Giving in the Present: Lessons from our “Women in Philanthropy” Event

By Sam Cavalcanti, YDP

From a distance, one might underestimate a poolside luncheon, the sight of well-dressed women holding refreshing beverages under the Los Angeles sun evoking stereotypical ideas of frivolity and lightness. However, as all should be aware of, when women gather together in a room–or a brunch–they all come out stronger.

This past Friday, in honor of Women’s History Month, several of the women that help make our clubs great gathered around to exchange ideas on charitable giving, legacies, and making communities flourish. As our CEO Emily Ausbrook accurately noted in her opening words, this was the first in-person event since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic for many of its attendees, so we made it count.

The main portion of the event was a panel hosted by David Callahan, founder and editor of Inside Philanthropy, and featured three distinguished guests: Brittney Castro, leading speaker, host, and brand ambassador, Jen Kenning, CEO and co-founder of Align Impact, and Cindy Leuty Jones, a former respiratory therapist, a model and actress and a top selling real estate agent, and co-founder of our Mar Vista Gardens (MVG) site. With such a variety of backgrounds and experiences, the panelists provided memorable insights on philanthropy and finance.

Castro, who has been a certified financial planner for over fifteen years, pointed out female philanthropists’ natural impulse to give back, but she encourages her clients to make charitable donations monthly and channels that impulse in them regardless of gender. This giving leads to what she referred to as an “abundance mentality”, which helps one prosper by helping others do the same through grateful giving.

One does not have to be wealthy to give back to their community, either. Leuty Jones, who grew up in inner city Kansas City, “didn’t know she was poor” as child, partly because her family was always helping their community and giving back– what she titled the “fluidity of kindness” with which she carries her philanthropic endeavors in the present. Now she considers herself a “mother of six hundred kids”, touching the lives of the club’s children not just financially, but on a personal and approachable level.

As Kenning emphasized, “do the charitable giving while you are still around.” Impact investing, for which she advocates, is the idea of making financial investments that yield not just economic return, but societal/environmental return as well. To write a check and forget about it, however, is not how these women operate. When Kenning advises other to engage in impact investment, she asks them a simple, yet personal question:

“If you could move the needle on one thing in society, what would it be?”

We at the Santa Monica Boys and Girls Clubs aim to move the needle on our children’s futures by providing them–especially those who need it most– with the resources and guidance to be ambitious, caring, and confident leaders. After all, as Leuty Jones pointed out, children are “twenty-five percent of the population, but one-hundred percent of the future.”