In our Client Stories series, we interview DonorsTrust clients on their philanthropy to share wisdom they’ve gleaned in their giving and how they evaluate their charitable priorities and goals. You can read the previous installment here.
This month, we’re hearing from Novus Society member Spencer Weaver. Spencer has a passion for free-market ideas and principles and lives out those principles in true fashion by seeking the most efficient and streamlined solutions for his charitable giving.
In Novus, he has capitalized on the community by knowledge-sharing advice as well as recommendations on causes and nonprofits other members are invested in. He epitomizes “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” Meet Spencer.
When did you first start giving? What prompted you to give?
As it did with so many people, the 2016 election reinvigorated my interest in politics and policy. While learning about the world of conservative nonprofits, I stumbled across DonorsTrust and a blog entry by Peter Lipsett about a new program they were working on called the Novus Society. I sent an email to him saying I wanted to learn more about the goals of the program and he called me to explain his vision. The rather simple idea that the conservative movement needs to start cultivating and organizing a community of younger supporters resonated with me, and it prompted me to get involved and start giving.
What are you trying to achieve with your giving? Do you have a strategy for deciding where to give?
I support organizations where I know people. While I have a very definite worldview, my gifts—both within Novus and otherwise—have all been motivated by people who relayed the importance of a cause and vouched for the effectiveness of a program. Whether it was Novus’ Holiday Giving Match competition last year; a foster-care program that a friend volunteered for and supported; or several community organizations that helped an acquaintance, each gift started with someone telling me a story. A bit of friendly competition where I know my donation is being matched by others (either in a formal fundraising drive or even just between a few friends) encourages me to give a bit more, too!
Tell us a little bit about your background. Did you always value liberty or is there a specific moment or season of your life you attribute to your interest in freedom?
I have a fiercely independent nature – perhaps not uncommon among those of us in the liberty movement. I can point to two broad experiences that have shaped my interest and views. First, coming from a family of entrepreneurs and being an investor by trade generates an almost automatic interest in economic freedom.
Second, I had the unique experience of attending both a public and private elementary school; a private middle school; both a public and charter high school (where you earned your diploma by taking classes at a community college); and a public university. As a four-year-old kid, I didn’t realize when I stepped into a classroom I was stepping into a bureaucracy that has little interest in the individual. Now I clearly see how the experience shaped my disdain for rigid government programs and ingrained my interest in freedom.
You are a young professional, and I’m sure very busy. How do you carve out time for your charitable giving?
I outsource – get to know some charitable people and then you can use their experiences to expedite your giving! Volunteering your energy and your time may or may not coincide with your decision to make a gift. So, seek out opportunities where you are satisfied with what you are able to contribute and understand that it’s OK for this balance to be in flux.
Why join Novus Society? How does it fit into your giving plans?
Join Novus Society to find insights, support, and friends who can help you grow your philanthropic experience as you yourself grow your giving. I joined the Novus Society to learn more about the role philanthropy plays in the conservative movement and maximize my impact over a lifetime. The connections Novus Society helped me develop have certainly furthered me down that road.
What’s the best nugget of advice you’d share with other young professionals who maybe aren’t giving yet but want to get started?
Most people think of philanthropy as something you do at the end of your career or your life, but that’s not as effective as it sounds. Ideally, you want to build your skills as your giving grows, and grow your experiences as the organizations you respect grow. By setting aside some money with Novus Society, your financial ability to support these causes will grow, too. Even if you’re not yet ready to make a grant, you’ll be much further along the path to making an impact.