Sunday, September 30, 2012

Finding Your PASSION for Giving

Nicole, I'm very excited to be working with you on this philanthropic journey. I admire the work that you and your fellow SALTers at Valparaiso University are doing. You have raised so many important issues in your first post, and I look forward to more chronicles of your experience.

Here are three good prompts to help bring some of your philanthropic passions into focus:
  1. Describe the first gift that you made (or witnessed). What made it memorable? To whom and for what purpose?
  2. Think about the most important gift you have ever received (it doesn't have to be something tangible). Why was it special, and how does it reflect the person that you are today.
  3. Share your thoughts about the greatest challenges that the next generation will need to solve.
Now, get quiet with your notes for a while and notice any common themes or inspriations.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Social Action Leadership Team

During my time at Valparaiso University, I have had the opportunity to get involved in the Social Action Leadership Team, or SALT, a student group that works for social justice through education and service. This organization has existed on campus since the 1980s and has a long tradition of doing service-based non-profit work locally, domestically, and internationally. Though SALT has an established campus presence, the work that we do over the course of the school year is largely determined by the students who are involved in the organization at a particular time. For instance, during the fall semester, SALTers participate in focus groups which work closely with an existing non-profit organization to educate both the campus and the community about a particular injustice. The benefit in working in relatively autonomous small groups is that we actively create our own goals for the semester, including advocating, educating, fundraising, and volunteering. Through this experience, we gain the knowledge and skills necessary for non-profit work. As the mission statement reads, SALTers become “equipped to lead lives of social justice and serve as agents for positive change in their communities.”

            Effective philanthropy often starts with discerning what you are passionate about and aligning those passions with the missions of existing organizations. In order to better understand our passions and eventually choose the topics for our focus groups, the members of SALT go through an important discernment process. During one of the first meetings of the school year, we have “Passions Night” where SALTers have the opportunity to shout out the social injustices they are most passionate about changing. This may seem discouraging to have a compiled list of many of the worst injustices that occur in the world (e.g. human trafficking, environmental degradation, genocide); however, this creates a foundation for understanding the scale of the injustices that exist and also what is reasonable for us to try to change. The difficult fact is that we cannot solve every injustice. However, we do have the opportunity to make an impact on specific problems. The meeting after Passions Night, SALTers can advocate for the topics about which they are most passionate. This is an important step of the decision-making process because we get to hear about peoples’ personal experiences and get a sense of what issues matter to them. And from there, we vote – everyone in the room gets a vote and the top four responses become our focus groups. Because the topics reflect the passions of the current SALTers, there is always a wide variety in the issues chosen. This year, our focus groups for this semester are: bullying/self-esteem issues, food issues and starvation, mental health awareness, and random acts of kindness. The most interesting part of this entire process is the personal connections made through advocating for the issues. Knowing why it matters, well…matters.

~ Nicole

If you would like more information about the Social Action Leadership Team at VU, visit

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Reflections on Philanthropy from Nicole Wilken

Hello readers! My name is Nicole Wilken and I am a senior at Valparaiso University. I am studying psychology and Spanish, though I am interested in pursuing non-profit management after my graduation in May. Throughout this semester, I will be working with Andrea to share ideas about how philanthropy can be meaningful both personally and in the world. In addition to presenting my research about philanthropy, I will be chronicling my involvement in SALT (more to come). I hope you will find this information thought-provoking and relevant to your specific endeavors.

~ Nicole

Friday, September 21, 2012

Andrea Proulx Buinicki honored among BusINess Magazine's 20 under 40 for 2012

I'm proud and honored to have earned a spot among Northwest Indiana's 20 under 40, class of 2012.

I appreciate the support from Tim Scannell, president of Scannell Wealth Management, Caroline Shook, CEO of Housing Opportunities, and Lou Martinez, president of Lake Area United Way; all nominated me for one of BusINess Magazine's 20 under 40.

Check out the Giving Focus story on pp. 22-24!