Wanna make a difference? DON’T start your own charity.

Think grabbing talent and investment is tough for business? The same is true — and perhaps even more challenging — in philanthropic circles. Growing a charitable organization requires talent, time, funding and a mission that stays focused, but relevant. The talent/money/mindshare grab was topic A at a very cool roundtable discussion I was invited to this morning.  The speaker: Shelly Banjo, who writes the WSJ’s Donor of the Day column.  She had some good, straight talk for the crowd, who included Exec Directors, Development officers and board members at organizations like the UJA Federation, The Committee of 100 (an organization of Chinese Americans), Seeds of Peace, and tech/ed organization on whose board I sit, MOUSE.

Banjo’s advice:  your big donors aren’t getting any younger.  Enlist more of the 18-40 crowd.  Form junior committees, junior boards.  Make your message clear and something relevant.  Give the younger set a way to do more than write a check.  Use social networking, but mostly for awareness — not as a primary fundraising platform.  Take younger potential board members’ ideas seriously — this is a generation who, unlike their predecessors, made charity involvement a huge part of their education process (and, ahem, college applications).

Her best advice is something I’ll echo:  to those whose main goal in life is to “start a non-profit”:  DON’T.  There are so many avenues to make a difference, and there are so many existing organization.  Find one whose mission might jibe with yours, or whose organization might fit your initiative underneath their umbrella.

To all those budding Mark Zuckerbergs who want to make a difference and help needy kids up their tech education:  call me!  MOUSE is already making an impact and changing kids’ lives and can do so much more!   If you want to do something about dwindling music education resources in local education — gimme a shout.  I’ll put you in touch with The Grammy Foundation folks — another board I’m proud to be involved with.

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