Bringing Philanthropy Full Circle
By Jamie Jenson | Photography by Sheena Christ of Torrent Photography
A quick perusal of Meg George’s resume might yield a few surprises. For starters, though she earned a degree in French from LeMoyne College, her professional experience after graduating from LeMoyne has been in development, not requiring knowledge in any language but English.
Those who know Meg, though, know her love of languages translates into a skill vital in the development industry — the ability to effectively communicate in order to build relationships.
“For me, working in development means literally developing relationships for organizations that lead to support for institutions and organizations,” Meg said.
Though building relationships came naturally to Meg, she had no idea what development even entailed. Luckily, she grew close to people who worked in the career advising office at LeMoyne. They encouraged her to look into jobs that specialized in development.
“They had to explain to me what that even was,” Meg remembered. “They said, ‘You have an outgoing personality. It seems like you wouldn’t be scared to approach people.’”
They suggested she apply for jobs in development. She began her career as a development officer at LeMoyne and for an area hospital. The field also led her to meet her future husband and business partner, Phil, who also worked in development.
Meg explained they initially didn’t have plans to branch off on their own. But after they worked on several plans for organizations in the community, they realized there was need for advisors within the nonprofit sector.
They wanted to do something to fill that gap. So, several years ago, they founded the George Development Group.
“We do a lot of work with nonprofits all over the northeast, but the majority are right in our community,” Meg said. “We advise nonprofits on their development operations. Ultimately, we focus on high-impact philanthropy.”
Meg explained that high-impact philanthropy allows organizations to focus on having a relationship-centered approach to the work they do. The Georges strategize ways the organizations they partner with can develop meaningful support among their constituents.
Meg said philanthropy wasn’t a big part of her lifestyle while she was growing up, but she feels drawn to it now.
“Once I met with one organization and saw they were just craving advice on something they were already well-poised to do, it absolutely felt like a calling,” Meg said.
Even before she had her own company, she always felt the work she did positively impacted the organizations she worked for, but she feels it even more now.
“Once I started doing this work for nonprofits — especially local ones — I realized I could be having that impact on a lot of places at the same time,” Meg said. “My husband and I both feel like we will never turn back from doing this.”
As their business has grown, the Georges have been able to work with a variety of local organizations, including the Everson Museum. They’ve also worked with the Syracuse City Ballet, an organization that recently moved into a new building and created a new fund for resident dancers.
Seeing the fruits of their labor makes the job worthwhile for Meg.
“The most fulfilling thing for me at work is taking what I know, giving it to an organization and seeing the direct impact it has on our community because that organization is carrying out those tools,” Meg said.
The duo wants to make an even bigger impact on the community. They’ve recently offered their services to for-profit organizations looking for ways to create a culture of philanthropy for their businesses.
“It’s the same skill set we already have, but we’re applying it to different parts of business and life,” Meg explained. “It brings everything full circle for us because we believe so much in the kind of philanthropy that we focus on, which is relationship-centered and high-impact. There’s no reason why businesses and corporations shouldn’t be thinking like that, too.”
While she has found success in helping nonprofit organizations prosper and for-profit businesses grow philanthropically, Meg said there’s another important group of people with whom she would love to take a more active role when it comes to philanthropy.
“I would love for women to be involved in philanthropy in ways that they might not realize they could,” Meg said.
She thinks there are many women who work for nonprofits and sit on boards, but she still thinks their voices need to be heard.
“I’m young and I’m a woman, and I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time talking to men,” Meg said. “I don’t think enough people in general know about getting into this world and how fulfilling it is, and how different the work can be every day.” SWM
For more about the George Development Group, visit georgedevgroup.com.