Tag Archives: philanthropy

Reflections: Spark’s Philanthropic Mentorship Series Launch

Reflections by Spark Member, David Scatterday

It was a distinct pleasure to participate in the inaugural installment of Spark’s Philanthropic Mentorship Series. Worthy of a truly notable launch, we were joined by philanthropic innovators Yann Borgstedt and Antonela Notari Vischer from the Womanity Foundation.


Auspiciously, everything about the launch event of such a promising series was seamless.

First, a little about our guests: Womanity is an entrepreneurial foundation that thinks creatively to find solutions to today’s women’s empowerment challenges. Key topical areas of action include giving women and girls a voice, advancing education and opportunities, providing fellowships to emerging female social entrepreneurs.  As a man, Womanity’s founder Yann Borgstedt does not fit the traditional model of a woman’s empowerment pioneer. However, Yann understands that solving for women’s issues is a key part of solving every development issue around the globe.

Back to our scene: we were hosted in the headquarters of the Cordes Foundation, whose work is focused on alleviating global poverty and empowering women and girls to fully participate in the development of their communities.

In my mind, the event crystallized everything that is so great about Spark.

First, reinforcing its mission of empowering tomorrow’s philanthropic leaders, the event was custom-designed to engage millennials in real dialogue with real practitioners. Speaking with leading social entrepreneurs in the field triggered valuable dialogue about real solutions to pain points encountered by the aspiring millennial philanthropists and activists in the room.

Second, the event was infused by a deep sense of shared mission. While Spark and Womanity take relatively different approaches to programming and fundraising for women’s issues – it was very evident the two organizations share a deeply held common cause of empowering women around the world. This shared sense of mission added a tangible sense of relevance and urgency to the entire session’s dialogue.

Finally, over several years of involvement with Spark, I’ve realized that solving for women’s issues requires an ‘all-hands’ approach. In our increasingly globalized and resource-constrained world, every pressing social issue is a woman’s issue. Whether climate change, health care access or hunger, women are disproportionately impacted. Bringing about real change will require large-scale collective action – women and men working together to solve truly global problems.  Both Womanity and Spark are organizations that understand this and practice a large-tent approach to addressing social problems every day.

Last week’s mentorship session made me prouder than ever to be an active male, millennial philanthropist and Spark member, confirming that I, and everyone at Spark, are taking the right steps to meaningfully improve the welfare of women in this generation – and the next.

#PinTheCreep: India Combats Street Harassment with Technology

New Grantee: Safecity (registered under Red Dot Foundation)

By Spark Member Crystal Huber 

848 women are harassed, raped or killed in India every day. Women’s rights have been heavily debated in the past few years and Navi Pillay, UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, called upon India to make a profound change to end violence against women.


That’s exactly what Spark’s newest grantee, Safecity (under Red Dot Foundation), and its co-founders are aiming to do: empower girls and women to break their silence and take a stand for their personal safety by using data and technology to make public spaces safer and more accessible. Safecity is a platform to document personal experiences of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces. The crowdsourced reports are aggregated on Google Maps to show trends that prioritize locations where action needs to taken: increase community awareness, engage with local government and change infrastructure including installation of streetlights at crime-ridden intersections or modification of police patrol hours to increase presence during high-crime times. Since Dec 2012, Safecity has collected over 4,000 reports in 50 cities in India and Nepal, and educated over 1,500 people spanning the ages of 9 to 60 years of age. Safecity’s co-founders ElsaMarie, Saloni and Surya compose a dynamic, qualified and balanced team. They are launching this social change that will impact policy, infrastructure and gender equality. Safecity Safecity helps females break the silence. But the organization is doing so much more. They are engaging local communities and educating the next generation about equality and human rights. Safecity is also including men in this conversation, using easily accessible technology (Tweet #pinthecreep) and eliminating the vulnerability of allowing women’s voices to be heard by shifting the focus from the individual to the local level. A Spark grant will cover:

  • 500 children, 500 youth and 500 parents to be educated on issues of sexual harassment through approximately 60 workshops of 25 participants. Each workshop costs under $90 including materials, printing and trainer allowance. The programming has been collaborative and validated with the help of US- and India-based organizations with counselors trained through the UN’s Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre.

Pro bono needs:

  • Graphic design / Data visualization: represent the data in a more appealing and usable way. Create info graphics.
  • Data analysis: build tools to analyze the qualitative data.
  • Strategy: understand what other layers of data to add and how to reach as many people as possible.
  • Marketing support: create awareness about Safecity to the right audiences.

Email programs@sparksf.org for specific details on these opportunities. We are impressed by Safecity’s efforts but are even more enthusiastic about the deep-rooted changes this organization will make at a local and national level. The team at Safecity has embraced technology to fight a social change that we hope you’ll join too. If you are inspired by these efforts, you can help in several ways. You can support Spark’s fundraising efforts for Safecity by donating here. You can also spread the word about what a fantastic organization Safecity on social media. For more information about Safecity, visit: safecity.in.

SparkNYC Member Profile: Kanwal Jehan

Kanwal Jehan works as a Litigation Paralegal at Cooley LLP – an Spark Member: Kanwal Jehaninternational law firm that represents clients across a number of industry sectors including technology, life sciences, clean tech, real estate, financial services, retail, and energy. Kanwal graduated from St. John’s University in 2011 with a Bachelors degree in Legal Studies and a minor in Criminal Justice.

