[In the Media] The Giving Net: Service Through Philanthropy

by Ebonie Johnson Cooper


I had the great privilege of being interviewed today on The Giving Net. I’m super excited about its founder Andrea Price, and the site for two reasons: 1. the site is less than a year old and blazing trails. As a semi-finalist in the Global Echoing Green Fellowship program, the site represents the continuing diversity shift within philanthropy and social innovation. 2. the community of young professionals within black philanthropy is so dynamic! Every day I meet another young black professional committed to change, in traditional and non-traditional ways, I know we are here for such a time as this. #yesGod

Listen to today’s interview as I talk about the Friends of Ebonie journey, our upcoming Summit and truly how my passion to serve is rooted in Christ Jesus.


Get to know The Giving Net and Andrea Price:
Follow Andrea on Twitter: @A_Price1

Women Political Leaders! Yes, They Rock!

by Nicole Newman, Contributing Writer

yes we can kattomic energy

Educate a girl, and she will share her knowledge with everyone she knows.

Feed a girl, and she will feed and nurture everyone around her

Empower a girl – she’ll change the world (Unknown)

In many developing nations and in international development work, it is common to focus attention and resources on women in the community. When we invest in women we invest in the health and well being of communities and nations. Fellas, don’t worry I love y’all too but for this month which IS Women’s History Month, I wanted to write about why investing in the leadership potential and political capital of women around the globe makes sense.

If we believe that women have something to say and can bring ideas and different perspective to the public sphere, we must support their leadership development and do the work of cultivating them and supporting them on a local, national and international level!

chisholm.184.1It is impossible to deny the substantial progress women have made in government and politics nationally. Shirley Chisholm was not only the first African American woman to be elected to Congress but also the first major-party black candidate and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination! Hello!

But it doesn’t stop there. Fast forward forty or so years…Women currently hold 97 seats out of 535 in Congress. Secretary of State and former U.S. Senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton, received close to 18 million votes in her 2008 bid for the presidency. The honorable Sonia Sotomayor was the first Hispanic woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court. And former yes, Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, appeared on the national ticket as Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s running mate. All these women are examples of how hard work, dedication and a commitment to public life bears great rewards- yes, even Sarah.

Despite these stories of political success, the U.S. still ranks 90th worldwide in the percentage of women serving in the national legislature. When the 112th Congress convened in January 2011, 83 percent of its members were men. There is nothing wrong with men in leadership roles, but we must have leadership that is reflective and proportionate to our population demographics.

In honor of Women’s History month I want to lift up why I think women make great leaders:

1. Women are better communicators

Barbara Jordan. The first black woman elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction and the first southern black female elected to the United States House of Representatives.
Barbara Jordan. The first black woman elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction and the first southern black female elected to the United States House of Representatives.

Communication is key to effective leadership and traditionally women are thought to be better than men when it comes to verbalizing what they think. When was the last time you met a woman that didn’t say what was on her mind. (It’s a fact. I know this. Trust me.)

2. Women have better perspective

Women look at problems differently. Women make up half the population and reflect the consumer interests, dreams and desires of that population. The best teams are made up of a different mixture of skills and backgrounds which bring spark and innovation to organizations. See, a female perspective helps us all win.

3. Women are empathetic to the needs of others.

Hon. Sonya Sotomayor. She rocks!
Hon. Sonia Sotomayor. She rocks!

Empathy positively relates to job performance amongst employees. The ability to understand what others are feeling — to detect if they are overworked or struggling — is a skill that “clearly contributes to effective leadership. And clearly God gave to women first.

It’s not entirely fair to identify all of these qualities as uniquely female. There are men who have all of these qualities as well, but its not their month. *smile*  The world needs women leaders because when like the quote says “when you empower a woman, she will change the world”.  And we all could use a little change.

And of course, behind every great nation is a strong woman.

[GUEST POST] The Passion Behind The Gem Project, Inc.

We don’t have to say much here. Amanda Ebokosia speaks for herself! Amanda is a 25 year-old dynamic leader, leading the charge of an amazing non-profit in Newark, New Jersey. She won’t tell you but she’s also a grad student studying biomedical sciences. She just blows us away! Don’t believe us? Read her story…

In this photo, Amanda(center) and Gem Project members serve on the day of the founder's 25th birthday. They created an autism awareness PSA, through the help of Brown70Films. Photo By: Timothy Brown

At 19, I found myself with a new understanding about life and how fragile it could be. My mother, my rock and my best friend, was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. It was devastating news. I remember receiving the phone call from my mom. She described it as “nothing serious, a small lump”. She masked the severity of her diagnosis with a strong familiar voice, but I could not escape the reality– this was just happening. My mother was diagnosed with a disease that could take her life.

