Founder & Editor-in-Chief
Roberta d'Eustachio (Rd'E) is an entrepreneur obsessed with delivering media from the social investor/philanthropist's point of view. That desire led to founding The American Benefactor, the first consumer magazine for philanthropists, as well as Giving Magazine and each of its subsequent evolutions: from print, to digital, to mobile with Facebook Instant Articles, delivering stories of social impact - for everyone, everywhere.
Rd'E has consulted with, and/or received investment from, leading global brands, including: The Economist, the Financial Times, Euro Money/Institutional Investor, the Pitcairn Family Office, Fidelity Capital and the World Bank as well as philanthropists and social enterprises around the world.
After serving as chief-of-staff to Dame Stephanie Shirley, the British Government’s Founding Ambassador for Philanthropy, Rd'E founded the AmbassadorsForPhilanthropy.com enterprise to give social investors a voice worldwide.
Dame Stephanie Shirley
Philanthropist & Believer-in-chief
Dame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley is a British entrepreneur turned philanthropist. She originally arrived in London as an unaccompanied Kindertransport child refugee from Austria during WWII. “Steve” was an early pioneer in technology and, after taking her company public, she has given more than $100 million to organizations that specialize in autism research and technology, including founding the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University. Appointed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to the title of the British Government's Founding Ambassador for Philanthropy 2009-2010, she believes in the advancement of the philanthropist voice worldwide.
Her memoir “Let It Go” was recently published, chronicling her life so far.
"Steve" is the Believer-in-chief to Giving Magazine, providing the means to imagine and execute its potential to the fullest.
Jerry Alten is a world-renowned art director of magazines, across all devices, and other marketing and advertising work, winning many prizes in the media field. Under Walter Annenberg’s ownership of TV Guide, Jerry took the circulation from 5 million up to 19 million during his tenure as art director. He continued to work with Rupert Murdoch’s organization after the buy out of TV Guide and created the first interactive website for the magazine. Jerry was also the original investor in The American Benefactor Magazine and art director, which succeeded in obtaining more than $7 million worth of investment from Fidelity Investment's venture firm.
Brian Lipscomb has been involved with technology for over twenty years, and founded technology services company Divergex, based in Philadelphia. Specializing in all aspects of computers, Brian brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to Giving Magazine. His philosophy is: “Do it right, or don’t do it at all.”
Lipscomb adds: “Technology is a constantly evolving industry. People who use technology daily don’t have the time to study and learn all of the new and different terms and capabilities. I work to show people how technology can improve their efficiency, productivity and, ultimately, their lives.”
Before Jay became the Managing Editor for Giving, he was a freelance writer and editor based in Philadelphia. With an academic background in Philosophy he leverages an informed perspective on everything from African music to youth movements in the West for several publications both online and in print. At Giving Magazine he shares a passion for unabated reporting and the ushering in of a new age in philanthropy.
Sandra Salmans is a New york-based writer and editor who works primarily in the nonprofit field. She began her career as a business and financial journalist at Newsweek and The New York Times, but has also covered national news, education and the arts. Prior to going freelance, she was a senior officer in communications for a leading foundation in Philadelphia.
Digital Design Manager
Nicole delights in great design. That's why her commitment is compulsive; contagious even, to get it right. Or, change it. Or, change it again. Whatever is required to finding the way to the end point, which is sometimes the beginning. In other words, she never gives up, or stops, till the thing clicks.
She also loves cats.
Co-Director, Global Membership
A foodie who navigated his way from the city of brotherly love to Charleston, S.C, Damon is devoted to serving nonprofits worldwide that believe the philanthropist voice must be heard.
Damon graduated from the College of Charleston in Art Administration and performed an internship at London’s prestigious Tate Gallery’s New York City office.
Co-Director, Global Membership
Jessica is responsible for the management and development of the Global Awards for nonprofits of Giving Magazine for their nominated philanthropists and supporters.
She also serves as founder and executive director of her own nonprofit, “The Naked Truth AIDS Project”, which raises funds for AIDS prevention education programs in the USA as well as Africa.
Nick Cater is a UK-based international writer and editor. A former Fleet Street journalist, he has reported from more than 40 countries so far on stories as diverse as war in Africa, environmental risks in Latin America, disasters in Europe, and the Asian sport of elephant polo.
Luke Norman is an experienced journalist and corporate social responsibility consultant. Having started at The Daily Telegraph, Luke has worked for a wide range of international media outlets before moving into the heady world of multi-national corporations and their sustainability commitments. Luke has transplanted himself and his family from London to Rio de Janeiro, where the views he now observes are deliriously engaging.
Doug White, a long-time leader in the nation's philanthropic community, is an author, professor, and an advisor to nonprofit organizations and philanthropists. He is the director of Columbia University's Master of Science in Fundraising Management program. He also teaches board governance, ethics and fundraising. His most recent book, “Abusing Donor Intent,” chronicles the historic lawsuit brought against Princeton University by the children of Charles and Marie Robertson, the couple who donated $35 million in 1961 to endow the graduate program at the Woodrow Wilson School.
Kent Allen is a longtime daily journalist and freelance writer. Over the past 20 years, while also writing about philanthropy and nonprofits, he has worked as an editor at The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and Congressional Quarterly. At present, Kent is a journalism and history teacher at The Field School, a middle and high school in Washington, D.C.
Lucy Bernholz is a blogger and self-proclaimed “philanthropy wonk”. Her blog, Philanthropy 2173: The future of good, has been named a “best blog” by Fast Company and a “philanthropy game changer” by the Huffington Post.
Kim Breslin is an actress, comedienne, director, producer, artist, and chef. She has been an educator in North Philadelphia for 17 Years. Mother of two incredible children, she lives with her highly supportive cat, The Amazing Sid.
Cheryl Chapman actively promotes philanthropy in the UK and globally via her journalism. She was the editor of Philanthopy UK: Inspiring Giving and now heads City Philanthropy, London, as its Director.
Stephen Dunn, Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, is the author of 11 collections of poems, including “Different Hours,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2001.
Regan Good is a freelance writer and poet living in Brooklyn, New York. She has written for The Nation, The New York Observer, The New York Times Magazine and others. She is currently at work on a memoir about growing up in a family of writers.
Sharilyn Hale, M.A., CFRE is Founder and Principal of Watermark Philanthropic Advising where she offers strategies for meaningful giving, receiving and leading. A practitioner, author and educator, she brings a global perspective on philanthropy having served the nonprofit sector across North America, Bermuda and the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. She holds a graduate degree in Philanthropy & Development and is past Chair of CFRE International, the global certification for professional fundraisers setting standards for ethical and accountable practices.
Believer in a better world. Uppity advocate for social change. Former philanthrapoid. Crystal lives in Singapore where she helps donors develop strategy for effective grantmaking. She serves on numerous boards, and is a speaker and writer on civil society. Twitter: chayling
Holly Howe is a strategic communications consultant with a particular focus on the arts. She works as a freelance journalist, writing for various publications including FAD, RWD, House (published by the Soho House group) and the Irish Examiner. She also runs the Culture Vultures, a networking group for people in media and the arts. She can be found tweeting at @ hollytorious and in her occasional spare moments, she posts on her blog www.postcardsfromholly.blogspot.com
Wangsheng Li is president of ZeShan Foundation (Hong Kong) and a Senior Fellow of the Synergos Institute (New York City).
Lisa MacDonald is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. A passion for philanthropy drives her involvement in initiatives that bring information and innovative ideas to Canada’s nonprofit sector leaders. Tweet her at @lisalmacdonald.
Andrew MacLarty is a New York based actor who has appeared on Boardwalk Empire and White Collar. Non-profit work includes narration for Partnership for a Drug-Free America, performances at the United Nations for Hurricane Katrina relief benefit shows, and Barefoot Theater Company’s ROCKAWAY benefit for Hurricane Sandy victims.
Bruce Makous, ChFC, CAP, CFRE, has been a professional fundraiser for over twenty-seven years, with leadership positions in major educational, healthcare, and arts organizations. In 2009, he was named by the Nonprofit Times one of the “Most Influential and Effective” fundraisers in the US.
Peter D. Michael
For over 20 years, Peter D. Michael has been an established actor, voiceover talent and stand-up comedian. He is also an Emmy award winner.
Suzanne is a U.S. international private client lawyer based in London. Suzanne assists philanthropists, their foundations, and international charities with cross-border philanthropy.
Founder of Julie Shafer Development + Philanthropy, a national philanthropy consulting firm. Ms. Shafer offers a multifaceted skill set honed throughout 20 years as a philanthropy executive bringing a translational approach that bridges the gaps between philanthropists and non-profits.
Jade Shames is an award-winning writer living in Brooklyn, NY. His work can be found in The Best American Poetry blog, The LA Weekly, HOW art and literary journal, and more. He was awarded a creative writing scholarship to attend The New School where he received his MFA.
Amy Singer teaches Ottoman and Turkish history, as well as courses on Islamic philanthropy and the history of charity in the Department of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University. Her recent publications include the book "Charity in Islamic Societies", and in 2008 she was awarded the Sakıp Sabancı International Research Award.
Sharit Tarabay painted the portrait of Gerry Lenfest. He is a painter and illustrator living in Montreal. He has his works published in magazines and books around the world.
James V. Toscano
Jim Toscano is a principal in the consulting firm, Toscano Advisors, LLC, and an adjunct professor at the School of Business, Hamline University. Recently retired as president of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, the cardiovascular research and education center of Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, he is a past chair of the Minnesota Charities Review Council and board member of Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.
Susan Yu is a journalist from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is an award-winning news reporter who was formerly based in Hong Kong for 14 years covering stories in Asia for international news media organisations. She is currently based in the United Kingdom where she freelances as a writer, editor and documentary film producer.
Can Country Policies Drive Philanthropy? Yes, and they Should!
By Crystal Hayling
In what ways is public policy encouraging or discouraging the growth of strategic philanthropy?
Princeton University alums are well known as big spenders, or, more specifically, as big givers. Starting from freshman year—before they have reached alumni status—contributions are solicited and celebrated. In this way, the school grooms and encourages every philanthropic impulse. Princeton creates a culture where giving is the norm. Pride in supporting the institution reinforces the school’s ability to excel and flourish.
Is it possible for a country to be like Princeton?
In their much lauded book Nudge, University of Chicago and Harvard Law School authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein break down the way policies impact the behavior of individuals and groups. While remaining firm advocates of free will, Nudge shows the way the presentation of policy options can encourage positive behavior and discourage negative ones. When the book came out in 2009 foundation CEOs like myself spent a great deal of time discussing applications of its theories to increase immunization rates, encourage retirement savings, and create ease of exercising through refurbished parks and biking paths.
