(Illustration by Hannah Agosta Illustration, based on a photo by Jessie Fox)
How to Give is a biweekly column by local philanthropy wizard Lansie Sylvia. In it, Lansie answers readers’ questions about millennials, philanthropy and engaging the next generation of givers. To ask her a question, email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @FancyLansie.
THIS WEEK’S FIRST QUESTION:
I’m on the host committee for an upcoming nonprofit gala, and they want me to invite all of my Facebook friends to the event, which I don’t feel comfortable doing. Am I obligated to do this? Is it part of my job as a committee member?
Nonprofit event planning is an art and a science. You need people who are good at managing spreadsheets, asking for donations, negotiating with caterers and vendors, and yes, getting people to show up on game day. But not every committee member needs to do everything!
If you’re not comfortable inviting your friends to the gala on Facebook, speak to your event chair, or better yet, send some version of this email:
Thanks so much for managing a great meeting on Thursday. I’m really excited to move forward with planning this event. However, one task on our agenda did give me pause. Inviting my Facebook friends to the gala isn’t something I’m comfortable doing, so instead I’d like to propose that I take on the bulk of [some other task]. I know we need to get our attendee numbers up, and by [doing this new task], we’re sure to make the event attractive to millennials and new donors. Thanks for your understanding, and please let me know if you have any questions.
All the best,
This way, you’re not just flaking out on doing a key task for the gala. Instead, you’re suggesting ways that you can still be a valuable and contributing member to your group without offering up your friends list on a silver platter.
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Let me make this crystal clear: Just because you donate your time and energy to a cause does not mean that you are obligated to share your contacts with that cause. This is a mistake many nonprofits make when bringing on millennial volunteers. They think that just because we’re the most connected generation means that we’re 100 perfect comfortable sharing everything with everyone at all times. It’s a false expectation, and not one that you’re obligated to affirm.
THIS WEEK’S SECOND QUESTION:
I have a bunch of clothing to donate. Is it cool if I just dump it in that big bin on the corner of the street that says “Clothing and Shoe Donations”?
RUN AWAY FROM THE BIN!
Most of these bins are outright scams. For-profit companies set the bins up with intentionally misleading signage to convince well-meaning donors that the clothing goes to charity, when in fact the company is gathering up your cardigans and overalls and selling them for a profit.
Goodwill does still operate some legit bins, but even they’re getting out of the game because of how many illegal clothing bins are out there nowadays. Your best bet is to take your clothing to a reputable nonprofit — if you’re in Philly, Broad Street Ministry, Career Wardrobe or Philly AIDS Thrift would all thank ye kindly.
If it is not feasible to go directly to the donation site, then at least check up on the legitimacy of the bins. Call the nonprofit that is listed on the side of the bin to ascertain that they are indeed a nonprofit and then do your due diligence. Heck, I would even call the nonprofit and specifically ask, “Do you have a drop-off bin for donations at the corner of This and That,” just to make extra-double-sure I’m not being scammed.
THIS WEEK’S THIRD (!) QUESTION:
Why aren’t more celebrities donating to #BlackLivesMatter, considering how many of them are tweeting about it? If they wanted to do something, they’d put their money where their mouth is.
Celebrity donations seem to be a tricky thing. Full disclosure, I think anyone who has been blessed to make so much money that they have multiple mansions in various countries should be giving a substantial amount to charity, but I’m also not super-duper-rich, so what do I know?
For every celebrity that wants to make a public display of his/her/their philanthropy in order to encourage other celebrities to give more, there is one that would prefer to make a gift anonymously.
I’m pretty sure that this is one case where the “Stars … They’re Just Like Us!” trope holds true.
Philanthropists of all income levels, great and small, have varying reasons to give. Some love the recognition. Some hate it. Some want to be an example for others. Some want it to be a private endeavor. There’s no steadfast “right or wrong” way to practice personal philanthropy.
However, I’m as tired of the celebrity “cause-related” selfie as everyone else is. My assumption is that celebrities think that by posting a pic of them in an orange shirt or dumping ice on their heads they are “raising awareness” for certain issues.
Personally, I think raising awareness in this fashion without donating time or money in a meaningful way is just using someone else’s pain to further your own personal brand. But again … we don’t know. Maybe these celebrities are all making anonymous gifts using Donor Advised Funds or other tactics. It’s possible.-30-
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