Women for Philanthropy: Charity has many forms

Lu Jiang ’12 and Katie Itterman ’03 talk about their journeys in the world of philanthropy

On April 20, UND Alumni Association & Foundation CEO Deanna Carlson Zink moderated the latest Women For Philanthropy event. During the hour-long virtual discussion, Katie Itterman’03 and Lu Jiang’12 shared their philanthropic efforts in official and personal capacities.

The latest installment of Women for Philanthropy, UND Alumni Association & Foundation’s annual event about women’s perspectives of charitable giving, took place under the banner of “Making good happen” on Tuesday.

“My goal for this event has been to enlighten more women about how to give and empower them to find their own philanthropic voice,” said AA&F CEO Deanna Carlson Zink.

Drawing more than 200 attendees, the hour-long virtual event brought together two UND alumnae, Lu Jiang and Katie Itterman, to share their philanthropic experiences.

A North Dakota native, Itterman earned her bachelor’s degree from UND in 2003 and her law degree from the William Mitchell College of Law in 2007. She currently serves as the director of the Burgum Foundation, which supports education in rural North Dakota.

Jiang, a first-generation Chinese-American, graduated from the UND School of Law in 2012 and later managed educational programs for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Jiang also founded the Equal Justice Endowment at UND.

“Their journeys to philanthropy may be different from rural North Dakota to China,” Carlson Zink said. “However, they both have a huge passion for supporting education.”

The multigenerational nature of giving back

Both Itterman and Jiang discovered philanthropy at an early age through the personal actions of their parents and grandparents.

“Watching my parents be active in philanthropy was just a huge factor for me,” said Itterman, who grew up in Arthur, North Dakota. Her family was intimately involved in the small community near Fargo through activities that were not simply “writing a check.” Itterman said she understood the meaning of giving back through seemingly small but selfless actions such as picking up litter at local parks.

Growing up in China and later migrating to the U.S., Jiang watched her grandmother knit sweaters and scarves for the neighborhood kids and her father teach English classes to foreigners in California.

“Seeing the impact that they have in their local community, and also in their community in America after they moved here has really shaped my desire to influence and be part of philanthropy and non-profits,” Jiang said.

Listening to Itterman and Jiang’s personal stories, Carlson Zink, who moderated the conversation, emphasized the multigenerational nature of philanthropy. “It doesn’t matter how young you are or how old you are, we can all be involved in philanthropy, although it may be in different ways,” she said.

Lifting others up

At its crux, philanthropy is about supporting others and getting more individuals involved in their communities. Nonetheless, philanthropic organizations often struggle to provide – and sustain – opportunities for individuals of diverse backgrounds to shape up charitable efforts, Jiang said.

“My critique of the philanthropy sector is we haven’t been intentional,” she said. “We haven’t been intentional about creating a pipeline. We haven’t been intentional about outreach, educational support. We haven’t been intentional about setting up mentorship programs.

“It’s almost like an equation: empowerment equals time plus resources plus opportunity plus access and plus outreach.”

North Dakota may carry another layer to the issue. North Dakotans shy away from boasting about their charitable activities, Itterman said. Yet, she added, sharing can not only inspire others but help them find ways to give back too.

“Communication is so important, even though for some of us, it’s harder to do than for others,” Itterman said.

Leaving the audience with a call to action, Carlson Zink said, “I hope our guests listening today are going to follow your advice to be bold in doing good and talk about what they are doing. Let others know. It’s not about lifting yourselves up. It’s about lifting up who you’re supporting and the projects you’re supporting.”

Watch the April 20 Women in Philanthropy event below: