Natalia Martinez

This is important because philanthropy is most effective when it is a two-way relationship – you give what an issue most needs and you get the fulfillment of moving the needle in a way that resonates with you.

Location: Miami, Florida

Profession: Organizational Psychologist & Strategy/Change Consultant

Twitter Handle: @soulafloat
What was the first charitable gift you ever gave?:
It is hard to think back to this because I am sure there were many examples as a child when, guided by my parents, I did something or other that could be considered charitable. What matters to a certain extent is when we each start giving consciously and purposefully, I suppose. If so, I think back to high school, when I started to volunteer very actively and raise money for a handful of causes that felt important to me. Almost fifteen years later, those initial interests have continued to mold some of my priorities and actions. As an example, I became an avid blood donor as soon as I could (with parental consent), a habit that has stayed with me since then and I try to honor by donate every 60 or so days.

What is your charity of choice?:
Awesome Foundation MIAMI (or Awesome Foundation in general!) I selected it because it makes a very direct impact in the community. I am of the belief that we larger changes are the accumulation of smaller, individual pivot points. Awesome Foundation does just that – it increases individual self efficacy and empowers small projects and ideas to take shape. It feels like a very direct connection, which is both impactful and personally rewarding.
Who inspires you to give?:
Ultimately, as a psychologist I am motivated by increasing the self-efficacy of other people, to engender their belief that they can set and accomplish their goals, dreams, et al. I believe that community pivot points are the result of a gradual accumulation of individual pivot points, so my approach to any issue is to facilitate those.

What motivates you to give?:
Personally, it is the desire to act as a bridge, to get someone or something from Point A to Point B, whatever those two might be.

How do you give of your time?:
I give my time through Awesome Foundation MIAMI, one chapter of a decentralized network of no strings attached, micro-grant giving chapters around the world. I founded the Miami chapter and we have since awarded more than $40,000 in small grants to great ideas from the community.
I also give my time through Global Shapers, an initiative of the World Economic Forum that focuses on creating action-driven projects at the local level by bringing together young leaders in particular cities. I started the chapter in Miami and we have focused our projects on entrepreneurial education for students and supporting small entrepreneurs in our city.
Lastly, I give my time through Roots of Hope, a nonprofit that works to empower youth in Cuba; I volunteered for years as their Director of Communications and then assumed the role of Chief Innovation & Technology Officer. I came to the organization through a conference I attended a student leadership conference my last year of college. I had left Cuba when I was six, but I had spent most of my life feeling more Russian than Cuban. At this conference I suddenly found myself surrounded by young Cuban-Americans with a tremendous interest  in and passion for Cuba – it was thrilling! The organization’s impact driven mission appealed to me and their cooperative and inclusive approach (nonpartisan, apolitical) to a usually thorny issue was something I respected from the beginning. 

If you could start your own charity, what would it be?:
Frankly, I would not. There are already such a large number of organizations and initiatives around the world that some of the problems we face hinge around polarization: work occurring in silos and work being repetitive. I would rather find strategic ways of combining and doubling efforts around the issues I care about, than start yet another attempt with the same goal as many others. That said, I am a fan of bringing proven to ideas to new places and new contexts, and have taken that approach – innovation through replication instead of invention – to philanthropy as well.
What advice do you have for others to consider giving?:
American author Edward Abbey is quoted as saying, “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” I urge the same approach to anyone considering how to best engage with their community and with philanthropy as a whole. Find the issues that really mean something to you and take the time to nuance why they do and what draws you to them. Secondly, develop a clear vision of the kind of specific impact you would like to have within this this issue. This is important because philanthropy is most effective when it is a two-way relationship – you give what an issue most needs and you get the fulfillment of moving the needle in a way that resonates with you.


Julia Levy, Founder, has a decade of development experience, including working for a philanthropist, a small nonprofit and now a large nonprofit. She has raised significant dollars for numerous causes, from education to religion and from donors of all ages. Julia holds a Certificate in Fundraising from NYU’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and an undergraduate degree from Cornell University. Julia has taught fundraising workshops, most recently at Brooklyn Brainery and coached development professionals.

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