As a follow-up to our two previous posts on the overview and qualitative findings of the newest Women’s Philanthropy Institute report, “Women Give 2019: Gender and Giving Across Communities of Color,” we’re highlighting several female students and alumni from diverse backgrounds, sharing their experiences, and how those experiences can be tied to this research.
Growing up in Arizona, sophomore philanthropic studies major Judith Flores loved the natural beauty of the Southwest. She also learned about civil society early on, establishing strong connections with neighbors and community members. When SB 1070 passed, Flores, her immediate and extended family, and Latino members of the community protested against the law.
When she moved to Indianapolis in middle school, Flores found that while Hoosiers engage with civil society, it wasn’t at the same level as her community did in Arizona.
However, she began to strengthen her passion for the environment through enjoyment of the four seasons and an education of watching documentaries, including Racing Extinction and Before the Flood, with her family.
“These films made me realize that if nothing is done to protect the environment in its current situation, we won’t have these amazing plants and animals to show future generations,” Flores said.
According to the report, women began experiencing philanthropy through various pathways during their childhood.
Flores encountered hers through community action within civil society, as well as education about environmental issues, which matches with the report’s insights about early family influences and local community observations.
She also began developing enthusiasm for philanthropy at a young age. Flores volunteered at her church, but many of the lessons she learned about philanthropy developed because of her parents’ influence. “They taught me how to care about people and how to show compassion,” she said. “When I was young, a man knocked on our door, asking for a bite to eat. My dad got up, made him a meal, and packed him a lunch and water for later.”
The report explains that giving clothes, money, food, or shelter to friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and the needy are all types of informal giving, which is difficult to measure and therefore, often left out of formal measurements of philanthropy.
“That experience, among others, showed me that if you have enough resources to go around, then why not share them with others?” Flores said.
Based on qualitative interviews from the report, interviewees from diverse communities observed volunteering, giving, and caring for others within their families and local communities at an early age and in informal ways. Many of these experiences helped them become further involved in the philanthropic sector.
When Flores began her senior year at George Washington High School, just down the road from IUPUI, she took a class called “Jobs for America’s Graduates.” The course brings in mentors from the community to discuss potential careers. When Brittany Florentine, B.A.’16, began discussing philanthropy, grantmaking, fundraising, and helping in the community, Flores immediately wanted to know more.
“I visited campus during Jag Days, and set up a meeting with Pamela (Clark) to talk about the program,” Flores said. “I was really interested so I applied and was accepted.
“It was interesting explaining to my parents, teachers, and classmates what philanthropy is. Everyone supported me though; my parents especially knew that this is what I wanted to do for my career.”
Even with her decision to major in the subject, Flores wasn’t actually sure how to define philanthropy until she arrived on campus. “I didn’t know what sectors related to philanthropy, or that even being positive or holding the door open for someone could be considered philanthropy.
“Your talents can be used to bring hope, raise awareness, or make a difference for groups of people who aren’t as fortunate,” she explained.
Interviewees from the report illustrate a broad and expansive definition of philanthropy that includes “giving back” in formal and informal ways. Giving back can guide philanthropic impulses, as it is rooted in a “sense of gratitude with a specific recognition of the opportunities” afforded to the philanthropists.
Outside of class, Flores joined the Philanthropy Ambassadors Club (PAC) and the Latino Student Association (LSA).
“In PAC, we find service opportunities or events to participate in to help other people learn about philanthropy,” she said. “I also like the social aspect of the club. We can talk about our interests because we share the same goals to help other people.”
With LSA, Flores has taken workshops and volunteered for other causes as well. She recently partook in Jagathon, an annual event to raise money for Riley Children’s Hospital.
LSA won the student organization award for the club that raised the most money.
“I participated for the first time this year, and raised $350 by offering to paint children’s faces at my mom’s gym for a small donation,” she explained. (Flores also works at the Indianapolis Zoo painting faces, combining her passions for art, conservation, and helping children).
Her education in the program has made her more aware of her abilities when it comes to using philanthropy to help and empower people. Through her participation in LSA, Flores hopes to encourage other students to understand the importance of being civically engaged and the benefits that brings not only to them, but to others in need as well.
Her engagement with LSA has helped Flores realize the importance of tying philanthropy to her heritage. “There’s a need to link philanthropy with issues that pertain specifically to the Latino community here in Indiana,” she said. “As it stands now, the relationship could be much improved.”
For now though, she’s using her status as a first generation college student to serve as a role model for her three younger siblings and fellow. “My teachers helped me to an extent, but otherwise, I got myself into college,” she said. “I’m not here because someone else pushed me to be here; I’m here because I want to excel, and I want to be a role model so my siblings can follow in my steps.”
A finding from the report illustrated the importance of giving back as a substantial way for philanthropic action within underrepresented communities. For Flores, that includes being a mentor and role model for her siblings to emulate.
In the future, Flores would like to work to protect the natural environment she’s enjoyed in Arizona and Indiana, whether that be in the U.S. or overseas: “Being around natural beauty brings joy to me. I want to help protect these natural wonders around us for generations to come.”
She also hopes to give back to the global community as well.
“I attended school in Mexico for one year in middle school, and there is so much untapped potential there in terms of resources and motivations to implement programs that help people of all socioeconomic backgrounds,” Flores said. “All that is needed is some initiative and people who know how to manage and implement strategies.
“My heritage connects me closely to Mexico, and my education drives me to give back and bring change so that more people can hopefully follow and emulate that path in the future.”
Flores hopes that incoming students and others in different countries follow their passions: “No matter how ordinary they seem or where it ends up taking them in the future, it’s important to pursue your passions to make the world a better place.”