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Tell us about yourself and your philanthropy journey. What drives your giving and leadership?

I’m a small-town Midwestern girl and the oldest in a family of five. The men in my family of origin are and were bankers going back several generations. I was and still am the only woman in my family who has ever worked outside the home (before my daughter.) We broke the cycle! I had big dreams growing up. My dreams of achievement in business pushed the envelope a bit in my family and were not well understood. I absolutely believed a woman could accomplish just as much as a man and have a successful career. Today, I own two businesses and do a great deal of mentoring of other women in the business world. 

I grew up and later settled to raise my own children in a metropolitan area of around 500,000 made up of four distinct cities on the border of the Mississippi River (two cities in Iowa and two in Illinois). The city where I grew up was the most diverse of the four and there were pockets of great wealth a very short distance from homes where families lived in abject poverty. Growing up, I had every advantage that money could buy and attended Catholic schools while children a mile or so away from me grew up in homes without running water or enough food to eat. From a very early age, I recognized those differences. I knew that I didn’t do anything to deserve all the good things in my life. It was just an accident of birth that I was born into my family rather than one of the many families in my own city who was enduring hardships such a short distance away. As I became older and even more aware of those touched by poverty, trauma, abuse, and discrimination, I promised myself that I would devote time, talent, and treasure to those in need. I was raised to help with service projects at church and school, but philanthropy was not a cornerstone of my family; wealth was to be preserved and passed on to future generations. As a young professional and as a young single mom, it was mostly time and talent that I had available, but I am very pleased now to be in a position to share even more of my treasure in this phase of my life and teach my children and grandchildren the value of philanthropy.

 What inspired you to make a $1m+ commitment to women and girls? What do you want to say to others who are considering a bold investment in women and girls?

I grew up wanting more than to manage a home and raise children and that ambition has sparked in me a deep-seated need to both model professional success for other women and provide the resources to lift up girls and women so they can be all they dream of being. When I was the shy, awkward “smart” girl dreaming of being the CEO of Chase Manhattan, I wish a woman had taken me aside and told me that whatever I could dream of was within my reach. My commitment of $1 million to non-profits to serve the needs of women and girls feels like the natural extension of what I had always wanted for myself and brings me full circle in stretching my hand out to others.

How will this bold investment help us realize a gender equal world? What impact do you hope to have?

Women are powerful. We are problem solvers. We are collaborative. We get things done. It is my intention that my investment in women and girls will help move the needle in the lives of real people to transform outcomes to be more inclusive and equitable. I want to live to see the day when my two granddaughters and their sisters from across the socioeconomic spectrum can take risks, develop and succeed wherever their spirit moves them. Our world needs strong women and the solutions they can offer. I want to be a small part of the story that makes that happen.

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Vivian Long
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