Tuesday, May 22, 2012:
Jaimie Mayer Phinney, 28, grew up around philanthropy. Nathan Cummings was her great-grandfather, and she has childhood memories of wearing cowboy boots around the swimming pool at family retreats to work on building the foundation named for him.
Now she’s a board member of the foundation. Many of her family members have made such work at Cummings a full-time job. Mayer Phinney has two others. But all are connected by her mission of making relevant to her generation what might seem like old-fashioned forms and notions, like philanthropy, or theater.
“I mostly seed and develop new work, finding voices that are often kept quiet,” she said.
During the day, Mayer Phinney is the program director at Slingshot, which supports new and innovative Jewish organizations. She’s the first to hold the position, and has big plans for her work as a young philanthropist eager to involve others like herself.
The involvement of younger funders, Mayer Phinney said, is especially essential to create a philanthropic environment that’s more open to risk-taking. Funders sometimes do the same thing over and over again, she said, because they are trying to stay true to the founder’s priorities.
“In the next five years or so, our goal is not to just get everyone talking, but to get everyone on the same page. Jewish innovation means something different to everyone you talk to, so if we can get a new generation to understand what’s happening, and have a voice at the table, we can get the greater funders of innovation to see the big picture,” she said.
In addition to her work at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, and at Slingshot, Mayer Phinney is also the founder of Don’t Eat the Pictures Productions, a theater, film and event production company. Current projects: “Stay All Night,” a film about the bond between Judy Garland and her fans; “Lit,” a quirky romantic comedy set in Kentucky, and a pop-up restaurant featuring a celebrity chef and a dance space.
“I often tell people I have three full-time jobs, although obviously during the day from 8 to 6 Slingshot owns me,” she said.
Athletic prowess: Mayer Phinney has been a competitive athlete her whole life. The middle of the day might find her running through Central Park; she also loves boot camps and swimming classes. For fun, she’s studying to be a health coach. On stage: She’s come a long way from her humble beginnings. Her first role was a singing burning bush in a temple pageant.