By Austen Brower
Earlier this week, Brandolon, Emily and I had the opportunity to represent Growfund at MCON 2017, which was held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Over the two-day event, we were thrilled to engage with leaders, activists and social entrepreneurs from all over the country. We heard from leaders in social change on a variety of issues. Asha Curran, Chief Innovation Officer at 92nd Street Y, described how #GivingTuesday gave fundraising organizations a way to rally their communities to raise funds. Andrew Slacks of The Harry Potter Alliance spoke about bringing together fan communities to empower activists. Sarah Hemminger of Thread argued for more transformational, not transactional, relationships to create, engage, and connect diverse communities. Simon Moss, co-founder of Global Citizen, explored uniting celebrities, politicians, and local people to pursue solutions to the world’s biggest challenges.
We got to meet with other individuals doing incredible work in foundations, non-profits, companies, and social enterprises. Especially inspiring were the people my age who were just as passionate about building grassroots movements in their respective communities, like Bob, who is developing a community of peacebuilders to serve in US conflict areas, and Mary, who is using her work in a large media company’s CSR program to speak to communities all around the world. Another participant named Rachel spoke about creating opportunities for Native Americans to connect and find funding for fellowships and higher education.
WE CRAVE COMMUNITY.
The major theme of the conference was “community.” It became quickly apparent that communities are what we strive to improve, yearn to join, and activate to initiate changes we wish to see. We discussed how as a group, millennials look for higher levels of engagement within their communities. They give their time, treasure, and talents to causes they care about – and expect those same causes to use them effectively. Counting myself among this population, I do understand the yearning to make a change, the need to support causes, and the desire to work with organizations that assist the philanthropic endeavors I care about.
Thankfully, I work for Growfund. I’m excited to be a part of this team because I believe that we are changing the way donors, employees, and students can engage with causes that are important to them. We are creating a new community of strategic givers. I am given the opportunity every day to connect with individuals and organizations that are on the cutting edge of strategic philanthropy.
And our community is growing! Growfund offers so many ways to build our community of strategic givers. Our employee giving campaign uses Growfund’s payroll deduction feature to manage, grow, and distribute philanthropic gifts. With each paycheck, this tool allows me to gradually save for my giving to support efforts around peacebuilding and youth development. At any point of the year, my funds are set aside, ready to be donated. Growfund also allows me to create my own funds for these causes and invite my family, friends, and co-workers to donate through them. This way, we pool our donations through an expression of shared values, amplifying our impact and strengthening our community!
MCON made tangible my belief that communities ignite change in the world. Massive movements to affect change were discussed at MCON, but also the fact that these movements all started with one or two people.
Understanding that everyone does not have the same opportunities to give, I came away from the conference with a few steps that people can take to ignite their own workplace community. You can:
- ASK: Ask your employer about their corporate responsibility program. See if they match gifts; volunteer; inquire about new levels of involvement with your organization’s giving arm.
- ACTIVATE: If you do not have a CSR program, create ways for your company to give back. Propose starting an employee giving week, or grab a few coworkers to volunteer monthly. It may take time, but once your company sees how such efforts can support morale and productivity in your workplace, they may just begin to invest into your programming.
- GIVE IN NEW WAYS: Find platforms like Growfund which allow you to learn and be strategic about your giving. Start a campaign with your colleagues to leverage their talents, or a giving circle to support each other’s passions.
At MCON, every changemaker took the stage referencing someone who supported them. It was an amazing way to demonstrate a community coming together to make a difference!