Because they can’t speak for themselves, children are some of the most vulnerable members of society. Yet, for any community or country to thrive, it needs to invest in the well-being of its children. Children Now, a nonpartisan research and advocacy organization, believes that children in the United States are getting short shrift from policymakers, and it strives to make children’s issues a top public concern. It wants to ensure that every child has a quality education, access to affordable health care, and a wholesome media environment with fewer junk-food advertisements. Stacy Hae Lim Lee, 30, a director at Children Now, handles one of the most difficult parts of keeping an organization functioning smoothly: fundraising. Her fundraising responsibilities include putting together proposals to foundations, researching funding sources, and developing outreach plans to funders. As a member of the executive team, she also helps with overall strategy. To learn more about Stacy’s work at Children Now, check out this week’s Nonprofit Spotlight.
Stacy Hae Lim Lee
Los Angeles Director
Diamond Bar, CA
Diamond Bar, CA
Geography with minor in Asian American Studies
Los Angeles Director
University of California Student Association
United States Student Association
About the non-profit
Children Now is a nonpartisan research and advocacy organization working to raise children’s well-being to the top of the national policy agenda. The organization focuses on ensuring quality health care, a solid education and a positive media environment for all children. Children Now’s strategic approach creates awareness of children’s needs, develops effective policy solutions and engages those who can make change happen.
Children Now is driven by the simple belief that children should be a top priority. Unfortunately, too many children in America still lack even the most basic supports for doing so, such as access to quality health care and education. Our elected officials speak of children being their priority, as they know children’s issues to be a top public concern. The reality is that children are given short shrift by state and federal policymakers.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
My main duties revolve around fundraising; I work with our leadership and program staff to strategize proposals and project ideas and I review and contribute to every proposal or report that Children Now submits to foundations. I research foundation program areas and develop plans to outreach to them. I’m also a member of the executive team and we strategize big picture activities along with more nitty-gritty issues like management and HR.
Most notable milestones
Children Now focuses on achieving measurable outcomes that improve the daily lives of children across the country and in California. We seek to improve systems and policies to benefit children, thousands at a time.
Kids will have access to more educational television programs.
Children Now encouraged the Federal Communications Commission to adopt rules to ensure that broadcasters would continue to serve the public interest by requiring them to continue to provide educational programs for children as we transition to digital bandwidth. With each broadcaster eligible for up to six new channels, this will result in a dramatic increase in educational programming for children.
Kids will have access to more after school programs.
Children Now sponsored SB 638, a bill that equitably expands the availability of quality after school programs to hundreds of thousands of at-risk California children. 2006 was the first year that Proposition 49 funds were triggered, which tripled the available funds for after school programs, primarily for low-income children.
Kids will have access to affordable health insurance.
Children Now has worked with our partners in the 100% Campaign to achieve health care coverage for every child in California. As a result of the 100% Campaign, we have helped reduce the number of uninsured children by over 800,000. In 2007 we are working with policymakers to finish the job of covering all children.
Kids may soon see less advertising for unhealthy foods.
The food industry spends over $11 billion dollars on advertising to children. The vast majority of that money is for television ads, the majority of which are for foods high in fat, sugar and/or salt. To address this problem Children Now held a national conference in Washington, D.C., “The Future of Children’s Media; Advertising” that brought together the nation’s leading media executives, policymakers, academics and advocates. The keynote was delivered by Senators Clinton (D-NY) and Brownback (R-KS), and also included 3 FCC commissioners who participated on panels during the event. A major outcome of the conference is the Joint Task Force on Media and Childhood Obesity, established by Senators Brownback (R-KS) and Harkin (D-IA). The task force is currently meeting and includes members of the food industry who are charged with outlining voluntary measures to curb advertisements of unhealthy foods to children. If this task force is not successful in defining rigorous voluntary measures, Children Now will pursue regulatory measures.
What’s the niche?
Children Now is unique because of our strategic approach. We don’t think that just because we represent children, that we can’t be aggressive and ask for what we think kids really deserve. Too often, children’s groups are left fighting each other over crumbs, when we should be asking for a bigger share of the pie.
