On Our Minds

Working with so many organizations across multiple issue areas gives us a unique view into what’s happening in the social sector. This is where we share our insights and ruminations.
 Trivia with a purpose
Trivia with a purpose

Each fall On-Rampers get a little competitive and have a whole lot of fun playing a firm-wide trivia game. This year, we used the competition to give back by donating to three nonprofits chosen by our three trivia champions, Kevin, Suzy, and Sivan.

What organizations did we choose and why?

Suzy: I chose the Alzheimer's Association, for two reasons. Prior to working in recruitment, I was a social worker for homelessness and community development organizations, where I interacted with the aging population at times. I realized that there is a lack of resources in place to support people as they age and to support families as they become caretakers for their older loved ones. I found the Alzheimer's Association through other folks in my network and loved what they did and how they support their community.

They not only have annual walks to fundraise for Alzheimer's research, but they also host support groups for caretakers to vent, share resources, and find comfort in community. Having those spaces is crucial because there's a big financial and emotional toll on families as they support aging parents or guardians who are experiencing Alzheimer’s. 

The second reason is personal too. I was one of my grandmother’s caretakers and I personally benefited from support from the Alzheimer's Association. I learned a lot about the disease, how to navigate the healthcare system, and how to support my family members who were also involved in her care. The people I met through the Alzheimer’s Association really became a second family. Now, I take any chance I get to support them: I'll do a walk, I'll help set up a local event, or anything else I can do. So I’m very excited for the opportunity to support them through On-Ramps.

Sivan: I chose to support Survived and Punished, a nonprofit that organizes to end the criminalization of survivors of domestic and sexual violence as well as the culture of violence that contributes to it. 

I, like Suzy, have a background in social services and indirect case work. Early in my career, I worked with a few different shelter and housing programs in Seattle. That experience was really eye-opening for me. In college, I organized with and supported domestic violence shelters and survivors through a variety of volunteer roles. Then, after college, I started working at this organization where the lines between victim and abuser were a lot more blurred. In both of the programs, I was working with all men, many of whom had been impacted by domestic violence either as victim, perpetrator, or both. Many of them were also formerly incarcerated. 

Working with these men was a big wake-up call for me. I saw how the carceral system perpetuates violence both inside and outside of prison. So, I was very excited when I learned about Survived and Punished through a friend who had organized with them for a really long time in New York. I've come to really appreciate their abolitionist vision. 

Kevin: The nonprofit that I chose to support is Give Directly, an anti-poverty organization that provides direct cash transfers to folks who are facing extreme poverty, both in the US and internationally. Their programs often work with refugees and folks whose lives have been impacted by natural disasters. It's a unique model for a couple reasons. For one, it's really cost efficient: approximately 88 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to beneficiaries. The other 22 cents goes towards administering the cash transfers and supporting fundraising efforts.

Second, the model allows beneficiaries to choose how they want to use the money. The organization subverts the harmful and inaccurate narrative that recipients of financial assistance misuse the benefits they receive. In reality, when people are given restriction-free cash assistance, they are able to invest in what they really need to improve their lives. As someone from a low-income background, I was the beneficiary of a number of public assistance programs, including SNAP and housing assistance. I experienced firsthand the impact those dollars had on improving the well-being of my family, but I also wish my family was given more control over how we spent those dollars. I am excited by that Give Directly’s innovative anti-poverty programs because they empower beneficiaries to choose how to spend the money they receive and make the best choices for their families..

How does working in the search space influence which organizations you choose to support? 

Suzy: A couple of years ago, I really started thinking about what kind of nonprofits I wanted to support. So, before supporting an organization, I do an internet deep dive and ask: How do the folks who work at this nonprofit talk about their work? How do the folks who are receiving services or being impacted by the organization’s advocacy feel about the organization? For instance, I’ll look at 990s and publicly available financial statements to find the pay gap between the highest-paid person and the lowest-paid person at the organization. 

It is harder to gauge the internal culture and how equity shows up internally by simply looking at numbers. But I think as we're thinking about the impact of a dollar, it's important for me to make sure that I'm giving to organizations that are transparent and value equity internally. Often, I go to my network and the folks I know who work in the nonprofit sector and ask for their input, especially on local organizations. 

Sivan: I appreciate what Suzy's raising with how an organization shows up with its internal culture. I think one other thing that comes to mind is how internal culture often correlates with how an organization talks about and thinks about their mission externally.

We work with a lot of organizations at On-Ramps that work on a ton of issues that touch each other and overlap. Something that I've experienced both as a professional who comes from the nonprofit space and in my time at On-Ramps is that many nonprofits take really different approaches to the same issue. I think that shows up in how professionals within the nonprofit sector talk about the work, and how they collaborate with one another.

Kevin: I really appreciate both of your answers here. Internal culture has a huge impact on how an organization approaches its work externally. Prior to donating, I personally research whether the leaders within an organization have lived experiences that give them a better understanding of the issues faced by the communities they serve. 

Suzy: In my professional capacity, I’m not going to get to work with every organization that I personally support, but I really enjoy finding opportunities to use my professional skills to provide a service to these organizations. For example, there is a local nonprofit in my neighborhood that is always seeking volunteers. I used to work with them, and while I give monetary donations, I also share my time. I try to assist with events and programming when needed. I know this work and I'm happy to give back. When I think about impact, there are so many ways that professionals can give back to nonprofits that go beyond a dollar.

It really just brings us back to why we are with On-Ramps. On-Rampers want to support organizations doing great work in their respective spaces and these donations are an example of how On-Ramps support can go beyond search work. 

Call to Action

On-Rampers bring intention, insight, and dedication to everything they do, including supporting nonprofits. So, we’re sharing the full list of organizations chosen by our staff, as a way to raise awareness–and perhaps some funds–for these incredible causes: 

ACLU, Harry Weiner
Act to Change, Saad Qureshi
African American Policy Forum, Cindy Menz-Erb
Alzheimer’s Association, Suzy Cintron
Audre Lorde Project, Emani Inoa
Black & Pink, Andrew Sun
City Harvest, Shanna Masdea
Equal Justice Initiative, Nakia James-Jenkins
Eyezonethiopia, Menna Abaye
Fat Girl Media, Laura Polk
Give Directly, Kevin Do
Higher Heights, Kristen Poemer
Make the Road NY, Josh Baquedano
The Malala Fund, Sukanya Burman
NARAL, Alice Gibbs
New York Abortion Access Fund, Yahira Cruz
Planned Parenthood, Jess Smith
Read Ahead, Jasmin Rothberg
St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society, Aida Figueroa-Epifanio
Survived & Punished, Sivan Philo
Tomorrow’s Leaders NYC, Scarlyn Cuevas