Charitable contributions aren’t limited to executive suites and partners of those who occupy them.
Though many are busy raising families and building careers, South Florida’s young professionals are actively engaged in contributing to their community, both through fundraising events and with hands-on projects.
Some organize fundraisers, such as fashion shows where long-legged models walk the catwalk side-by-side with Chihuahuas and French bulldogs.
Some collect Halloween costumes for children from broken homes.
Others search out creative Miami artists and add their work to Miami Art Museum’s permanent collection.
Though many community organizations have long had “young” groups geared to interests and financial capabilities of emerging contributors, participation appears to be growing. In part, participants and organizers credit school curriculums that encourage community service — and the power of social media.
“There are a lot of young-professionals organizations in Miami. All of my friends are involved in them,” said Marcella Novela, chairwoman of the MAM Contemporaries, the young-giver group of the Miami Art Museum. “I think there is a real sense of giving back to the community and supporting the community that resonates really strongly through the younger generation.”
Stacey Glassman Mizener, founder of Friends of New World Symphony, said young professionals are looking for more than just a night out with friends.
“Young professionals and mid-professionals as well are looking for more culture and substance in their life,” said Mizener, 35. “They’ve gone through that nightlife stage. Now, they want to incorporate that social component with artistic content. They want more meaning and substance in their life.”
The group Mizener started in 2004 now boasts 500 members. MAM Contemporaries has also grown from just about 100 members a few years ago to 300.
The Great Recession has also kept community needs front of mind, says Junior League of Miami President Katie Lane-Arriola. Though volunteers in the longstanding organization for women aren’t limited to young professionals, increasing numbers of its members fall into that category. League volunteers coach homeless and abused women, helping them get education, jobs and healthcare. Some programs work with children from broken homes, using therapy dogs to promote self-esteem.
Women who work seem to be especially aware that in the weak economy, they too could have lost their jobs. “They are just more empathetic to people in these situations, and that has gotten them to volunteer,” Lane-Arriola said.
Programming helps young supporters stay involved.
When Ben Wilson, 35, a lawyer, became chairman of PetNet last year, he immediately thought of events that would go beyond the typical cocktail party. Fashion shows where dogs take the runway alongside human models have helped raise funds for spay/neuter and microchip programs at the Humane Society of Greater Miami. He has also sought hot venues, including the Hotel Victor on Ocean Drive.
MAM Contemporaries, for ages 21 to 41, get discounted pricing to MAM events. The group’s Art Fair Survival Party is a pre-Art Basel meet-up where members get passes to satellite fairs, event invitations, maps and more. For Novela, the group’s president, that alone is worth the group’s annual $145 membership fee.