I started Youth Design, which came to Boston; it focused on our neighbourhoods and our communities. And it was a very simple idea: to take the universe that I knew, which was design, and all these people that had their own businesses or were working for large corporations, and engaging them and challenging them to roll up their sleeves and mentor young people that had no idea that they could pursue careers in design.
There are two camps that are both great. One is you can just provide financial support to things that resonate with you whether it is a cause, or an organization, or even a leader that is doing something remarkable that you want to support. The other category is if something intrigues you, inspires you, or you see a huge problem, do not be afraid to go to the root of the problem and understand it, and meet the people, and take off, you know, any kind of armour that you have, or fear about getting involved.
Young people are engaged now that they can actually make a difference in lots of different ways. If you have a strategic mind can engage across the board, and that just gets you to success faster. Whereas if you have to wait until you retire, and then start this work, that is a much smaller window.
Some people reinvent themselves as they get older, or they might not have had a life passion that was their career, so that is different, but do not underestimate that if your life-long experiences doing something, say you have been sailing your whole life, to me it would make sense to work with community boating. You know, and talk about like, what sailing has meant in your life. That is real, and it is authentic, you can go really deep from your own experiences and share. A lot of designers volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, do community work, they are active in their church groups, their natural, but they did not know that they could actually volunteer with their design skills as mentors. And that is almost like bringing it into their world and turning on a whole new switch that has never been tapped into before.
My best advice to someone that is starting out with philanthropy is to just do it. And then when you hit a roadblock, reach out to your network, and if they do not have the answers, they will turn you on to someone who does. Focus on what you know, and you should go deep and really learn and absorb, and get as smart as you can, because then you can be a really effective support system. Because it will change your life, and then it will not feel like philanthropy, it will feel like you are part of a movement or a solution.