This May, it is our honor to highlight Major Donor, Paige Stanley.
Paige serves as a member of SMYAL’s Major Donor Committee, assisting with event planning and donor engagement. We talked with Paige about why she got involved with SMYAL, what inspires her about working with other women on the Major Donor Committee, and how she’s staying connected to community during COVID-19.
What brought you to SMYAL?
Not everyone who is involved with SMYAL shares the exact same experience as the youth we serve, but I’d venture to say that most of us share the experience of being a teenager who was queer, not knowing where there was a space for us to fit in.
I grew up in a small town in upstate New York and I remember going to the one coffee shop in town that had a rainbow flag outside, the Coffee Connection. I’d order a mocha and sit in the corner reading a book while listening to Melissa Ethridge on my headphones. If you were to look around that room, you’d have no idea that the girl in the corner was there because she was trying to be a part of some community. But I knew it.
No matter where you live, whether it’s a small town or a city like DC, that feeling of being alone is pervasive in our community.
The idea that there is a place you can go as a young person and meet other people like you so that you’re not silently sitting in a coffee shop alone is why I’m involved with SMYAL. Knowing that there is a local organization that is actually making a difference, that we, that I can support, connects the work I do with SMYAL now with that girl in the coffee shop.
Even as an adult supporter, being involved with SMYAL and the Major Donor Club has also become a place for me to feel welcome.
What inspired you to get involved with the organization at a deeper level as a major donor?
I give to a range of causes, but I don’t support anything else at the level I’m supporting SMYAL. What really inspired me to give at the major donor level was that I could clearly see the impact that my monthly donation was making on youth here in my own community. SMYAL does a great job of not only demonstrating the work, but also of introducing the donors to the staff who is responsible for the work and for what happens with our donations.
As donors, SMYAL takes the time to ask us our opinions, to build relationships with us, and make themselves available for when we have questions about what the greatest needs are at a given moment and how we can help meet those needs. It feels good to know that your dollar has a direct impact.
I also appreciate that SMYAL’s Major Donor Club is accessible. Not everyone can give at a $10,000 level, but there are many more people who are able to contribute at the $1,000 level, which is about $85 a month. With a lower-barrier giving level, we open access to a more diverse pool of potential donors with a range of careers and identities, all bringing a unique perspective to the work.
All of the members of the Major Donor Committee really foster a sense of working towards something together.
As I said before, SMYAL has really become a place for me to feel welcomed. Our group is made up of a mix of identities, but I have been thinking a lot lately about how the women on the Committee work together. Having other women on the Committee adds a sense of common purpose and serving with other women brings something special to our sense of community in support of the same mission.
I would love to have more women in the Major Donor Club and involved in the Major Donor Committee. To that end, we are currently brainstorming other events and activities to encourage more women to get involved with the organization.
How are you staying connected to community and the causes that are close to your heart during COVID-19?
The internet [laughs].
I think it’s incredibly important that we stay connected to the things we normally would, like SMYAL, but also the people we would see on a daily basis, and the people we would interact with in our normal routine who may be most impacted- even checking in on folks like our hairdresser or massage therapist or the staff at our favorite restaurant. During these difficult times, there are so many things that you can be doing to make sure you take care of your community, whatever that means to you.
On a personal level, I’m staying connected through a lot of Zoom calls, virtual happy hours, and not just with close friends, but with people I wouldn’t normally chat with every week. It really is helpful to share what you’re going through and how you’re coping with this situation with each other.