When people think of philanthropy, they usually think of millionaires and billionaires who find ways to use their fortunes to give back after they've gotten rich. And, if we're being real, a lot of people think of white men like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.
But Ivy McGregor has flipped that script. She's a Black woman building her entire career and business around helping people and businesses make a difference while they make a profit.
McGregor has led Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, run scholarship programs, and facilitated water initiatives in Flint, Michigan, and Burundi Africa. As head of her own consulting agency, IVY Inc., she supports organizations in implementing social impact strategies, and as the Director of Social responsibility at Parkwood Entertainment's philanthropic umbrella, BeyGOOD, she's worked to support women entrepreneurs and eradicate homelessness, poverty and economic inequality.
Photo courtesy of Ivy McGregor
Her resume as a philanthropist is stacked, and she loves every minute of it.
"To be devoted in this space as a philanthropist for the leading artist in the country and on a consulting basis around the country for my own company…It's just really a great honor to fulfill my life's destiny in what people would call my 9-to-5 and my 6-to-12," McGregor said.
McGregor found her passion for philanthropy even before she knew she could make a career of it. While she held several well-paying jobs in her first few years of the workforce, she found the most satisfaction in the charitable work she did in her spare time. "I may have had a job that I was doing well at, but I didn't feel the passion like I did on evenings and weekends when I was volunteering or when I was at a senior nursing home or when I was sitting with young kids and challenging them to come up with creative ideas. That is when I felt my heart pitter patter," she explained.
She has used that passion for giving back to become a trailblazer for Black philanthropy. Receiving awards like the International Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership Award, she's been key to raising the profile of Black women in the space.
But McGregor doesn't do it alone. She's proud to say that she has a team of people behind her and on her staff who contribute to her philanthropic efforts. She encourages other founders and business owners who want to focus on social impact to consider the passions, interests, and pain points of the people on their teams too.
"That is what corporate social responsibility looks like. Engaging people, listening, and then taking that information and implementing it in the organization and sharing it with the company," McGregor advised.
She also invites founders to lead with love. It's advice she learned from her mother, and she believes that including love at the foundation of her business strategy is one of the things that has allowed her to be so successful as a philanthropist.
"We start with a zero-judgment zone," McGregor said. "We start with a pure heart so that we are not discriminating against the people we help."
Photo courtesy of Ivy McGregor
Because the mission with philanthropy is not to earn praise or accolades, but to make the people on the receiving end feel genuinely helped, McGregor noted that service isn't just a must-have for profits, but it makes a big difference in social impact as well.
"There are corporations that people are wondering, 'How are they still around?' Because they have understood that service is sustainability. They have understood it is not so much what you say, it's how you make people feel. If people feel empowered, if people feel inspired, if people feel helped, that is so critical," McGregor said.
McGregor has continued to lead by example in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. She jumped into action, raising hundreds of dollars and donating meals to healthcare workers at New York's Mount Sinai and Jacobi Hospitals. In April alone, she and her Global Learners Program, a collective of creatives and professionals eager to serve through social impact, donated grocery gift cards to 100 families and meals to 100 seniors at NYC senior centers.
While we may not all be able to give back at such a grand scale, McGregor reminded business owners and individuals that giving back takes many forms.
"Because we realize this is a pandemic of epic proportions, it requires every one of us to get innovative to help provide relief," McGregor said. "We are experiencing unprecedented times. But it is in these moments that I challenge you to take a positive thought and move it into action…Look at the multiplicity of ways to give back."
For more of Ivy, follow her on Instagram.
Featured image courtesy of Ivy McGregor