She serves on the Investment Committee for SparkNYC and Advisory Board for Turning Point for Women and Families. In her free time, she enjoys attending Zumba classes and reading fiction books. She talks to us about how she got involved with Spark, Europe and time travel.

Kanwal’s Spark Story:
My former officemate introduced me to SparkNYC and invited me to their Cocktails for a Cause event. After having a great time at the event, I met with one of the board members to learn more about Spark’s history and mission. Since then, I have fallen in love with the organization. Spark has given me the opportunity to grow as a leader and connect with amazing people. I love being a part of an organization that truly wants to help bring change for women in United States and around the world.

Who is your favorite grantee?
Women LEAD, the first and only leadership development organization for young women in Nepal.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A happy family.

What talent (or superpower!) would you like to have?
If I could time travel, that would be great. I would love to go back in time to see my childhood and spend more time with my Dad.

What is your most marked characteristic?
Determination. No matter how difficult it gets, I never give up and keep moving forward.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
A cure for all diseases.

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

What is your favorite journey?
In 2009, I studied abroad for a semester in Paris, Dublin and Rome. I had never been to Europe and this was the first time I had ever traveled on my own. I am grateful that I was able to make this trip; it taught me important life lessons that I wouldn’t have otherwise learned.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My Dad, Mom and Aunts, Martin Luther King, Hillary Clinton and Paulo Coelho.

Unraveling the Ribbon: Pinkwashing Away the Real Issues of Breast Cancer

October is colored pink. From football to cosmetics, good intentions get devoured by cause marking. This is your Spark News Digest, this week devoted to the Pink Ribbon and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Read, Discuss, Share.

Pink Ribbon Gun

Authored By Spark Fellow: Linn Hellerstrom


POLITICS: Annual Mammograms & The Feel Good War

True or False: The awareness and availability of annual screenings is a Breast Cancer victory. The truth is unclear. Writer Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, shares her research and searing insights as a cancer survivor into the limits of screening and the dangers of over treatment.

Read The Story 


GLOBAL: Breast Cancer – Going Global           

In Uganda, awareness raising begins with vocabulary. Dr.Fred Okuku, a Ugandan oncologist says: “There is no word for cancer in most Ugandan languages. A woman finds a lump in her breast, and cancer doesn’t cross her mind”.  For African women, the fight against breast cancer faces multiple challenges. Not only are resources limited, but corruption and neglect hold women back from accessing timely treatment.

Read The Story 


BUSINESS:  Pink Products – Hurting More Than helping?

Pink Ribbon labeled lipstick that causes cancer?!?! The market for these pink items isn’t all rosy. The industry is growing. Consumers beware.

Read The Story 


WOMENS RIGHTS: In The Shadow of the Pink Ribbon

The overwhelming promotion of October as the Breast Cancer Awareness Month leaves other important issues unnoticed. October is also National Domestic Violence Month. Breast cancer effects 1 in 8 women and as many as 1 in 3 women experience domestic violence.  How did violence get beat by a pink ribbon? The answer: The Pink Industry. The Proof: Smith & Wesson’s Special Edition Pink Gun benefiting Breast Cancer Awareness.

Read The Story


Interested in learning more?

Join SparkSF on Tuesday, October 29th for a special screening  and discussion of Pink Ribbons, Inc.  Tickets available HERE.

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!

The Hillary Project, Moonwalking in Pink and a Lemon Heroine

The Hillary Project, Moonwalking in Pink and a Lemon Heroine. This is your Spark News Digest.

Read, Discuss, Share.

Authored By Spark Fellow: Linn Hellerstrom


Vivienne Harr, Make A Stand, Lemon-Aid

 ENTREPRENEURSHIP: When life give you lemons, start a social enterprise. 

9 year-old philanthropist Vivienne Harr, founder of Start A Lemon-Aid Stand, doesn’t wait for summer to change the world. 365 days a year she sits curbside, selling lemonade to raise money to abolish child slavery. In just 6 months of operation, she raised over $100,000. This year she registered as a B Corp.

Read The Full Story


U.S POLITICS: Violence gets political

“The Hillary Project”, a new animated game goading the player to slap the former Secretary of State, is a bad joke – funded by a conservative Super Pac. It also reflects a bigger issue concerning the justification of violence against women. Violence against women is no laughing matter.

Read The Full Story


WOMENS RIGHTS: Gender Equality – the cheapest, fastest way to get food on the table

What’s the most cost-effective way to combat hunger? Gender Equality. Women play a big role in food production and small-scale farming around the world. When obstacles like gender discriminatory land and labor laws make it harder for women to farm, it impacts food security. Equal opportunity will end hunger.

Read The Full Story


BUSINESS: Moonwalking in heels – “Mars Explorer Barbie”

Still pink. Still disproportionate. Check out NASA’s Barbie.

Read The Full Story


GLOBAL: The “Virginity Institute” upholding the purity myth in Georgia  

Recent human rights report reveals that Georgia’s National Forensics Bureau performs as many as 200 “virginity inspections” a year. While some are used for evidence in rape and abuse cases, many families will paid up to $200 for receive a certificate confirming their daughter’s “purity”. Protesters using social media and the streets are demanding the government to end the archaic practice. In response, a member of Georgia’s gender-equality council stated, “If there’s a demand for this service, the government can’t forbid it”. 

Read The Full Story