This reality led to a pursuit of self-awareness. It also led me to research how cancer affected my peers. I then wanted to create a project that would inform youth about issues that affected them and their communities. I did not want to create a breast cancer organization, but rather a project that would serve to bring to light youth affairs, through a series of educational enrichment programs and activities.

What started as a therapeutic outlet to help me cope with my mother’s disease turned into passion- a passion to teach and bring awareness to my community. On March 25, 2006, the  TheGemProject was born.

The first issue we addressed was breast cancer and how it affects youth and young adults. We chose to bring awareness to this cause in a different way. We did it with a traveling photo exhibit. The exhibit circulated as a ‘traveling awareness exhibit’ at participating academic institutions. The first universities to feature the showcase were the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University – Newark Campus. Traveling photo exhibits would become our signature awareness campaign and today our most recent exhibit explores the wide spectrum of beauty in our DefineRealBeautyCampaign.”

Students are engaged in developing their own speech and public debate at the Springfield Branch Newark Public Library for The Gem Project's Literacy Empowerment program.

Our breast cancer campaign planted a seed for us to grow by leaps and bounds. Since then we’ve instituted multiple projects that enforce leadership and community organizing–while simultaneously educating our youth and young adults. We’ve chanted together through our campus awareness marches, held debates and public speaking workshops through our interactive literacy programs, and built awareness quilts with our autism quilt programs.

How do we do it?

We do it with a committed team and a whole lot of passion. Passion must be found first through an organization’s founder before it can be illustrated to others.  You must believe in what you’re doing. It’s your actions that people remember. It’s your actions that will lay your organization’s foundation and purpose. Your supporters then follow your vision and see room for growth. They challenge you. They help shape your leadership for the better. In the end, this project (your project) belongs to everyone.

Interested in starting a not-for-profit?  Follow the following steps, (here).

Amanda’s tips for Founders:

  • Stay focused on your vision: Take criticism. Never settle for mediocrity, always aim to be better.
  • Learn about the field that you’re most passionate about. A competent leader is a capable leader.
  • Set your priorities: Increase your productive time. There is ample time out there to do what you love.
  • Invest in smart people: Structure a team whose skill parallels or exceeds your own.
  • Speak up: Communication is key. Be clear as glass and be transparent.  State the obvious always. What’s obvious to you, may not be obvious to others.
  • Bury Assumptions: Assuming the wrong thing will lead to a lack of professionalism in the future.
  • Invest in yourself: Read, visit seminars, get a mentor, and ask questions.
  • Be in a positive bubble: Starting anything is bold and not easy. You don’t need to be surrounded by those who will hinder your performance, life, and work.
  • Be humble and gracious: Bad personalities can spoil a brand. Be polite and always be humble.

Amanda A. Ebokosia is a freelance writer and the founder of The Gem Project, Inc.  Since its inception, the Gem Project has held over 30+ programs and has directly educated 900+ persons. Through partnerships, program distributions, and hosting at Colleges, Universities and Secondary schools, the Gem Project has affected thousands of lives. The Gem Project has been featured in: HelloGiggles, The White House Blog (Young Americans), The Star Ledger, Newark Live, Yahoo Voices, and numerous other publications. Visit them at The Gem Project  Like them on Facebook                          Follow them on Twitter   Pin them on Pinterest

For Goodness Sake! Try Something Different

We’ve been talking the last few weeks about how to give and why starting now is essential. So, it seems only right that we introduce a different way to give: Giving Circles.

Giving Circles have been around a long time. Traditionally they are made up of folks with long money- that which we know not of. But that’s okay! Now you’re going to learn how giving circles can be an option as you continue to bud as a philanthropist.

Join us for our very first live web interview in our educational series, For Goodness Sake!. That’s right, we’re taking education on giving and community engagement to another level! It’s all for you, Boo!- and it’s all FREE!

On March 27th, we’re hosting a live online interview with Tracey Webb, founder of Black Benefactors and Black Gives Back. Tracey is a sho’ nuff do-gooder who is happy to share how giving circles have enhanced her world of philanthropy. In our chat with Tracey you’ll learn: how giving circles work, how to join one, where the money goes and why now is a good time to get started. At the end you’ll also be able to ask her questions!