Children Now believes you have to address the whole child to really improve child well-being. We have been successful in bridging divides between different sectors in the advocacy community because we are only interested in what’s best for children, not in one issue over another, or one group over another.
What’s the biggest challenge?
The non-profit fundraising cycle is vicious. Every year you have to raise your whole budget and when you’re done, you’ve already started planning/raising for the next year.
Also, foundations have really reduced their general operating support, particularly after the dot.com bomb hit their portfolios pretty hard in 2000. This makes it tough for non-profits to react to emerging needs or work on issue areas we believe are of importance, but may not be on their radar screen. I recently heard a speaker say, “It’s like your mission is to drive across country in a car and you have to buy gas one gallon at a time…”
I strongly believe that if more foundations invested for the long term in organizations – and not just projects – we would see a lot more success in the non-profit sector. Sure, you have to have accountability measures to ensure the money is being well spent, but it would reduce a lot of waste that occurs in the constant development, hash/rehash and reporting that drains time away from the direct mission of the organization.
What’s in store for the future?
Our near term goals include achieving meaningful reform for K-12 public education in CA, more preschool and after school for children, less advertising of unhealthy products, more educational programming and better health coverage for children.
Best way to keep a competitive edge
When you achieve something important/significant, tell people about it in the clearest manner possible.
Invest in planning, excellent leadership and staff.
Guiding principle in life
Have a strategy!
Yardstick of success
- Achieving concrete changes that improve children’s lives.
- Meeting our fundraising goals.
- Hiring/retaining excellent staff.
Goal yet to be achieved
An independent funding stream and/or endowment.
Best practical advice
Don’t burn any bridges, the world is much too small for that.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture
My family has always believed that I could do anything I wanted and always encouraged me to be a well rounded person. My mom scoffs at relatives who only push their kids to get perfect GPAs, but now she’s stuck with her well-meaning daughter who decided on this career path in lieu of law school!
My friends are my mentors. I am fortunate to have met a great group of people who come from wide range of backgrounds, but are committed to the equality and diversity. They always challenge me to think strategically and we continue to learn from each other.
What motivated you to get started?
As a kid, I hated feeling helpless when I saw people suffering – people close to me or people on TV in lands far away. I wanted to do something about it that was more than a band-aid approach.
Like best about what you do?
I’ve always been a generalist and my position allows me to be involved in developing the organization overall and to work with most of the program staff. I like knowing that we are building an organization to last.
Like least about what you do?
Sitting at a computer most of my day.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An environmental lawyer – I liked the way it sounded and I thought it was a crafty way to be both a lawyer and help the world! I really didn’t know what they did or what that entailed, but it sure impressed the adults.
What was your first job?
Retail … that’s all I’ll say about that!
Biggest pastime outside of work
Avoiding housework and having fun with my kids.
Person most interested in meeting?
I’ve already met her – Grace Lee Boggs is an absolutely incisive and inspirational Asian American who has seen and been a part of amazing movements in the US. She is also kind and easy to talk to. I have yet to meet a more thoughtful or well read person – who actually wants to know what others think too! To be over 90 years old and still thinking critically, building movements and engaging others is absolutely fantastic.
Leader in business most interested in meeting?
Any woman who is a CEO must have an interesting story to tell.
Three interesting facts about yourself
- I have 3 kids: 16, 4 and 1.5.
- I’m raising my kids in the house I grew up in.
- I’m the middle child and proud of it.
Three characteristics that describe you
- Honest (not always in this order)
Three greatest passions
- Eating Food
“Teachings on Love” by Thich Nhat Hanh
Children Now, of course.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
There is a great need for more people of color to see advocacy as a career path – whether it be in public policy, communications or in fundraising like myself, we aren’t seeing the level of diversity that we should in a state like CA in particular!
Who would you like to be contacted by?
Anyone who’s interested in learning more about Children Now, child advocacy, fundraising, or donating! We also have internships on a regular basis for both undergrad and graduate students.