Journal 6: The End

I cannot believe it is already over. It feels as if I was just walking into the Key Club room for the first session of Main Street Philanthropy where I met Mr. Levey and received my sacred course book. This journal will act as a reflection on all my work and progress through this course as well as a look to the future. The thing I will remember most about Main Street Philanthropy will be the people. The reason I love activities like this is because it is a place to meet similar minded service lovers. Talking with others who had the same passions and visions as me was invigorating. Knowing that my concerns were not singular was comforting. A valuable lesson I learned during these weeks was how to handle my money when giving to charities. For me philanthropy has always meant doing service and giving time to a cause. Now that I earn my own funds through jobs, I want to be able to donate smartly, making sure that the money I give is being used wisely and towards the actual cause of the organization. I know that the experience I had with this course only got me more enthusiastic about donating my time and money towards causes I am concerned about. If I was to give advice to a nonprofit organization looking to receive support from a philanthropist I would say a key factor is solid communication. If an organization returns calls and emails, and has dedicated members who are willing to explain and answer questions about their cause, people are more likely to volunteer and donate. To others who are considering the Main Street Philanthropy Course– I say DO IT!!! It never hurts to try something you are curious about, or interested in, because you never know the positive results you can gain from a unique opportunity such as this. Programs like this one do not exist everywhere, and getting the chance to apart of one is quite special. I can guarantee that people of all types and interests kind find a takeaway from this course, whether thats learning more about yourself, donations, charities, worldly causes, team work or planning a fundraiser. I would rather be given $25 to keep than $250 to give away. Now I know this answer seems selfish but the reason I would rather be given funds is because when donating you get no control over where your money is going and you are not included in the process of it being used to help a cause. If I was given $25 of my own I would use it towards creating my own event to support a cause I care about. For example, last year I created a Battle of the Bands at my school on a budget of $0, lots of planning, and a great support system, and we raised over $800! It is possible that with $25 more than $250 could be raised and during the process you can have the power over where your money is going and who it is impacting. I know at the beginning of this course I would have chosen option b, to donate $250, because at first glance it seems like the better answer. But what Main Street Philanthropy gets you to do is think deeper and harder about the change one can create, and become more creative with what resources you are presented.

Journal 5: Learning From Others

This weeks class was an eye opening experience. We had a panel that two charity organization representatives attended. One was a director at the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation and the other the President of Bridge of Books Foundation. These were both two inspiring women. Hearing them speak about their involvement in the foundations, what passions they had and their future goals was moving. The women who runs Bridge of Books has given up all of her time to run this foundation completely on volunteer service. It is amazing how dedicated she is to her cause and how much of herself she puts into her foundation; it has become an integral part of her life. As someone quite interested in non-profit management as a career this is quite motivational. I have always been told that making this great passion for service of mine into my whole life would not be a safe idea. Luckily meeting people like the representative from Emmanuel Cancer Foundation gives me hope. I spoke with her and she gave me her phone number for future advice on my possible career path. I am excited to utilize her wisdom! This weekend my group also participated in our fundraiser. Erin and I walked door to door in the cold for a few hours spreading awareness about the MSP course, The Crossroads Program and the Change Bakers Mission (as well as gave out some peppermint candy canes!). Surprisingly people were happy to donate and we reached our goal of $250 within one day! Going door to door is hard work but also a rewarding experience as you get to meet lots of new people and learn about their perspectives on your cause. Whenever I see people waiting outside stores collecting money I like to donate some change to their cause as I understand their position after being in that situation many times these past four years. Lastly I interviewed my mother regarding her opinions on charity organizations and life. I learned about her childhood in India and the transition to America she made at the young age of 25. She parted wisdom about saving money, retaining culture and community, thinking beyond myself and finding happiness in my bliss. I can see the pattern we learned about in the first class about how our life experiences affect what worldly causes we become concerned about most. It was a rewarding experience learning about my mother in that perspective.

