetime of service and an enthusiasm for giving back.

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The Young Woman’s Guide is a nice start. Aimed at women and girls ages 15-35, YWG provides educational opportunities, partners mentors/mentees, and works on a global scale. I also love DoSomething.org, a site devoted to helping those 25 or younger (nearly 2 million at last count) to “kick ass on causes they care about.” (If, like me, you’re “old” by their standards, their Old People FAQ gives us some ageless guidance on how to start volunteering.)

A recent Women 2.0 article underscores the urgency of training young women to give, contribute, and lead. Now at 40% ownership, women are anticipated to launch a full 50% of the 9.72 million new businesses expected in the U.S. by 2018. That’s just five years from now. Maybe my daughter won’t be thinking about finding a job but, rather, becoming one of the many women creating a company of her own.

These are exciting times for women, young and “old” (ahem, over 26).

 

Young Women Funding Social Impact

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:

L.Volftsun

Lana Volftsun

Lana made clear some of the obstacles for giving that younger donors face:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Impact. We all want to know that our dollars, at whatever level of giving, make a difference. Sounds so simple, but it’s not.
Erin Geiger

Erin Geiger

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).

Affordability

Leigh Moran

Leigh Moran

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.

Knowledge

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 WIN_WIN_RGB_2inches-1Women 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.

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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).

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 giirs-logohybrid 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.

Act

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 melanie@catalyticwomen.com and we’ll point you in the right direction for making your own, personal impact in your own way.

Gender Lens Investing: Newcomers’ Webinars

It’s confession time and I’m coming clean.  I am completely new to the work of Gender Lens Investing.  (A moment please while I hide my face in shame.)  At this point you may be wondering why I’m suddenly interested and the answer may surprise you.

I recently overheard women discussing hand bags.  Hand bags! Ever wondered who makes these beautiful essentials carried by women everywhere?  I learned that, ironically, something universally used by women (and any number of other consumer goods) can be produced in conditions that are detrimental to women’s well-being.  And I learned that I can choose to spend my consumer (and investment) dollars in a way that supports women. This conversation, and those I been involved in since becoming part of Catalytic Women, has inspired me to want to learn more.

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Jennifer John

I’ve recently had the pleasure of hearing Jennifer John, Project Manager of Criterion Institute, speak on this topic during our monthly collaborative webinars on gender lens investing.  What’s even better, these webinars focus on newcomers (like myself) and are meant as an entry point into dialogue.  During May’s webinar Jennifer was joined by panelists Siiri Morely, Director of Prosperity Catalyst, and Becky Bailey, Senior Portfolio Manager and Acting Director of Operations of Agora Partnerships.  These three dynamic women provided such a vibrant and informative discussion that I couldn’t help but be inspired.  Below are a few excerpts from May’s discussion.

Jennifer began by defining gender and explaining what it means to invest with a gender lens.  According to Criterion Institute, “Gender is term that refers to your gendered life experience in the social construct that you live.  It is thought more of as ‘gender identity,’ and varies over time and from place to place. Investing with a gender lens involves making investment decisions that support gender equality while seeking positive financial return.” I sensed a definitive message forming here.  Investing with a gender lens -with gender equality as a focus-  makes you a smarter investor.  More importantly, it means “moving trillions versus millions,” of dollars (quoted from Jackie Zehner, Chief Engagement Officer and President of Women Moving Millions).  Wow! Trillions versus millions? Tell me more…

Siiri Morley

Siiri Morley

Siiri Morley then went on to speak about her non-profit organization Prosperity Catalyst, and its for-profit social enterprise partner Prosperity Candle.  Their focus is to help women take control of their own economic agency.  Prosperity Catalyst provides an environment where women from poverty can become self-sustaining entrepreneurs.  Prosperity Candle “empowers women to rebuild their lives through candle making.”  Providing women with the resources and tools to take control of their own lives is profound.

Becky Bailey

Becky Bailey

Siiri’s dialogue was an excellent segue into Becky Bailey’s work with Agora Partnerships.  Agora strives to “unleash the potential” of impact entrepreneurs.  To do this Agora provides entrepreneurs with the necessary knowledge, networks and capital so they have the tools to solve critical problems in their focus area.   Agora works with entrepreneurs on the ground through accelerator programs in order to affect, and scale, positive change. Genius!

What did I take away from this event?

That I want to invite others to the dialogue, to bring women to the table and most importantly, to think outside the box myself when I consider my own purchasing and investing decisions .  And, of course, to continue my quest for more knowledge on the work of gender lens investing and women funding social impact.