Developing the mission of a nonprofit can be a challenging process of defining significant goals that will distinguish one’s philanthropic services. At other times it unfolds effortlessly like an epiphany that springs from your mind by fortuity. The latter was the process for radio personality (New York’s 107.5 WBLS) and philanthropist, Egypt Sherrod. After realizing the power of her media platform to affect change, she officially launched the Egypt Cares Family Foundation. The nonprofit organization focuses on providing resources to encourage solid family units within the tri-state area through programs including financial literacy, health awareness, education and the successful Egypt’s Give Back Tour.
The second annual Give Back Tour launched on November 28th and runs until December 3, 2011 (click here for specific tour stops). The six-day coat, toy, and fundraising drive will travel throughout New York City and New Jersey along with celebrities such as Eric Benet, Doug E. Fresh, Newark, NJ Mayor Cory Booker and others. BlackEnterprise.com spoke with Sherrod about finding her mission, the key steps for anyone looking to build their own nonprofit, and why she opted for in-kind support instead of financial sponsorship.
What inspired you to develop a passion for philanthropy?
In my early 20’s I was partying and enjoying the life of a media personality. The civic sense of responsibility was not there. Hopefully, as we grow spiritually and individually some of us go into consciousness where it’s not just about us. I realized the power of the microphone and the responsibility God entrusted in me, which is to look out for my listeners and viewers. My passion comes from a desire to want to do good and help people.
Prior to establishing your foundation you were doing charity work. There are many people who do such work and don’t capitalize on it by making it official. What steps did you take to make your work official that you can recommend to others?
To set it up I got with people who specialize in nonprofits. We needed to make sure we followed all the rules because sometimes you can get into trouble while trying to do the right thing. My advice to others is to make sure to get an accountant and an attorney who gets paperwork on time ‘cause there are guidelines and deadlines. Building your team is first and foremost.
Is the foundation generating any income as of yet to grow your organization’s funds?
I do realize there are nonprofits that make money but that’s not us. We’re the little guy. Every dollar we get goes straight back to our initiatives. Right now, I personally fund the programs and depend on donations. We want to build into something profitable so that the community can directly receive the benefits of it. We have programs coming up such as financial workshops and we need funds for it. We’re looking to continue to make our programs bigger and serve a larger audience.
You have several corporate and small business sponsors on board providing in-kind donations. Was it a challenge to get actual funds or was it something that you didn’t request?
In this particular program what we needed to do was accomplish our goal, which was simply to provide coats and warmth for families. So organizations could have given money but it would have taken longer and been more red tape when what we really needed was coats and toys. Do we need money and are we a broke nonprofit? Absolutely, but at the same time we are getting the job done. It’s all about planning and being strategic.
The draw of celebrities is something that you use to help increase exposure for your programs. How willing have celebrities been to participate?
When you do right by people they remember and I have good personal relationships. So when I pick up the phone and call they show up and show out. Last year, Ginuwine stayed the entire time and physically collected coats. They understand it’s about keeping families warm and putting toys under trees for kids.
You also collaborate with other nonprofits such as The Children’s Aid Society. How have these strategic partnerships been beneficial to the development of your organization?
I think if you find organizations with similar missions it can only benefit both of you. We have to remember if it’s about doing good then it does not hurt to get together with organizations to make a bigger difference. For me, coming into the nonprofit world and being a baby at that, I’m learning how nonprofits go. I have fantastic advisors and networking opened my world up to resources I didn’t know existed. When you share they share.
Why is Egypt’s Give Back Tour only a weeklong?
I would do it everyday if it made sense but people need deadlines. If we did it for a month or two people would feel like they always have tomorrow or next week. We really need it now so that when cold weather hits we have it for the people who need it the most.
What are your plans to advance the foundation and its programs?
My goal is to get bigger and better but want to make sure we are making a difference at home first. We have the Mommy Makeovers, which we did last year and was extremely successful. We will also do a job fair. We know the unemployment rate and it is deplorable. People need income. We have resources to companies hiring and we will have free financial advisors and credit specialists on hand. We do this so families have a stronger foundation.