One extra-ordinary weekday evening…

24Mar11

It has been 2+ years since I moved from the beautiful west coast of Canada to the UK for graduate school at Cambridge. Cambridge is within close proximity (one hour by train) to one of the great cities of the world, London.

And even though London IS an amazing city in terms of art, culture, people-watching and financial markets, I have not found it a very kind city. It has thus far failed to inspire.  Even on #generosityday initiated by Sasha Dichter of Acumen Fund, I found the city nice, but not kind.

But this all changed on Tuesday night March 22 – when I attended my first YTFN (Youth Funding Network) event in London. YTFN is the younger sister of London based The Funding Network – where they run regular events open to everyone and where charities present and donors engage in friendly philanthropy. Their mission is to match everyday donors (no matter how small, medium or big) from all backgrounds who want to help cool social projects. Sounds cool and intriguing? you bet! But I still had no idea what to expect… and how it’s all done?

On this night, YTFN gave the microphone and spotlight to 3 social projects to pitch for 5 minutes each and answer Q&A for another 5 minutes.

Ayiitimoun Yo (providing professional psychological therapy to members of an orphanage), Tender (promoting healthy relationships based on equality and respect) and Most-Mira (weeklong reconciliation art festival)

When you enter the door of this funky bar space you buy a ticket for £10. This is ALSO your bidding voucher. After the 3 pitches are over, you use your £10 voucher to bid on your favourite project. Easy right? All three projects on the night were outstanding and YTFN makes it easy to support their cause. Not only was it easy, it was also super fun! The bar served food and drink (important for the post-work crowd) and huge kudos to Shak and his Goodfoot Dance team for the breakdancing entertainment.

The first lady I met at the event, also a YTFN-newbie, Amanda, turns to ask me: “Are you a young philanthropist?” I smiled (nobody has ever asked me that before!) – I guess we all are because we’re here. 🙂

Each social project walked away with approximately £1000+ raised from a roomful of people who genuinely cared and supported their cause (and come on, bidding is FUN!). This is supporting grassroots social change at its finest. YTFN also allows projects to come back and give updates on their projects (so we heard from one of the previous projects as well).

I walked back to the tube stop and the train station with one message in mind: You changed my mind tonight, London – You can be kind too.

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