Kate Glantz is a growing force in the field of social impact, currently serving as Head of Social Good at Luma Legacy, a division of Luma. Society faces multiple urgent
Over the last twelve years, Kate has developed a track record of creating vibrant, breakthrough, corporate social impact partnerships, programs, and brand campaigns. She previously served as the Senior Director for Economic Opportunity and Empowerment at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, overseeing business-led coalitions to advance economic opportunities and equality for marginalized communities. Prior to that, she led regional social impact efforts at Lyft, where she created and scaled philanthropic initiatives across the USA and Canada.
Before moving into the private sector, Kate worked on public health initiatives for the U.S. government, including serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania and Senegal. Recently, Kate harnessed the work ethic she learned from her mother (recently retired entrepreneur) and founded her own startup, Heartful.ly, which enables couples to create charitable wedding registries.
Now, in a chat with FtC, Kate opens up about the power of equity, the ways in which we can think practically about social impact, and the promising business model of incorporated change that is helping to inspire consumers to do their part and lead the way into a fairer and better functioning society.
Sasha Frate: How long have you been involved in work and/or projects related to “social good”, and why did you get involved in the beginning? How did your work in the Peace Corps influence your path?
Kate Glantz: The short answer—always. From a young age, I’ve been driven by an unrelenting curiosity about the world and a deep desire to connect with my surroundings. I truly believe that people are so much more alike than different, and I tend to put myself in situations outside of my comfort zone to seek out the underlying threads that connect us. Serving in the Peace Corps reinforced this long-held belief that no matter where you were born, your gender, race, religion, etc., we all mostly want, need, and deserve the same universal things.
The reason I pursued a career focused on positive social impact is because until equity and access to fundamental rights is secured under the law, humanity can’t realize its full potential. Imagine how we could all prosper and accomplish amazing feats if everyone had what they needed to live well.
SF: You’re said to take a more “out of the box approach” towards social impact. What is your personal definition of social good and social impact as it pertains to a company incorporating/building it into its practices/operations?
KG: My definition of social impact is being a good neighbor. Whether you’re focused on your actual neighborhood, a workplace, or even a country, how might you create initiatives and policies that position you as a good neighbor to the people who live and work there? As it pertains to a company, this means centering your work in service of your community of employees, customers, residents, etc.
Rather than parachuting in with all the answers, listen first and forge partnerships with established leaders and organizations that have been doing the work long before you arrived on the scene. Impact also tends to be most effective and well received when it leverages a company’s superpower. Rather than focusing on something unrelated to the core business, companies should reflect on what asset or expertise they already have that can add value in new and often overlooked places.
SF: Luma Legacy was launched in 2020 to pursue initiatives that would improve root causes to society’s problems. What is Luma Legacy’s approach to identifying the root causes?
We identified apathy and intolerance as two of the driving forces seeking to divide us and as such, are dedicating our time and resources to fostering more empathy, compassion and tolerance in places where it’s needed most.
SF: Luma pursues “meaningful and imaginative passions” across the arts, technology, and culture. What are some examples of media created within these segments/categories?
KG: All of Luma’s pursuits across our segments are at the intersection of art, technology, and culture. Luma Features is dedicated to creating highly imaginative and emotional films and just wrapped production on its original first feature film, The Silence of Mercy. Luma Launch is a venture fund focused on supporting companies such as Zero Grocery that are solving some of the world’s most pressing issues, and Luma Pictures is a world-renowned visual effects studio that has beenworking and creating beautiful visualson incredible films, like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Black Panther, and Jojo Rabbit for nearly twenty years.
SF: For a company to dedicate an entire role/position to social good, it really demonstrates that the drive and initiative is going beyond the individual and non-profit organizations to companies and brands wanting to stand behind causes and further initiatives they care about. Can you share a bit about your current role at Luma Legacy and the types of initiatives that are being pursued?
KG: I’m proud to lead the charge on Luma Legacy, a segment of Luma dedicated to advancing civic values and nudging society toward a more empathetic, tolerant, and equitable future. While this is a wildly ambitious agenda, our goal is to influence and shape more positive cultural narratives that help people feel safe, included, and excited about their role in society.
In its first stage, Luma Legacy exists as a sandbox to model ways we can engage and uplift humanity outside of the traditional ways of doing things. We’re developing initiatives that come to life in different segments of pop culture like music, art, and food that are intended to galvanize people around a shared sense of joy and community.
SF: With your previous experience working at Lyft, can you share the “why” behind their interest and actions toward building social impact initiatives and how you helped to scale these initiatives?
KG: The why behind social impact initiatives at Lyft was always centered around reimagining cities around people, not cars. From making it easier to ditch your car and reduce your carbon footprint to helping underserved communities get to critical appointments and services, we sought to add value to people’s lives through rides. This thesis led to some of the work I am most proud of developing.
SF: While you’ve introduced, helped build, and scale social impact initiatives for different companies, you’ve also done this for your own entrepreneurial endeavor when you founded your own startup, Heartful.ly, that enables couples to create charitable wedding registries. Why did you create this alternative to the traditional gift registry?
KG: I believe that moments of joy and celebration are powerful times to build a legacy and there is no more symbolic moment to share the love than a wedding. The idea first came to me when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania. My friends were living their fabulous twenty-something lives in the U.S. and I was living in a rural village trying to fund a toilet construction project at our primary school. Unsurprisingly, there was a constant sense of whiplash from straddling these two worlds.
It was while browsing a friend’s wedding registry that I had the idea to fundraise for toilets like they were gifts. Instead of asking for general donations, I let people know that $20 would cover a bag of cement, or $5 was a pound of nails. Framing it like that resonated immediately and the project was funded in three days. It wasn’t until my late twenties, however, after years in international development and moonlighting as a “professional” wedding guest, that I saw a real opportunity to create a meaningful alternative.
SF: I like to think that a vast majority of people would gravitate toward these types of opportunities (like you’ve created with Heartful.ly) to have a positive impact when given the opportunity, and therefore the more people are made aware of these options to participate and engage with companies offering social impact initiatives through their work, the more the ripple effect of positive impact will really start to scale at truly inspiring rates. Have you noticed this type of effect through the various companies and initiatives in which you’ve been involved?
KG: We are in the midst of a fundamental shift in how companies operate and position themselves to consumers and employees. Whereas traditional corporate social responsibility tended to happen in a silo separate from the business, today’s leading brands are embedding impact into their business model. Whether it’s ensuring materials are sustainably and ethically sourced, commemorating cultural moments like Pride and Black History Month, or incorporating a one-to-one giving model or a round up and donate feature, brands are increasingly making it simple and impactful for consumers to engage in a way that truly compounds with scale.
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