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Philanthropy 101: Lessons from a Veteran

Nicole Venable shares why giving back means more than donating money.

When we hear the words philanthropy and humanitarianism, they are usually coupled with names like Bill and Melinda Gates, or Warren Buffet. However, there are a considerable amount of non-billionaires who are devoting their lives to the well-being of others. In any case, being a part of the world of endowment requires not only financial empowerment but also a healthy dose of selflessness and commitment. Nicole Venable is an outstanding illustration of both.

“Giving back and playing integral roles in the community are what my parents always did,” says Venable, who supports seven causes including Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (which provides assistance and support through established programs throughout the world), and Twelve Days of Christmas (which raises money and resources for families). “My brother and I were always involved in what they were doing so being philanthropic comes naturally for us.”

After more than 20 years of service, Venable assures newcomers that philanthropy assumes all shapes sizes. “There is a misnomer that you only give money, but there are other ways to be benevolent. Raising awareness, donating your time, or lending a hand to a person are also options.”

This Spelman College alumna feels empowered when she helps young women, in particular, through her educational endeavors. “I started the Lady Von endowed scholarship eleven years ago, after my mother passed,” says Venable preciously referring to Yvonne Venable who served on the Board of trustees at Winston-Salem State University. “It honors her legacy of promoting higher education, specifically at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).”

The mother-daughter connection is a common thread that runs through most of Venable’s charities (her mother was also a Delta and a member of The Links, Incorporated). “Philanthropy breeds more philanthropy,” she adds. “Once you’re a part of one organization, you tend to join more, and get asked to support others.”

Additionally, says Venable, “You must have the desire to make the time. My Links organization requires 48 hours of community service per year. And running my own fund, along with being a member of the other causes, equals a lot of commitment in order to meet the goals.”

When asked if she will be increasing her list of charities, Venable insists that she is happy with her current philanthropic mix. Then she excitedly slips in that she has been asked to help with this year’s Meridian Ball, one of the most prestigious events in Washington, D.C., which supports international affairs and diplomacy.

Professionally, Venable is a principal lobbyist who specializes in tax, trade, intellectual property and global health issues at the Bockorny Group. So she welcomes the direct link between her nine-to-five and her newest assignment. She also quickly notes that the Lady Von Fund empowers young women to study global, minority, and international trade which is her field of work too.

“So far, we have sent young Spelman women to China, South Africa, Senegal, and India,” says Venable. Clearly, her commitment to humanity runs deep, and spreads wide.