As a successful young professional, it is both my responsibility and privilege to give my time, talents, and financial resources to improve the lives of others. But what if you, like me, don’t have large financial resources or much extra time to give? If you’re a young and driven professional, what you likely have is energy and creativity, so, when considering your personal philanthropy, it’s never too early to start thinking about how to be innovative and strategic in the way you spend your time and money to help outstanding organizations like Easter Seals Greater Houston.
It’s critical for community organizations like ESGH to tap into the creative thinking of young professionals in their area. Not only do young professionals have the ability to bring about bold and innovative efforts through new approaches to persistent problems, but we represent the future base of volunteers and donors for the organization.
I chose to spend my time with ESGH because I grew up friends with and babysitting for a sweet family whose youngest child has a disability. Robert, now a teenager, and his family taught me so much over the years about how a physical disability is a challenge – but not a barrier – to living life to the fullest. Once I learned more about ESGH, I wanted to bring my strengths to the table to better the lives of children and families like Robert’s. I believed that creating a young professionals model of giving within the organization would open new doors and change how my peers view philanthropy, so I helped to establish the Young Urban Professionals of Easter Seals, a group within Easter Seals that was formed to support the organization in accomplishing its mission – to provide exceptional services for people with disabilities and their families, so that they can live, work, learn and play in their community – in a new way. This new and, frankly, fun group gives young Houstonians the opportunity to meet and socialize with other socially conscious individuals, help raise money for the organization, and increase Easter Seals’ volunteer base. Members not only learn about ways to volunteer within the organization, but they also have the opportunity to fundraise simply by attending one of our many social events like The Bash – A Halloween Happening and many others. Net proceeds of all fundraising activities of YUPES are contributed to the programs of Easter Seals. And, I’m pretty sure several of my single girlfriends have gotten dates out of these events. (I’m a sucker for multi-tasking.)
YUPES has created an energetic group of community members who are starting to think more strategically about philanthropy. We’re a group that thinks big and doesn’t settle for the status-quo. We see the value of seeking transformational and lasting changes in our community through entrepreneurial approaches. YUPES has been and will continue to be a forum where we can educate each other on effective philanthropic methods, take an active role in leading innovative community projects and initiatives, and start giving back on our own terms.
Young professionals, please heed this: strategic philanthropy is not just for wealthy donors or people willing to cross continents for a living. As future leaders, we can lay a path now for us to see positive change in our lifetimes. Better, faster, stronger. All it takes is a little strategic thinking and a dose of youthful creativity to have a powerful impact on our communities.
The Importance of Early Strategic Philanthropy – by Meredith Johnson, YUPES Board Member