For Goodness Sake! Educational Series

Topic: Why Giving Circles? Why Now? feat. Tracey Webb

Date: Tuesday March 27, 2012

Time: 8pm-9pm EST | 7pm-8pm CST


Tracey Webb: Tracey has nearly 20 years experience in philanthropy and non-profit sectors. She has been featured and has written for major media outlets, including the Chronicle of Philanthropy in the article Missing Persons, that highlights the low number of black males in top leadership positions in nonprofit organizations; AOL’s Black Voices for Black History Month and the article, Top Ten Black Celebrity Philanthropists of All Time; and BlackEnterprise in the article, 4 Things to Do Before You Start A Charity. Most recently, The Foundation Center on 3 Reasons to Join A Giving Circle.

*Black Benefactors is a social investment club comprised of individual members, local businesses and organizations that are dedicated to addressing the societal ills facing the African American community. Also known as a giving circle, member donations are pooled with the donations of other members to significantly contribute to the causes we care about.

Yes, these are exciting times for giving! We hope you join us on March 27th to get in on the goodness! That’s not all….This Wednesday Amanda Ebokosia founder of The Gem Project is taking over Friends of Ebonie as our guest blogger! Show her some love this week!

Paying Her Rent

“Service is the rent each of us pays for living. The only thing that lasts is what is shared with others.”- MWE

I sometimes quote Mrs. Mary Wright Eldeman’s famous words on Twitter to be “profound”. Mostly though, I post it because I wholeheartedly believe these words to be true. I’m sure many other people do too. But I know two women who really do….

Meet Leleah Robinson and Jeanine Taylor. They are Friends of Ebonie but they are also friends to me. 🙂 In both cases, I wish I could tell you how we met but I don’t remember. Lol. However, I do remember the common bond of service we share is what strengthened our friendship.

Leleah and Jeanine give back with the fortitude of women beyond their years. That’s probably because, coincidentally, they both have been inspired by the matriarchs of their families. “My mother was a volunteer with the rape crisis center in our hometown,’ recalls Leleah, ‘and I remember her taking calls in the middle of the night helping women she didn’t even know. That showed me that sacrificing to help others was the right thing to do.” In Jeanine’s case, it was her grandmother that laid her foundation. “She has always been an advocate for young people and education. And as I watched both she and my mother make a difference in the Roosevelt [Long Island] Public School system as administrators, and through our sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, I knew I wanted to do what I could to make a difference as well”, Jeanine explained to me.

With such early examples of community leadership, it’s no surprise Leleah and Jeanine have used the majority of their adulthood making a difference in the lives of others.

Leleah and I taking five feeding the needy at Convent Baptist Church in Harlem on Thanksgiving Day 2010

At age 25, Leleah is already a team leader for New York Cares, Inc. What is a NY Cares team leader you ask? NY Cares Team Leaders are the super volunteers that help the organization reach over 400,000 NYers a year! For three years Leleah has been a tutor for a free Kaplan-based SAT Prep program for underprivileged youth offered through NY Cares. This is her first year as a Team Leader. “I sought out NY Cares when I first moved to New York because I wanted to get involved with an organization that truly made a difference in my new city….Since becoming a team leader, I’ve seen first hand how they really make their programs work. Their work is quite impressive. I’m glad I’ve been able to help so many young people improve their [SAT] scores who may not have been able to otherwise”, she says.

“Making a sound difference takes more than writing a check”, Jeanine believes. She has incorporated this belief into her term as the youngest chapter president for the Epsilon Pi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. “Leading my chapter is an opportunity to take my passion for service and multiply its effect within the community,” says the 29 year-old President. Under Jeanine’s leadership, the Queens Alumnae Chapter has turned their annual holiday volunteer projects into a 365- day-a-year opportunity to do “active hands on service”. So far, the chapter has done programs with organizations such as Dress for Success, Mentoring USA, the Oshieye Basic School in Ghana, West Africa and is preparing to implement a local mentoring program with PS 116 in Queens, NY. (Oh yeah, Happy 7th AKAversry Jeanine!)

Jeanine completed 13.1 miles and kicked the butt out of cancer!

