Today is a day focused around luck and good fortune and merry making. And we are huge proponents of all those causes! But we are also very aware of just how lucky we are everyday to live the #blessed lives we do. And if we ever forget, all it takes is talking to a woman like Casey Rotter to remind us. She works with UNICEF, specifically on the NextGen initiative, which works to involve millennials in charity work across the globe. The world is lucky to have her, and we are lucky to have spoken with her…
Founder & Director of UNICEF’s Next Generation at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Casey has dedicated her life to lifesaving initiatives for the world’s most vulnerable youth. She has led pioneering engagement and philanthropy initiatives among millennials in a field where their passion, energy and generosity has previously largely been ignored. For those looking to make a difference, look no further than Casey for inspiration.
And, for those in the Chicago area who want to get involved sooner rather than later, a fun and easy way to start is by attending the Hope Gala and its After Party on April 9 to dance the night away with some of our fabulous members in celebration of UNICEF’s great work. More information and tickets are available here.
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH UNICEF?
I’ve been involved with The U.S. Fund for UNICEF for as long as I can remember. My mother and I have always admired UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Audrey Hepburn. And, I used to go Trick-or-Treating for UNICEF as a child to help raise funds for kids around the world who need more than candy on Halloween.
I continued my dedication to UNICEF in college, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where I became active in my university’s UNICEF Club and organized a panel with some of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Listening to their stories and hearing about the organizations that helped them get to where they are today – in a position where they can and choose to give back to their own communities – inspired me.
FROM THERE, WHAT PUSHED YOU TO CREATED NEXTGEN?
I was pursuing a Master’s degree in Fundraising and Philanthropy at NYU when I noticed a recurring theme amongst guest speakers from nonprofits: many organizations were experiencing an aging donor base. I had already started interning at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF in their Development department and I wondered if we were experiencing the same issue. I did an age overlay of our database and found that our average donor was 63 years old. I then decided to write my thesis on why and how nonprofit organizations should engage their next generation of supporters, using the U.S. Fund for UNICEF as a case study.
At the same time, I started noticing two trends: an increase in millennials traveling around the world and coming back and starting nonprofits and socially conscious businesses, and that many of my peers and friends were interested in doing something similar, but didn’t necessarily have the time or resources to dedicate their entire lives to it. I knew that my generation is passionate about making a difference and has so much to offer, but doesn’t always know where to start.
We see our time, money and skills as having equal value and are eager to share all three in support of a great cause. With all of this in mind, I set out to create an avenue to do just that on behalf of UNICEF. […] I imagined NextGen would be an incredible opportunity to harness the power of millennials to support a trusted, well-established and accomplished 60+ year old organization that puts children first.
HOW CAN WE ALL GET INVOLVED?
Join us! There are many ways to get involved with NextGen. You can visit the website and join one of our membership levels by signing up to give a monthly gift to our NextGen projects (which members get to vote on)! This will loop you into our NextGen community, where you’ll then be invited to Pop-Up talks in our key cities, calls with UNICEF experts and other incredible opportunities to learn about issues affecting children throughout the world.
WHY IS VOLUNTEERING IMPORTANT, ESPECIALLY FOR MILLENNIALS?
I think the desire to help and give back is inherently a part of the millennial generation. We don’t see borders anymore, we see ourselves as global citizens and thus cannot ignore what’s going on in the world. I believe that most people really take action, volunteer and give back. The only real barrier standing in the way for most millennials is ‘how.’
VOLUNTEERING IS SOMETHING MOST PEOPLE DO AS A HOBBY. HOW DID YOU MAKE IT A CAREER?
I look back and realize I have no idea! It kind of chose me.
I think the word ‘nonprofit’ isn’t the best name to describe what organizations like UNICEF do every day. They’re actually saving kids’ lives and changing their futures for the better. They’re providing relief after emergencies, ensuring kids get an education and so much more. For years people thought these sorts of jobs could only be done on a volunteer basis. But why not have a career that fulfills you, sustains you, and makes the world a better place?
TELL US ABOUT YOUR USUAL WORKDAY.
[…] Every day brings new challenges and exciting opportunities. You will often find me meeting with NextGen members, talking about UNICEF’s work and about how we can activate their friends, family, companies and colleagues around children’s issues. My days also include working on and curating interesting and compelling Pop-Up Talks in different cities to engage and educate our communities, planning events that help fundraise for NextGen’s projects. I also work on numerous individual and corporate projects that our fabulous members bring to the table – whether it is a Tap takeover of the Huffington Post Instagram account, to working with a member who is launching a candle company and wants to celebrate that launch by funding a solar powered water program in Chad!
WHAT IS THE BEST PART ABOUT YOUR JOB?
I’d say there are two best parts of my jobs.
The first is when a member has an ‘ah-ha’ moment, and realizes that he or she can make a large impact on children’s lives around the world by doing something local, with his or her own community and networks.
The second is visiting UNICEF programs in developing countries and getting to meet some of the children whose lives have been saved or improved by our NextGen projects. To meet the families and hear personal stories about how UNICEF has helped them overcome difficult obstacles, and know that we had a small part in helping to make that happen… there’s just no better feeling than that!
AND THE MOST DIFFICULT?
Knowing that while we’re working every day to save and improve children’s lives, we just don’t have enough resources to reach them all. Children should be allowed to survive and thrive, and have happy childhoods. Access to vaccines should not be a luxury, having a childhood without having to work to support your family should not be a luxury. These are realities I am reminded of every day. The fact that there is an entire generation of Syrian children who have been out of school for 5 years now, due to ongoing conflict, is unacceptable. The world must do more.
TELL US ABOUT THE HOPE GALA!
On April 9th the Midwest Regional Office of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF is hosting its 9th annual UNICEF Hope Gala at The Geraghty. The gala brings together 400 philanthropists and community leaders from the Chicago area in support of UNICEF’s mission to put children first. The theme for the evening is “Imagine” and our hope is that it will inspire the guests to imagine a world in which no child dies of a preventable cause.
Following this awesome, inspiring event will be the 4th annual After Party, hosted by the UNICEF Next Generation Chicago Steering Committee […] For more information and to purchase tickets, visit unicefhopegala.org.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOU AFTER THAT?
A few of our members are headed to Indonesia to visit the UNICEF Innovation lab we funded last year and experience some of the incredible initiatives that the students have already accomplished (Follow @unicefnextgen on Instagram for pictures and stories.)
Also, we’ve almost reached our $200,000 goal to support UNICEF’s child protection programs and the US Fund for UNICEF’s End Trafficking program, so we’ll be voting on our next project soon!