In kind, our behavior as philanthropists is as clearly shaped by philanthropic public policy. The United States is widely recognized as an exceedingly charitable country. And a large part of that charitable giving has been stimulated by a sophisticated blend of tax and nonprofit laws that encourage such behavior. No one can quantify the exact financial impact the nation’s generous tax policy has on giving, but there is rarely a question that it plays an important role.
So when I moved to Singapore, a country where public policy wonks feel right at home, I became interested in digging deeper on this correlation between public policy and philanthropy to see if it held true here as well. The Lien Centre for Social Innovation, on whose board I sit, received funding from the Canadian International Development and Research Centre to conduct a study of philanthropic policy in four Southeast Asian economies—Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand—to better understand the issue. We set out to answer the question: in what way is public policy encouraging or discouraging the growth of strategic philanthropy in the region? As a part of the report, entitled “Levers of Change: Philanthropy in Select Southeast Asian Countries” and released in February of last year, we conducted in-depth interviews and surveyed focus groups with key stakeholders.
The study’s findings reveal consistent linkages between thoughtful public policy and increases in philanthropic giving, but also found many gaps in policy and practice that hinder philanthropic growth, particularly strategic philanthropy focused on addressing social problems.
This is not an academic question. The spectacular growth in wealth in Southeast Asia is matched only by the stark unevenness of its distribution. Many chroniclers of the super-rich seem to assume that philanthropy will automatically increase in tandem. But the charitable impulse on its own will never be sufficient to form the building blocks of a strong civil society necessary to address social inequity. The culture of philanthropy can be nurtured to become vibrant, strategic, and effective.
Though data is limited (indeed the lack of proper data was found to be an inhibiting factor to developing the philanthropic sector across all countries), Singapore clearly emerged as a leader in the region as a driver of increased giving through policies that encourage domestic contributions to voluntary organizations. Donors receive a 250% charitable deduction for contributions made to specific nonprofits. That policy has paved a consistently growing trend of cash contributions in the country.
The other three countries studied have had more mixed focus on philanthropic policy with less clear-cut outcomes as a result. None of the other countries offered such bold tax benefits for charitable giving, but the study showed why: the personal income tax is a weak policy tool in developing and emerging economies because the pool of income tax payers is relatively small, effective tax rates relatively low, and tax capture rates modest by most counts. Thus, the political challenge of providing tax breaks for the wealthy, a heated debate even in the US where it has been a policy for decades, is a non-starter in countries where tax breaks are unlikely to be significant enough to sway donor behavior.
Innovation in philanthropic policy and practice is correspondingly an imperative in the region if private wealth is to achieve its potential to catalyze systemic change and social improvement. In the Philippines, for example, a unique debt-for-nature loan forgiveness scheme created the Foundation for the Philippine Environment that supports biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
In Indonesia, there are new approaches to zakat donations led by innovative nonprofit organizations that offer the emerging middle class in the largest Muslim nation options to support community development to combat poverty.
The symbiotic, yet sometimes uneasy, relationship between nonprofits and donors was highlighted as a challenge in all four countries. Nonprofits would prefer donors to offer longer-term support to build institutional capacity, while donors cite weak accountability as a reason many create their own projects rather than working with NGOs. Robust networks of donors and nonprofits, as evidenced in the Philippines and increasingly in Singapore, can begin to help overcome these challenges through knowledge sharing of best practices.
All four countries would benefit from concerted donor education to advance strategic philanthropy and move beyond checkbook charity. A promising sign is the nascent development of community foundations and giving circles where donors, large and small, can pool financial resources and match funds with expertise on community needs to support worthy NGOs. The enabling environment for strategic philanthropy can be improved through policies that encourage innovation in civil society, increase non-profit and philanthropic accountability, improve data collection, and celebrate risk-taking leaders.
Some argue that the culture of giving in Asia, which has been characterized as individually driven, family-clan oriented, and private or anonymous in nature, does not lend itself to being influenced by public policy. However, the evidence from this report suggests otherwise. The stage is set for new philanthropic leaders to come to the fore and public policy can go a long way to create the enabling environment for those strategic philanthropists to make a real impact.
Queen Rania Al Abudullah
By Sandra Salmans
Jordan's queen challenges stereotypes in the Middle East and beyond.
A “mum and a wife with a really cool day job” is the way Queen Rania al Abdullah of Jordan sums herself up on Twitter. That breezy description, with its blend of tradition and technology, nicely encapsulates the way she has redefined her royal role, challenging stereotypes and changing the Arab world.
Even before she became queen in 1999, a large part of Rania’s day job involved working for the public good with a particular focus on the protection and development of children, especially girls. (It is unclear how much the royal family donates directly to the causes she champions, all of which raise funds on their own.) The Jordan River Foundation, a nonprofit she founded in 1995 and continues to chair, helps women secure employment and sell their handicrafts, but also seeks to protect children from domestic abuse; its Child Safety Center is said to be the first of its kind in the Arab world. In a similar vein, she has fought to end so-called “honor killings,” murders committed by men to punish sisters or daughters who have “disgraced” their families, often by running away with and marrying the wrong man.
The honorary chair of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative, she is especially passionate about education and has led efforts in Jordan to improve classroom quality, teaching standards, computer access, and family involvement. In 2008, she started the Madrasati (“My School”) Foundation, which aims to rebuild and repair some 500 underfunded local schools throughout Jordan, most notably for Palestinian youngsters in East Jerusalem. The Queen’s website champions an education-equals-opportunity formula and her stance that schooling is an inalienable right is explicit: “I believe you deserve an education. Whoever you are. It’s your right.”
Born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents, Rania Yasin, 44, had a middle-class upbringing and a Western education, including a business degree from the American University in Cairo. In 1991 she moved to Amman, where her parents had settled after fleeing Kuwait with hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians following the 1991 Gulf War. She was working in marketing for Apple Computers when she met Prince Abdullah two years later. At the time, it was expected that King Hussein’s brother would succeed him, but on his deathbed the king promoted his eldest son.
More recently, Rania has been at the forefront of a call for support for more than half a million Syrian refugees currently living in Jordan, one of six of which lives in abject poverty according to a recent UN report. "While Jordan is small in size, it is big in its national and humanitarian sense of responsibility," she said in her keynote speech at a recent summit about support for child refugees. "The world has come to know very well it can rely on Jordan in difficult humanitarian crises. And the world has a major role in supporting all countries hosting refugees, because that is a guarantee of our region’s stability.” She has also addressed world leaders with a more generally international but still urgent campaign to eradicate poverty, tackle inequality, and prevent further climate change.
With her supermodel looks, English accent, and progressive agenda, Rania gets adoring notices in the Western world; she has been interviewed on Oprah, and her children’s book, The Sandwich Swap, which conveys a message of cultural tolerance through a tale about schoolgirls sharing lunchtime snacks of peanut butter and hummus, was a New York Times best seller. In Jordan, however, where her husband King Abdullah II is not popular, she has been criticized for indulging in a lifestyle that is too extravagant and Westernized. In 2011, in a rare display of criticism of the royal family, 36 tribal leaders accused her of promoting herself to the extent that she was “a danger to the nation and the structure of the state and the political structure and the institution of the throne.” According to various press accounts, Rania began to dress more conservatively and lower her public profile. Still, she remains committed to her “day job.” “I am an Arab through and through,” she insists. “But I am also one who speaks the international language.”
Jorge Paulo Lemann
By Luke Norman
Brazil's richest man and international beer magnate, Lemann is plotting a steady philanthropic course helping his country's finest fulfill their potential.
He is Brazil's richest citizen, with a fortune estimated at upwards of $24 billion. He has been described by Bloomberg Business as "the world's most interesting billionaire." But perhaps the most impressive distinction to which Jorge Paulo Lemann can lay claim is that he has won the enduring confidence of no less a businessman than Warren Buffett. Lemann, says Buffett, is "a great professor" when it comes to learning about Brazil, and he has pronounced the 75-year-old Swiss-Brazilian mogul "classy."
In 2013, Buffett joined Lemann in acquiring H.J. Heinz Company for a reported $27 billion. The purchase gave Lemann and his partners a controlling interest in what were three quintessentially American companies--Heinz, Burger King (now part of Canada's Tim Horton) and Anheuser-Busch.
Still, Lemann is virtually unknown in the U.S. Compare that with the flamboyant Eike Batista, who only a couple of years ago--before he lost a fortune in natural resources--was offering Lemann competition for the title of the richest man in Brazil. The two men are also polar opposites when it comes to philanthropy.
Look online for “Batista” and “philanthropy” and you’ll likely be bombarded with stories about wild, singular, and unfulfilled multimillion dollar donations promised to Madonna’s short-lived children’s charity or a high profile gift to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games bid campaign. Lemann’s 20-plus year education foundation “supporting young people with the potential to be leaders” is far less flashy or publicly lauded, but it’s consistent.
Lemann has long preached the importance of education and the necessity for Brazil to address its shortcomings in the area. He has often dismissed the country's inflation and national debt problems as “anytime” fixes compared with the “long-term” and measured approach required of education reform.
For many established businessmen and women in Brazil, the memories of military dictatorship, rampant inflation, and long crashes occasionally followed by short booms are still fresh wounds. Lemann’s response has been a sort of privately funded meritocracy. Students of all backgrounds, races, colors, and creeds have secured Lemann scholarships. The only common denominator is the quality of brainpower. Only those who have the potential to drive Brazil forward need apply. In return, they will receive some of the best education the world has to offer. More than 10,000 students annually chase the 30 to 40 Lemann scholarships. Lemann also funds fellowships that allow students at Oxford, Columbia University and UCLA to study in Brazil.
Lemann’s faith in education is almost exclusively thanks to his years at Harvard. The now ruthless businessman has regularly admitted that he only got into the exclusive university thanks to the strength of his backhand. Tennis and surfing were his central concerns when he arrived in the U.S. Although he subsequently pursued a successful professional tennis career—Lemann was a five-time Brazilian national champion, played at Wimbledon, and represented both Brazil and Switzerland in the Davis Cup—Harvard changed everything.
The impact was so significant that three years ago, Lemann ended a speech to Fundacao Estudar, his own education foundation, by offering his help “to anyone, one way or another, who was accepted to Harvard.” An ambitious offer, even from the world’s 33rd richest man.
It wasn’t just rhetoric. Lemann currently supports a wealth of activities at his alma mater, including the Brazilian studies programme, the Brazilian office for David Rockefeller’s Centre for Latin American Studies, the Lemann Visiting Scholars Programme and the Lemann Fellows Programme at the Harvard School of Education and of Public Health, and at the John F Kennedy School of Government and the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
It’s not just Harvard he’s focused on. With a $16.5 million Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies, the University of Illinois benefitted from Lemann’s connection to its Professor of Economics, Werner Baer, also a respected South American scholar.