Independent of her chapter, Jeanine also has a personal cause. Cancer research. This past fall, Jeanine signed up with Team in Training (TNT). Through TNT, Jeanine trained for a half marathon that took place in Arizona, while raising funds to help support cancer research through The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. “When I learned their research stretches beyond blood cancers, I jumped at the opportunity. At the time my mother was a colon cancer survivor and I wanted to be able to help someone else.” While training for her half marathon, the cancer Jeanine’s mother fought so hard to beat, returned. “The news pushed me even harder to want to find a cure,” Jeanine says of her new sense of dedication. While the physical rigors of the training and the race are tough, “…there is an emotional side to cancer many people don’t know about. People don’t understand that sometimes the emotional part of the [cancer] battle outweighs the physical pains,” Jeanine shares. “So when I was at mile 9 or 10 and my muscles were aching, I pushed past the pain because I knew that the person I was running for wasn’t giving up so, how could I?”

*You may pause here to wipe your tears*

Leleah too has taken on a if they can do it, why can’t I?, mind frame as a result of her volunteer work. As a mentor-coach for New York Needs You, Leleah shapes and guides the minds and career paths of first generation college students. “I am in awe of my mentee.  She extremely driven and doesn’t use what others would assume as “limitations” to stop her from achieving greatness. She perseveres with such a positive and uplifting spirit. When I leave from helping her study or train, I am the one left inspired.” While working with the New York Needs You organization is extremely time consuming, “it is worth every minute. It really helps to put my own life in perspective”, Leleah says of her experience.

Welp! There you have it. Service at it’s best! How can you not love these two women?

They don’t lend themselves for the glory but their dedication to the lives of others, honorable causes and their own communities, deserves to be applauded. I am proud to call them my friends. If you’d like to contact either Leleah or Jeanine, email friendsofebonie@gmail.com.

I’ve definitely enjoyed interviewing each of the women highlighted this month. I really appreciate the opportunity to share their wonderful work. Happy 2011 Women’s History Month!!!

I hope you have been inspired.

And A Child Shall Lead Them…

At 24, she started this.


At 26, she’s lead an Experiential Learning Trip to Gambia,West Africa. Orchestrated a city-wide leadership conference for girls. Hosted a networking event for women. And consults to start up non-profit organizations to help them maximize their opportunity to grow.

That’s exactly four times the accomplishment of most women her age- and maybe even twice her age.

Meet young phenomenal woman Rachel D. Wilson. The CEO and Founder of The Dream Institute.

I met Rachel just about 10 years ago on the campus of our alma mater. AGGIE PRIDE!

There was a young woman who favored me I was told. Little did I know she would eventually become my Soror, little sister, friend and inspiration.

When it comes to reaching our goals, some of us limit ourselves by our surroundings, resources and even circumstances. But if there is one thing you will learn from Rachel, it is that life is worth the living and we should all do it with our whole hearts- no matter your age.

Rachel has lived her entire life inspired by the voices, hearts and minds of women. “I credit the network of people who have poured into me words of wisdom and overall development….starting with my mother,” she told me. You see, Rachel’s mother told her as a little girl she could go anywhere and do anything- as long as she had a library card and a book. Rachel read her books and used her mother’s influence to propel her into her dreams.

An educator at heart, Rachel is driven to change lives by teaching processes and methodologies to individuals who want to learn and be positive change agents in their communities. “I want people who have a large vision to know there is a way to do what you have the desire to do,” she shares. “I provide the resources to those who want to learn in order for them to build capacity. I teach them and then they go on and teach others…sort of like a domino effect,” Rachel continues. A domino effect it is indeed. Or as I like to refer to it, Rachel is helping others pay it forward.

Rachel also finds it important to motivate her peers. “You can’t be selfish in this movement. These women [referring to her business partners] already had the passion. I simply pitched to them an opportunity to delve into their passion even further,” she shares. Rachel likes to think of her work with her peers as somewhat of a bartering system. “We’re all women of similar ages and at the same places in our careers so it’s like iron sharpening iron. We all benefit from the experience.”

And what about her other friends? Referring to her DreamGirls Conference, “With my girl friends, I knew they wanted to get involved [with mentoring work] so I sold them my idea too,” she says with a laugh. “Why not start here with us and be a mentor? I said to them. And they saw the opportunity I presented to them as manageable.”

Obviously, a motivator and a marketer, Rachel’s success is predicated on the fact that she seeks to educate others just as much as she seeks to be a vessel for others to fulfill their passion.

Wise actions from someone her age, right?! How does she do it? “I don’t think about it much. I believe this is all a part of my divine appointment,” says Rachel about her journey thus far. “If you follow your passion, certain milestones will come…Different milestones mean different things to different people…I just see mine as an opportunity to add to my selling point,” she says. It has been her unrelenting drive, dedication and passion that has gotten @Ms.RachelD so far.

