(Photo by Albert Hong)
“How do you personally know when you’re making an impact?”
In response to this question from an audience member at the Fox School of Business’ first Philanthropy Panel of Professionals, CSR pro and PECO Corporate Contributions Manager Tiffany Tavarez regaled attendees with a personal story:
In her senior year of high school, she came into school one day and found several of her teachers holding a cupcake fundraiser. A few weeks later, one of those teachers handed her a letter to read once she got home — it turned out to be a check for around $550 meant to help Tavarez get through the rest of senior year financially.
“I was in shock because that was the first time someone who was not my blood relative helped me with something,” she said. “And I distinctly remember that feeling and I thought, ‘I won’t pay her back but every time I feel this feeling, I’m going to invest in another person, place or thing to give somebody else that feeling. … I know it’s not a relative metric, but for me, you know when you have made an impact.”
This passion to reciprocate such feelings was apparent in each of the four panelists, all of whom are Temple alumni, in the work they do within the nonprofit and CSR industries. In addition to Tavarez, the panel, which was moderated by KYW News Radio’s community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg (also a Temple alumna), included:
- Melissa Baez, women’s business center director at ASSETS Lancaster
- Jessica Lista, director of alumni relations at Temple Health
- Eric Stephenson, portfolio director at the Cordes Foundation
The intent of the panel, hosted by the Fox Student Philanthropic Society to conclude last week’s Student Philanthropy Week at Temple, was to show students what philanthropy looks like as a possible career and how students can get involved in nonprofit sectors no matter their academic background.
Here’s some of what the experts had to say:
How important was passion in turning philanthropy into a career?
Baez: “I’ll be completely honest, the nonprofit field is not glamorous — the late nights, the low pay, the stress about paying your bills. If you don’t have passion or a personal connection to keep you motivated to do this, it’s not going to work for you. … I was intentional and purposeful in deciding what I wanted to to do after graduating from Temple. I made the decision to go into a field that I cared about.”
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What are the different ways organizations can be philanthropic and how do you create opportunities for yourself to be philanthropic even in a for-profit industry?
Lista: “The way I’m philanthropic in my work is by creating these opportunities for alumni — mentoring our students, coming back to speak to prospective students, viewing résumés or being a part of a panel like this.”
Tavarez: “Philanthropy is essentially professional relationship management. … In order for you to diversify your perspective portfolio, you have to diversify the people that are in your life. As many times as you can meet someone, whether or not they’re in philanthropy, it’s very good to talk to them because you’re going to do your job better if you have that toolbox in your hand.”
Stephenson: “To me, there’s some people who, by their essence, need to roll up their sleeves and do that grassroots work, but that’s not for everybody. There’s other people who need to recognize their power and privilege and think about how they can use that to change policy that’s aligned with your values and the issues you’re trying to solve.”
Fundraising — asking for money — can be a difficult thing. How do you implement fundraising into what you do?
Tavarez: “It’s not just about asking for money. It’s about making a space uncomfortable for a moment and you being able to sit in it. … People don’t give to causes, they give to other people. In some way, you have to connect to me, like me and vice versa. … Those professional relationships end up overlapping with your personal ones in the nature of the work that you do.”
Tavarez: “Ambition without audacity is an atrocity. And what I mean by that, especially in this room, there’s never a shortage of people that I meet who have a lack of goals or lack of ambition but I think we do sometimes lack the audacity to achieve the goal. So either adjust your goal or increase your audacity.”
Lista: “With whatever you decide to do, it is very important you believe in the mission and purpose of that company you work for or whatever you’re going to do in the future, because that will only make your work more meaningful for yourself and you’ll believe you’re making a positive impact.”
Baez: “Start thinking about the impact you can give while you’re young and have the energy to do so. If you don’t find that excitement in your work, get involved in some organization or join an advisory board — you’d be surprised how many organizations are looking to hear from young people. Get involved.”
Stephenson: “Impact really is everywhere — it’s just being present in everything that you do. … Empathy without action is just unacceptable to me.”-30-
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