Barring this type of occasional donation, Lemann’s largesse isn't huge. To date, Fundacao Estudar has supported around 500 students at the relatively reasonable cost of $9 million. With its narrow focus, it would be hard to argue that the program makes waves or has a huge societal impact. Lemann is equally tight-fisted in business, famous for paring costs and demanding more from his companies.
There’s little indication that Lemann will suddenly become a career philanthropist and, despite his friendship with Buffett, it seems to be even unlikelier that he will sign the Giving Pledge. That's not his style. And that's okay with Buffett, who has called Lemann “[his] kind of partner.” No doubt Brazil’s brightest youth are saying the same thing.
When West Meets East
By Wangsheng Li
The President of Hong Kong’s ZeShan Foundation speaks out.
When I heard Asia being described by Western observers as “philanthropy’s new frontier,” I cringed.
I couldn’t help but wonder how easy it was for otherwise intelligent and well-meaning commentators to overlook the long-standing tradition of charitable giving in Asian societies. Is it mere ignorance or a backward missionary mindset at work? A lack of cultural sensitivity? This calls to mind the lukewarm reception that the push for the Giving Pledge initiative received in Asia.
The conventional thinking is that organized philanthropy (as opposed to charitable deeds that respond to specific situations, without a formal structure) is an invention of Western civilization. Historians and academics may have fun debating that. However, that view has had a profound influence on both Euro-American philanthropy professionals and their counterparts in the rest of the world when it comes to the advancement of philanthropy.
As an Asian who was educated in the West and honed his philanthropic skills in the US, I draw a distinction between localization and indigenization in the context of advancement of philanthropy. The former places emphasis squarely on developing locale-specific knowledge to promote leadership and professional pipelines for the local philanthropic sector; the latter aspires to transplant well-established theories and practices to a setting that is foreign, be it geographically or culturally.
That is not to dismiss or undervalue the enormous body of knowledge and skills our Western counterparts have developed and perfected over the years. On the contrary, they have priceless instructive value that can inspire and provoke.
In the past half-century or so, we have witnessed a remarkable transition of missionary-driven charitable endeavors in the post-colonial era to mandate-guided institutionalized philanthropy. If charity is a natural product of human civilization, the practice of institutionalized philanthropy is an inevitable result of a (maturing) civil society. Philanthropy with “Asian characteristics” is playing an important transformational role in social development and political reform. While our Western counterparts relish “strategic philanthropy,” I’m chewing on “catalytic philanthropy.”
By Holly Howe
From the runway to her eponymous foundation, the designer brings her intellectual bent to everything she touches.
With a fortune estimated at roughly $11 billion, Miuccia Prada, 65, isn’t the world’s wealthiest philanthropist, but she is arguably the best dressed. Having inherited a family haute couture manufacturer, which began in 1913 with a small leather goods store opened by her grandfather, she has grown the company into a fashion powerhouse, extending the Prada brand by expanding into men’s wear, less expensive women’s wear, shoes and fragrances, and opening some 250 Prada stores, according to Forbes. Along the way, Prada has become synonymous with understated, classic chic.
But Miuccia, who has a PhD in political science and is a onetime member of the Communist party—a so-called “aristocommunist” who demonstrated in Courreges rather than jeans—is not your average designer. With her husband Patrizio Bertelli, she has emerged as a modern-day Medici, taking a leading role in sponsoring and collecting avant-garde art. In 1993, the couple established PradaMilanoArte, opening a space in Milan for contemporary sculpture. Two years later they renamed their nonprofit Fondazione Prada and expanded its capacity to include more contemporary art, photography, film, design, and architecture. That same year they hired curator Germano Celant to work at the foundation. It was a provocative choice: Celant is famous for his ideological commitment to arte povera—literally “poor art,” revolutionary works that attack the corporate mentality through unconventional materials and style.
Over the next couple of decades, the Fondazione Prada gallery in Milan hosted some two dozen exhibits by established and emerging artists, commissioned new video work, published over 30 books on art and architecture, funded film festivals and international touring exhibitions, and underwrote projects changing the traditional face of Milan, such as the permanent lighting installation by Dan Flavin at the church of Santa Maria Annunciata. It funded the Fondazione Prada Chair for Aesthetics at the University of Vita-Salute San Raffaele in Milan, as well as philosophy conferences that underscore Prada’s intellectual bent. Not all Milanese have embraced her vision. “Culture is absolutely not seen as a priority,” she told The Art Newspaper in 2009. “We wanted to give a work by Charles Ray to the city of Milan, but ten years later they still haven’t found a square in which to put it.”
True to her interest in art and architecture, Prada hired Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas to design her edgy stores. She also commissioned Koolhaas’ firm to design the so-called Prada Transformer—a tetrahedron-shaped structure in Seoul that appears to shift shapes as cranes rotate the building—and a pop-up structure in Paris that served as museum, disco, and gallery space over the course of 24 hours. A more permanent home for art is Ca’ Corner della Regina, an historic Venetian palazzo the foundation took over in 2011 to hold international art exhibitions.
In 2015 Fondazione Prada will host events during the Milan Expo, an undertaking dedicated to food safety, security, and quality that will promote Italy as well as global issues. That may be a good fit for the designer. In 2011 Miuccia Prada told WWD that she “probably” would seriously consider a career in politics. “Politics have always been a little of my passion,” she said. “And now I [could] use my work as a tool to do things other than fashion.”
By Sandra Salmans
Exporting the community foundation model, entrepreneur Haldun Tashman is connecting the Turkish diaspora through interest-based giving.
When Haldun Tashman, a Turkish-born entrepreneur living in Arizona, hears about another successful Turkish-American like himself, he feels more than a glow of kinship, he makes a note. Tashman, 69, is the founding chairman of Turkish Philanthropies Fund (TPF), a New York-headquartered community foundation that seeks to recruit potential donors in the U.S. and connect them to social projects, primarily in Turkey.
Tashman established TPF almost nine years ago, when the sale of a medical supplies business he’d built in Phoenix allowed him to pursue his passion. Having earned an MBA at Columbia as a Fulbright Foreign Student Fellow in 1968, in 2003 he created the Tashman Fellows program, which provides support for young Turkish or Turkish-American MBA students. But he wanted to do more, and his experience as a trustee of Arizona Community Foundation showed him how. He commissioned one of his bright young Tashman MBAs to conduct a feasibility study and, encouraged by the results and the examples of funds established by the diaspora of many other countries, formed TPF, to promote philanthropy among Turkish- Americans. At the same time, he and his wife, Nihal, established the first community foundation of Turkey in his hometown, Bolu.
In the years since Tashman and his three partners founded TPF, it has raised more than $16 million, of which it has distributed more than $11 million in grants. Most of the funds go to education, much of it specifically to gender equality programs designed to educate and empower women and girls. Like all community funds, TPF offers advantages to philanthropists who choose that route: it screens nonprofits to advise donors about where to make the best social investments; follows up to ensure the funds have been properly used; and handles the onerous paperwork that can defeat the most committed philanthropist; to do this, Tashman travels in a continual loop between Phoenix, New York, and Istanbul.
TPF money has gone to build village schools, provide disaster relief after the earthquake in eastern Turkey in 2010, and support traditional rugmaking in Anatolia. One donor in New York, rather than throwing a birthday party for her daughter, raised $20,000 to buy books for girls in Turkey, Tashman notes. In Bolu, the Tashmans are using their own community foundation to support the development of an infrastructure for philanthropy, as well as an early-education project. “There are foundations in Turkey, but everybody wants to do their own thing,” says Tashman, who hopes to bring people together to share best practices and give more strategically.
But to thrive, he notes, TPF must recruit the next generation of Turkish-Americans. TPF has a junior board of younger directors, U.S.-educated professionals with dazzling credentials. One of the Tashmans’ daughters is a donor to TPF, and Tashman believes he is providing seed capital through his fellowships. By the time the fellowship program wraps up, he estimates, it will have sent 50 fellows out into the world. “I’m looking for one or two who will be very successful and will do great things in philanthropy,” Tashman says, “and I’ll feel, mission accomplished.”
By Sandra Salmans
For Dickens, charity begins at home.
Should charity begin at home?
Yes, in the strong opinion of Charles Dickens, who used Mrs. Jellyby in Bleak House to blast what he termed “telescopic philanthropy.”
When we meet Mrs. Jellyby, she is busily engaged in dictating letters to her ink-stained wretch of a daughter on behalf of a project to settle some two hundred impoverished British families in Borrioboola-Gha, on the left bank of the Niger, where they are to cultivate coffee and educate the natives. Mrs. Jellyby’s home is squalid: Dinner is nearly raw and four envelopes float in the gravy, her innumerable children are virtually abandoned, and she herself is a mess—her hair needs brushing and her dress gapes in the back, revealing a lattice-work of stays “like a summer house.” But Mrs. Jellyby is blithely oblivious to the misery around her, the narrator writes; her handsome eyes “had a curious habit of seeming to look a long way off, as if . . . they could see nothing nearer than Africa.” When her oppressed daughter escapes her clutches to marry, the long-suffering Mr. Jellyby sends the girl off with one piece of advice: “Never have a mission.”
Like many of Dickens’ greatest characters—think Scrooge or Mr. Micawber or Miss Havisham—Mrs. Jellyby is regularly invoked by modern writers as a cautionary figure. Google “Mrs. Jellyby,” and you’ll see references on issues ranging from Gaza to coal mining. George Will accuses Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Secretary of Education, of a Jellyby-like indifference to the education of low-income children “within sight of his office” on Capitol Hill while pursuing loftier goals. Another writer, in a piece in Salon titled “Mrs. Jellyby Goes to Washington,” grumbles that the administration should focus on jobs, not global warming. A Christian scholar, arguing that Mrs. Jellyby and her like are motivated by anger, recalls an activist who nearly starved the office cat because he was morally opposed to the domestication of animals.
But can we really learn from Mrs. Jellyby? Let’s remember that Dickens subscribed to the Victorian view that a woman’s place was in the home and was quick to condemn any woman who failed to be the “angel of the house.” (Never mind that Dickens himself was a less than exemplary husband and father.) It’s no accident that, at the end of Bleak House, Mrs. Jellyby, having discovered that her African king wanted to sell everybody— “who survived the climate”—for rum, takes up as her next cause the rights of women to sit in Parliament, a “mission” that Dickens evidently found as preposterous as Borrioboola.
While few charities are as ill-chosen as Mrs. Jellyby’s, philanthropy inevitably involves tradeoffs. Spending vast sums to fight AIDS in Africa can mean fewer funds for needy families closer to home; efforts to improve the conditions of the homeless here can result in less money for pre-school. Dollars, like time and energy, are finite. In the end, for philanthropists, the issue is arguably not how remote the cause but how deserving.
