Melissa Crum, Ph.D.

“Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.” – Marian Wright Edleman


Location:Columbus, Ohio

Profession: Artist

Twitter: @MelissaCrum

What was your first charitable gift?:

I think charitable giving can occurring through offering your money or time. Tithing at church. Through paying tithes I was taught to think about giving as a duty, not as charity.

The first time gave a non-monetary charitable gift was during my youth when I was a Brownie and a Junior Girl Scout – where I was required to earn badges. These experiences set me up to see volunteer work as something you’re supposed to do.

In the words of Marian Wright Edleman, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.” Thus, I see service as a duty. I also believe that it’s a blessing when you find a job to fulfill the “rent” and you enjoy doing it. Fulfilling a passion is truly why we’re here on this earth.

What is your charity of choice?:

The Pan African Connection is my charity of choice. The Connection is a nonprofit organization that takes high school students to Ghana. I currently support the organization by helping to create curriculum to prepare students for their trip – with an eye for how to connect with different groups, experiences, realities, perceptions, and preconceived notions.

Who inspires you to give?:

I’m not inspired by a particular person. Rather, my desire to help inspires me to give. I recognize that I have a certain set of skills that can help people; and if I’m able to, I use these skills in support of causes larger than myself.

But if I had to choose someone, I would say my son inspires me. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I should be doing to encourage my son, Langston, to give. I think about how we can start traditions of giving during occasions where we expect to receive. I’m still working on that.

If you could start your own charity, what would it be?:

I recently launched a summer program, called ARTentrepreneur Summer Academy for 7th and 8th graders that push them to think about innovative ways to make a business out of the art they create. The Barnett Center for Integrated Arts and Enterprise at The Ohio State University, Mosaic Education Network, artists, and business professionals have collaborated to create an innovative educational program where young participants receive first-hand knowledge from experts.

The ARTrepreneur Summer Academy focuses on students who are passionate about the arts and want to learn how to use their craft for economic stability. In order to prepare young participants for successful entrepreneurship, we insure that students learn branding techniques, marketing strategies, budgeting skills, and business plan development.

(ARTentreprenuer is one of many services offered by Mosaic Education Network.)

What advice do you have for those who are considering giving?:

I would tell them to think of ways to give beyond dollars and cents ask friends and family what they appreciate about them and what they do well. Those are their strengths. I would then encourage them to think about their strengths as their charitable currency, and ways to share their charitable currency with those who need their support.

Thus, if you’re good with administrative projects, perhaps you could help a small nonprofit with the logistics for the program development. If you’re a pleasant person perhaps you could greet people at your church or community events. The possibilities are limitless.

I generate lots of ideas and I am a problem-solver. I find that people are interested in my ideas and suggestions, and actively seek them out. Most recently I gave a TED Talk on youth and contemporary art, and I gave a talk on mentorship at the YWCA women’s luncheon. I saw these engagements as my “rent” payment.

What is your career of choice and how is it connected to giving?

I am the founder of Mosaic Education Network LLC. We help teachers have better relationships with their students and help non-profits have more productive relationships with the communities they serve. We are an arts and community based consulting business that develops innovative professional development workshops and creative curriculum for teachers and non-profits. Our work infuses the arts, diversity, and critical thinking into professional development, community building and traditional education so that participants have alternative ways to conceptualize themselves, their future and a diverse world. We give people guidance to conceptualize the people they work with.

What made you pursue your career?

While pursuing my PhD, I knew that I didn’t want to only be relegated to the academy. I enjoy working in the community, the arts and education, so I wanted those to be at the center.

What do you enjoy most about your job/what is most challenging?

I enjoy seeing the arts, education, and community come together in real productive ways in the lives of educators, non-profit leaders, and community members.

What is your proudest accomplishment — related to service, giving, etc.?

I really enjoyed my time as an Albert Schweitzer Fellow. I learned so much. The biggest thing was that I learned that this is something I wanted to do full-time. I worked with thirteen 8th graders, a social studies teacher, and a host of community partners to help students learn more about their neighborhood – the good elements and the challenges. I’d like to share a few ideas and projects I’m a part of.

Ashley Bowden


Ashley Bowden is a development professional with over five years of experience in the arts and cultural sectors. Her passion for museums and the creation of opportunities for people to learn about themselves and the world around them are her driving forces. Ashley holds a BA in Development Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and MA degrees in African American and African Studies, and History Museum Studies from The Ohio State University and The Cooperstown Graduate Program, respectively.

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Why We Give tells stories of ordinary philanthropists, making a difference, dollar by dollar and hour by hour.  

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