Mike Hartshorne, Gadsden Initiative

Gadsden Initiative Cohort 2

Personal Philanthropy: Less Is More

After reading about a pair of local siblings and their experience with the Gadsden Initiative, local real estate agent Mike Hartshorne reached out to his sisters to see if they were interested in doing something similar. They agreed, and the trio joined the next cohort to take the first steps on their road to personal philanthropy. 

The Gadsden Initiative

Named for the founder of the Victoria Foundation, the Gadsden Initiative is a program for GenX’ers and Millennials to engage a new generation of global citizens looking to make a lasting difference in their community through engagement, vision, and philanthropy. The cohort participates in four core sessions as well as optional events, learning workshops, and networking get-togethers. Over the course of two years, the participants contribute $5,000 to a permanent fund, which is then matched by the Victoria Foundation. Once matured, the funds create an annual opportunity for program participants to support the community through grant-making aligned to needs identified in the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and Victoria Foundation’s Vital Signs publication.

Low Barriers to Giving

Joining the Gadsden Initiative cohort was relatively easy for Mike and his sisters. “We submitted our application, which led to a Zoom session with a Victoria Foundation representative,” shared Mike. “We talked a bit about what was to be involved, and then we decided to proceed with the concept. We participated in online training programs to understand the different ways to give and the philosophies behind them, and then we put up the funds to get rolling.”

Don’t Wait to Start Giving

“For my generation, there’s a tendency to think about what we’ll do when we hit certain goals. We’ll say something like, ‘When I’m 45, or when I’m 50, or when I’m retired, or when I own a home, I’m going to start helping people and giving more.’ I’d like to see them think about ways that they can donate now that are more realistic. Instead of waiting until there’s a time you feel comfortable donating 100 lbs of food, maybe just give a couple of cans of tuna that you have right now, but you do that more often. Give what you can, when you can — whether that’s time or money — more regularly.”

The De-stuff-ification of Philanthropy

For many people, especially the younger generations, the concept of philanthropy is limited to black-tie fundraising galas held in museums or art galleries, with $250 per plate tickets and auctions of ancient art and luxury cruises. There’s usually an element of entertaining attached to fundraising, and while that in itself isn’t a major negative, Mike feels there might be alternatives that are more attractive to a younger demographic. Small groups getting together to have casual and collaborative experiences for a cause; friends pooling smaller amounts more often. Which fits in perfectly within the purview of the Gadsden Initiative.

Don’t Overthink It

“I feel there’s this mysticism around giving that people have,” said Mike. “There is a sense of scale that can be overwhelming. Don’t overthink it. Consider the things you’re interested in. Think about people you know you can help or who you feel are excellent candidates for assistance. Or groups that you’ve seen other people assisting, where you feel, ‘Yeah, I can get behind that.’ Do it for something you’re passionate about. It doesn’t have to be this completely cerebral thing. Just go for it. Let your passions guide you from the beginning.”

“People have this kind of mythical sense of charity because it’s being done by organizations, government, and foundations. It’s these big entities that are doing things. For people who don’t have a lot of experience with giving, it can seem intimidating.” – Mike Hartshorne, REALTOR®

The Cridge Centre for the Family

For his disbursements, Mike has opted to support a cause that’s near and dear to him. “I’ve been giving to the Cridge Centre for the Family for about 20 years now. They have an incredibly long history of helping people, and there’s an interesting and thoughtful group of people they help, including some who I feel that maybe there’s not a lot of other services available for them. For example, they have a whole unit for men with brain injuries, and that’s something that often spills out into other situations, like domestic abuse and homelessness. It’s a topic that resonates with me. I had a brain injury a few years ago — not nearly as serious as some folks’ experience — but it took me off my feet for six months and was an eye-opener for me.”



Being Vocal About Your Charity

“I feel funny about publicizing donations,” shared Mike. “I’m very fortunate that philanthropy has always been important to my family, but it’s something we rarely talk publicly about. But now I feel like, well, maybe we should. My generation is not big givers, and I’m worried about the future and the organizations we support. And I feel like, ‘Well, Mike, before you feel so self-righteous, what are you doing to help support causes beyond what you’re doing on your own? Are you helping other people — your friends, your family, your colleagues — to see the importance? Why are you keeping this to yourself?’ So I’m trying to do a little better with that. Shining a light on the importance of giving regularly throughout your life, so the causes we believe in can keep doing the good work we need them to do.” 

To join or learn more about the Gadsden Initiative and discover how you can make philanthropy a regular part of your life, visit the Victoria Foundation.

Read about Marlena’s experience with the Gadsden Initiative