By Doug White
Bed, breakfast and a bridge to development in Haiti and Sri Lanka, this social enterprise is giving its guests the power to give back.
Stay in a hotel—rather, a chateau—and help charity at the same time? Yes. No, it’s not a come-on scheme where a “portion of the proceeds,” which usually means something minuscule relative to the overall take, is advertised to be donated to a cause organization that may or may not be made known to you. This is different.
It’s Chateau Charly, located on the outskirts of Charly, France and run as a nonprofit (or, "association," as they are known in that country). It sends along a full 50 percent of what it takes in for room rentals to one of two charities.
Sarah Griffiths, the founder of both charities—Bridge2SriLanka, set in motion after the Asian tsunami in 2004, and Bridge2Haiti, launched after the Haitian earthquake in 2010—was traveling with a friend after the earthquake. The friend, Paul Solomons, a wealthy businessman, took her on a visit to Chateau Charly, at the time a run-down, 32-acre mess of a place. When he said he was thinking of buying it and asked for her help in the renovation, she promptly declined, her hands full with fundraising for both countries and their respective disasters.
That’s when he confessed that the idea would be to operate Chateau Charly as a nonprofit extravagance, a vehicle to channel proceeds directly to Griffiths’ already established philanthropic goals.
She agreed, and has helped the manor become a tight ship of charitable destination ever since.
By Doug White
The leading man casting Sundance's future.
Snowbound Buffalo, NY, would seem to be an unlikely venue for anyone—let alone an internationally-acclaimed movie star—to find his life’s inspiration. But it was there, stranded in a family-style Italian restaurant in 1970, that Robert Redford—fresh from the success of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid—learned that Hollywood was giving up Downhill Racer, a movie that only the critics loved. Redford, who starred in the film, was told to “let it go.”
Redford is a serious person. He loathes his handsome leading-man stereotype and, despite an iffy academic record—he was asked to leave the University of Colorado after he hosted a few drunken parties—he is articulate and thoughtful in interviews. One way to get a sense of him is to study the roles to which he has drawn. They are usually loners with heart, people who fight against the system. He once said, perhaps with some irony, that Downhill Racer was to have been the first of a trilogy about “the American mythology of success.” (The film has now entered the pantheon of American classics, and Redford’s own performance is widely praised.) The title of his 2013 movie, All is Lost, in which he is adrift on the Indian Ocean, silent and alone, says it all.
So it was typical of Redford to start thinking about what he could do to foster independent movies, which tend to be “D.O.A. in the world of Hollywood studios,” as he once observed. In 1981 he created the nonprofit Sundance Institute in Park City, Utah, an incubator for ideas that would never make it within the rigid formulas of the big studios. Since then, the Sundance Film Festival has become the premier outlet for high-quality independent films—and Redford the behind-the-scenes wizard who works its magic.
Although it isn’t a mega-charity, Sundance is substantial. It raises about $16 million every year and has an annual budget of almost $30 million, assets of about $38 million, and a $16 million endowment. It also stays true to its mission, to help the little guy (or gal)—a goal that Redford also helps achieve through the Sundance television channel for independent film and even the Sundance Catalog, whose sales of American crafts helps support new artists. In fact, in an era when many charities are searching for ways to grow and make better use of social media, Redford has publicly worried that the Sundance Film Festival, the most recognized of the institute’s programs, is getting too large and commercial.
Inevitably, Redford’s causes have infiltrated many of his movies. As the producer of The Motorcycle Diaries, a coming-of-age road movie about Che Guevera, he introduced Americans to some of the political and social issues of South America that shaped the revolutionary. He has also been an outspoken environmentalist, particularly for the Southwest (he has zealously protected from development the Utah property that he acquired nearly 50 years ago), and has promoted that cause through groups such as Greenpeace. Predictably, environmentalism has also found its way into some of the independent films and television programs in which he has played a role, either in front of or behind the camera.
Despite going down in a hail of bullets, it seems, the Sundance Kid may live forever.
Cynthia Wu: Tough Love
By The Editors
After attending The Philanthropy Workshop in New York, Ms. Wu came home and was gifted her family company's foundation. How has she done with it?
“We were always doing volunteer work when we were growing up, and I wanted to learn more about the nonprofit landscape,” said Cynthia Wu, who was just 24 when she signed up for The Philanthropy Workshop. “But when I came back to Taiwan [from New York], I was given this foundation. I wanted to get a director, but my father said, ‘No, we’re not going to spend money on that. You’re going to be the director.’”
Wu’s family controls a sprawling Taiwanese conglomerate, Shin Kong Financial Holding, and the company’s Shin Kong Life Foundation has made about $54 million in grants over 22 years. But despite deep roots on the island, Wu said it was far from the kind strategic enterprise that she had had been taught to appreciate at TPW.
“This foundation was essentially just cutting checks,” she said. “The mission was simple: help the sick, the weak, the old – we were giving in a kind of scattershot way. If people were in trouble, they’d call us, and the P.R. department would cut a check. It’s been functioning, but not in the way that I was taught by Sal [LaSpada, the former director of The Philanthropy Workshop].”
Wu’s first decision was to abandon the customary reliance on company volunteers, and hire some staff. “People said, staff? What do you need staff for? The phone only rings twice a day!’,” she recalled with a laugh.
But the real fun started when she began to inspect the books. “It got kind of ugly,” she said. “I had to cut a lot of the funding. I went through the list of grants and found a lot of stuff that wasn’t in the mission statement at all – like, $300,000 for choir groups! They’d gotten money for pianos, for lessons, for everything. These were not people in need. These ladies had nothing to do. It was more of a social thing.
“And then I found out that the vice-chairman’s wife was the founder of this group. So you can imagine the toes I had to step on. He had 450 ladies complaining to him!”
Wu forged ahead. Concerned with women’s health (an often-taboo subject in Taiwan), she launched breast cancer awareness programs. Worried about the forgotten elderly, she began outreach and oral history projects. Alarmed by the poverty of Taiwan’s small indigenous population, she earmarked health care and education programs for them.
All along, she sought to bring Western, TPW-inspired strategic thinking to a foundation steeped in Chinese tradition – a big leap from cutting annual checks for the local four-wheel-drive club. “I think we can take a lot more risks,” she said. “It’s a privilege to do that. We’re not a government agency. We’re not restricted by the bureaucracy. We can do experiments, like a lab. That’s the vision that I have.”
But Wu’s vision remained contentious – “always under attack,” she recalled – and her father kept his own counsel. “He never said much,” Wu said. “For two years, he was just watching.” The moment of truth came at a recent board meeting, where Wu’s performance as director was to be evaluated. After she and her staff made a formal presentation, describing two years of activity, several company elders (including the embattled vice-chairman) decried her decisions. Wu, just 27, began to think that her days as the foundation’s director were over.
Then her father stood up. “My father actually spoke out on my behalf!” Wu said, her voice betraying both surprise and pride. “He said, ‘Times must change, and things can be done differently. Let us see a show of hands to see how we think Cynthia is doing.’” She was re-elected.
By Sandra Salmans
The Indian billionaire is committed to rural youth in his native country. His plan? Grants for education.
No one deserves such reverence as one’s mother, says the Mahabharata, one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. So Shiv Nadar listened closely to his own mother 20 years ago, shortly after his software company, HCL Group, established a partnership with Hewlett-Packard and he found himself in possession of a large sum of money. In Nadar’s telling, he wanted to “give back” to the country that had helped make him a billionaire, but he wasn’t sure the timing was right. “It’s like standing in front of the sea,” his mother told him. “If you wait for the waves to subside before you go out to swim,” nothing will ever happen.
With that, he plunged in, ultimately building one of India’s greatest philanthropies. Nadar, whose personal wealth is estimated at some $6.5 billion, has pledged a fifth of that sum for philanthropic work, and today the Shiv Nadar Foundation is a major force in using education to transform the lives of poor but deserving students who, like Nadar himself, come from rural India. Nadar, now 69, says that he chose to focus on education because he understands its power. He grew up in Tamil Nadu, in South India, where he attended local schools and earned his bachelor’s degree from a technology college. In 1976 he helped create HCL in one of Delhi’s barsatis—the small rooms that have been compared to the garages where many of Silicon Valley’s startups were born.
It was in 1994, shortly after that conversation with his mother, that Nadar launched his philanthropic effort with the SSN Trust, named after his late father. Its $30 million endowment is used mainly to fund SSN Institutions, a 250-acre campus in Tamil Nadu’s capital, Chennai, which today is one of the top private engineering and business schools in India. Starting in 2009, he set up two residential VidyaGyan schools in Uttar Pradesh (in North India, near Delhi) that provide free education and leadership training. The undertaking has been characterized as much more than a handout: It is a “radical social experiment” to address the deep social imbalances within India. This year some 80,000 students applied for the 1,300 slots between grades 6 and 12, and the foundation is currently scouting a location for a third school as well as beginning to set up K-12 Shiv Nadar Schools. In 2011, Nadar extended his efforts with the establishment of the interdisciplinary Shiv Nadar University, also in Uttar Pradesh.
These days, philanthropy runs in the family. Nadar’s wife Kiran has an art museum in Delhi. Daughter Roshni, who is Nadar’s designated heir to take over HCL when he retires, is deeply involved in overseeing the VidyaGyan schools and, as a representative of the Foundation, has also been involved in a joint initiative with the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation to promote the education of Dalit and Muslim girls in some of the most backward districts in Uttar Pradesh.
Shiv Nadar’s mother would be proud.
By Ron Finlay
Facilitating professional volunteering is growing in popularity in the UK as an answer to 21st century life pressures.
Big change is happening in Britain’s volunteering. As baby boomers move into their sixties, the traditional notion of charity volunteers being ladies helping out with admin tasks or assisting in charity shops is fast giving way to the rise of the professional volunteer – as often male as female.
These pro bono workers, with years of experience behind them, naturally want to put their skills to good use. But how do they find the right match, and fit new voluntary commitments into lives that remain full of other 21st century pressures?
You might imagine that demand for their services would be overwhelming. With 165,000 registered charities in the UK, and an economic climate that, despite the recent upturn, remains really challenging for the third sector, there is certainly plenty of need for skilled business people. But those who need it most – small to medium-sized charities and community groups that are struggling to generate income and plan strategically – are usually the least able to articulate their requirements. They often just don’t have the time or the mindset to ‘go to market’.
This is where ‘brokers’ really come into their own.
These modern-day matchmakers not only identify the frontline welfare organisations that need support, but also help them specify the services they require in such a way that fit with what professional volunteers can offer.
