TG: You created involveX out of your passion for inspiring a generation to give. Can you tell us about involveX?
AO: InvolveX is a nonprofit that I co-founded in San Francisco. Basically we reach out to young professionals and help them develop habits of giving. We help them realize they can have an impact through their giving no matter what amount they give. Our goal is to open their eyes to giving opportunities that are available and help them to set giving goals for themselves.
TG: What are some of the things you have learned in starting a nonprofit?
AO: First I learned the importance of an active board. When starting an organization it is very important to set all the criteria for board members before you recruit anyone to become a member. In order to be on the board of involveX you must have giving experience. Right now we don’t have the big name board of givers, but we are working on improving that. Everyone on our board is under 40. We network a lot so we need a board that is within this target demographic.
I also learned that you should always do proof of concept research. Often you have an idea that seems like it will work, but it’s necessary to go out and start doing it instead of just thinking about it. For example, we started out by doing parties where we invited young professionals. They were parties with a nonprofit twist and we’d bring in different nonprofits to talk about needs they were addressing in the community. This approach was educational, fun for everyone and made our generation more open and accessible.
TG: Why did these young professionals attend the parties?
AO: Most said they came for the social aspect, but once they got there, their eyes were opened to the different non-profits out there. They came looking for social interaction and left knowing much more about the work of non-profits. They also left with a real sense of how their passions could be matched with the work of the non-profits.
TG: What would you say to the nonprofits who would like to see more involvement from a younger generation?
AO: You need to be very inclusive and welcome young people. Put them on committees, set goals for them that they can attain, and be very open with them in communication. If you have a website, make sure it’s easy to use and that the information is easily accessed. You should also encourage them to volunteer and be a part of the organization.
TG: You have grown up in a giving family. Have your parents involved you in their giving?
AO: I have three sisters and each of us has been given the opportunity to rotate onto the board of our parent’s foundation, First Fruit, and serve for two years. I will be rotating onto the board next. Because I am the youngest, I have had more exposure to my parent’s involvement in philanthropy because their involvement has increased over the years.
TG: Do you think your generation will make giving decisions the same way as their parents?
AO: My generation has grown up in an era where, for the most part, things have gone smoothly. We are accustomed to getting what we want and having our views matter to people. Because of this, we are used to having a say in what we do and will not be content with simply writing checks. Therefore, personal passions and involvement will be a hallmark of our giving decisions.
TG: What’s next for you in your continuing involvement in philanthropy and nonprofit work?
AO: I am applying to business school this year. I’ve always known I wanted to work in the nonprofit world and I would use a business degree to further that work.
TG: You have been attending The Gathering annual conference for several years. Why do you continue to come back each year?
AO: I’ve made many friends at The Gathering. I love the great speakers, and each time I come back I learn from a different perspective. My favorite part of the conference is the topical classes like Africa, India, etc.
TG: What can The Gathering do to encourage participation from more next generation givers?
AO: It has to start with the families. Most of us within the age range of 22-30 are involved with The Gathering through our families or family foundations. I would focus on encouraging the parents to bring their older children to the annual conference. While the next generation is in attendance, include them in the interviews and focus groups so they know that what they want to discuss will be addressed. Make sure that while you are trying to develop programs for the younger people, you are still fostering interaction between all ages. Part of the beauty of The Gathering is the interaction between the generations.