A fireside chat with Jean Case at #MDS11

Jean Case is an actively engaged philanthropist and a pioneer in the world of interactive technologies. Her career in the private sector spanned nearly two decades before she and her husband, Steve Case, created the Case Foundation in 1997. A passionate believer in all things digital and the amazing potential of technology to change the world for the better, Raymund Flandez of the Chronicle on Philanthropy sat down with Jean for a compelling conversation at today’s Millennial Donor Summit.

Raymund: You’re seen as a champion of Millennials. Why is that?

Jean: We’ve come to learn they have unique and valuable qualities. In the years of working with them we’ve learned a lot about them. There’s a stereotype that they are self-absorbed, etc. and that’s simply not true. We’ve had tremendous experiences

Raymund: Examples?

Jean: David Smith (from the earlier Cross-Generational panel) and Barbara P. Bush (latest panel). Both had tremendous vision and leadership to make it happen. Millennials all over are doing wonderful things.

Raymund: Millennials have the desire to solve a lot of problems but they don’t limit themselves to one sector. Many believe all sectors can and should solve problems. Why is that?

Jean: Millennials have access and understanding of technology that allows them to see the world differently. The social enterprise movement is breaking down the walls of the old silos we used to watch in changing the world. They’re doing it their own way.

Raymund: What’s different about Millennials?

Jean: They can pick one issue and really make it take off. We’ve seen it in AIDS efforts, World Malaria Day and more.  They’re more engaged in several causes and issues because they have access to so many of them.

Raymund: Case is known for its use of technology in giving. How can Millenials get engaged in philanthropy?

Jean: Philanthropy is for all generations and should have no limits. The power of micro donations is incredible. We’ve invested in 3 micro donation systems that have netted over $1Billion for efforts

Raymund: Have you texted to give?

Jean: We did America’s giving challenge twice, a pilot worked well and the second had 100,000 people raise $2m in 30 days. Yes, we’ve tried it to know how it works. We’re going to continue to test things, take risks and hope to break ground and help in  new ways

Raymund: Do online competitions work well?

Jean: We’re big believers in them because it allows small organizations doing incredible work to compete with large organizations spending large amounts of money on marketing.  We partnered w/ PARADE magazine and Facebook causes to get in front of Mainstreet USA and it worked!

Raymund: What’s next?

Jean: Today (this Summit) is going very well. We’ve engaged over 1000 people just today in this conversation!

Raymund: Is there a particular technology that is coming that could increase giving?

Jean: Great to have Red Cross here earlier – they’re doing cutting edge things. We think that mobile engagement is tremendously exciting as access to mobile is increasing dramatically around the world

Raymund: We’ve heard a lot of discussion about how organizations can engage Millennials. Are they doing a good job and what could they do better?

Jean : We work daily to help organizations to learn what is social media and how do you use it to engage Millennials and new technologies to help more causes. We’re making good progress but have a lot of work to do.  For example, take the great innovation of KaBOOM.  They’re using geo-location to take pictures of a park that needs a playground & using social media to determine where their next playground should be. It goes beyond giving money, it’s true engagement.

Raymund: Many know of the Buffet giving pledge. Why have you and Steve decided to give 50% of your wealth?

Jean: It was an opportunity to ‘cement’ what we’d already decided but it added a public element which we weren’t sure about. It was a huge opportunity to leverage a network of shared interest, learned who’s had what successes and struggles, how can we learn together and do more

Raymund: The Facebook founders just turned 27, should they step in?

Jean: It’s a personal decision and we celebrate all levels of giving. we don’t want people to think you have to give 50% but that everyone needs to play a role, large or small, and decide with their families what works for them.  All giving should be equally celebrated

Raymund: What advice would you give to new and/or young philanthropists

Jean: When I left the business world I thought I had to be someone different to run a foundation and be a ‘philanthropist’. The best thing we could do was to bring our core passion, our core skills and core interests and bring them to the table. It’s likely that what made us successful in the business world will help make us good philanthropists. We were in the tech world so we still invest there, just in a different way.

Raymund: How would you convince young professionals to enter philanthropy?

Jean: Millennials are diverse and fantastic at sourcing great opportunities to give, get involved, etc. Micro donations are a great way to get started. Put your toe in the water, see what your $10 or $20 could do and go from there

Raymund: When you were young, did you give and where?

Jean: Much of my personal giving when young was through faith-based giving. it was mostly because the funds went directly back into the community.  It was a really good feeling and we do things to feel good.

Raymund: Question from Twitter – nonprofit salaries are so low – how can they compete with the private sector for talent?

Jean: The salary gap problem is very real and I’ve been concerned about it for a while. Pro bono plus change – companies taking their people/resources and sending their talent into the organization. It doesn’t solve the problem but it helps the org get help that they normally couldn’t buy in the marketplace

For more follow @jeancase, @casefoundation and @raymundf23

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