Tag Archives: Black and Pink

Spotlight on Caitlin Heising, Honorary Host of Spark’s Black & Pink Ball

Spark loves Millennials who are committed to philanthropy and actively making our world a more just and equitable place for all. Black & Pink Ball Honorary Host and Spark Member, Caitlin Heising epitomizes our ideals. Caitlin is actively committed to engaging young people in human rights and empowering women and girls. As an inspiration to us and the next generation of philanthropists, we wanted to learn more. We sat down with Caitlin to learn more about her journey and passions including starting the Young Professionals Network of Human Rights Watch, joining the board of her family’s foundation, and learning to fly.

Caitlin Heisign

Caitlin Heising – Honorary Host of Spark’s 10th Anniversary Black & Pink Ball

What has led you on this journey of philanthropy and social impact? 

Growing up, I watched my mom spend time volunteering in my school and tutoring underserved children in our community. During high school and college, I also tutored and mentored children from refugee families who had recently resettled in the U.S. Meeting them and hearing their stories made the problems and conflicts I’d learn about in class seem much more real and human. In college, I tried to understand how best to empower (as opposed to simply aid) individuals and communities who had been dealt an unfair hand in the world. Also around that time, my parents started our family’s foundation, which intrigued me from the start. I knew one day I would want to be deeply involved in philanthropy and social impact because I could see the improvements it was making in our community at home. Over the years, we’ve had the opportunity to deepen our impact by exploring different strategies, including funding national policy work, and that’s the other element of this work that I love – you can always do and give better, and there is always more to learn.

Why did you decide to leave the corporate world to join the board of your family’s foundation (The Heising-Simons Foundation) and learn about philanthropy?

After working for a couple years in tech PR and corporate communications consulting, I felt like I had learned a lot and wanted to pivot to a career with more social impact. I had the opportunity to join the board of the foundation and build out grantmaking focused on human rights, and the timing felt right. I know I’m still young, but I also know it’s never too early to be making an impact on the world, and I felt like working with the foundation was my best opportunity to do that. It’s also been great to spend more time with my parents (who I have to say are awesome) and learn more about their values and vision for the future.

What causes are you most passionate about and why?

I’m passionate about human rights, especially here in the U.S. According to a national study, the average American citizen, journalist and politician is unaware that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights exists. The language of human rights simply isn’t widely known in our mainstream culture. We’re seeing the effects of this apathy and long-standing systemic inequities dangerously play out all the time lately with racial profiling, police misconduct, and other violent and unjust acts making front-page news every week. And with more than two million people in prisons and jails, the U.S. has the most imprisoned people in the world. As a country that espouses freedom and human rights internationally, we have the power to influence policies in other countries as well. For the U.S. to truly assume the mantle of human rights leadership, however, we will have to practice more thoroughly at home what we preach abroad.

I’m also passionate about empowering women and girls around the world. It’s scary to think about how much still needs to be done to improve health, education, and economic opportunities for women and girls, but it’s clear that these types of investments go a long way in improving lives and communities.

Tell us more about the Human Rights Watch Young Professionals Network you launched in March?  

My friend (and fellow Spark member) Erika Gomez and I started the group to support Human Rights Watch and engage young people in human rights. We’re now a dedicated group of volunteers in the Bay Area who support HRW through outreach, advocacy, and fundraising. We work to promote awareness of human rights issues through public education events and strategic advocacy campaigns, and also nurture the next generation of philanthropists by hosting events to generate support for the organization and its mission. We’re having our inaugural art auction and cocktail party, called A Night for Human Rights, on October 16th in San Francisco – you should come!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I’d like for us to be continuing the human rights grantmaking at the foundation and I’d like to have completed an MBA program focused on social impact. I’d also like to be in a position to advise other young people and families on next gen and human rights-based philanthropy. I’m a California girl at heart, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I was still living in the Bay Area.

What advice do you have for other millennials interested in making social impact? 

Firstly, I’d commend their interest and passion! Then I would say to take time to reflect on your goals and study the issue you want to change. Meet everyone you can who is also working on that problem – including, most importantly, the people who are directly affected by it. There are a lot of trends and “shiny new things” vying for attention in the social sector. The challenge can be figuring out which approaches will have deep, lasting impact and which will only skim the surface.

What talent (or superpower!) would you like to have?


What is the quality you most like in a fellow human being?

Sense of humor and humility.

What is your favorite journey?

 This is a tough one. I love going to new places. Most recently I went to the fjords in Norway, which was absolutely beautiful. I also am nostalgic and love the drive to Tahoe for Christmas, which for many years we celebrated in my grandparents’ cabin in the woods.

Who are your heroes in real life?

I’m lucky to have three amazing grandmothers who are each very different, but all share the qualities of poise, purpose, and passion. For that and more, I aspire to live a life full of love and adventure like they have.


Five Ways to Make an Impact as a Young Philanthropist

We’ve created a great community of young philanthropists here at Spark. But getting involved in our organization isn’t the only way to be an engaged, young philanthropist. There are lots of ways to contribute to your local and global community that can have a lasting impact.

