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Detroit 4 Detroit: Anyone Can Be A Citizen Philanthropist, It Just Takes Passion

Detroit 4 Detroit

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 03/ 1/2012 9:45 am Updated: 03/10/2012 7:56 am

Anyone can be a leader in his or her community to create social change -- all it takes is passion.

That's according to Detroit 4 Detroit, a local branch of the Washington-D.C.-based Citizen Effect, which promotes grassroots fundraising. And the organization's leaders are ready to explain just how Detroiters can get involved in what it calls "citizen philanthropy."

Detroit 4 Detroit matches individuals with non-profit organizations like the Brightmoor Alliance, COTS, ACCESS and Summer in the City, to raise funds for specific projects that impact education, health, homelessness, food security, urban revitalization or job skills. Each individual, or "citizen philanthropist," becomes the champion for a single project, like SER Metro Detroit's plan to start a computer lab in Southwest Detroit.

Detroit 4 Detroit's role is to help those citizen philanthropists come up with a strategy to use their social networks and creative fundraising ideas -- anything from an auction to a chili cook-off -- to meet fundraising goals, which range from $1,000 to $10,000 for the different projects.

Detroit 4 Detroit publicly launched its local mission of supporting citizen philanthropy Thursday morning at Hannan House. But organizers began building momentum in January, finding community partners willing to get involved and selecting local citizen philanthropists.

The group has plenty of applicants to consider, and 18 citizen philanthropists are already getting started. One is Leah Wiste, who will raise money for an urban garden and teaching kitchen for youth in Brightmoor, the neighborhood where she lives. Wiste plans to meet her goal of $5,000 by organizing a Detroit-centric auction.

Nicole Schneidman, Citizen Effect's strategic initiatives manager, said experience and age are not key factors when choosing Detroit 4 Detroit's citizen philanthropists. Instead, Detroit 4 Detroit seeks individuals who demonstrate creativity, commitment and an ability to engage their own social networks.

"We really do believe anyone can do this if they've got the passion," Schneidman said. "We encourage people to tap into what they want to do [when fundraising]. A chili cook-off, swimathon, Wii tournament -- it's all about tapping into their passion."

Detroit 4 Detroit's local effort is part of a broader philanthropic trend. The use of personal engagement and social networking is increasing in the philanthropy world, as individuals use social media to create change and raise money without going through larger charities and organizations.

"Social media has given voice to the individual philanthropist," Kari Dunn Saratovsky, vice president of social innovation at the Case Foundation, told Mashable. "There is a great deal of good that can come from opening up the process of philanthropy and helping redefine what it means to champion a cause you personally care about."

And Detroit 4 Detroit is not the only organization helping people in the city turn personal passion into community change. WDET just launched Call to Action, a website that inspires community service by connecting volunteers to local efforts that match their interests. Black Male Engagement, or BME, recently announced 10 grant winners who will receive up to $40,000 to further their community work. BME's website also honors and promotes the social work of hundreds of other black men and boys in Detroit.

The efforts share a common thread of encouraging average citizens to get involved in what might otherwise be considered the work of foundations or big social services agencies.

"We especially want the people who haven't done this before to see this as opportunity to learn those skills and become civil leaders," said Schneidman. "Once they get a sense of what it feels like to be the lead on something and have an impact in that direct way -- it's like candy."

WATCH: Citizen philanthropists discuss their work in Detroit

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