"There is no greater gift you can give your kids than the gift of giving."
"No matter how you give, if you make it a habit and schedule it, or be disciplined to it, then it will naturally become part of your life and you won't have to prioritize it."
-Becky Gray, Executive Director, must! charities
Becky doesn't just say these words, she lives by them. These words are also a large part of the foundation upon which the local organization, must! charities, where Becky is the Executive Director, is built. That's why we were honored to sit down with her to learn about must! charities' mission and their incredible impact on SLO's North County. She also shared advice on modeling philanthropy for children, how to make giving a natural part of your life, and how families can weave volunteering and giving back into their daily lives.
Becky on must! charities, their mission, goals, accomplishments:
"The overarching goal is to raise money for local community needs. must! charities is driven by a collaboration of friends and business owners dedicated to improving quality of life in San Luis Obispo’s North County by walking alongside existing local organizations to make a greater, more focused impact through collaboration, expertise, research and financial resources. Guided by five key values of comprehensive change, accountability, collaboration, selflessness, and sustainability, must! charities exists to bring the community together to create sustainable change.
Instead of giving charitable “handouts,” must! charities supports local organizations with financial resources, expertise and the leverage of other partnerships to create long-term, sustainable transformation within the region.
In the past 4 years we have invested over a million dollars back into our community. We have partnered with Boys & Girls Clubs of North SLO County, The Food Bank Coalition of SLO County, Big Brothers Big Sisters of SLO County, as well as CASA of SLO County. Find more information on each of these projects by visiting our website: www.mustcharities.org.
The idea of must! charities came about 6 years ago. A group of friends (who happened to be winery owners) were looking at philanthropy and what was and wasn’t being done in the North County, and the needs our communities faced. The founders of must! charities recognized that the wine industry being the largest economic engine in our region, had no focused philanthropy. They saw people giving money both locally and nationally and not really seeing tangible results from their giving. Their vision was to create a public gifting organization, where they could pool their giving resources and then give in a way that they couldn’t manage to do on their own all while keeping everything local. It’s a basic principal that you hear over and over, “alone I can only do so much, but together we can do more.” They felt the need to do something about it and created what is now must! charities.
In Fall of 2011 they realized they needed to put their ideas to action, so they did a national search for an executive director to spearhead the organization. February 2012 was when I began working at must! charities. Since 2012 must! charities has grown and is now community driven, not just wine industry driven. In fact, about half of our donors come from the wine industry, and the other half is a mix of individuals, families, private foundations, and other businesses."
Becky on how must! charities chooses their projects:
"At must! charities we choose our projects based on current community needs (everything is statistically driven, this was put into our bylaws so that we could avoid "pet projects" and truly focus on the biggest needs of the community). We employ a rigorous application and screening process to determine what project the community will most benefit from and will have the most success in solving root problems, not just addressing the symptoms. The screening and vetting process sometimes takes a year or longer! Throughout the life of a project, the regular, comprehensive reporting and statistics are used to gauge the success of the project and determine any necessary modifications to the project.
The underlying objective is to empower local organizations to make strategic, sustainable change that carries forward after the life of a must! charities’ project with the belief that “moving the needle” on one initiative, will impact others as well.
100% of what is donated to must! charities is strategically invested directly into our communities. must! charities’ executive board covers the general overhead expenses of the organization."
Becky on Modeling Philanthropy:
"There is truth to the old saying, "more is caught than taught". We need to model philanthropy for our kids! I grew up in a generation where my parents volunteered for everything, and were always giving back to the community in which I lived. This was just the way we did life - if someone needed help with something, or couldn't provide for their kids we rallied together and stepped in to help. It didn't matter what neighborhood you lived in, or what your social status was - it was just about helping someone out who needed it.
I believe a healthy community is one where a group of people come together and "do life" alongside each other. Unfortunately, society has had quite an impact on many people and so many of our youth today are growing up in a generation that is all about "ME," and we are beginning to see the negative effects of it in our communities. We are fortunate here in the North County of SLO because we have a lot of people who are rallying to bring this lifestyle back and are living it out."
Becky on how to make giving a part of your life, even with a busy family:
"We all make choices in life and we have control over our schedules - unless we let other things take control. If you want to live a life of giving, then just do it. Everyone can make up a million excuses why they don't give back, but the bottom line is it's a choice. Whether you give of your time, talents, or treasure there are many options out there.
I will be honest, it's easiest to give of your treasure as time is always a tough one to give - but it's important to carve out time to give because that is where kids can see impact.
As far as giving financially, We have taught our kids about giving at a young age. My family lives by the 10-10-80 rule. If the kids earned chore money - 10% goes into savings (one of my kids is a saver and puts in more), 10% goes to charity, and 80% they can keep to spend how they'd like or save up for something to purchase later.
No matter how you give if you make it a habit, and schedule it or be disciplined to it, then it will naturally become part of your life and you won't have to prioritize it."
Becky on how families can weave volunteering and giving back into their daily lives:
"Talk to your kids about giving back or the character traits that align with giving (compassion, empathy, kindness, love, generosity). There are so many great teaching tools out there for kids on the internet. Discussions around the family dinner table is always a great place to start!
Model volunteering - whether one or both parents volunteer, its great to show your kids that you care and are giving back to the community. And most importantly talk to your kids about why you volunteer - don't just tell them, let them ask questions and be a part of the conversation.
Volunteer as a family - whether it be at a school function, a community food drive, or a community fundraiser, get your kids involved in giving back. It feels good to give and your kids will feel good about themselves when they do it. There is no greater gift you can give your kids than the gift of giving."
Thank you to Becky for all the amazing work she does for our community and for taking the time to share her knowledge and advice with us.
And thank you to must! charities for all they do for SLO's north county! Donate here - 100% of your donation goes right back into the community!
Stay tuned for more information on local opportunities for giving on #givingtuesday!
Grab the kiddos a go-go GIVE!
P.S. Here are a couple fun ideas for holidays gifts ... give a gift and give back!
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