Create an environment full of investment in its employees, volunteers, and supporters. Give Kudos to your employees. Give positive reinforcements. Make it fun for volunteers. Give something in return to the supporters. It does not have to be expensive. It is the thought that counts.
For someone who wants to set aside money to establish a Philanthropic Foundation or Fund, what does it take to make sure your resources are being impactful and truly effective? In this interview series, called “How To Create Philanthropy That Leaves a Lasting Legacy” we are visiting with founders and leaders of Philanthropic Foundations, Charitable Organizations, and Non-Profit Organizations, to talk about the steps they took to create sustainable success.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jessica Hutcheson.
Dr. Jessica Hutcheson resides in Los Angeles, California where she is an Educator and COO of non-profit, The Granny Claus Foundation. With over 20 plus years in education, Dr. Hutcheson is focused on helping the community at large with programs that enhance the quality of living for the residents in Los Angeles County. Children are the base of her constituency that she constantly assists, moreover she helps through programs that benefit parents, administrators as well.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about a ‘top of mind’ topic. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?
Two life experiences that shaped who I am today are becoming an educator and my college radio days.
As an on-air personality I was able to come out of my shell and speak to more people. I have always been a little shy but being on the radio and having that anonymity gave me power. The power it gave me was to be my authentic self. Being uninhibited allowed me to say how I felt about topics without judgment. It helped me to become the speaker I am today.
As an educator, I get to explore the lives of my students and gain a more world view of life. Witnessing the struggles of youth today it is very important to understand them and how different the challenges are. With technology the world has sped up and it affects our youth at alarming rates. It is great that students are learning things faster, however maturity and how to accept things do not always line up. I believe that I am more passionate and empathetic now that I am an educator. It fuels me.
You are a successful leader. Which three-character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? We would love to hear a few stories or examples.
Three-character traits that I attest to my success are:
- Determination is a character trait that I developed over time.
- Compassion may be one of my greatest character traits. I love helping people. I nurtured a student and connected him to people in entertainment and he is now a writer and a culture consultant for shows on Netflix and other outlets.
- Kindness is a good character trait. I choose to be kind because you never know what someone is going through.
What’s the most interesting discovery you’ve made since you started leading your organization?
The most interesting discovery that I have made since leading my organization, The Granny Claus Foundation, is that fundraising is not easy. Leading people to give is not a task for the faint of heart. I keep in mind that I am doing this for the kids because my nature is not to ask people to do things. We would hope that they are led to give from their heart. However, how do they know what to give when you do not present the opportunity?
I discovered that as an organization we must advertise through all mediums to reach donors, the recipients of the program and supporters.
Can you please tell our readers more about how you or your organization intends to make a significant social impact?
Granny Claus still impacts the community. Cheryl Baker-Wossenu, better known as The Real Granny Claus has given selflessly to the community for twenty plus years. As the founder of The Real Granny Claus Foundation, Ms. Baker’s mission is “Ensure that underserved and underrepresented community children are shown the power of love, compassion and service through the vehicle of gift giving.”
We start with the source, the youth. With all of the changes the pandemic gave with just itself students are suffering. Some students depend on lunch and breakfast from the school. With the pandemic that was no longer accessible. Our organization is centered around Christmas time and the holidays which tends to be the most impactful time for those living in poverty and/or just have fallen on hard times.
We give during the holidays, so no student feels left out if their family is unable to provide gifts for them.
What makes you feel passionate about this cause more than any other?
Seeing young students as I taught not having a holiday experience led my aunt, Ms. Cheryl Baker, to create this organization. Seeing my family pull together out of their own pockets to give students a great holiday experience and my aunt dressing up as Mrs. Claus always inspired me to become involved in this organization.
Without naming names, could you share a story about an individual who benefitted from your initiatives?
Yes, we choose a school each year to give toys to. This year we adopted five schools in the Los Angeles County area to give to. The students were so delighted to be read to and receive gifts. We donated 5000 toys this past year of 2022. Each student K-5 was able to receive gifts.
We all want to help and to live a life of purpose. What are three actions anyone could take to help address the root cause of the problem you’re trying to solve?
Three actions that anyone can help address the root cause of the problem of poverty and helping the less fortunate during the holidays are:
- Donate toys and toiletries to group homes, shelters and schools for those less fortunate.
- Start a fund to give to your favorite organization.
- Donate your time because it is needed, especially during the holidays.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Create A Successful & Effective Nonprofit That Leaves A Lasting Legacy?” Please share a story or example for each.
Five(5) Things You Need To Create A Successful & Effective Nonprofit That Leaves A Lasting Legacy are:
- Create an environment full of investment in its employees, volunteers, and supporters.
Give Kudos to your employees. Give positive reinforcements. Make it fun for volunteers. Give something in return to the supporters. It does not have to be expensive. It is the thought that counts.
2. Give something back to your supporters even if it is not a financial contribution to your organization.
Recognition goes a long way. Create a wall of givers, a plaque for major donors, give them a first opportunity to donate their time.
3. Pull from the people you impacted and encourage them to pay it forward to the current recipients of your services.
Reciprocity comes back in various ways. It is great but those who are successful because of your program may inspire more than a speech to those in need. Allow and encourage people to come back to give as they were given to.
How has the pandemic changed your definition of success?
The pandemic has changed the interaction with the students. We used the power of social media and the press to assist us in gaining help for students we were not able to usually get to. We gave even during the pandemic which created many challenges. So, the pandemic had us look at the small wins as success.
How do you get inspired after an inevitable setback?
Setbacks are inevitable but I certainly become inspired by going to the basics. I look to others and see their wins and get excited for them and their successes. It inspires me to keep going. Victory is on the other side of it. God made it fit for me to wake up this morning. I see a butterfly and know that God is with me and working everything out.
We are an independently funded organization and the fact that people gave even when they were in need was inspiring.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non-profit? He, she, or they might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would like to share our non-profit idea and future plans with Michelle Obama. We feel she is amazing and would understand the need for students in underserved communities receiving gifts during the holiday season.
You’re doing important work. How can our readers follow your progress online?
You can follow us on social media
and on our website: https://www.grannyclaus.org/
Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.