The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: How Vanessa Gordon is using her platform to help non-profits she cares deeply about

A movement I wish to influence and inspire is for us all to once and for all stop feeling like we have to be a certain way and follow the herd. Be a leader, not a follower, my grandfather always told me. When we believe in ourselves and what we can do, that is what […]

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A movement I wish to influence and inspire is for us all to once and for all stop feeling like we have to be a certain way and follow the herd. Be a leader, not a follower, my grandfather always told me. When we believe in ourselves and what we can do, that is what sparks the change.

As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vanessa Gordon, Publisher and Founder of East End Taste (@EastEndTaste). East End Taste is an online publication based in the Hamptons that focuses on the high-end lifestyle of the East End of Long Island as well as luxury travel destinations from around the world. Vanessa is also the Founder and Host of the annual Hamptons Interactive Brunch (@HamptonsInteractiveBrunch), an annual invitation-only event held in July.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I started East End Taste in 2014 about four months after my daughter was born. Beforehand, I was teaching English as a Second Language and private tutoring and was ready to step back into my role as a writer. I started the website for fun, or as a way to showcase what I did, where and what I ate, and more to friends and family who lived outside the Hamptons. Before I knew it, East End Taste took off as its own online publication. The demand has grown significantly since and I now have a small freelance and part-time editorial staff as well as an assistant. I am thrilled that every day I do what I love and feature businesses and brands that I love and support.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

Certainly it has been who I have learned reads and follows East End Taste! I have learned that many notable celebrities and Hamptons personalities read my website regularly. I was humbled and honored at the same time upon learning this.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In the beginning for me, it was all about communication. Oftentimes, I found myself thinking one thing, and not explicitly requesting/stating what it was that I was looking for in an email, with the recipient becoming confused by the miscommunication. For example, when I was starting out, I would request a media lunch/dinner in exchange for a business profile/review, and sometimes that was not clearly stated as such. Also, my emails used to be a lot longer and well, rather wordy.

The lesson: My advice is to keep it short and simple. It will be much easier to read and respond to. Stick with the facts. Now I can appreciate when I receive shorter and more direct emails especially now that I receive hundreds in a day.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

I have always supported non-profit organizations that I care most about. It particularly started when I was in undergraduate school and I participated in several volunteer programs, including working in soup kitchens in the New York City metro area and mentorship programs for children in inner city schools. I also regularly attended the NGO (non-governmental organizations) meetings at the United Nations and was always deciphering the most effective ways to create the biggest impact.

I knew that in order for me to have a meaningful impact, I needed a strong base/platform and this is what East End Taste ultimately has become.

As I have a significant reach with my East End Taste’s social media account, I have and will be partnering with a few non-profit organizations this year, including a recent partnership with Save the Children.

For this year’s 2nd Annual Hamptons Interactive Brunch, our efforts are supporting Bideawee, one of the first no-kill animal shelters in the country and one that is local to our community, based in Westhampton Beach. Last year, the event benefited The Retreat, a non-profit that provides a safe haven for families in crisis. Though the event is and will rotate non-profit organizations over the years, I personally continue support the endeavors of these phenomenal organizations in any way I am able.

I do anything I can with the resources I have at hand and extend that fully. I want to see the Interactive Brunch grow so that it may be able to have an even greater positive impact on the missions of organizations I care so deeply about.

I am also involved with/hosting several small events leading up to the Brunch and some happening afterward. In lieu of a fee to attend these smaller events, I ask for donations to Bideawee.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

Not necessarily a particular individual per se, though many have personally reached out to me by letters or by email, stating how they were so moved by my efforts and generosity with my time and resources. I have also received many notes of which stated that they were inspired by my initiations and want to support me and my efforts going forward. I never realized how many people you can reach with social media, for example. I receive several DMs (Direct Messages) per day of those reaching out and telling me their own story (a nod to The Retreat in particular). After I supported them last year, many family members and women wrote to me and told me their own stories of how they overcame hardship and appreciated that I utilized my platform for the greater good.

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

In 2018 when I decided to put together this annual event, in collaboration with my phenomenal event planners of Ticket2Events, I knew I wanted to support a non-for-profit. I knew that if I could raise awareness in any way possible, show support, and even potentially raise funds towards that organization, I wanted to do it. We were blessed with a number of raffle/silent auction donations that were given to The Retreat. We had beauty and fashion vendors on site that donated a portion of their sales to The Retreat, and so much more. Everyone that was involved with last year’s event was on board to help in any way they could and that too meant so much to me. I could feel the momentum and excitement for this year’s beneficiary, Bideawee. One of our special guests who will be revealed in June is already a huge supporter of Bideawee.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

The first step is seeing the issue at hand and acting quickly. There are so many animals who need homes and we first must try to encourage adoption. Second is to start by helping the cats and dogs in your own town who need shelter and a forever home. Third is to continue to stay vigilant and not give up or give in. Animals do not have the voice that we have and we must stand up for them. And if you have to, leap out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to go above and beyond the call of duty when it is for a cause that you truly believe in.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

First and foremost: word of mouth. Connecting and being open with those that are like-minded about your cause and efforts to make a change. I utilize my email newsletters and social media. Not only sharing, but constantly connecting and genuinely sharing your desire for change, while tying in personal anecdotes. Connecting with brands and sharing your mission also could never hurt. For example, I am currently in touch with a couple of organic pet food brands who share the same interests.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1. No one has time for flowery-language emails. Keep those emails as short as possible. Stick to who, what, when, where, and why, just the facts. Save the small talk for another time. We have less and less time to funnel through tasks, so it is important to keep it as simple and direct as possible. I learned not to write long, lengthy emails and find responses are much faster with a short introduction.

2. Stay true to your values. Don’t focus on how others are working, focus on developing and fostering your own abilities and true to what you believe in. When you focus and put yourself first, great things will happen.

3. Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions. I always remember holding back because I thought my questions were silly and then I felt even sillier when I was then asked the questions and didn’t have the answers that I should have had! When in doubt, ask!

4. When in doubt, have it in writing. Personally and professionally, especially if there are grey areas that could be of concern, make sure everything is clearly noted in an email/in writing so there is no confusion and or discrepancy later on.

5. Time is money. I used to be more generous with my time but I soon realized that time is money. I cannot give away my hard-earned knowledge and efforts away. I used to be so much more generous with my time. But when I realized that I am spending less and less time with friends and family, I had to do something about that. Time is precious and your work has tremendous value, especially with experience. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

A movement I wish to influence and inspire is for us all to once and for all stop feeling like we have to be a certain way and follow the herd. Be a leader, not a follower, my grandfather always told me. When we believe in ourselves and what we can do, that is what sparks the change.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The past has no power and the future is changeable.” That was told to me by an old friend who was a psychic medium. We all have the power to clear a new path towards our future; don’t let any weight of the past hold you back. The past does not define who you are today.

Another one I must share is “If you want something done, you have to do it yourself.” Nobody else will do it just the way you want it done, except you.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Hannah Shaw, aka Kitten Lady. I admire her efforts and very strong social platform. We would have lots to chat about and could certainly learn more from her words of wisdom and kindhearted spirit. Leela Hazzah is another individual I admire. I am visiting Tanzania and Kenya for the first time next year and her work to protect lions in Africa is incredible to say the least.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Find me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @EastEndTaste. For more information about the Hamptons Interactive Brunch, follow @HamptonsInteractiveBrunch on Instagram.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

Thank YOU!

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