Every fall, it seems that I get to take a sort of mental reset around how I look at philanthropy and charitable initiatives. Last fall, I got involved in my company's Employee Giving Campaign, a role I was lucky enough to hold again this year. Our campaign just concluded officially on Friday, and we met and exceeded our corporate goals of raising over $3,000,000, earmarked for the United Ways of Hartford and the Greater Twin Cities.
One of my favorite benefits of being so involved in the campaign is the chance to open my eyes to just how much the United Way does, and how many causes there are to be invested in. I think I have always tended to focus on the more immediate needs...food shelves, shelters, and the like...because those services and resources provide the most critical benefit and have immediate, tangible payoff. What I have lost sight of because of that approach is the second-tier needs and issues that feed into and ultimately end up causing those first-tier problems.
The United Way, for example, runs "cause campaigns" that focus around bringing attention to these sorts of issues. Ranging from counseling for LGBT teens aimed at reducing youth homelessness, to focus on providing meals over summer break and preventing learning loss in elementary-age children, the campaigns center around eradicating issues that ultimately feed to bigger problems. I got involved in publicizing these campaigns as part of our overall giving campaign, and hope to build them in next year...we throw a campus-wide picnic, for instance, that I think dovetails perfectly with the "Stop The Growl" lunch provision campaign. Things like that get me incredibly excited about being able to spend part of my workday focusing on something so much more impactful than policy revision and risk analysis.
Learning about the cause campaigns focused me in on areas the GTCUW really emphasized related to helping out children. Anyone who knows me knows I adore kids...all my jobs through high school and college centered around childcare, and I even went so far as to serve as the director of an elementary and middle school band program while in college. I was fortunate enough to benefit from a great education in a well-off public school system, and I had a network of amazing support in my teachers and parents. Thousands of students aren't that lucky, though, and I think that, for me, any way to get involved in changing that is becoming a focal area for my future volunteering and philanthropic endeavors.
A woman I work with who I respect greatly serves on the board of the St. Paul Public Schools Foundation, and recently invited me to participate with her. Getting involved in something like this at my age is an honor, and I hope to be able to expand my role as time goes by (and, um, as I actually have kids in a school system). A few weeks ago, we attended the SPPSF's major fundraiser, the "Investing In Student Success" fundraising breakfast. While listening to impact speakers including the mayor of St. Paul, several high school students, and a teacher who had benefited from a foundation grant, we were served the same breakfast the foundation provides for students every day during first period...just one direct, tangible way the foundation benefits students directly.
Our table included two sophomores at the technology magnet school hosting the breakfast, and I loved getting to chat with them. Both were incredibly bright students from backgrounds that are often traditionally considered disadvantaged, and both had huge dreams and plans for their careers as students, ultimately aspiring to work in STEM fields. Listening to them talk about how hard their school worked on their behalf left me feeling so inspired to do anything possible to help out. Needless to say, when the "monetary donation" portion of the program came around, I had no problem whipping out the checkbook.
Although giving money was the easiest way to make an impact on that particular day, I'm looking forward to seeing what else I can do to continue advancing my understanding of and contribution to children's causes in the Twin Cities. I'm always looking for good ideas...so shoot them my way if you have them! Especially with the holidays coming up, it feels like the perfect time to do more.
Check out the rest of my 101 in 1001 here!