Values. We all have them. But how do you prioritize yours? And how do they drive your decision-making?
As part of its NextGen initiative, Essex County Community Foundation recently gathered its growing cohort of Millennial and GenX change-makers to answer these questions and more, and to enjoy an evening of networking, idea sharing and some incredible paella and sangria.
Founded in 2014, NextGen seeks to educate, engage and connect Essex County’s next generation of philanthropic leaders. The Foundation’s goal is that by providing the tools, resources and knowledge necessary to ensure long-term philanthropic impact, ECCF can help secure the future of local philanthropy.
“The NextGen project is near and dear to us,” ECCF President and CEO Dave Edwards told the group of more than 30 guests. “We really think you can be the leaders and change-makers in the community.”
By design, NextGen events are scheduled only a few times a year – and with a social component – to make active participation both easy and enjoyable.
“We decided to create this initiative to give back to you,” said ECCF’s Vice President for Philanthropy Carol Lavoie-Schuster, a GenX-er who heads the initiative. “We believe that by connecting and supporting you all, together, we can have a collective impact on Essex County.”
To help lay the foundation for fulfilling and strategic decision-making, Lavoie Schuster led guests through an exercise in prioritizing values using the Motivational Values Cards produced by 21/64 – a nonprofit organization that specializes in next generation and multigenerational engagement. Every guest was given a deck – with each card featuring a different value such as leadership, spirituality and compassion – and then paired off to work on prioritizing them. Spouses, friends and colleagues engaged in meaningful conversation about their personal principles. They flipped through the cards, lined them up and even spread them across the floor. Then they convened in larger groups to talk about the potential wider application of this exercise.
Participants talked about using the cards in their careers, at the holiday dinner table with extended family and with their young children.
“We actually played a version of the game with our children,” said one guest after the event. “We asked them to individually go through the cards and pick the four that they feel best represent our family's values. What was surprising to us – and also very cool – was that three of the four cards each of the kids picked were the same. We also put all of the cards on the table and talked about them and what they mean to us. We really enjoyed it.”
That feeling seemed to be universal among guests, who continued to discuss the exercise – and their roles as NextGen philanthropists – long after the paella was gone.
"It is not everyday that we have the opportunity to discuss family and individual values or philanthropy,” said Michelle Langille, a member of the NextGen steering committee. “The NextGen initiative has given us a forum for these conversations and allowed us to engage with others who are similarly committed to bettering our community."
“This is exactly the type of engagement we were hoping to create with this exercise, and with NextGen,” said Lavoie Schuster. “When people really think and talk about their values, it leads to more authentic decision-making, and that includes decisions about their philanthropy.”
For more information about becoming a part of ECCF’s NextGen initiative, please contact Carol Lavoie Schuster at email@example.com.
“Being a part of NextGen has been an amazing experience,” said Katy Langhorst, a member of the steering committee who hosted the event at her Beverly home. “We have connected with some really great people with whom we share many values and goals.”
Upcoming ECCF Events:
Oct. 28: ECCF’s Impact Essex County Launch Event, 8-9:30am, Peabody Marriott. RSVP at www.eccf.org/launch.
Nov. 15: Donor Education Event: The Wealth of Your Life: A Fresh Look at a Personal Legacy with Susan Turnbull, 5:30-7:30pm, Academy at Penguin Hall, Wenham.
Feb. 1: Donor Education Event: Engaging Your Children in Philanthropy with New York Times columnist and best-selling author of The Opposite of Spoiled, Ron Lieber, Evening, time TBD, Shore Country Day School, Beverly.
March 25: ECCF’s annual Institute for Trustees, 8am – 3:30pm, Pingree School, South Hamilton; www.eccf.org/ift.