Danielle Cohn, Executive Director, Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs
What are 3 organizations or causes people should know about in 2019?
If you look at philanthropy as social currency – contributing not only dollars, but your time and talent, how have you made philanthropy a part of your everyday life?
Philanthropy is not about the amount of money you donate, but the time, passion, amplification and connections you give that have the greatest value. The most exciting moments of philanthropy for me have been creating serendipity – connecting dots between people or organizations that just needed each other to do something even more remarkable. I work for a philanthropically minded company that organizes the largest single-day corporate volunteer event, and also carry this mindset into my personal time.
Has an act of philanthropy ever changed your life? (done by you, for you, in front of you)
Years ago, a young woman was sitting on the sidewalk outside my office building with a sign, asking for money. I invited her to grab dinner. We sat in a pizza place in the subway and she told me her story about being kicked out of the foster care system at 18, and was now homeless, and fearful of going to an adult shelter. I called Project HOME and a reporter at the Daily News to see what we could do to help her. I told her we’d be back to meet her the next day. She never showed. That moment taught me that as much as philanthropy is something people want to give, it also must be received. That young woman, Chase, could have been my niece or a neighbor's daughter. I think about her all the time.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to make a difference, but isn’t sure where to start?
It’s really inspiring to help spark, and be a part of, a philanthropically minded network.
Music. Art. Reading. Supporting local makers. Mentoring young people. Fixing houses. Teaching tech. Helping people. Everyone has a passion. If one of your personal passions can be leveraged to make a difference in someone else’s life, that’s a great starting point for where you may want to give your social currency. And you can choose to do it through a non-profit organization or directly for people who you think could use a leg up. Every person, every company, at every stage can find a way to be philanthropic, if they want to. When Nelly Arnold and I started our passion project, B.Ross, to create and curate locally made fashion products inspired by the City’s greatest moments and our favorite Philly maker Betsy Ross, we knew we wanted to pay it forward. So we found a way to give microgrants quarterly to female makers to help get a prototype made, or an LLC started, or whatever they need to take that first step.
What is something people might not know about the cause you’re devoted to?
The causes I choose to support are ones that help underdogs get a seat at the table. It just takes one key connection, one amplified story, to open doors to endless possibilities. Whether I've helped through work or on my personal time, each organization or individual has then helped someone else; they have paid it forward.