Philanthropy Friday: Spruce Foundation

Every Friday we spotlight a local LGBT nonprofit in Philadelphia. This week: Spruce Foundation, which aims to redefine philanthropy and cultivate the next generation of philanthropists through community giving and grant-making in support of Philadelphia’s youth.

Who are you? My name is Matt Kurilla, and I am the President of the Spruce Foundation.

When was your organization founded? Spruce was founded in 2007 by a group of friends who were looking to make a difference in Philly. They pooled their money together and made a donation to one of their favorite area nonprofits, SquashSmarts. Today the Spruce Foundation has grown quite a bit from its origins. I think that this story of friends is very unique to Spruce as an all-volunteer structure is still what propels Spruce forward. I, too, got involved in Spruce though a friend and neighbor as we shared snow day waffles (we both work in public schools) and discussed why we love Philly and ways to give back. Spruce is about giving back to the community, but it is also about creating that connection, that bond, that friendship among like-minded philanthropic Philadelphians. Today, Spruce is an operating 501(c)(3) non-profit that is engaging Philadelphia’s millennials in philanthropy to grant $20,000 annually to four emerging, innovative, and impacting Philly youth-serving nonprofits. Throughout the year we host our Engagement Events – one in each of our granting areas of Arts, Education, Health & Wellness, and LGBTQ. The Engagement Event series is a means of bringing millennials together in a setting to activate them around Spruce’s mission. We culminate our events with Spruce Gala, where we recognize one nonprofit in each of our grant-making areas that is doing exceptional work to make a difference in the lives of Philly youth — and where we also dance the night away, celebrating the collective good of all who are Sprucin’ up Philly.

The organization’s shining moment, to date? It is hard to put my finger on one particular moment that shines above the rest. Spruce is constantly evolving and reinventing itself. We are a flexible organization that reflects on the things that work for the demographic that we are trying to reach as well as assessing the needs of Philly youth. Case in point: providing grants to LGBTQ nonprofits has not always been a primary focus for Spruce. But through reflection of the community that we serve and the needs of the youth in Philadelphia, Spruce has made a commitment to be a source of grant funding for those organizations that intentionally support LGBTQ youth in our city. This year Spruce celebrates its third year granting $5,000 to a Philly organization supporting LGBTQ youth and $113,000 overall in grant funding to Philly youth-serving nonprofits.

Finish this sentence: If a check for $1 million found its way to my doorstep … Sign, run to the bank, and deposit as quickly as possible! If a check for $1 million found its way to Spruce, we would want to invest it to establish an endowment. The board members of Spruce are dedicated to ensuring that innovative and impactful Philly youth-serving nonprofits are supported. The number of grant applications we received has nearly tripled over the past year — a testament, we believe, to the ever-growing need of organizations working with Philly youth. Spruce has developed a rigorous grant application review process to ensure that the funds we grant are given where they can have the greatest impact, and we want to continue to support the hard work and dedication to those groups working to make Philly’s future brighter. The creation of an endowment would ensure the reach, longevity, and impact of Spruce in the lives of those kids who need it the most.

Matt Kurilla

Matt Kurilla

Special events coming up? Each year Spruce hosts our signature event – Spruce Gala – to bring together our philanthropic base to recognize our grantees as well as raise money for our grants. This year we are hosting our Gala on Friday, April 24, 2015 from 8-12 PM at the Arts Ballroom. It will be a fantastic evening of celebrating the hard work of all Sprucers as young philanthropic Philadelphians. In addition to Spruce Gala, Spruce connects with our millennial base through more intimate and fun activities throughout the calendar year. Our Engagement Event Series provides a new approach to involve Sprucers in our four granting areas: Arts, Education, Health & Wellness, and LGBTQ. Thus far we have engaged our Sprucers in an epic “When I Was Young” LGBTQ Variety Show as part of It Gets Better Philly, and an Education Exploration Scavenger Hunt at the National Liberty Museum. Two more events remain this year: one for Arts, and one for Health and Wellness. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to hear more about our upcoming Engagement Events! Click here to learn more about the Spruce Gala and click here to buy tickets.

Are there other ways I can contribute without giving money? We absolutely appreciate our donors — both those who can make large charitable contributions, and our monthly Spruce Sustainers. But in redefining philanthropy, we aren’t only focusing on those who contribute financially. We’re also looking for those who can volunteer with us to give back to the community. Spruce has many internal volunteer opportunities and is constantly making connections on behalf of our grantees to their volunteer needs. As a board member, a committee member, or an event attendee – you can be a Sprucer and help us collectively give back to Philly youth. Our committees offer unique, hands-on experiences for young Philadelphians who want to do more than just signing over a check. Grantmaking, Development, Communications, and Events committees all work together to unite young philanthropic Philadelphians, pool our resources, and ensure that Philly youth-serving nonprofits are supported with not only grant funding but also a base of enthusiastic volunteers. If committee membership is not your thing, come enjoy one of our many events! Meet and network with like-minded Philadelphians who want to make a change in our city, and support Spruce just by showing up with an open mind! Lastly, membership on the all-volunteer Spruce Board is the biggest investment you can make. Board members work to ensure the sustainability of the foundation’s mission to redefine and engage next-gen philanthropists in community giving and grant-making to support Philly youth. Our call for board membership will open this summer. Stay tuned to our social media for details!

How can I donate money?All donations – large, small, one-time, or recurring – are greatly appreciated. One of the ideas of Spruce is that being a philanthropist does not mean that you need to donate large sums of money. You can be a philanthropist by making a commitment that is significant to you – be it $5, $10, or $15+ a month. If you would like to join us as a Sprucer, you can make a donation via PayPal, mail a check, or become one of our growing list of sponsors. Donate to Spruce via PayPal or access our Donate tab. For Sponsorship Opportunities click here.

Mail to:
The Spruce Foundation
PO Box 2377
Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA