On a mid-May evening in a Fifth Avenue apartment overlooking Central Park, the County Mayo Foundation launched its first major fundraising campaign since the organization was established in 2015. The campaign is called “Be Part of The Start” and aims to connect an estimated 2.5 million Mayo diaspora across the U.S. with the non-profit sector in the county, as well as with immigrants from County Mayo living in the U.S. The apartment was that of Geraldine Kunstadter, chairman, president, and director of the Albert Kunstadter Family Foundation, which has specialized in international grantmaking for the past 30 years, and a friend of Mike Hannon, executive officer of the foundation. Mayo-based goldsmith Nigel O’Reilly, who flew in especially for the occasion, presented Kunstadter with a uniquely crafted brooch as a token of appreciation. It was an auspicious beginning for a noble project.
Speaking at the event, Professor Christine Kinealy, founding director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, said, “While it’s true that the tragic legacy of the Great Hunger added to the size of the Mayo diaspora here in United States, I think it is only fitting that the descendants of that diaspora give back to the county that many of them feel closely connected with.”
With Be Part of the Start, the County Mayo Foundation invites applications from the estimated 300 non-profits in County Mayo. The foundation is also calling on Mayo immigrants for help in connecting to the diaspora and to charitable initiatives of interest.
The board has a three-year strategic plan in place and drafted the help of two Mayo diaspora advisory groups in communications and fundraising.
“As a board we are excited to launch this new initiative and we commit to be diligent that those who participate in the online donation platform are reputable charities, that they are accountable and have a professional administrative and governance structure,” Siobhán Carney, a native of Kiltimagh in Mayo and the foundation’s vice president, says.
The foundation, which received 501(c)(3) status last year, recently launched a new website and donation platform to help facilitate the crowdfunding portion of Be Part of the Start – that is, helping potential donors find and review various projects from non-profit organizations in the U.S. and in County Mayo. Donors can select a project that responds to needs across five priority areas – education; social enterprise; recreation; public health; and arts and culture. A project description outlining the need and what the project is hoping to achieve over time will be detailed on the website. Each project will also include photos and/or videos of work in action. The organizations will also provide periodic updates on success. Donors will be able to see in real-time how much a project is hoping to raise, how much they have already raised, and progress to date. A number of non-profits have already gone through the online application process. Moreover, as a 501(c)(3) organization, donations that come through the foundation will be tax exempt, creating a structure for giving and an incentive for the Irish diaspora to support the charitable sector in County Mayo, the foundation says.
County Mayo Foundation president Jim Waldron, who was not at the launch but spoke with Irish America over email, had recently returned to Mayo, where his grandparents were born and from where they had emigrated. While there, he traveled the county visiting a number of the projects that the foundation supports. After the eye-opening trip, he is more determined than ever to help all these projects.
“I went to Mayo looking to express the United States’ support for our Mayo-based organizations and came away energized by the incredible work being done by them for the people of Mayo. I am certain the Mayo diaspora will answer.”
For more information visit countymayofoundation.org.