New Money

The Capital Region’s next generation of philanthropists

Back Article Jan 1, 2013 By Andrea Kennedy

In a region that can boast names like Teichert, Friedman and Tsakopoulos, some citizens think the call to give charitably rests outside their circle of responsibility. Not so for Sacramento’s newest philanthropists. Beyond volunteering countless hours to their cause of choice — or, in most cases, multiple causes — these folks under 40 employ the innovative methods it takes to connect today’s generation of givers with nonprofits in need. Take it from this set of young givers: You don’t need deep pockets to make a change.


In November, Sacramento’s Association for Fundraising Professionals awarded Junior League Sacramento (JLS) as Outstanding Philanthropic Organization of the Year. As an 11-year veteran of the local chapter and current league president, Aimee Gillum has lent a strong hand in securing the honor.

During her tenure on the JLS board leading up to this, the league’s 70th anniversary year, Gillum has not only been tasked to advance the league’s achievements in regional philanthropy with new projects like the Sacramento Children’s Museum, but also resurface legacy organizations like the 53-year-strong Fairytale Town and generate support for the anniversary gala held at the Crocker Art Museum in April. Most importantly, she says, her goal is to ensure the stability of the league for generations to come through the JLS Endowment — a $1 million capital campaign set to wrap up in May.

“(The endowment) secures the financial stability of solid revenue that will fund the latest programs and training for its members,” says Gillum, whose background includes a master’s degree in social work. “It will ensure that the league continues to identify the needs of the community and build programs and projects to address those needs.”

Gillum, who established the endowment with fellow member Julie Bugatto, personally pledged $10,000 toward the campaign. Funds, in turn, will sustain JLS’s charitable future work in the region — work like the league’s Read & Feed Teaching and Demonstration Garden.

A new community garden created in partnership with the Sacramento Public Library Foundation, Read & Feed fulfills the league’s 2012-2013 focus on nutrition. Based at the Colonial Heights Library, the project provides interactive education about healthy eating at home and brought rapid response from grateful patrons and enthusiastic youth.

“This legacy of the community garden will hopefully continue to grow and really show the residents of these areas how to grow their own fruits and vegetables at home,” Gillum says.

Aimee Gillum: board president, Junior League Sacramento -


From humble days of connecting nonprofits with concert-goers at a Massachusetts music venue, Clay Nutting has grown music-based philanthropy to a new strata. Years before the rise of cause marketing, Nutting and friends began Concerts4Charity in 2002, a nonprofit promoting the arts with the arts. 

“I moved to Sacramento in 2003 and fell in love with the music scene here,” says Nutting, the director of Concerts4Charity’s Sacramento Chapter. “I started putting on shows and raising money for music programs. I would essentially ask for donations at the door — whatever people could give — and we would start guitar programs in schools.”

By volunteering his hours and landing venues willing to take a pay cut for a cause, Nutting donated concert earnings to local guitar programs and teachers working pro bono. Fees for each school program or club funded up to a dozen guitars and guitar bags, which students got to keep. 

“Someone once walked up to me who said that they remembered me and still played the guitar — that they were super thankful that I got a guitar in their hand,” Nutting says. 

Now, Nutting, who by day serves as an account executive at marketing firm 3Fold Communications, primarily uses his powers of music promotion for the proliferation of music citywide. And he’s known to reach into his own pocket to do so.

“Putting on shows is hard,” he says. “It’s expensive. It often doesn’t pay artists a lot of money, if any at all. So I invest my time and resources in putting on decent shows for artists to perform. Money made after expenses goes back to them.”

And when producing local shows wasn’t enough, he went bigger, doling out skills, dollars and countless volunteer hours to supershows like the inaugural Sacramento Electronic Music Festival and Launch 2012. 

“We designed it, we booked it and we executed it,” he says. “And we were picking up cans at 4:00 in the morning.”

Clay Nutting, 35 – co-founder & director, Concerts4Charity -


By day, Emily Butler can be found in muddy sneakers. As executive director of Sacramento Splash, a nonprofit that gets kids outdoors, Butler’s footwear could take her from indoor fundraising to wetland fieldtrips. By night, however, she swaps her dirty kicks for a pair of stylish heels. 

Beyond her full-time role at Sacramento Splash, Butler is also the director of charities and finance for Reason to Party Sacramento, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that holds swanky gatherings in the name of charity. 

“We try to give young people a place to go have fun and give back at the same time,” she says. “We want to present charities as an integral part of the event so that people can really get a sense of what the charity is and how they can contribute in some way.”

In the chapter’s three events since November 2011, more than 12,000 party guests have joined the fun to benefit Cottage Housing, which provides transitional and permanent housing for homeless youth and their families; Butler’s own Sacramento Splash; and Verge Center for the Arts, a local center supporting contemporary art and artists. And by securing donor vendors — liquor sponsors like Blue Angel Vodka and venues like The Old Sugar Mill — events have brought in $10,000 and counting that goes directly back to charity.

“As a director of a nonprofit, I know how hard it is to come by resources like this,” Butler says. “I want to make sure we give the maximum amount to charities that we possibly can.”

Tickets range from $45 to $55 and include open bar, catered food, performers, art installations, live music and DJs. 

“I don’t think you can go anywhere and get that kind of experience for that price in Sacramento,” she says. Not to mention that feel-good payoff. 

Emily Butler, 29 – director of charities and finance, Reason to Party

 - AND executive director, Sacramento Splash –


To Allison Otto, garnering support for local worthy causes isn’t just about fundraising. “It’s more like friend-raising,” she laughs. 