To help our Sparkles out, we’ve created a list of five ways you can get started on your path as a young philanthropist:

1)    Hours            

This is the most obvious. You don’t need a lot of money to be a young philanthropist. Find out what moves you and if you can’t give cash, give hours! Tons of organizations are ready and willing to accept volunteers eager to give their time. You will likely need to go through training, and while that may take a while, you’re guaranteed to meet some like-minded folks dedicated to improving their communities while gaining an even deeper understanding about the organization.

If you’re really keen on giving money, one way to budget it that might be easier than a one-time gift of, say, $1,000, is to donate a little bit each month. I signed up for a monthly donation to Planned Parenthood so many years ago I forget that it even pulls $20 from my bank account every month. While $240 a year doesn’t seem huge, we do know that every dollar counts; and when you consider what that number looks like after ten years – $2,400 – it’s a pretty good chunk of change towards a cause I care deeply about.

2)    Turn Gifts to You into Gifts for Others

Have a birthday, wedding, or other celebration coming up that traditionally has the host receiving gifts? Think about a donation registry instead. If you’re getting married, give your guests the option of donating to an organization or cause that’s meaningful to you. Do the same in lieu of presents at your next birthday.

3)    Talk – Digitally and in Person

I found out about Spark from my old roommate. I recruited members when I moved to New York because I couldn’t stop talking about what a great organization it is – not only did I do this one on one with friends, but by posting and promoting on social media and blogs. Virtual communication is a big part of getting the word out these days, and it can spread the cause really quickly. Talking through an organization’s mission, beneficiaries, policies, and impact can strengthen your commitment and improve the depth of your understanding of issues it addresses. Plus, you never know who in your network is equipped to and may want to make a big donation based on your inspiring and impassioned words!

4)    Start a Movement

I LOVE Spark’s origin story. A group of young women were finding it difficult to get their foot in the door in development and philanthropic spaces in the Bay Area, coming up against the Catch-22 of needing experience to get involved but not being able to get experience because they were prevented from getting involved. Did they give up? Nope. They started their own fundraising, awareness-raising, educational organization by gathering together each of their networks and friend groups, who were all hungry for the same passionate involvement, and it grew into what is now the largest millennial philanthropic member-based organization around. What’s stopping you?

5)    Party.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before…
Come to the Black and Pink! Are you too busy to figure out points #1 or #4? Nothing on the docket in terms of point #2? Too worn out from chatting to drum up the energy for #3? Well, then buy your ticket for the Black and Pink here, re-energize your efforts at our soiree, and know that all the proceeds will be going to our fantastic grantees. That many of you helped select!

Five Ways to Integrate Your Passion into Your Work and Social Life

The development and non-profit space can be hard to navigate. If you’re trying to jump in without much experience, it can be overwhelming; if you’re anything like Spark’s member base, you’re also probably pretty busy. So we’re ready to help you figure out how to integrate your passion for a cause into your work and social life.

Without further ado, here are five ways you can blend your desire for impact with how you get your paycheck and how you socialize:

1)    Run for it!

Or eat for it. Many non-profits, social service organizations, and philanthropic groups would love to have you fundraise for them through something like a marathon, a triathlon, or, if running yourself ragged through exercise isn’t your thing, dining for dollars. Examples? Spark Board member Jenn Wilcox signed up for the NYC Marathon last fall as a Sole Mate for Girls on the Run, a great non-profit cultivating physical, emotional and social health for girls. The San Francisco AIDS Foundation hosts Dining Out For Life every year, in which 25% of gross sales from participating restaurants go to SFAF’s programs. So, get moving or get chowing.

2)    Read, Listen, Meet.

Commit to a once a month lecture/presentation/book club/meeting that addresses your area of philanthropic interest. The Bay Area is home to a lot of great organizations. Interested in international affairs? Grab a buddy and head to one of the World Affairs Council’s lectures. Want to talk about emerging grassroots organizations dedicated to gender equity? Come to Spark’s next Investment Committee meeting. Are you a big politico? Join the SF Young Democrats or Young Republicans (non-partisan? Start your own group!), and head to their happy hours, meet and greets, and politician profile breakdowns.

3)    Work for a big company? Look into its corporate social responsibility and/or matching program.

Many companies have a corporate social responsibility program that works to ensure its mission and practices don’t harm and actually benefit the communities it impacts. There are often ways for employees to get involved in CSR programs and even make recommendations. Bigger corporations also often have corporate matching – you tell them you made a donation to a group you feel really passionate about and they match you dollar for dollar. Check with your HR reps and see if your work digs offer this great benefit.

4)    Change Roles.

Maybe you’re tired of working for that big company and ready to make a change. Want to be working in the development or philanthropic space? Look for the person who has the career you want and find out how they got there. One way to make a transition into a career that may be very different than the one you are currently in is to show how invested you are in your burgeoning field of interests regardless of your current position. Volunteer your time meaningfully by joining organizations and committees (like the IC at Spark!), working your way up to leadership roles in those spaces, that give you a better understanding of the development and philanthropic landscape and expose you to people who already do this full-time who can help guide your way.

5)    Party.

Yep, it can be that easy. Where should you party? The Black and Pink bash, of course, where 100% of proceeds benefit Spark’s amazing grantees! Buy your tickets today before the prices go up on Thursday!