MN: As a non-profit organization that has engaged over 3000 young philanthropists to participate and invest in your cause, how important is having service opportunities targeted primarily to millennials?
KW: It is very important for organizations to craft service activities that cater to millennial interests. This generation is becoming more selective about how they seek out volunteer opportunities that align with causes they support. Instead of volunteering just to say they “gave back,” young people are strategically gifting their talents, skills and donations to nonprofits that appeal to their interest. They are also proactively engaging their formal and informal networks in their cause work, using the internet as a medium to raise money, recruit volunteers and share information. If organizations and nonprofits want to keep millenials engaged, they will have to revamp the old model of broadly targeting volunteers and specifically demonstrate why getting involved is important by creating non-traditional avenues for millenials to get involved.
MN: What is your role at Capital Cause in detail, and why do you have such a passion for engaging young people in philanthropy?
KW: I currently serve as Chair of Capital Cause. My role involves managing a board of 10 changemakers, overseeing the activities of six operating committees and collaboratively setting the strategic vision and mission objectives of the organization.
The passion millennials have to change the world fuels my excitement about young philanthropy. Unlike previous generations, Millenials have been born in the age of information and many of them have taken advantage of this period in time. They have used information to research world issues, connected with people in need of charity, and mobilized for change via innovative social mediums. I believe our generation will change the world through these efforts, and I am honored to play a small role in that through my leadership with Capital Cause.
MN: How did your organization get started in September of 2009? What brought on this idea that eventually led into becoming a non-profit organization?
KW: Prior to September 2009, I led a team of young people to plan low-dollar fundraisers on behalf of a presidential candidate. Together we were able to raise nearly $250,000 and engage over 500 volunteers nationwide to support a national campaign. However, once the campaign ended and inauguration was over, some of the volunteers wanted to continue our fundraising and organizing efforts. So we met up at Busboys & Poets on K Street in Washington, DC and talked about how “next steps” would look. We rejected the idea of continuing to back a candidate because we thought it was polarizing, and decided to create an organization that was cause-focused. In the ten months following, we met twice a week to build out the vision, complete the necessary paperwork and plan for the years ahead. The result of our effort is still manifesting itself in Capital Cause today.
MN: Tell us more about what it takes for an organization to become a fiscally-sponsored 501c3 nonprofit organization.
KM: A nonprofit organization must complete their 501c3 paperwork with the IRS in order to receive tax-deductible contributions. However, generally speaking, attorneys advise that new and aspiring organizations planning to file IRS nonprofit paperwork seek fiscal-sponsorship first. Fiscal sponsorship allows new and aspiring nonprofits to use the tax deductible status of a larger nonprofit for a small fee, and for all intents and purposes act as a nonprofit organization for up to three years.
Capital Cause is fiscally-sponsored and has maintained a fiscal sponsorship relationship with a local DC nonprofit for two years. This has allowed us to incrementally fill out our IRS paperwork, and populate it with information describing what we’re actually doing as opposed to future plans that may or may not occur. This is the benefit a fiscal sponsorship provides, the flexibility to decide how you want to operate, prior to sending your “final decisions” to the IRS while simultaneously enabling donors to make tax-deductible contributions. To find out more information about obtaining fiscal sponsorship, I suggest DC Metropolitan aspiring nonprofit organizations contact Georgetown Law Center.
MN: How has the organization changed and grown over the past three years?
KW: Over the past three years, Capital Cause has grown to develop carefully-constructed programs that engage our supporters in collective giving. New programs include a new membership initiative, the Young Philanthropist Program and a skills-based volunteer initiative, the Giving Circles Projects. Our Young Philanthropists Program requires that supporters donate $30 and pledge five service hours. These contributions are then combined and competitively awarded in the form of grants to nonprofits Young Philanthropist members select. Our Giving Circles Projects connect the skills and talents of our Young Philanthropists to nonprofits in need of specialized talent to complete high-impact service projects.