Journal 4: Doubling Up and Getting Technical

Sadly I was  sick last week and I missed the meeting. But this week I am back and better than ever with a  lot of information. A representative from Crossroads, the organization I mentioned in my last blog, will be coming to MHS on December 2nd! Their headquarters are a little south jersey so I don’t think we will be able to go visit them personally, but I know we will be able to ask them a lot of great questions when they arrive. Knowing that they support MSP and young philanthropy leaders enough to come and educate us about their cause and the steps they take to support it is inspiring. In class we learned a lot about the numbers side of charity. What the controversy can be nowadays is trusting the organizations you donate to. To be a knowledgeable donator one must make sure that their money is going directly to the cause and not into the pocket of an executive running the charity. To learn about this we looked at the form 990 for our chosen charities. By pulling information from certain columns and putting them into equations we were able to see how good the charity was about using their money wisely. Money is needed for most action to be took, and if the charity you donate to is not using their money mostly toward their cause then it is best to find another charity with the same cause (inevitably there will be one) and donate your money to them! We will be giving money from our own fundraisers soon so it is important for us to learn about this. Additionally, you need to be a smart volunteer. When you decide to volunteer for a specific charity – always do a back up check. Find out how the organization communicates with the volunteers: do the volunteers keep coming back because they like the way things are run or do they complain, how do the directors of the event inform you of your job and make sure you are doing it correctly and comfortably? These are vital questions to ask yourself when getting involved with an organization. For the Change Bakers currently, now that we have found a few charities, we are working on fundraisers. We were informed in class that when we fundraise we cannot say it is for our charities, because that will all be decided when with the class as a whole, but instead ask people to donate to the cause of Main Street Philanthropy – explain the course and show donators the articles. Currently our team is deciding between a lose change collection, selling things outside of kings and going door to door to spread awareness on our cause and ask for donations. Updates to come on how our fundraiser turns out!

Journal 3: Purpose

This week was extremely productive. With my full group  finally present we were able to get to the core of our purpose for the next few weeks. We all started to discuss what topic we would focus on for the rest of the program. From hunger, youth services and physical and mental disabilities as our main three causes we had to narrow down our goals a great deal. Our Team Purpose is now “To service our community by providing leadership for at risk kids”. Our visions are multiple but mainly “to raise  funds and awareness as well as provide hands on leadership experience for at risk children.” Our mission involves multiple steps.  First we must reach out to organizations that we support asking how we can help them through fundraisers and volunteering. Once we find a charity that is willing to use our help and that the group can work with we can start our fundraiser. The planning process for the fundraiser would include gaining permission and a location for the fundraiser and then spreading the word through announcements and flyers. Finally we would need to gather the supplies and support for the event to run smoothly. To volunteer my group would have to coordinate times to go visit youth homes ourselves. Today I had the privilege of speaking with a few representatives from Crossroads Programs. They are an organization in NJ that help kids who are homeless or in trouble. They have a few youth hostels that work 24/7 with food and support. They also work with a Foster Care system to try and find parents and guidance for at risk children. The people who work there said they would love to help MSP as well as have us help them with their holiday gift drive and even with visiting some of the girls at one of their youth homes. These first few cold calls I feel were a very positive start to hopefully a solid journey.

Journal 2: We’re All In This Together

The class is picking up speed and it is exciting. I am looking forward to how it will develop and what I will learn about myself. Today we got grouped into teams based on the causes we chose last week. (Refer to my last week’s blog post) It was interesting that the people in my group had the SAME EXACT causes as me! My team mates and I all want to create change so we named our group the Change Bakers. The bakers part was a pun to change makers and baking referred to our hunger cause. I also got to learn about my team members outside of MSP. We participated in a paper bag activity where we each had to bring in three things that represented our lives and us. The other group members brought in things like pictures from their trips around the world and sewing kits they used to help their younger siblings. It was eye opening to see how even though we believed in such similar causes we are each individual people with very different lives and interests. My group got along well and I know we will have a great eight weeks together. I love planning events and fundraising so I am pumped about the action portion of our group work. I already have an idea to hold an ice cream eating contest to raise money for my groups shared cause! I have been looking up soup kitchens and children’s specialized hospitals near us to contact about coming into a MSP meeting. I already have so many questions for charity owners and the process of running a nonprofit organization. It will be beneficial to learn the perspectives and individual stories of these nonprofit managers as well – what inspires them, what they like and how they work. Goal setting is a very positive experience; it can help make something abstract or unreachable more concrete. By picking actual organizations and making fundraising goals I can see what I am learning in class being put to use right from the start. This course is different from a normal classroom setting because it involves taking action on the things you are learning and I really appreciate that. I definitely felt less shy in class today. Especially when Mr. Levey asked me to talk about the nervousness I addressed in my last blog, I got a moment to think about why I was feeling awkward in a situation I may usually flourish. Though I may have changed through the years to be able to express myself more, I still have some of my innate worrywart-ness. I know I will get practice as this class goes on. I have been talking in front of classes all my life and this year I even got the chance to talk to a crowd of about 1000 people but I still get shaky with public speaking – it is really odd. For homework we also have to spread the word of the main street philanthropy course and be reliable sources of information on it as practice for publicizing our organizations. I told my teachers, peers and parents about MSP and they were all quite intrigued and amazed by the opportunity I am getting to experience. I feel very lucky. As always I am ready for what lies ahead!

