My name is Nancy and I’ve been a longtime supporter of Foster Youth in Action both as a donor and former Board member. It all started when my daughter was in grad school writing a paper on California state law. California Youth Connection (CYC) was heavily involved in a bill that proposed to extend foster care to age 21. As she was sharing this all with me, I thought about how unique this approach was of foster youth advocating on behalf of themselves and other foster youth. I was part of a social venture organization, SV2, that was always looking for new philanthropic opportunities, so I volunteered to be the liaison with FYA as it was transitioning into its current form. That was in 2008 and it’s been remarkable to see how the seeds we planted then have yielded extraordinary connections from coast to coast.
When the Board was just forming, I often felt like a fish out of water. Since my background is in corporate consulting, I was the “troublemaker” at meetings asking for growth plans and metrics dashboards, while my fellow Board members politely stared back, not quite sure what to make of me! While no one ever admitted that I was pushy, I felt uniquely positioned to use my skills to mentor and help grow FYA’s capacity. The same advice that I gave my fellow Board members is the same advice I would tell any foster youth feeling uncertain of their potential: raise your gaze. What does that mean? Well, it’s great to celebrate the small successes you achieve along the way as they keep the momentum going when the failures inevitably arise. But if you only think you’re capable of doing so many things or changing so many minds, that’s all you will do. If you set your goals just a little higher, you’ll be amazed that they were achievable. And before you know it, you’ll have to set new goals because the previous benchmarks keep getting surpassed.
I continue to be a proud donor of Foster Youth in Action and I can’t wait to see how they’ll continue “raising their gaze” in the years to come. When friends ask me why I donate to this particular organization, I tell them it’s a simple value proposition: FYA is unique. With SV2, we were always looking at how many “points of leverage” an organization was making as a way to gauge how impactful the donor’s dollars would be. FYA represents 3 points of leverage: empowering foster youth through leadership development initiatives; filling the resource gap that challenges small state organizations from realizing their full potential; and creating lasting social change by reforming systems using the very ideas voiced by the foster youth themselves. More traditional charities only do one of these well, but it’s not as powerful as the holistic approach that FYA does every day. So, here’s to the “troublemakers” who turn their struggles into strength, and whose voices change lives. It’s an honor to support you and be your champion!