Cultivating Young Members & Donors

Earlier this month, Katie Muller represented Fairmount Ventures at the Women’s Collective Giving Grantmakers Network National Leadership Forum. Below, she shares her insights from the conference.

From March 12-14, 250 women from across the country gathered in Jacksonville, Florida to celebrate and discuss the power of collective giving grantmaking. In this model, individuals pool their money into a fund and, together, oversee a professional grantmaking process that awards funding to outstanding nonprofit organizations. Locally, the organization known for this model is Impact100 Philadelphia (of which I am a member and Fellow), but there are dozens of other organizations like it across the country.


Photo courtesy of the Women’s Collective Giving Grantmakers Network

The conference program included a list of impressive presenters, with plenary speakers from the Bezos Family Foundation and the Ms. Foundation for Women. I spoke on a panel about strategies for engaging young women in collective giving organizations, although my recommendations hold true for almost any nonprofit organization trying to involve younger adults as members or donors.

During my session and throughout the conference, I shared that organizations are most successful in attracting and retaining young professionals when they:

  • Provide opportunities for meaningful interaction. Millennials want to be more than check-writers. Involve them in volunteer opportunities and social, educational, or networking events so they can forge relationships with the organization, its supporters, and the people who benefit from its work.
  • Don’t shy away from taking a stance. Increasingly, millennials see their giving as political. Move from a charity mindset to promoting justice, equity, and activism. Position your organization as part of a greater cause.
  • Embrace diversity. Young people do not want to hear about your commitment to diversity, they want to see it— on your Board and staff rosters, within your membership, and across your partners. Create an inclusive, welcoming environment for people from diverse backgrounds and incorporate their feedback into what you do.
  • Make it easy to give. Be sure you have options to give that are accessible to young people who are early in their careers. Add discounted “young professional” price options for events or membership. Let donors and members pay month-to-month instead of up front, and harness technology like text-to-give and online platforms to make it convenient for them.
  • Show results. Although you shouldn’t retire your emotional appeals, younger adults tend to focus on measurable outcomes more than older generations. Millennial donors want to see their impact and need to know your organization is moving the needle in a concrete way.

Stay tuned for next year’s Women’s Collective Giving Grantmakers Network conference, which will be held right here in Philadelphia!

Get to Know Fairmount Ventures: Nicole Meyenberg, VP & Partner

We’re back with another edition of ‘Get to Know Fairmount Ventures’, a series of short Q+A’s with our team members, showcasing the many passions and personalities behind our firm.

Nicole MeyenbergNicole Meyenberg, Vice President & Partner, enjoys playing multiple roles at the firm to help nonprofits sustain and grow their work. From resource development planning to program design, her strategies are a major factor in the service offerings that Fairmount provides to its clients. Nicole has an undergraduate degree in Political Science and Religious Studies from the Pennsylvania State University, and a Master’s in Urban Education from Temple University.

FV: You’ve enjoyed a number of successful years at Fairmount Ventures—how has the organization, and subsequently, your role, evolved over the course of your tenure?

NM: My role evolved significantly over the past 10 years. I started as a Project Manager (though the title was different then) and now I’m a Partner. I’ve certainly become a more sophisticated thinker and strategist in that time and the nature of Fairmount’s collaborative, solutions-oriented work means each week I know more than I did the week before. This means each new client benefits from everything I’ve learned from my previous clients.

FV: What does a typical day look like for you?

NM: I’m a morning person – I wake up early, push myself hard during my morning workout, and start working when I get on the train at 7AM. It’s not uncommon to have my best ideas during those train rides, so that’s a pretty great way to start the work day. Beyond that every day is a mix – strategy calls with clients, project planning with the Fairmount team, running a small business. And writing, lots of writing.

FV: Throughout the various stages of helping your clients grow and sustain their work, what aspect of your job never fails to excite you?

NM: I’ll answer that question slightly differently and share three moments that I love each and every time:

  1. Learning about a new client.
  2. Writing to a prospective donor in the voice of the client’s committee member who knows the prospect.
  3. Facilitating a messy program design meeting, especially if it involves partners from a few different organizations.

FV: What’s one of the most memorable projects you’ve been involved in, and why?

NM: I have two that are so exceptional – and different from one another – that it’s fair to share both.

President Obama’s Recovery Act established Investing in Innovation which had its inaugural and highly-anticipated funding round in 2010. I worked with Children’s Literacy Initiative to write an application that won them $20M to serve many more teachers in several US cities and prove (or validate, to use the Department of Education’s language) their approach works. Five years later they asked me to review another application to the same funding stream (then known as i3) to take their proven intervention to the next level of scale, which meant establishing hubs in new cities across the nation. They received another $19M to do that. The organization, children in school districts throughout the nation, and the entire field are better off as a result.

There’s a lake in Strawberry Mansion that’s been fenced off for more than 40 years. I’ve helped Philadelphia Outward Bound School and National Audubon Society reach their $18M fundraising goal to build a nature education on that lake. They have an amazing committee – smart, committed, and a lot of fun. The energy behind the project is unique, it feels like a true team effort, and, in the end, Philadelphia will have a phenomenal physical resource that doesn’t exist today.

FV: What are some of your favorite things about the city?

NM: Right now I’m especially struck that there are so many people in and near Philadelphia who will speak their mind and stand up for what’s right.

The Proof is in the Planting

PHS show

PHS celebrates Holland at the 2017 Flower Show. (Photo courtesy of PHS)

This week, an estimated 255,000 attendees will explore the 10 acres of exhibition space at the 2017 PHS Philadelphia Flower Show. The oldest and most renowned horticultural event in the United States, landscape and floral designers from around the globe create brilliant displays to the delight of Flower Show guests. The proceeds from the annual convention go directly to support additional PHS programming and other initiatives. And while the Philadelphia Flower Show is undeniably the most visible demonstration of the society’s work and impact, there is more to PHS (Pennsylvania Horticultural Society) than just sensational spring flora.

You may not know that PHS also drives the Philadelphia LandCare program, which works to “green” vacant lots throughout the city – that is, cleaning up unsightly and unused properties that detract from the surrounding communities, and transforming them into sustainable community assets. To date, Philadelphia LandCare has greened nearly one-third of the city’s vacant lots: 12,000 of a total 38,000. It’s planted 32,000 trees, created numerous green jobs, and works with returning citizens to double as an effective anti-recidivism program. In fact, Philadelphia LandCare is so successful, estimates show that for every $1 the city spends on greening vacant lots, it sees a $26 ROI to the taxpayer and $333 to society as a whole.


A PHS LandCare refurbished lot brings green space and an even greater return to an urban Philadelphia neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of PHS)

Fairmount Ventures’ relationship with PHS has roots that have deepened over our 25 years in business. We supported the LandCare initiative in the mid-1990s through a major cost-benefit analysis demonstrating the positive impact that cleaning and greening lots would have on the city’s budget and why it would be a good investment. Our analysis resulted in significant annual funding of the PHS LandCare program by the city. While we always knew the program was the real deal, we never dreamed its impact would be this far-reaching. So, as we prepare to once again be awestruck by a phenomenal Flower Show, we’d like to toss the bouquet to PHS. To witness the massive public benefit incurred by beautifying Philadelphia is astounding, and as PHS continues to grow and serve, we at Fairmount Ventures cannot wait to see what will next be in bloom.