Wendy White on the power of love

LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED: Let's Choose Love's founder, Wendy White, center, along with board member Morgan Daniels, left, and and staffer Khatira Darvesh, accept the 2024 bronze medal for Community Outreach from the Anthem Awards. Photo courtesy of White

Wendy White’s north star always pointed her to one thing: love. 

“We envision a world where love rules,” says White. “That’s our vision. It’s an invitation to step up outside of yourself, look around and give.”

That’s what drove her to create Let’s Choose Love, an Asheville-based nonprofit that supports a variety of worthy causes by offering minigrants of up to $1,000 along with professional project coaching to its recipients. 

Since its launch in 2020, Let’s Choose Love has been funded by White’s consulting firm, Continuum Consulting Services. So far, the business has supported roughly $130,000 toward 90 unique projects. And after a robust few years, the nonprofit is now soliciting donations from the public to expand operations.

“We’ve been self-funding for the first couple of years but now have proof of concept,” White explains. “And now we’re ready to really grow and expand Let’s Choose Love to be more of an international organization.”

In a telephone interview with Xpress, White shared her vision for giving and the importance of offering guidance to those with big ideas. 

This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Xpress: Let’s Choose Love was launched in 2020, during the pandemic. What role did COVID play in developing your nonprofit?

White: During COVID, everybody was thinking the world was falling apart. Black Lives Matter, the pandemic, the environment — you name it. It was a time of a lot of churn and change. And I saw a lot of people kind of recluse into fear. And there were so many divides that were happening: political divides, ethnic divides. 

I did a lot of meditating. And I thought, “What is it that would really pull the people together? What is the most unifying force in the simplest terms?” And I realized it’s love. And not your mushy, gushy romantic love. I’m talking about roll-up-your-sleeves, get-down, get-dirty love, and connection and compassion. And so, it became like a call to action. I thought, regardless of who we are, if we could let love be our guide in every decision in every interaction, we’d be fine. 

Let’s Choose Love supports a wide variety of local and national causes. What are the criteria for applying, and how do you select projects to fund?

We fund ideas and projects that fit into one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. There’s 17 different goals around poverty, women, the environment and climate change, social justice and more. They’re all different challenges that the world is facing and that the U.N. has said that we need to move the needle on.

So it could be any project — working with animals, all different kinds of environmental issues, homelessness projects — but all of them linked somehow to the SDGs. 

We’ll get an average of 60-70 grant applications each cycle from all over the country, every demographic. Diversity is really, really important to me. And so we have huge diversity in who we give the grants to in terms of demographics, location and the types of grants. 

We’ve funded people that are 8 years old and people that are 80 years old. We’ve supported LGBT projects, Indigenous groups and projects from the Black community. You name it, we’ve funded that demographic. The only criteria is that they let us share their story. 

I made the barrier to entry simple. I don’t care if everything is buttoned down perfectly in the applications. I care that there’s a person who has a passion and an idea on how to solve a challenge within their community, and I want to support them.

What local projects has Let’s Choose Love supported?

The first grant we did was the Watauga River cleanup project led by Ted Swartzbaugh. We funded this massive cleanup, and then we celebrated with a band, pizza and beer at the end.

In Black Mountain, there was a group of moms that realized there wasn’t a lot of accessibility and a lot of after-school programs for children in that area. So we funded a kids summer program, Kids Quest, which offered one free day per week that focused on different areas of learning. It drew about  30-35 kids each week.

Another project we did was with Black Wall Street AVL. We helped them to start a junior Black Wall Street boot camp, which was to teach children and high school kids entrepreneurship and how to start your own business. 

In addition to providing grants, Let’s Choose Love also provides coaching. Why is this an important element of your work?

It’s kind of like the “teach a person to fish” concept. We could just give out the money, and they do the project and then they’re done, but they’re not really a whole lot better than they started. The coaching allows them to use their initiative and their project for their own personal and professional growth. So this supports sustainability and builds their confidence and competence for ongoing giving back.

So that’s why it comes with not only money, but it comes with the opportunity to have a coach for five sessions. That allows us to provide this one-on-one mentorship where we can really support that person and think through their idea, making sure that they have all the elements in place to make it a success.

Let’s Choose Love recently won an Anthem Award from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences in the category of Education, Arts and Culture. What is this award, and what will it mean for your nonprofit?

To give you an idea of how important this award is, the people that have gotten it in the past were the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Jane Goodall, Taylor Swift, Elton John and Kevin Bacon. So it’s a freaking big deal for me. It has pretty big international visibility. 

But then, of course, it also showcases smaller nonprofits and individuals that are doing good work. We won the bronze. And, you know, I’ve never won anything before in my life. And if I was ever to win anything, there would be something that was supporting social justice in the world. That’s pretty thrilling to me. 

I think that that shows credibility. It shows we’ve had proof of concept because this is a very different idea than most nonprofits. And so I believe that the award is sort of an acknowledgment that our structure actually has had impact.


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