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March 14, 2002 - Blacktie panel: Getting Youth Involved

Where: Marriott City Center

When: March 14, 2002

Host(s): Blacktie-Denver.com and Marriott City Center

EMCEE: Kenton Kuhn of Blacktie-Denver.com

Attendance: 85

Information: 303.832.2903


 Ann Sparks, left, and Rachel Hennig suggested strategies for getting 20-somethings involved in philanthropy
Ann Sparks, left, and Rachel Hennig suggested strategies for getting 20-somethings involved in philanthropy

By Julie Hullverson

Staff members from 50 nonprofit organizations braved the cold and headed downtown March 14 to attend the second in a series of seminars hosted by Blacktie-Denver.com.

The topic was how nonprofits can capture the hearts, minds and wallets of the next generation of givers.

Four panelists took turns speaking, then answered questions from the audience.

First to take the podium was Rachel Hennig, the 23-year-old founder of a technology company called Catalyst Search. Rachel suggested that to grab the attention of her peers, it’s important to utilize technology, especially when it comes to invitations.

“I’m very technology oriented” she says, “So I’m much more likely to respond to an online, email invitation – especially if it is eye-catching and allows me to RSVP directly online.”

Secondly, she said, “Focus your marketing dollars; advertise in the bars and restaurants where we hang out, like Sullivan's, Sushi Den, Tamayo and the Chop House, and in the publications that we like to read like the Denver Business Journal, Westword, 5280 and the local newspapers. Many of my friends are members of the Young Entrepreneurs Association and a variety of Chamber of Commerce Groups. The younger generation of givers in Denver is a small target and pretty easy to hit.”

Next, Ann Sparks, associate vice president of investments at AG Edwards and a founding member of Social Venture Partners Denver took the podium. She suggested that the key to success in getting younger people involved is to make the fees for memberships and parties low, and to take on as many partners as possible.

Ed Gruben, an investment specialist and a member of the Board of Directors of Safehouse Denver, has raised a lot of money for Safehouse by throwing parties and hosting events around town and charging a small fee at the door. Have a cash bar so that the venue makes some money, he said. “Allow younger people to plan the parties, choose the theme and make the musical decisions.”

"Utilize venues that will allow you to throw a party for free. There are so many of them who are willing to do this because it brings people to the location and yet they still make a profit off of the bar.”

Amy Venturi, a senior account manager with Sander/GBSM, founded the Generations Cancer Foundation after losing many family members and friends to cancer.

Last year, the inaugural fund-raising event for Generations Cancer -- called "Sake, Sushi and Sumo" -- was a huge success, with an attendance of 1,300. It raised over $70,000 for cancer research.

Getting people involved is the trick, she said. “First, give everyone on your committee a real responsibility. Take the time to teach people a specific job so that they feel involved."

Secondly, hold organizational meetings at 6:30 p.m., not in the middle of the day. Young singles are often in jobs where they cannot leave in the middle of the day to attend a meeting.

Stress the cause behind the event, she added. For example, Generations Cancer printed cancer-fighting tips on all of its PR material and at the actual event.

"Third, make sure the event is cool and appeals to your target audience. People aren’t going to come if the theme is out of date. You have to ask the younger generation what they like, then hire a band that you know people will actually pay to see."

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