As with any good betrothal, after the match has been made, the broker’s role is to support the couple in the early stages of their relationship. Really important to secure the buy-in of the professional volunteer is to design their input so that they can donate small ‘bursts’ of high impact time on a regular basis for a fixed term.
“Running a strategy workshop for a charity board is really rewarding,” says Sue Davidson, who has been bringing her C-suite experience from international organisations to small charities for over two years. “The last thing I want is an open-ended low value commitment, but if I can help trustees secure a better future for their charity, it’s a win-win for them and me.”
The matchmaker will also help out by drawing on further resources if a charity requires more time and skills than a single volunteer can provide, freeing each side from a possible guilt-trip.
The success of the model is clear. While overall volunteering in Britain has remained fairly static over the last few years – with 29% of the population volunteering regularly – at The Cranfield Trust, we’ve seen our volunteer register grow 15% year-on-year.
It’s a different kind of philanthropy. Frontline charities benefit from an injection of high value skills, and the contributing business people build their networks and knowledge while deriving satisfaction from the volunteering experience. As Sue says ‘I like working with clever, motivated, driven people. I would really encourage those in the private sector with years of transferable experience to give their time.’ The Royal Voluntary Service estimates that British volunteering by people aged 50 and over will grow in value from £10bn to £15bn by 2020. Much of this will be by those offering professional skills. Long live the matchmaker!
By Lisa MacDonald
Founder, backer, and global ambassador of The Funding Network, Fred Mulder explains his commitment to social giving and crowd funding.
Frederick Mulder doesn’t understand why people aren’t more willing to be vocal about their charitable activities. For this Canadian-born art expert, the idea that giving should be done privately and without publicity has become antiquated. As a lifetime giver, Mulder is now putting his mouth where his money is.
As a young boy growing up in the Midwestern Canadian province of Saskatchewan, Fred Mulder was taught that tithing—the act of giving a portion of one’s income to the church—was normal and commendable. While education may have led him away from organized religion, his commitment to giving hasn’t wavered.
An early experience as a donor directed Mulder toward the benefits of collaborative giving. “I had a sense of being taken advantage of after a charity that I donated to went bankrupt,” he said. “They hadn’t told me that they were in any kind of financial difficulty and it occurred to me that it wouldn’t have happened if I had a peer group to check things out with...doing the kind of due diligence that you must do.”
That incident led the internationally recognized art dealer, who lives in London, to form two organizations that follow a crowd funding model: The Network for Social Change, the first giving circle of its kind in the UK, and The Funding Network, now a global organization he describes as “the friendly Dragons’ Den”—a version of the popular reality show where visitors pitch their business ideas to a forum of investors—“for charities and potential donors.”
If Mulder’s approach to crowd funding has a calling card, it is its emphasis on live collaboration in place of online anonymity. “I don’t find it interesting or inspirational to give online,” he admits. “I love to hear from the people who are doing the work and meet them. I wish more people were setting up structures like mine, or one of their own imagining. There is still a ways to go.”
Although he supports many social causes, he stresses his primary attachment is to people. For Mulder, social giving is not only about leveraging money, it’s about creativity and entrepreneurship. “It’s like sitting on a teeter-totter,” he muses. “You need to put effort into finding a ‘heavy’ to tip the balance on the other side.”
His artful approach is now a signature. After a Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior, was sunk in Auckland Harbor in 1985, he suggested using front-page advertising to attract new members. He took the risk of underwriting the campaign and was thrilled with its success. “It gave me a kick that an ordinary member of the public with £10,000 could take a risk on behalf of a charity, and that it worked out!” On another occasion, he became the news himself when he announced that most of the proceeds from his sale of Picasso’s 1935 etching, La Minotauromachie, would be donated to charity.
Mulder is in philanthropy for the long haul. In his role as global ambassador for The Funding Network, he continues to support the platform as it becomes more established around the world. Closer to home, he endowed his own Frederick Mulder Charitable Trust with £5 million in 2012 to be allocated to charities over the following 10 years. That his three children are trustees offers new challenges for the veteran philanthropist. “They’re quite tough on me actually—asking a lot of awkward questions. But it’s great. We are four busy people leading very different kinds of lives but linking over similar issues.”
Deconstructing the Giving Pledge
By The Editors
It began with a hush-hush dinner in New York four years ago...
It began with a hush-hush dinner in New York four years ago, a gathering of about a dozen people with deep pockets and a serious commitment to philanthropy, to discuss ways to spread the gospel of giving. The event, organized by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, was deemed such as success that two more dinners took place over the next several months, with additional billionaires in attendance. Within a year, the conversations had led to a revolutionary idea—getting billionaires to make a “giving pledge” to give away at least half of their wealth during their lifetime or at death—and what is arguably the world’s most elite, if loosely organized, club.
Today, some 114 individuals and couples have signed the Giving Pledge. As the campaign’s website notes, the pledge represents a moral commitment—it is not a contractual obligation. Nor does it involve a pooling of assets, or dictate a direction for charity. And while some members of the “club” do meet periodically to discuss different approaches to giving, the expressed goal is simply to draw more billionaires into the culture of giving.
How could anybody find fault with that? But once the initial dropped-jaw reaction subsided, the pledge drew its fair share of critics. It has been called a public relations gesture amidst a global recession and a widening wealth gap. Particularly outside the United States, some people found it ostentatious to flaunt both private fortunes and personal generosity. And some have worried about the potential influence on public policy of foundations with multibillion-dollar endowments.
In this context, it’s useful to read the letters written by the giving pledgers at the urging of the Gateses and Buffet. While not everybody wrote a letter, an impressive number chose to go on the record with their personal histories, their reasons for giving and the objects of their philanthropy. Some embraced the notion of the Giving Pledge with the ardor of the newly converted; still others observed that they had long ago established foundations and given away huge sums. “I have long believed that charitable giving is a personal and private matter,” noted Larry Ellison, the co-founder of Oracle. Ellison, in perhaps the most taciturn letter in the bunch, added that he’d already donated hundreds of millions to medical research and education. “So why am I going public now? Warren Buffett personally asked me to write this letter because he said I would be ‘setting an example’ and ‘influencing others’ to give. I hope he’s right.”
In the following section, Giving Magazine takes a close look at those letters and their authors. We present a photo gallery of about fifty of the signatories. We review their reasons for giving, and look at who—or what—is getting all that money. We discuss why the pledge has far fewer followers outside the United States. Finally, we explore the ways that some of these billionaires—many of them modern-day equivalents of the Carnegies and Rockefellers of the 1800s—amassed the fortunes they are giving away. Whether or not the Giving Pledge is changing the face of philanthropy, as Fortune magazine suggested when it was announced, the letters certainly reveal the face of philanthropists.
Who Are They?
So who are they, these men (and a handful of women) who have signed the Giving Pledge? A few are household words, at least as famous as the three people—Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett—who initiated this project. There are the rock stars of the business world, Richard Branson and Ted Turner; Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg; politicians Michael Bloomberg and Jon Huntsman. Others may not be global brands, but the names of the companies they’ve founded are—eBay (Pierre Omidyar), AOL (Steve Case), Oracle (Larry Ellison)—or, because their names are stamped on hospitals and research institutes and school buildings, are famous for their philanthropy rather than for the sources of their wealth. And, except to close readers of the financial pages, a surprisingly large number are relatively obscure. Thus reviewing the Giving Pledge letters is sometimes, to paraphrase the book title, like meeting the billionaire—or hedge-fund manager—next door.
One general characterization, however, is that the fortunes of most of them—particularly the newly-minted billionaires—mirror the economy. The great wealth that was created 150 years ago by the likes of Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, captains of industry who are the forebears of today’s benefactors, came from building—or extracting—tangible things like steel or railroads or oil. By contrast, much of the money represented by our Giving Pledge letter writers comes from intangibles—for example, computer technology that provides the market data that feed the investment companies that trade in financial instruments that are many times removed from the actual objects of such transactions.
Thus it is that we find dozens of the princes of Silicon Valley and its satellites (Zuckerberg and Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz, Gates and Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, Netflix founder Reed Hastings, retired Cisco chairman John Morgridge) mingling with managers of hedge funds and private equity firms. In this company, longtime bold-face names like Carl Icahn and Michael Milken look almost old-school, and individuals who actually manufacture products—Sara Blakely of Spanx, David Green of Hobby Lobby—seem positively quaint.
But in another respect, today’s billionaires bear a fundamental resemblance to their 19th-century predecessors: Many have made a lot of money in sometimes dubious ways. Today’s robber barons aren’t literally breaking heads to bust unions—like Carnegie and his henchman (and art patron) Henry Clay Frick in the Homestead Steel Strike of 1892—but many have left considerable damage in their wake. If he didn’t match John D. Rockefeller’s ruthless monopolistic behavior (and success) in the creation of Standard Oil, Gates himself was repeatedly accused of having engaged in unlawful anticompetitive practices to promote the supremacy of Microsoft. George Mitchell, who died last year, leaving behind a foundation that gives heavily to support work in environmental sustainability, is credited with pioneering the economic extraction of shale gas—in other words, fracking. Herbert and Marion Sandler, generous underwriters of investigative journalism at ProPublica, were listed among the “25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis” by Time Magazine for their role in marketing high-risk mortgages at the height of the housing bubble—and pocketing more than $2 billion through the sale of their bank before the market collapsed.
And while the operations of private equity firms are typically less transparent—and therefore not open to scrutiny—one thing is clear: Managers owe their immense personal fortunes in part to a highly controversial tax break called “carried interest,” which allows them to save billions and billions of dollars that would otherwise go to Uncle Sam. (Even Peter Peterson, a beneficiary of this treatment and, as he expounds in his Giving Pledge letter, an advocate for fiscal conservatism, has stated that he “can’t justify that.”)
Nor is it only America’s billionaire-philanthropists who have contributed to society’s problems. Vladimir Potanin, the fourth richest man in Russia and a leading patron of the arts, owes his wealth to the controversial “loans-for-shares” program he devised, under which banks such as his financed the privatization of large state-owned companies at bargain-basement prices. It was good for oligarchs like Potanin, not so good for the Russian public.
Indeed, Peter Buffett, Warren’s son and co-chairman of the NoVo Foundation, which was funded by his father, has suggested that philanthropists are their own chief beneficiaries. “As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to ‘give back’,” Buffett wrote last year in a widely-discussed op-ed piece in The New York Times. “It’s what I would call ‘conscience laundering’—feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity. But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.” Harsh words, indeed—but are they fair? Net-net, as many of our billionaires might say, are they leaving the world a better or a worse place? It’s unarguable that many of the signers of the Giving Pledge are contributing significantly to the widening gap between the top 1 percent and everybody else, even while they write checks to their favorite charities. But at the same time, many of those checks surely help unlock people from the very system that Peter Buffett bemoans. At its best, thoughtful, high-quality giving—from the 2,500 libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie worldwide to the year-round preschools for poor children from birth to age five, complete with family support services and medical care, underwritten by Tulsa oilman George Kaiser—can be liberating: It informs, educates and helps prepare people who aspire to that “joyful and fulfilled life.” It’s clear from their letters that many of the Giving Pledge signers share Carnegie’s view that the very rich, through judicious giving, are the best people to address what he optimistically called “the temporary unequal distribution of wealth.” That sort of arrogance is a frequent companion to great riches. Only time will tell whether it’s deserved.
