Interview #4 & 5: Maria Cruz & Nicole Fulmino, Co-Founders of Team Charity -- How to Start and Grow a Successful Philanthropic Organization

While working full time they followed their vision and created the successful philanthropic organization, Team Charity.  They were both 24 years old.
What started in a company development class (Fundamentals of Fundraising) became a reality.  Nicole had an “ah-ha moment” and couldn't wait to share it with Maria, her friend and colleague.  Instantly, Maria was inspired by the thought of creating an org that would "act as a middleman, making it easy for busy young professions to volunteer and give back.  Part of the goal was to overcome the bad wrap that Gen Y had of not giving of their time or energy to service.  Maria comments that "Gen Y didn't feel like they were really needed or targeted to get out there and volunteer or give money."  As translators they were going to make the call to service clear.
"If we advertise correctly to Young Professionals they will give more."- Maria 
(click "read more" for the full interview and summary)

Maria and Nicole do a quick analysis of Gen Y and service, saying that there is a niche of those who are dedicated to service, but the normal, everyday "Bob" doesn't feel "called" to service and it's up to orgs like Team Charity to make it easy for them to see how great and fulfilling philanthropy can be, so they will get more involved in the future.  
“By ‘doing the homework for Gen Y’ we are making it convenient for them to participate,” Maria says.
So with all that being said, they had their work cut out for them.
Within a week of the initial ah-ha moment and idea, they had a name, logo, and a full concept written out. (Team Charity comes from the concept of celebrity breakups and choosing which "team" to be on..."Team Brad" or Team Jennifer," etc)-- "We are supporting the idea of Charity."
Less than 2 months later they brought together over 50 people to launch Team Charity.
One of their most memorable events happened early on at a foodbank.  With a group they were sorting clothes for the needy and they were all dancing to hot iTunes mix Nicole had put together.  "Everyone left saying "Oh my God, that was so much fun!""  The
Vision these young leaders had was coming true.
But how would they keep it going?
"You just have to work hard for something you believe in." It was obvious this was something worth believing in.
They are also making it fun with parties after the events and creating networking opportunities, etc.  They began doing events for other organizations and partnering with established groups. 
With the help of a lawyer friend, Leandra, Nicole and Maria put the application and by laws together to become official: a 501c3 organization.  The 501c3 application process is no joke.  They had to do a full business plan, create a sales pitch of why the government should allow them to gain such status and not pay taxes. They both squirm thinking about the long, egregious process.  Even though it was time consuming, they pushed forward to move the vision along.
"We're glad we did it, now we can sponsor our own events."
One of their first initiatives as a 501 c3 is their current Ambassador Grant program.  Applicants can go to their website and apply to receive $1000 from Team Charity to give to the charity of their choice.  All their current events and fund-raising is going toward this awesome grant.  The “winner” will be selected on or around March 25th.
They have built a new site that is more interactive and is the perfect new social network you should check out.  Build a profile and network at  There are no membership fees associated.
The vision is still strong...just recently Nicole recalls an unforgettable moment when she overheard someone not associated with Team Charity, bragging about how awesome the organization is and really selling it with no ulterior motive.  As a leader Nicole and Maria have done well with casting a clear vision and influencing those around them.
When asked for their leadership guidance for others they said:
  • “If you really believe in something (and you really must believe it in wholeheartedly), just do it.”
  • “Go from, ‘this is a good idea’ to ‘I’m going to dedicate myself to this.’”
  • “There is a lot of uncertainty and you will constantly have to defend your vision when you first start something like this.  It’s all about the physical act of just doing it.”
  • “It’s awesome to have a strong team to go through it with...helps with ideas and momentum.”
  • “Finding the time can be difficult -- we had full-time jobs and lives -- but with the right team and really believing in this, made us find that time and make it happen.”
  • “You have to be committed.”
Thank you again to Maria and Nicole for joining us.  You can check out their upcoming events at

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