Otto is a third-generation family member of Sacramento’s Otto Construction, a business she says breeds community relationships through altruism. “We’ve always promoted honesty, integrity and compassion for others,” she says. 

Practicing what she preaches, Otto takes her role as vice president of business development well beyond corporate doors — interweaving relationships and business smarts for charitable good. 

“I’m happy to talk with people about projects I’m involved in and let them make the decision about how they’d like to get involved,” she says.

Otto most recently put her “friend-raising” to use spearheading the construction of an amphitheater at Soil Born Farms, a local, nonprofit agriculture and education center. “It’s to educate (kids) that their food is not coming from the Golden Arches,” she says. “It’s coming from this land right here, and that’s a whole education that I think is missing right now. 

The nearly $300,000 venture came to fruition as the collaborative efforts of the Metro Chamber’s Leadership Sacramento 2012 class, with Otto taking the lead on construction management and tapping local community partners to donate more than 60 percent of building materials.

Otto also lent her business development savvy while serving as board president of two local nonprofits. As current president of the Sacramento SPCA, she oversaw a long-awaited land acquisition that doubled the SPCA’s acreage. “We were bursting at the seams,” she says. And while the 2011 president of Sacramento’s Society for the Blind, she secured more accessible quarters for sight-challenged constituents. 

Other accomplishments under Otto’s tenure include launching the first annual polo fundraising event for the SPCA and securing a new CEO for the Society for the Blind. 

Allison Otto, 37 – board president, Sacramento SPCA-

and  participant, Leadership Sacramento 2012


When a late-night dinner in West Los Angeles turned to talk of philanthropy, Daniel Kaufman and his group of civic-minded 20-something friends made a commitment to give 1 percent of their annual income — however small — to an agreed-upon nonprofit. Thanks to an engaging ripple effect, web platform and years of legwork, Kaufman’s One Percent Foundation now spans the globe as a worldwide giving circle.

“It’s an opportunity for people in this generation to give meaningfully and in an engaged and thoughtful and strategic way,” says Kaufman, who also co-founded local philanthropic advisory and consulting firm Third Plateau Social Impact Strategies, where he serves as the nonprofit’s senior strategist.

Today, foundation members pledge to give at least 1 percent of their annual income to charity. At least half of the donation is given to an organization of the participant’s choice, and the remainder goes to a charity selected democratically by the foundation. Quarterly, foundation members nominate potential recipients who share a main focus (education, for example) and select two winners. 

More than $200,000 has already been distributed, according to Kaufman, with sums of $5,000 to $20,000 going to charities like Team Rubicon, which trains veterans as first responders to national disasters; and Global Press Institute, which empowers women in developing countries to produce high-quality local news coverage.

“Most of the comments I get from partners are, ‘I am so excited about giving to this incredible organization that three months ago I didn’t even know existed,’” Kaufman says.

Increased awareness about issues and excitement about worldwide organizations are byproducts of funding worthy charities, but Kaufman has also found that members of the organization become more generous over time. 

“In the grander picture, this really is about building a movement — about changing the generational perspective about what their role is in civil society and what their role is in philanthropy,” Kaufman says. “What we’re trying to do is empower this next generation to become thoughtful and strategic philanthropists.”

Daniel Kaufman, 33: co-founder, One Percent Foundation

and co-founder & senior strategist Third Plateau Social Impact Strategies


Like many couples who share a passion, Peter and Susan Willson found themselves in the same career. The husband and wife duo are in the business of nonprofit development, Peter as director of development for Powerhouse Science Center, and Susan in the same role for Placer SPCA.

“Between the two of us, there is probably not one person in town who we have not asked for money,” Peter says. … “Which is why a lot of people run away from us now when they see us coming,” chimes a chuckling Susan.

Peter works on multi-million-dollar deals for Powerhouse’s capital campaign, funding the future home of the Discovery Museum Science & Space Center set to break ground early this year. The new education and entertainment center won’t only open doors on a new major-league locale, he says, it wil

l also strengthen Sacramento’s economic and innovative future. 

“On a grander scale, you’re able to one day say that, in some small way, ‘I helped bring an iconic science facility to the Capital Region,’” Peter says. 

Susan, a long-time nonprofit devotee, has worked with local SPCA chapters for 10 years, and her current chapter, which she calls “one of the most well-respected organizations throughout Placer,” for eight. Beyond advancing adoption practices, improving facilities and advocating for including the shelter in estate plans, Susan built an SPCA thrift shop that now fulfills nearly a quarter of her chapter’s annual budget. Also serving her second term as president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Susan works to promote and practice ethical and effective fundraising across the region — a profession hit hard by the economy. 

“Everyone needs a champion,” she says. “There are a lot of unmet needs out there, and I love the fact that we’re in a position where we can address those needs and on a daily basis help other people rise to the challenge as well.”

And when these two rise to the challenge, people taking notice don’t exclude the Willson’s daughers, ages 4 and 6, who have taken up some fundraising of their own. 

“When I came home from work, they were drawing artwork and selling them to people driving by for $2.50 a piece,” Susan says. “They sold more than $26 worth of artwork, then came down to my work to present the cash to our animal care staff. I see that, and I think we’ve had a big influence.”

Peter Willson, 38: director of development, Powerhouse Science Center

Susan Willson, 37: director of development, Placer SPCA

and  president, Association of Fundraising Professionals, California Capital Chapter