May 10, 2010

The Vetting Process Has Begun

If you are a poli-sci junkie, you may think I mean the vetting process for Supreme Court Justice hopeful Elena Kagan.

No, I'm not talking about anything quite that lofty.

I'm talking about the vetting process for Team Black's philanthropic endeavor of 2011. We have a few criteria and a few prospects. The criteria are...
  • Feasible. We intend to make a donation but it has to be one we can actually make. Sure, I'd love to have $10k to give to charity but y'all, that's just not the case. We're young and though feeling charitable, we don't want to become in need of charity ourselves. So the amount that we give needs to be feasible.
  • Engagement. I want to be more involved than a one time check writer. I love the idea of a giving circle where once the money is pooled, the collective group decides how to invest the lovely large lump sum. I want to be engaged in the decision making process and I also want to be engaged with the organization. A giving circle that consists of just one voting meeting won't be sufficient. I'd like to connect with and be engaged in the organization(s) somehow.
  • Community. The part about church that appeals to me is building a community of people who have something in common other than their zip code, something like a value or belief. We aren't church people but I see our philanthropic activities as our way of building our community based on a common value. This sorta goes along with engagement and is why something like a giving circle or a fund sounds right to me.
  • Professional growth. This is the least important of the four criteria but would still be icing on the cake. It would be great if through this philanthropic activity, one or both of us could develop a new skill or make connections to aid our careers. Let's face it, without any kids at the moment, our careers is where we are focused. Most things in our lives, be it wardrobes or puppy doors, are aimed at making our careers more successful (and bank account bigger and thus, hopefully, donations larger).
Then you have the subjects of interest to us
  • Animal Welfare. Specifically puppies and specifically an enthusiasm of Ross'.
  • Health. Specifically cancer research/prevention, according to me.
  • Education. Specifically literacy and practical life skills that will help kids grow up to be independent, self-sufficient citizens who do not need charity in their adulthood. However, that said, we specifically do not want to give to school districts. In both of our experiences governments waste a lot of money and as education is a state function, I don't think our money would be well used. If I'm parting with my hard-earned cash, I want it to be extremely well used.
Given all that criteria, here our our frontrunners
  • United Way Capital Area's Young Leaders Society. I like that the United Way gives to such a wide variety of organizations. Our local United Way has three focus areas: health, educationa and fiscal responsibility. Given our personal definition of "education" I think fiscal responsibility fits right in there. The hang up here though is from what I can tell, YLS doesn't offer the opportunity to decide which UWCA partner receives your funding. At least, I can't find that clearly online. No worries though, I'm going to their mix-n-mingle event this month and intend to get the scoop.
  • Dell Children's Trust. This meets one of our interest areas (health) and has the engagement opportunity of deciding which part of the hospital receives the funding. It is also, from what I hear, the charity of choice for Austin's up-and-coming young leaders which sounds attractive. But are they going to be poeple I can build community with? Maybe, I'm not sure; I suppose it depends on their personal motivations for engagement. And I'm not sure if this offers any hands-on volunteer engagement which I feel like I'm craving.
  • Junior League of Austin. I've heard nothing but good things about the local Junior League chapter. I know they do LOTS of hands-on volunteer work in the community and many members are involved for years. I definitely think the volunteer engagement and community building elements can be met here. Besides logistical information like annual dues and time commitment, I'm also seeking to learn how they choose their grant recipients. I hope I can be part of that process because that is important to me. The only downfall I see to JLA is that its women only which leaves poor Ross in the cold. However when I pointed out that some of our charitable options are chicks only, he didn't seem too concerned. As long as I keep him in the loop on where our funds are going, he seems pretty content.
  • Impact Austin. A women's only giving circle, Impact Austin has received considerable national press. The founder, Rebecca Powers, was a Girl Scout Woman of Distinction last month and I had the good fortune to meet her. She's lovely! I need to learn more about engagement opportunities with this organization. As luck would have it, one of my tasks for the next month at work is to set up follow up meetings with all our Women of Distinction, Rebecca included.
As a fundraising professional, my own personal exercise in giving makes me think about what all my donors must be contemplating. As a team, we're considering a one time gift of not even 2% of our income and I'm taking more than six months to determine the organization based on many many criteria. That should and does tell me if I want donors to give significant sums, $5,000+ I need to be patient and thorough.

Though it wasn't a goal of my vetting process, I may become a better professional as a result. One of the many reasons why those giving are actually receiving the biggest gift of all.

PS Thinking about making a charitable gift in Central Texas but not sure where to begin? Check out I live here, I give here for a fairly comprehensive list of organizations by focus area.


Haila said...

I've got another option for ya. Greenlights 501 Council is recruiting. It meets several of your criteria. Let me know if you're interested.

Cheryl said...

I'm glad I blogged about it! I'm adding the 501 Council to my list of groups to research and vet. Maybe at our monthly lunch you can recommend a member for me to chat with.