 

Journal 1: The Beginning

I am glad there is a required writing portion to this process. Not only does being forced to blog help me organize my thoughts on this process but I also enjoy writing. I have attempted to journal in the past, everything from full blown daily stories to weekly quotes and some ventures have been more successful than others, but none consistent. I admire the idea that I can look back at these posts years from now and see how I thought about the world. Oddly, I was nervous about beginning this course. I did not realize it till I was sitting in the room, but I was. Noticing that I was suddenly uncomfortable in a room I had spent so much time, with people I admired and learning about a topic I was passionate about was puzzling. Though I like to believe I have become more confident over the years, I guess I was simply shy starting a new project. When I learned about this opportunity I felt as if it was created for me. It is a busy time right now being a senior applying to college but I still made this course a priority as I knew this class was not something to be overlooked. In the past year I have deeply contemplated nonprofit management, or event planning for a charity as a career or serious hobby. I have other passions, but I know I want to continue philanthropy otherwise I feel my life has no purpose. In class I was asked to define philanthropy on the spot and I found myself stuttering. I did not know how to respond a first. I believe I eventually answered with a shaky “philanthropy is the process of helping others, whether through time  or money, and through that process also helping yourself”. We learned in class that philanthropy is a lot more about dedication, passion and time to a cause than fundraising and money. I want to  address my reasons as to  why helping others has become such a passion for me. I have noticed a pattern in people who are involved in charitable works. They are welcoming, spirited, inspirational, and positive beings – something I strive to be. Also whether serving at the soup kitchen, talking to the lovely ladies at the nursing home or playing cards with the kids at the children’s specialized hospital I have to admit that I do these things just as much for the other person as for me. To say that I am a completely selfless person would be lying. I am, just as most humans, quite self centered. But I also have a daily goal of being positive and spreading whatever good nature I can. I do this because negative energy and innate judgement is so draining. I try not to judge as much as possible, and instead to understand others perspectives. I love listening to people’s stories, and I enjoy being there for those I care about. I am passionate about being spirited and having goals. I want to learn as much as I can about philanthropy and charitable organizations and I know this course will give me professional background knowledge on this topic. I appreciate the activity we did during our first weeks class where we had to choose six causes to support. It was a hard and depressing process choosing so few from so many. I found that the causes I chose all had to do with people. This is because I like to put a face to my cause and I want to help someone individually, be a part of a persons story and let them be a part of mine. The causes I chose also had to do with basic needs. Through all my charitable work I have always been most affected by people who do not have event heir basic needs met. My thought process is why have funds for cultural preservation and social justice when the people of these cultures and societies are dying from hunger anyway. Not to say that I do not support cultural preservation or social justice, I just believe that maybe some causes are more dire than others, but of course all must be addressed. I did not know that all the causes I would chose would have this trend of human nature. By the end of the first class I began to reflect on what this said about me. It was almost as if this cause choosing test was a personality test. It showed that I am a sociable person, that I react more to a specific persons problem that an overall statistic, that I go to the core first before cleaning up the surface. This first class already has me excited for the transformation I will go through these next few weeks. I am ready to learn and eager to make a difference.

(I have attached below a picture of my top three causes and a one sentence reason of why I chose each one)

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 11.05.53 PM