Dedicated staff that is invested in the mission of the organization and the participants they serve.

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 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 Rochelle Reeder, Chief Development and Growth Officer at YR Media.

Rochelle is results-oriented philanthropy professional with nearly 20 years of development and fundraising experience. Her track record reveals a passion for advocating on behalf of women, youth, education, and the community by establishing strategic relationships with internal and external stakeholders, inspiring forward-thinking teams, and maximizing resources.

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 of the most significant experiences that shaped who I am today would be watching my parents, who gave their time, talents, and treasures to our community and the experience of committing to being an active community member to be a role model for my daughters. It was only later that I could coin my parent’s actions and my own as “philanthropy.” My experience as a Philanthropist extends beyond my professional realm as it brings me closer to my community and my values. Breaking down the stereotype of a philanthropist has been quite challenging when many of us associate the word with those who gift billions of dollars to charities around the globe. With that model, how could the average person relate? I was fortunate to witness, learn and practice Philanthropy as giving what you can to the missions that are most impactful. My parents planted seeds of giving monetarily and beyond, and I am grateful to have done the same with my children. Philanthropy is an experience that not only defines what I do professionally, but it is an extension of my values, and community care that shape my daily (personal) life.

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.

Being empathetic, authentic, and transparent. In most instances, I can relate on some level to a co-worker, employee, or potential funder lived experiences. In every conversation at work, I aim to connect with my team as people first, for operating from a point of empathy invites others to show up authentically. Being authentic and transparent ensures that my team can trust my leadership and decision-making, knowing that what I ask of them, plays a greater role for the good of the organization. I started my career in development as a Stewardship Coordinator. One day, out of the blue, my VP of Development said to me: You’re nice, friendly, and warm. You speak well. I’m promoting you to a Fundraiser position where you will raise money for a program that serves Black and Latino students.

Truthfully, I was overwhelmed as I had never raised money before (other than selling Girl Scout cookies), so it felt like he was throwing me into the deep end. I later found out that most development professionals have a story of how they pivoted into becoming a Fundraiser, and later, I realized my VP saw the traits of being warm and friendly as more essential to the job than having extensive experience. He knew he could teach me the fundamentals of Development and Fundraising, but he couldn’t teach me how to be ethical, kind and have respect for others. I love the saying “it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice”

What’s the most interesting discovery you’ve made since you started leading your organization?

I’ve used my enthusiasm as an essential tool in motherhood, and as a Girl Scout Leader, but it was an interesting discovery to experience the compatibility of my high and charismatic energy with the chill temperament of my team. I get excited by new funding opportunities, new donors to engage, seeing previous donors re-engage, and hyping up my fellow colleagues throughout the organization with a fun bi-weekly newsletter entitled Friday Fire, where we highlight the hottest happenings in Development.

In this short meme and gif graphic packed newsletter, showcase new gifts received, I shout out teammates who assisted the development team with proposals and grant reports, and connect the rest of the organization with the work of development in hopes of not only nurturing a culture of philanthropy, but to also let everyone know that our work is dependent upon each of us doing our best and supporting one another.

Can you please tell our readers more about how you or your organization intends to make a significant social impact?

Based on YR’s financial successes in recent years — and with an awareness of the challenges and opportunities that come with the racial reckoning of #BlackLivesMatter, the fight against anti-Asian sentiment and policy failures for members of the DACA and LGBTQ+ communities — there is even more of an urgent need for the work we do to shift the mainstream narrative and center historically suppressed voices.

As we look ahead YR Media and our YR stars, key strategic evolutions are:

  • Expanding our platform and programming.
  • Increasing our national footprint and profile.
  • Deepening our mission-critical services and support resources that are the hallmark of our promise to young BIPOC content creators from historically suppressed areas.

One of the most critical components to increasing our reach and impact nationwide by moving toward becoming an even more powerful national network of young content creators is strategically establishing regional YR Media hubs. By radiating spokes into new geographic markets, we can leverage lessons learned from our hands-on operations in Oakland while creating an experience that acknowledges and addresses slight nuances needed for local markets. This approach will allow us to:

  • Amplify even more BIPOC youth voices.
  • Expand youth education and employment.
  • Provide young people with needed support and services.
  • Ensure that our platform continues to feature and center authentic, all too often unheard, perspectives and insights.

