Tag Archives: SparkNYC members

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.


Member Profile – Ellen Goldwasser

Ellen Goldwasser is a counselor with an NYC organization called Esperanza, an alternative to incarceration program dedicated to youth, families, and communities. Esperanza began as a demonstration project of the Vera Institute of Justice, and now works to find ways to reduce reliance on out-of-home placement for youth who are adjudicated delinquent in the family court system. Ellen provides therapeutic services to youth and their families, including assessments, intensive family and individual counseling, and crisis intervention.

Ellen’s Spark Story

Before moving to NYC to complete her master’s in social work at Columbia University, Ellen worked at Minami Tamaki, LLP, in San Francisco. One day she was chatting with her co-worker (Steve Ngo) about her interest in women’s rights organizations and he told her she needed to get involved in Spark. Ellen reached out to Spark’s Executive Director, Shannon, and over the next couple of years she joined the investment committee, the Black and Pink Ball committee, and the Spark Champions. When Jenn Wilcox and Ellen moved out to New York around the same time, they were thrilled that there was so much interest in creating a Spark affiliate in NYC.

Favorite Grantee?

YWCHAC – Spark’s first New York grantee. Ellen particularly likes the WE SPEAK program (Women Empowered Support Protect Educate Advocate and Know), which holds weekly events and teaches young women in New York City the skills to empower themselves and to advocate for better sex education programs in New York City Schools.

Why Spark?

Ellen believes that Spark does critical work, both by partnering with and awarding small grants to women’s organizations that might otherwise be overlooked, and also by creating awareness about important issues that impact women locally and globally. She loves the fact that Spark is so democratic and that the leadership is very open to new ideas.

Questions by Proust – Answers by Ellen

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being super busy, surrounded by people I love.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Training my puppy – although it never quite ends, the early stage is the biggest test of patience.

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

Oh man, if I could fly…

What is your most marked characteristic?

Aside from my interpretive hearing, I’m very adventurous – I’m always up for anything.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

A giraffe – they’re so tall and stoic AND they barely require any sleep!

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

Reliability and trustworthiness. Humor is a great plus, but it’s most important to me to be able to count on someone.

What is your favorite journey?

The summer after I finished college, my sister and I traveled around Africa and Europe for four months, sightseeing and visiting friends. It was one of my favorite experiences and allowed for a lot of sister-bonding time!

Who are your heroes in real life?

Two of the most incredible women I have ever met: Maya Angelou and my grandmother, Lizie Goldwasser.

Member Profile – Jenn Wilcox

This is Jenn.

Jenn Wilcox works for Summit Rock Advisors, an NYC-based investment management firm that provides financial advice and portfolio management to US-based charitable institutions and wealthy, philanthropic families.

Prior to joining Summit Rock in 2010, Jenn spent two years in San Francisco as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, working with public sector entities and municipalities. She graduated from Pomona College in 2008. Jenn has been a board member since 2010, and she founded SparkNYC in 2010 when she moved from San Francisco to New York. Jenn also serves on the Board of Trustees for Pomona College, and on the Social Investment Council for Echoing Green.

Jenn’s Spark Story

After reading an article in the New York Times Magazine about wealthy women directing their philanthropic dollars to issues affecting women and girls, Jenn was inspired. After a few Google searches, Jenn found Women’s Funding Network, a collaborative philanthropic network that connects and strengthens organizations that fund women’s solutions across the globe. In their member directory, Jenn found Spark. She showed up to Spark event, and the rest was history!

Favorite grantee?

Young Women of Color HIV/Aids Coalition (YWCHAC), Spark’s first New York-based grantee

Why Spark?

Spark, to Jenn, represents a thoughtful community of people that she likes, respects, and admires, with whom she can discuss serious issues in the world. As a result of her time with Spark, Jenn has gained an incredible amount of knowledge and insight on women’s issues. Additionally, she’s gained a sense of responsibility and leadership, and a genuine, first-hand belief in Spark’s model.

Oh, and she met her fiancé at Spark event!

Questions by Proust – Answers by Jenn

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Sleeping in with nothing on my schedule

Which talent would you most like to have?

The power to stop time

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Maintaining interest and curiosity in the world, even when I am busy and tired

What is your most marked characteristic?

I am incredibly energetic. Some say I can compete with the Energizer Bunny.

What is the quality you most like in a man?


What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Empathy. Why would they be different?

What do you most value in your friends?

Sincerity and forgiveness

What are you favorite writers?

Dave Eggers, Jonathan Safran Foer, David Foster Wallace

What is it that you most dislike?

Being clad in anything with buttons, Velcro, elastic, or a zipper from the waist down and disorganization

Member Profile – Jack Berglund

ImageThis is Jack.

Jack was working for Thomson Reuters as a Product Manager in New York, and recently left the city after 8 years to cultivate his yodeling skills in Switzerland. He has been attending SparkNYC Investment Committee meetings for the last 18 months.

Jack’s Spark Story

Jack knew Ellen Goldwasser, Chair of the SparkNYC Investment Committee, through a mutual friend in San Francisco, and she convinced him to go to an Investment Committee meeting. He was duly impressed by Spark’s mission and loved the approach to finding innovative charities both locally and worldwide.

Favorite grantee?

Young Women of Color HIV/Aids Coalition (YWCHAC), Spark’s first New York-based grantee

Why Spark?

From Spark, Jack gained a true appreciation of many issues facing women worldwide, and a sense of satisfaction from playing a small part in addressing some of those issues. Also, the inclusive atmosphere, and enthusiastic and dynamic people

Favorite Muffin?


What Jack will miss most?

The people

A Note From Jack

A huge thank you to everyone at Spark for making me feel so welcome. I’ll miss you all! I’ll make sure to say Hi whenever I’m back in New York. Look me up if you’re ever in Europe or need a place to stay in Switzerland. I’ll be following the progress of the grantees from afar. Keep up the good work. Spark, you’re awesome!