Why They Give
They want to make a difference. They want to make the world a better place. They’re grateful for the cards they drew—or, in Buffet’s rather graceless phrase, for winning “the ovarian lottery”—and want to extend the same opportunities to those less fortunate.
To a large degree, the Giving Pledge signatories seem to be singing from the same hymnbook. That’s literally true, in some cases (although the whiz kids of Silicon Valley are silent on that score). The most outspoken examples of religious-inspired philanthropy are probably David and Barbara Green, founders of Hobby Lobby, the crafts company that last June successfully contested the federal mandate requiring employers to provide contraceptives under their insurance plans. The Greens credit God for their success and, in their letter, quote 2 Corinthians to the effect that “God loves a cheerful giver.” A parental role model is another powerful motivator. Whether they grew up in the most modest of circumstances or were born into privilege (viz. David Rockefeller), many came from families that traditionally lent a hand to those less comfortable than themselves. “Philanthropy is in the DNA of my family,” says Charles Bronfman, the Canadian billionaire whose fortune comes from the Seagram Company. They now find themselves in possession of far more money than most of them had ever imagined (with some notable exceptions, viz. David Rockefeller) and, having set aside enough funds to assure more-than-comfortable lives for themselves and their children, want to use what’s left over—and that’s often 90 percent of their wealth, or more—to “give back” by helping others.
Another important issue for many is ensuring that their children aren’t crippled by a huge inheritance. “I’m not a big fan of inherited wealth,” says oilman T. Boone Pickens. “It generally does more harm than good.” The concern seems to be universal. Manoj Bhargava, who was born in India, immigrated to the U.S. and made a fortune from 5-Hour Energy drinks, says, “My choice was to ruin my son’s life by giving him money or giving 90+% to charity. Not much of a choice.” “The decision I made is not just an attempt to be remembered as a philanthropist,” Vladimir Potanin, a Moscow banker, writes. “I also see it as a way to protect my children from the burden of the extreme wealth, which may deprive them of any motivation to achieve anything in life on their own.” In fact, several of the billionaires note proudly that their children are already participating in their philanthropic activities or running foundations of their own.
Those are among the most common reasons expressed by the Giving Pledge letter writers for promising to give away vast sums of wealth. But a great many of these billionaires also repeat a less predictable refrain: Giving, they say, simply makes them happy. George Kaiser, who made his money from oil and banking, describes philanthropy as “intoxicating.” In fact, many of these billionaires declare, they get more joy out of giving the money away than they had in accumulating it. (Only Pickens, dependably contrarian, shifts the balance slightly. “I’ve long stated that I enjoy making money, and I enjoy giving it away,” he wrote. “I like making money more, but giving it away is a close second.”)
Still, if the signatories are singing the same tune, some have added grace notes about the joy of giving that are worth repeating here. “To make quarterly profits is one thing,” says Home Depot cofounder Bernie Marcus, “but changing just one life is so much better.” Richard Branson, the English business magnate and investor who appears to be having a great time whatever he does, remarks, “‘Stuff’ really is not what brings happiness. Family, friends, good health and the satisfaction that comes from making a positive difference are what really matters.” Bhargava, a onetime monk who has founded a charity in rural India, notes, “We may not be able to affect human suffering on a grand scale but it will be fun trying.” And Patrice Motsepe, a South African mining magnate who has donated money to improve life in impoverished rural areas of Cape Town, refers to the Bantu concept of Ubuntu, or human kindness, to explain that “your well-being, happiness and success is dependent upon and influenced by the well-being, happiness and success of others.”
For most of the signatories, the opportunity to change people’s lives for the better seems to be motivation enough. Unlike Andrew Carnegie, whose example is mentioned in a few letters, virtually none of these billionaires seems to cherish the notion that philanthropy can protect capitalism from socialism, or worse. In fact, what’s conspicuously absent from most of these letters is a discussion of the potential political role that philanthropy might play. At most, for the American philanthropists—on both sides of the political aisle—there is the hope that their contributions can strengthen the country by doing what government can’t or won’t. For example, activist investor and erstwhile Wall Street raider Carl Icahn writes that he hopes to “maintain America’s position as the world economic leader” by making its educational system more competitive. Without significant changes, he adds, “we will soon lose our hegemony.” A similar concern is sounded by Peter Peterson, the investment banker, former U.S. Commerce Secretary and leading fiscal conservative, who hopes to change the nation’s course because its growing debt and low savings rate “leave us very vulnerable and even threatens our national sovereignty.”
Similarly, only a few signatories weigh in one of the topics currently in vogue in some philanthropic circles—the notion that giving can potentially reap tangible rewards for the giver. AOL founder Steve Case does suggest that there may be opportunities to address a societal problem through a business “that is focused on doing well while doing good.” And hedge fund manager William Ackman goes so far as to assert that “I am quite sure that I have earned financial returns from giving money away,” although that’s occurred incidentally through the friendships he has formed and the advice he’s received as a result of his charitable activities. Regardless of the bottom line, he concludes, “Life becomes richer, the more one gives away.”
Where The Money Goes
When it comes to philanthropy, the very rich are different from run-of-the-mill donors, and not only because they have more money. Based on their Giving Pledge letters, at least, they donate less to religious groups than the population overall, and more directly to education, medical research and hospitals—contributions that are often reflected in institutions’ names like the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (housing the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology), the Carl C. Icahn Center for Science and the Icahn Scholar Program at a New England prep school, not to mention Icahn House East and Icahn House West, homeless shelters in New York. Projects “where we live and work” receive a sizable slice of the pie, just as they do for humbler folk, although the billionaires’ undertakings are predictably on a far grander scale than your average contribution to United Way.
What follows is a snapshot of some of the more intriguing donations.
Big money, big issues.
Ted Turner made a splash more than 15 years ago when, as he writes, “my $1 billion pledge was heard around the world and the United Nations Foundation was born” (and, he reminds readers, he anticipated the Giving Pledge by getting “out in front of the parade”). His foundation’s brief is to help the UN tackle issues including climate change, global health, peace and security, women’s empowerment and poverty eradication. Also working on a global scale, Richard Branson has sought to find ways to resolve international conflicts (through a group, The Elders, that includes Kofi Annan, Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter) and to protect the oceans (through another group, The Ocean Elders, that includes Sylvia Earle and Jean-Michel Cousteau). Jeff Skoll of eBay takes on some of the same issues, but does it by underwriting social entrepreneurs like Paul Farmer and making movies such as “An Inconvenient Truth.” Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese-British mobile communications entrepreneur, launched a foundation to encourage good governance and leadership in Africa, using an index to evaluate national governments and issuing prizes to heads of state who follow democratic practices. “It is a moral duty and African custom to look after your extended family,” he writes. “I felt my extended family reached from Cairo to Cape Town.”
Close to home.
Many of the Giving Pledge letter writers emphasize their desire to give to projects to improve lives in their hometowns. While the Pacific Northwest, as the home of Microsoft cofounder Paul G. Allen, has been singularly blessed, and Michael Bloomberg is only one of New York’s many resident billionaires, Detroit, Houston and less glamorous cities have their share of local philanthropists. Atlanta has benefited from the attention of Home Depot cofounders Bernie Marcus (the Georgia Aquarium, the Marcus Autism Center) and Arthur Blank (the Atlanta BeltLine, a network of paths, parks and transit; and childhood anti-obesity and education reforms in Georgia). Walter Scott, Jr., a construction contractor in Omaha, is investing in the local zoo—and reminding his fellow Omahan that “there’s still room for a Buffet exhibit. Call me when you’re looking for an idea!” On other continents, mining magnate Andrew Forrest is working for sustainable improvements in the lives of “our first Australians,” and industrialist Victor Pinchuk, the first Eastern European to sign the pledge, is supporting education, healthcare and the arts in Ukraine.
Close to the heart (and other organs).
Many of the letter writers are committed to combatting some disease—think Gates and AIDS, malaria, rotavirus—but few sound as fervent as Jon Huntsman, Sr., the Utah businessman (and father of onetime Republican presidential contender Jon Huntsman, Jr.) whose mother’s death led him decades ago to “pledge to give my entire fortune to curing cancer. . . . My duty is to make sure cancer is vanquished.” First-hand experience is inspiring others to fight mental illness, neurofibromatosis, diabetes.
Not everyone who’s taken the pledge lists his or her beneficiaries—or, for that matter, has begun to disburse significant funds. Some of the younger billionaires, such as Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz, admit that they haven’t yet identified the causes to which they want to contribute. Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, the undergarment company, notes that she is focused mostly on growing her business, an effort that should eventually “pay even greater dividends to help women... in an even bigger way.” And, interestingly, Buffett, one of the biggest philanthropists of all, makes no mention of the way he’s directed his money. That’s because he channels his contributions primarily through the Gates Foundation. As he notes in his letter, with typical modesty and clarity, “this pledge does not leave me contributing the most precious asset, which is time.”
CHARACTERS INCLUDE: BILL AND MELINDA GATES AND WARREN BUFFET
Corporate Philanthropy In The U.S. - The Top 10
By Sandra Salmans
A look at the biggest corporate givers in the U.S.A.
While their profits surged in 2013, U.S. corporations took a steady-as-she goes approach to philanthropy. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s latest annual survey of giving by America’s biggest companies, cash giving in 2013 rose by less than 3 percent, to $4.6 billion. Walmart led the pack, as it has for 10 of the past 11 years. (While there are no comparable studies of corporate philanthropy outside of the United States, other large companies—such as Japan’s Toyota—also play a significant role.
However, the list below provides only a partial portrait of philanthropy by American companies. The Chronicle also reported that corporate donations of products rose by nearly 23 percent in 2013. Overall corporate giving, when both cash and products are counted, rose by 17.2 percent in 2013, to $18.7 billion. The top five U.S. corporate donors in cash and products (at fair market value) were Halliburton ($4.1 billion), Pfizer ($3.1 billion), Merck & Co. ($1.9 billion) and Google and Walmart (tied at $1.1 billion). For Halliburton, Pfizer and Merck, product donations made up more than 90 percent of total giving. (Wondering what Halliburton gives away? We did, so we asked the company. It’s software to help engineering and geosciences students master skills “critical to the energy industry.”)
