For the first feature in Political Style's Philanthropic column, I'm delighted to feature an exclusive interview with Elizabeth Kane, founder of CharityChicks US. Read on for an insight into how the charity was founded, the work it carries out across the US and top tips for starting your own philanthropic mission.
Why did you want to start a philanthropic group in the DC area? How did you found CharityChicks US?
I began CharityChicks US out of frustration; frustration at a lack of opportunities for smart, young, educated people to be able to get involved with charities in exciting ways that aligned with their skills, passions, and interests. As a college student at GWU involved in philanthropy, I saw a lot of room for improvement on the level of respect and confidence that non-profits gave young people. What most non-profits do not realize is that a majority of the time young professionals are not interested in one specific cause, they are interested in feeling connected to their community, meeting new people, networking, gaining leadership experience, and feeling fulfilled. The successful charities realize these driving forces and have responded by creating junior boards, event committees that host marvelous parties (aka fundraisers), and continually creating new ways to engage this audience through social media.
Which existing charities did you seek inspiration from?
There was no specific charity that inspired me. It was dynamic people, shaking things up and following their inimitable vision, who truly inspired me to continue building CharityChicks US. When I connect with someone who understands me and is just a little bit “too much” it is exciting, and makes me want to continue being exactly who I am, and taking every opportunity to grow.
How are you unique from existing philanthropic missions?
Most often people think of charity work as something that is good and that they should do, but comes last on their to-do list. We are unique because we are changing the way people think of “giving back.” We connect, engage, and inspire young professionals without working for or on behalf of one specific non-profit or corporation. Put very simply, we connect. Another facet of CharityChicks US that sets us apart is the fact that we want people to copy us! We share our ideas, contacts, and events with the public because everything we do is either helping individuals feel more connected to their community, or furthering a charitable mission we believe in.
How are you serving the DC area, as well as having an impact further afield?
We are located in Washington, D.C., but also have a team in New York City. The primary way we serve D.C., NYC, and other areas of the world is by building lasting and mutually beneficial relationships. We function in three ways. The first is connecting individuals to non-profits, the second is connecting corporations to non-profits, and the third is connecting the communities to non-profits. We receive requests from individuals looking to become involved or more involved in philanthropy, corporations looking to sponsor, fund, or partner with a non-profit that aligns with their mission, and non-profits requesting help in a variety of areas that assist with.
What are your upcoming fundraising projects and events?
We definitely believe in “funding the change!” Our top three events this year are the VIP Pink Party supporting The Children’s Inn at NIH, Charity:Water Birthday Bashes in order to fund clean water wells in remote areas of the world with lack of access to clean drinking water, and Cycle for Survival which benefits Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
- The VIP Pink Party - Our annual garden party to benefit a different local cancer treatment center each year. Last year we supported Inova's Life with Cancer Center. and this year, on July 27th we will be supporting The Children's Inn at NIH with an "Art, Culture & All Things Pink" theme. Our goal for this event is to increase visibility for The Inn among young professionals and create a fun garden party for some very deserving little girls from NIH. Tickets can be purchased here: http://www.modernluxury.com/dc/events/vip-pink-party-art-culture-all-things-pink
- Charity: Water Campaign - We are dedicated to funding a clean water well for the New York -based non-profit, charity: water. On July 11th, we held a birthday bash/fundraiser for our DC group at The Huxley and will be hosting another event this August in NYC to finish funding the well, which will most likely be in India.
- Cycle for Survival is annual event that we fundraise for in Washington, DC, which benefits Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, one of the premiere cancer research centers in the United States. This February, we raised nearly $12,000 - more than large firms like The Carlyle Group! Next year we will have teams in two states (Boston and NYC) and one in DC. Next year will be our third year participating.
How can potential volunteers interested in making a difference take inspiration from what CharityChicks US is doing in DC?
The message I would like potential volunteers to take away from what we are doing is that they should also focus on what they want to do, not what they think they should. Remain true to your passions, and if what you want to do doesn’t exist, then create it. You can also contact us and we can help point you in the right direction for what you want to do. Follow us on twitter @CharityChicksUS, or email us at email@example.com. We also have an internship application on our website: fundthechange.com.
Where do you hope CharityChicks US will be in five years time?
Evolved into an even more impactful organization, and achieving our mission on a much larger scale.
Which philanthropists do you admire and seek inspiration from?
Two come to mind immediately; Margaret Thatcher and Alexandra Stoddard. Thatcher was a smart, strong, and driven woman who also had a love for causes related to children and cancer, two which I find myself continually involved in. She was also fearless and knew how to protect her inner energy, which I find inspiring. I always try to remember what she said, “If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise at anytime and would never achieve anything.” Alexandra Stoddard, although not known as a philanthropist truly is. It is my belief that philanthropy does not only encompass the good deeds you may do for others, but rather the way in which you view yourself and the world around you. Stoddard is a woman who loves the world, and as she says, “What we do today, right now, will have an accumulated effect on all our tomorrows.” What is more philanthropic than teaching people the art of self-love? After all, you can’t change anything else if can’t change yourself.
What advice would you give to other individuals thinking about setting up their own philanthropic organization?
Research. First, make sure that your mission is not the same, or similar to another organization. If it is, then I would highly consider joining forces in order to create the most impact. I would also look within and really think about the reasons you want to establish the organization, and make sure you have the following: time, mentors, and lots of coffee!
Do you have a charity that you would like to be featured on Political Style? Send me an email!