What makes you feel passionate about this cause more than any other?

I’m beyond passionate about my work at YR Media because it extends beyond our public presence as a space where staff educate, prepare, mentor, and provide a platform for student voices to be amplified. It is also a culture of giving, where everyone is invested in the mission and believes in the vision of what is possible when you can dream and have the resources to experience new learning allowing you to one day live that dream. I’m inspired by the success stories that date back nearly 30 years when Youth Radio, now YR Media, opened its doors, to now see those teens of the 90s as adults leading in their perspective fields of media, music, and more.

Without naming names, could you share a story about an individual who benefitted from your initiatives?

This is a story from the late ’90s; I learned that a student who later became a YR Star and Alumna initially took part in YR’s programming because she was told by her high school counselor that if she enrolled and actively participated in the programs offered by Youth Radio now known as YR Media, her probation time for a fighting incident would be suspended. Not only did she participate, but she also became a youth journalist, radio DJ, and social justice advocate. During her time at YR, she received an opportunity to participate in an HBCU Tour (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Because of this tour, she selected Norfolk State University for college, where she majored in journalism, joined a sorority, and worked with the college newspaper staff. She credited YR Media for being a space where she felt comfortable, gained confidence to speak out, and received exposure to her future career. She credited YR Media with changing the trajectory of her life. This YR Star has become a journalist and reporter working with the nation’s largest network affiliates. While her YR experience is unique to her, the story of the YR journey and post-YR success has often been repeated.

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?

  1. Donate time, talent, and treasure to organizations that provide programming and platforms for youth to amplify their voices.
  2. Support and advocate alongside youth, not in front. Be willing to pass the mic.
  3. Mentor and expose youth so that they can see what is possible

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.

  1. Authentic, transparent, and transformational leadership.
  2. Sustainability.
  3. Programming that is impactful for the participant.
  4. Dedicated staff that is invested in the mission of the organization and the participants they serve.
  5. A committed Board of Directors who mirrors the organization participants and staff demographic.

How has the pandemic changed your definition of success?

When the world came to a screeching halt, our metrics of success were forced to expand.., our programming team was innovative and was able to pivot our training online, our tech team provided equipment and internet access for our students to remain connected, and our social services team made sure our wrap-around services included mental and emotional support for staff and students were available as well as food gift cards for our students experiencing food insecurity, and Our development team submitted proposals for grants supporting every need of the organization from general operating expenses to keep our staff employed, to covid related resources to ensure a safe return to our headquarters. When many organizations faced closure or extended hiatuses, we continued to tell our story, meet with funders, and dream of what we could be after the pandemic. We ended our 2020 fundraising year 17% above goal and our 2021 fundraising year 37% above goal. The pandemic taught us at YR Media that our success is defined not only by our events and physical presence but by our flexibility and resilience!

How do you get inspired after an inevitable setback?

Knowing that we cultivated a dream that had not been dreamt is a powerful testimony that inspires me and tops any setback I encounter. I’m inspired by my organization’s mission to amplify the voices of our youth, my team, who constantly display flexibility and resilience, and the next funder meeting, where we have an opportunity to share our work, goals, and our impact. I’m consistently amazed at the change that takes place in a young person’s life during their time at YR Media, and this is my fuel when I experience setbacks.

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. 🙂

There are so many prominent leaders whose work aligns with the mission and vision of YR Media and the goals and aspirations of our youth. Thank you for the opportunity to share how I would love to share our work and impact with Issa Rae, Marsai Martin, Mellody Hobbs, or Robert F. Smith each of whom has made incredible investments in our communities and our youth.

You’re doing important work. How can our readers follow your progress online?

Readers can follow us at the following:

Facebook: YR Media

Instagram: Y.RMedia

Twitter: @itsyrmedia

YouTube: YR Media

Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.