As women we often look to our elders for inspiration and guidance. Welp, Rachel Wilson is a beautiful reminder that sometimes our greatest influencers are those right next to us. Thank you Rachel for all that you do. May you continue to be blessed as you bless others….

These days, if you’re able to catch up with her, you will find Rachel working towards her Masters in Divinity at Ashland Theological Seminary (her second Masters degree by the way) while also directing the Freedom Leadership Academy at Cuyahoga Community College. Within the next 5 years, Rachel plans to facilitate more speaking and training engagements in places where there is a need to grow social leadership capacity; domestically and internationally.

If you have any questions for Rachel or want to learn more about The Dream Institute, email Rachel at: rdwilson@thedream-institute.com.

Give Your Sister A Hand

Jodi Brockington isn’t the power woman blazing the trails of success burning and forgetting people along the way. Nope.

Jodi is a firm believer in connecting women (yes, and men too) to the outlets they need to be successful. Why? Because she knows what it means to pay it forward.

Jodi will tell you, “No woman gets anywhere on her own.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Can I get an AMEN somebody?!

Jodi is a master connector; as she’s affectionatley referred to on Friends of Jodi. She is the connection between the six degrees we all share. She is a fundraiser, a board member, a volunteer, a career coach, a mentor and a motivator. In nearly every avenue of her life she is making a way for someone else- simply because someone did it for her.

Jodi gets it. She gets that in this world, we all need the hand of someone else to get us where we’d like to be. More important, sometimes we must be that hand. Therefore, it comes at no surprise that Jodi lives her life doing her part to give back.

Her greatest influence? Her mother.

There are lots of young(ish) women like myself, approaching what we’d like to believe is the helm of our careers. But we cannot do it alone. We need each other. We can’t expect the next “30 under 30” *cough* or “40 under 40” *cough* award to completely define who we are. That is why women like Jodi make such a difference.

Jodi wants to see others do great things. Even greater things than she’s done.

So how can you take a page out of Jodi’s book of success? Well so glad you asked. Jodi breaks it down in what I like to call:

Jodi’s Gems to Success

If you want a life in philanthropy, charity work, volunteerism, or even looking to make a career out of it, Jodi suggests first Research Yourself.

Thing is, you are already such a busy person. Getting active in your community is another addition to your life. Make sure you are really ready for another personal commitment, time commitment and another challenge.

Next Jodi, advises Research Your Organization.

“Base the organization you choose on your passion”, she says. It may seem obvious but what you don’t want to do, is seek out PETA when you are a carnivorous carnivore. No Wacka Flocka ads, please.

Once you research your organization, Volunteer with them FIRST.

The great thing about this is ‘they can’t fire a volunteer’, Jodi jokes. She’s right, they can’t. “Volunteering is a great way to get experience to see if you really like your organization,’ she says. Quite honestly, the place you thought you loved may not be as “great” as they appear. Get your feet wet first at arm’s length before you take a nose dive in.

Then if you see yourself doing more, Sit on a Board of Directors.

When Jodi encouraged me to join a board, I had no idea it would become my joy. It is the quintessential opportunity for those who may not want to work in the public sector but still want to make a tangible difference from the top down. Jodi suggests using BoardNet to find an organization, ‘it’s like match.com for those seeking to serve on board’, she says. She also loves to invite folks to get training with BoardServNYC formerly Linkages.

The bottom line is when getting involved with civic work, ‘it needs to be your cause’, Jodi says. There is no way you can advocate for an organization through volunteer work or as a staff member without believing in their mission wholeheartedly.

At the end of the day your life’s work will speak for itself. Jodi’s already does.

Jodi has no regrets in her career path and is forever grateful for her defining moment that came while ‘working from her bed’. She never imagined being out of work due to an injury would change the course of her career for the better. It was during this time she began working for herself doing exactly what she loved. “There is no greater feeling than doing what you love and making money from it”, Jodi remarks.

You never know how much you can change someone’s life until you do it. So whether you decide to become a civic leader or public sector professional, do it with an open heart while always reaching back to help someone behind you.

Thank you Jodi for sharing your wealth of knowledge with me. I hope I can be to someone else all you have been to me. 🙂

<——-** Jodi is the currently the Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility & Philanthropy of NEXUS Brands, a corporation with community reinvestment through strategic partnerships with local non-profits at the core of its business philosophy. Jodi is always happy to help. If you have any questions for her, feel free to reach her at Jodi@FriendsofJodi.com