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Members of 20/30 Society pool money for philanthropy


Building from their $50 monthly dues, the members of a new philanthropic organization for young professionals believe they can eventually put $1 million in grants back into the community each year.

The 20/30 Society was founded in November 2004 by a group of several local people interested in leveraging their financial resources with other people between the ages of 21 and 39 to support non-profit organizations and initiatives that in some way attract and retain young professionals in Greater Des Moines.

“None of us are philanthropists at this point where we have in our means the resources to write a big check to help out a non-profit organization,” said Ryan Staiert, a founding member of the 20/30 Society and owner of Heirlooms Fine Oriental Rugs in Clive. “But when a large group of us puts our money together and leverages that with corporate sponsorships, we can make a difference in the community.”

The 20/30 Society’s long-term goal is to give $1 million back to the community each year, according to Chris Diebel, a founding member who works as event manager for the Hilton Garden Inn in Johnston. “But that’s probably about 10 years out,” he said.

The group plans to reach $1 million by supplementing its members’ dues with proceeds from events, corporate matches and sponsorships. Diebel said the organization currently has 55 members, and hopes to grow to 100 by next April and level off at 200 in the years that follow, so that group will remain small enough for members to stay “actively engaged.”

Diebel said he doesn’t believe that it will be difficult to reach the 200-member level, even though several other organizations in Greater Des Moines for young professionals have been established in recent years.

“We all have our own niche,” Diebel said. “And when you all share the goal of keeping young people in Iowa, it’s not a competition.”

One benefit of membership in the 20/30 Society is a membership in the Des Moines Embassy Club, with the requirement that they spend $40 there on meals each month.

New members complete an introductory class as a small group to learn about the 20/30 Society’s mission of philanthropy. As part of their initiation, they nominate a non-profit organization in the community to the grant-making committee for consideration, similar to how active members nominate groups for grants. Members vote on which grants to award each quarter.

Ashley Canney and Joseph Jones head the 20/30 Society’s grant-making committee. Jones works as chief of staff for Creative Visions and has lived in Des Moines since 2002. Canney, a Des Moines native, works as a development associate for the Greater Des Moines Community Foundation, which manages the society’s fund.

Securing corporate matches and sponsorships for the society will be a focus over the next year, Diebel said. The group plans to consult with its business advisers, Michael LaValle, Connie Wimer (Business Publications Corp. publisher), Jerry Crawford and Rita Parea, on innovative ideas to reach this goal.

“If a business would agree to match our members’ dues each month, we could greatly increase our resources for grant-making,” he said. “It’s a great way for businesses to show Des Moines that they’re serious about keeping and attracting young professionals.”

On Friday, the 20/30 Society will hold a wine-tasting party from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Johnston to celebrate the launch of its Web site, www.dm2030society.org. The event is open to public. Call 270-8890 for more information.

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