The top ten U.S. corporate donors in cash in 2013:
1 - Walmart Stores - $311.6 million
2 - Wells Fargo & Company - $275.5 million
3 - Chevron Corporation - $274.3 million
4 - Goldman Sachs Group - $262.6 million
5 - ExxonMobil Corporation - $227.5 million
6 - JPMorgan Chase & Company - $210.9 million
7 - Bank of America - $166.5 million
8 - Johnson & Johnson - $157.2 million
9 - General Electric - $154.8 million
10 - Target Corporation - $148.6 million
Good Done Great & The Rise Of B Corporations
By Earl Bridges
Technology, Data-based Storytelling, and CSR
By the time I co-founded Good Done Great, I had already seen my share of poverty. I’d spent my formative years in Thailand with a father who was an Air Force pilot-turned missionary and a mother who was an early social good entrepreneur. As my father tended to the spiritual needs of the congregation, my mother spent her time providing job skills and entrepreneurial mentoring to a thriving cottage industry. I witnessed first hand how this type of support complemented and often exceeded the impact that the church could achieve through utilizing contributions from their members. What started out as her little business soon prospered, and the money often-times became the main source of income for our family. It was then that I realized how critical business engagement was to solving many of the world’s greatest social and environmental challenges.
I returned to the United States after high school, attended college, and then later completed a masters degree in international business studies. I held the expected jobs in the corporate world with expanding responsibility and challenges and yet found myself increasingly anxious to do something with greater social impact.
In 2009, I contacted a former colleague, David Barach, and together we imagined a technology firm which might increase efficiencies for foundations and other philanthropists to identify needs, select charities, and provide grants directly to the most deserving programs. The solution quickly gathered momentum with foundations. As the solution spread, we discovered there were many multinational corporations with a growing desire to be involved in the communities where they participated. We were anxious to partner with firms that were willing to lend their resources for good.
Corporations command a unique position within the world of giving because they have both the financial means to donate to nonprofits, AND employees with both time and money to volunteer. The workplace is where human and corporate capital intersect.
We continue to believe the corporate social responsibility market is ripe for disruption. With a U.S. donation market of $280 billion from individuals alone, we see an opportunity for our company to do well by doing good. During the last several years, we have dedicated our efforts to proving solutions for workplace giving. Corporations with a purpose that create a culture of people who really care, and are encouraged by their employer to seek out charitable causes that have the greatest capacity to change the world.
The Good Done Great solutions provide employees with a web portal to find volunteer opportunities, make donations and receive their company’s match, and engage with others. They can follow their progress towards personal giving goals, team goals, or company goals. Gamification strategies encourage additional good works in order to reach higher levels.
We’re also able to integrate our corporate grant solutions with workplace giving which enables corporations to aggregate information from all of their CSR programs in a way that has never been possible on one platform. This is significant because often with corporations, volunteerism lives in human resources as an employee engagement strategy, corporate giving lives in the CEO budget, corporate sponsorships live in marketing, and matching gifts are often a hybrid that lives in community or investor relations. We believe that too few companies are combining all of the results of these initiatives into a story that tells the “purpose” of their company. Good Done Great’s unifying technology creates a crucial platform where data from volunteerism, grant making, sponsorships, matching grants, and employee donations all lives in the same place and is easily accessible, enabling integrated data-driven storytelling. It’s rewarding to know that our products and services are ultimately building the reputations of corporations that we’re very proud to partner with.
One final note, It was important to David and me to remain true to our original social intentions despite the growth of our company. So in 2012 we became a B-Corp, or benefit corporation. We believed that as a for-profit business we have the same responsibility to bettering our society that our philanthropic clients have. The B Corporation movement reflects our values, which is why we joined this community of companies that is creating a society where businesses are beacons of what good citizenship can be.
The journey to building a socially-responsible, yet profitable company has been extremely rewarding. We have found many partners along the way who have shared in our vision of a better world through active leadership by brands, companies, and philanthropists. We are constantly inspired by our clients and their employees, and the innovative ways they come up with to impact the needs in their immediate surroundings. And we have made a difference in the world.
Sir Winston Churchill
The mighty lion's most famous philanthropic quote.
By Luke Norman
For Kris Tompkins, former CEO of Patagonia Inc, there was one obvious way to protect the wildlands she loves: buy, restore, and open them to the public.
A Jewish state, a dumping ground for US nuclear waste, and a corridor designed to finally allow the Argentines to invade Chile. These are a few of the accusations that the wildlands philanthropists Doug and Kris Tompkins have had to fend off during their more than 20-year, multimillion-dollar crusade to conserve vast tracks of the Patagonian wilderness. With more than 2.2 million acres already under their watch and scores of species encouraged back from the brink of extinction, Kris and Doug have continually proved the viability of their approach.
For Kris, and central to environmentalism more generally, the concept is simple: our relationship with the world is what makes us human. She has been unabashed in her closer affinity to the natural world than to the one of high heels and tailored suits. As a consequence, she has done what seemed most obvious to her: buy land directly for preservation.
After more than twenty years as an integral part of Patagonia’s rise into one of the world’s most successful ethical brands, Kris ditched the business attire, married Doug Tompkins, founder of her own biggest competitor North Face and Espirit in 1993, and launched a private crusade to preserve large portions of endangered wilderness. By this time, Patagonia, an area bigger than France but with less than five percent of its land subject to explicit conservation efforts, was under increasing pressure from sheep ranchers, oil drillers and insatiable hunters. The couple spent years exploring the almost hypnotic Patagonian landscape themselves on foot, skis, and waist high in water.
It was a natural fit. Twenty years on and the Tompkins have developed an extraordinarily unconventional real estate portfolio. Through various locally based foundations, they’ve bought, restored and opened the 726,000-acre Corcovado National Park in Chile and the 165,000-acre Monte León National Park in Argentina. Both are now owned by their respective national governments and in the years to come the Argentinian government will also be granted Iberá National Park in perpetuity (currently 341,000 acres with plans to expand to 1.85 million acres) and Chile will receive the 711,000-acre Pumalín National Park.
Still, it is the proposed Patagonia National Park that is currently taking up much of the Tompkins’ focus. Almost 10 years ago Kris’s Conservacion Patagonica foundation bought 192,000 acres in Chile’s Aysén region. The land, a portion of an historically thinly populated region, is a former sheep ranch situated between two existing Chilean national reserves, Jeinimeni and Tamango, and had been on the government’s wish list for more than 30 years. In return, Chile has elevated the status of all 460,000 acres to that of National Park, a political step to safeguard its future. It is exactly the kind of result that Tompkins has aimed for and a prime example of her private to public approach.
In the decade since acquiring the Patagonia National Park, they have pulled down fencing, built visitor centres, helped gauchos transition into park rangers, opened up hiking trails, helped provide local education, and created camping sites. The main thrust of the acquisition though has been giving the land a chance to breathe and recover. Some of the most obviously rewarding results have come in the form of flourishing plant life and once-again thriving local species. “We’re trying to think 100 and even 150 years down the road," Kris told Businessweek last year. "That’s really our goal—to have some of this remain just as they found it.”
For Tompkins and millions like her, the motivation has been the resounding acknowledgement that the ongoing loss of biodiversity is the greatest crisis our planet faces. The same group of people can relish the fact that biodiversity has become a perpetual growth industry.
Clearly not everyone can go out and buy half a million acres of pristine wildscape in the southern cone but people can (and do) pull together and protect the woods, meadows and rivers important to them. To date the US’ Land Trust Alliance, for example, boasts more than 1,700 members and has protected nearly 37 million acres nationwide.
While Tompkins is now a model for the type of work she’s quietly forged, the recognition has been somewhat slow locally. That narrative too seems to be shifting; recently, billionaire Chilean President Sebastián Piñera sought Tompkins’ advice before purchasing a national reserve on Chiloé Island. Progress.
Long live the wildlands.
By Holly Howe
The Swiss-American art collector thumbed his nose at American foreign policy with his biggest gift yet.
Gilbert Brownstone likes to say that he has a “Cuban heart.” The American-born art collector holds the country in such high esteem that in 2010 he donated 120 artworks to the National Museum of Fine Art in Havana, all channeled through his namesake foundation established in 1999.
The gift, which included works by major 20th-century artists like Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, and Joan Miró, was a significant coup for the museum. Brownstone, who personally delivered the art, was awarded the Cuban Medal of Friendship for his support.
Brownstone, who is in his early 70s and arrived in France at the age of 17 and studied at the Sorbonne, is a Swiss national but constant traveler, dividing time between the United States, Paris, and Central and South America. He worked at a contemporary art museum in Paris, the Picasso Museum in Antibes and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and later opened his own gallery in Paris.
When that closed, he created The Brownstone Foundation in 1999 with the mission of supporting projects and establishing charities within the scope of “cultural and educational development.” Besides donations, of which the Cuban gift is one of its most spectacular, the foundation has loaned pieces of art to institutions around the world. The foundation’s beneficiaries include New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
Still, Brownstone has made the Caribbean island nation his special priority. In addition to gifts of art, he’s underwritten the creation of a 2,000-square-foot community center in the El Cotorro neighborhood of Havana (the project awaits final approval), as well as a new rehearsal space at the Havana Dance Centre; he’s supplied musical instruments to community groups; and initiated in 2002 and continues to fund the Noemi prize. Although the prize was originally intended to grant Cuban artists—dancers, musicians, and writers as much as visual artists—a three-month residency in Paris, in 2008 its scope was expanded to include artists from members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, a trade group which was founded by Cuba and Venezuela as an alternative to NAFTA and includes Latin American countries with socialist-leaning governments.
In fact, Brownstone’s philanthropy has carried a strong political message. When he donated art to Havana, he dedicated that gift to the so-called Five Heroes, Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States since 1998 for their alleged role in shooting down two planes piloted by an anti-Castro activist group two years earlier. In 2011, Rene Gonzalez became the first of the five to be released and returned to Cuba after serving 13 years in an American prison. Two years later, a second prisoner was released and more recently, spurred by the easing of the decades-old American trade embargo on the island, the final three of the remaining Heroes were granted release in a prisoner exchange with the U.S. in December.
Brownstone is also on the board of the Center for International Policy, a liberal group that works on issues such as U.S.-Mexican border policies, deforestation and, of course, re-establishing ties between the U.S. and Cuba. Even before the rekindling of state relations between the two countries late in 2014, Brownstone was long building his own bridge to Cuba.
The Generosity Network
By Bruce Makous
How fundraisers can turn "must-do" transactional giving into transformative philanthropy.
Directed to volunteer and professional fundraisers alike, The Generosity Network is written from the dual perspective of a philanthropist, Jeffrey Walker, and a professional fundraiser, Jennifer McCrea. While most of the content is built on familiar industry relationship-based fundraising approaches, the book does lead into some new territory in the process.
Walker and McCrea begin with a focus on the distinction between transactional giving—what we might think of as day-to-day, hands-off philanthropy—and more thoughtful “transformative giving” built on careful connections and common goals. From both sides of a donation, the first half of the book acts as a self-help manual for developing meaningful gifts.
The authors focus on transformative giving as a central theme throughout the book, encouraging readers to mobilize personal values into action. Within that framework, both McCrea and Walker emphasize the benefits of community-based philanthropy and the viability of successful group structures.
Using this core concept as a filter, the second half of the book falls in line with a more deliberate description of how each step of the major gift development process is affected in operational terms. Some of the methods discussed won’t necessarily work for all donor personality types, particularly those who are not community oriented, and some parts of the book boil down widely known and accepted best practices. Still, even those who navigate the treacherous territory of asking major donors for money professionally will find some sections fresh and original. In particular, a chapter titled “The Ask,” and another on donor cultivation, called “The Jeffersonian Dinner,” allow Walker and McCrea to spin their years of experience into adaptable advice.
Whether reading The Generosity Network for personal edification, to get up to speed as a volunteer new to solicitation, or for advancement of a professional career, readers can expect a mostly effective mix of standard practices and new, sophisticated approaches to raising funds.
The New, New Philanthropists
By James V. Toscano
There is an emerging style of philanthropy that will not accept anything but solutions and cures.
There is an emerging style of philanthropy that will not accept anything but solutions and cures. Gradually it will constitute a significant element in the way society allocates charitable resources.
This new philanthropy is characterized by impatience, empiricism, and calculated risk—contradictory yet persistent aspects displayed by a new breed of donors. The division between for- and non-profit, the idea of tax deductibility, and public recognition of donations all seem to be losing importance.
This movement sees its contributions as investments, not charity. Societal return is the object. Is it philanthropy, or is it something else? Does it matter what we call it if it becomes a vital, dynamic force in societal change? In the truest meaning of the word, these individuals are philanthropists.
What is all-important is pushing the envelope, not accepting the status quo, and positive impact on the overall society.
Traditional Philanthropy Is Slowing
With traditional philanthropy plateaued, perhaps even receding, it is this source of energy to which many will direct their focus for the resources needed to fuel the nonprofit sector and beyond.
The most recent survey of nonprofit organizations reports traditional methods of fundraising failing: three-quarters of new gifts are not repeated. Overall, retention of all donors from year to year has sunk to 39 percent.
The new philanthropists are really not interested in the same-old, same-old. For four decades, traditional philanthropy has constituted two percent of the GDP. These new minds know that four to five percent is needed, and they have a method for determining where to increase investments in society.
Generational differences, conceptual and methodological developments, different expectations, even the sources of wealth are motivating this change in the way we contribute time, money, and other resources.
The March to Measurement
Central to decision-making is measurement. For example, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation’s David Hunter influenced foundations to seriously employ metrics in evaluations of proposals and nonprofits in managing to measurable outcomes.
Heavily influenced by the empiricism of hedge funds, leadership of the Robin Hood Foundation has pushed sophisticated metrics. To determine return on their charitable investments, now over $1 billion, the Foundation methodology monetizes all potential outcomes of their grants. This allows comparative evaluation and a system of counterfactuals, what would happen if no investment were made, gives credibility to the discipline used.
Robin Hood requires its recipients to be nonprofit organizations. Others are moving in a direction where the distinction between the nonprofit and the for-profit organization doesn’t matter.
This newest attempt crosses, really obliterates boundaries between for-profit and nonprofit organizations, utilizing the strengths of both.
Entrepreneurial in spirit, bottom line and success oriented in methodology, disciplined in its choices, yet value-oriented in its mission, the new philanthropy seeks to solve problems, not merely to reduce or ameliorate them.
The greatest of all these challenges nationally and internationally is the growing inequality of income and total resources available to individuals.
The new philanthropists are beginning to focus on this problem, with a solution that principally focuses on a model of wealth creation and the promotion of social mobility.
In the past, attempts to reduce inequality have been piecemeal, especially when human beings are parsed into a variety of nonprofit and government services, assistances, and subsidies. Progress has been made, yet the number of poor here and abroad continues to increase.
Attempts at government intervention through aggressive taxation have largely failed, as have the inflating power of printing more money.
These government measures may have helped stop temporary dysfunctions but have not brought longer-term relief or, more important, solved the root of the problems.
The idea of philanthropic assistance in creating wealth is not new. Just look at the worldwide phenomenon of microloans, which have indeed promoted independence, employment, and wealth.
The difference now is that wealth creation is becoming the significant driver among those new philanthropists who value increasing social mobility, using their resources to achieve this important aspect of the American Dream.
The new philanthropists envision funding going beyond grants and loans to a new focus on investments in nonprofits, for-profits and any combination for solutions, for cures. They use rigorous metrics, leverage of all types, and intensive due diligence to find their philanthropic investment targets.
The Creation Of Wealth
Their targets for investment have high promise to create wealth not only for individuals but for communities, the groups that produce high-paying, long-term jobs for many currently under- and unemployed.
The existence of a grocery store in a poor neighborhood is a well-known engine to produce other economic development. Yet most blighted areas lack such stores. And if such a store is introduced, failure is often the outcome, given all of the missing elements to make a grocery store succeed.
To address the grocery story dilemma, a group is seeking to create a start-up in a neighborhood that raises fish and uses the fish water to grow hydroponic vegetables and herbs, providing communities with both nutritious food and jobs. Salaries are multipliers for economic growth. High quality food produces stronger and healthier children and adults. The downward spiral is reversed!
This new philanthropy focuses on emerging societal trends: the digital, the green, and the quality movements all around us. Nevertheless, two conventional areas needing vast new resources—the rebuilding of infrastructure and the capacity problems of health care— will need the same innovative solutions as the new and emerging areas of economic growth.
Opportunity abounds and the potential for wealth creation is enormous. Just think of an idea in a college dorm, develop the concept, go through rigorous due diligence, receive funding, and a new Facebook may be born.
Or an idea growing out of a public housing project that develops into a profitable ethnic restaurant at the new football stadium employing inner city workers is financed. How many more innovations and start-ups are created through this new philanthropy depends on how the ideas embodied in this approach catch on with increasing numbers of nontraditional donor/investors.
We need much more philanthropic investment if any of our ambitions to reduce inequality or to solve a myriad of other problems are to happen. And the new philanthropy may provide these resources.
Where will this come from? First remember that we are talking about grants, loans, and investments. If we create wealth, those beneficiaries may repay earlier grant funds to the source, or repay a loan with reasonable interest, declare dividends on investments, or return high yields on original investment equity.
One way to do this is for new philanthropists to come together and contribute to an impact fund that combines their values and their rigorous methodology. Community foundations may be the perfect place to start these funds. Through impact grants and loans, the fund can leverage bank loans, buy down mortgage points, capitalize initial efforts, and generally supply the start-up funds for a new innovation, a solution to a long-standing problem, or a cure for societal dysfunctions.
Starting The Fund
The impact fund will start with individuals of high net worth and farsighted foundations capitalizing the initial effort. However, anyone can contribute, loan money, or invest in this effort. For example, individuals with donor-directed funds can make grants to the fund, allow program related loans, and invest a small percentage of their corpus (say, five percent) in the fund.
Mutual funds and other investment houses already offer socially responsible funds that cover part of this territory but do not go to new combinations of groups, to highly adventurous ideas, or to nonprofits with entrepreneurial subsidiaries.
Eventually, anyone with an investment can place a percentage of their corpus in impact philanthropy funds— funds that seek not only entrepreneurial reward but also overall societal benefit.
Just think of a percentage of the endowment funds in foundations that might find their way into reasonable and responsible investments in these impact funds, given the foundations’ missions. Why just use the earnings of the endowment? Use the endowments themselves.
Is there risk? Not risk, risks. Many. And rewards. More than can ever be achieved without this new approach—the very real creation of wealth across a spectrum of diverse ideas, industries, communities, and individuals.
We need new blood in the philanthropic system. We certainly need more funds. We need new ideas. We need societal venture funds. We need new ways of philanthropic investing. We need new metrics. We really need these new, new philanthropists.
By The Editors
An icon of the art world is leveraging culture and creativity against global challenges.
For a woman who has spent tens of millions of dollars of her personal fortune in pursuit of cultural development, Louise Blouin has generated some surprisingly negative press. Criticisms range from those who gently mock the Miss World-esque vision statements emanating from the French-Canadian to more serious accusations of unpaid debts and financial mismanagement at her media empire.
For the former at least, one can point to the peculiarly English (the Louise Blouin Foundation is based in West London) trait of finding unabashed, highly ambitious philanthropy hard to deal with. Add the vagueness that cultural philanthropic ventures can often carry and the alleged string of celebrity lovers (supposedly including Britain’s own Prince Andrew), and you can see why the British press have so enjoyed themselves with Mrs. Blouin. However, as publisher of more than 90 art titles per year, including the magazines Art + Auction, Modern Painters, and Culture + Travel, and as founder of the hugely influential ARTINFO.com, her place as a bastion of cultural influence has long been secure.
Blouin launched her $30 million eponymous foundation in 2005 with the vague intention of “supporting cultural development across the globe, disseminating culture beyond borders and generating new knowledge about creativity.” While some of its global aspirations may have been quietly scaled back, the Foundation’s London base has become one of the largest non-government, not-for-profit cultural spaces in the world.
Nearly a decade later, the Louise Blouin Foundation (LBF) has given space to a wide range of artists around the world while also hosting think tanks, workshops, debates, and summits on all manner of zeitgeists. Her annual Creative Leadership Summit in New York brings the challenge of using culture and creativity as catalysts for positive social change to the very highest table (past awardees at the grand event have included Bill Clinton and King Abdullah of Jordan) and LBF has boasted a 46-member advisory board including artist Damien Hirst, actor Jeremy Irons, and photographer Mario Testino.
Born and raised in Montreal, Blouin’s love affair with fine art started thanks to a volunteer posting at the city’s Museum of Fine Arts. Years later, Blouin even referenced her affinity for the arts in a split from her second husband and long-time business partner, John MacBain. The pair’s company, Trader Classified Media, was valued at almost $1 billion in the late 1990s. But, since 2000, Blouin has concentrated her resources on sharing the cultural message, both through her business, Louise Blouin Media, and through her foundation.
A Blouin quote on the LBF website neatly encapsulates both her philosophy and the reasons why some find it a little difficult not to ridicule her approach: “Verse three of Genesis: Let there be light. Yes, let. And then let us see it, learn from it, take it in and start to shine.”
Whatever you might think of such a statement, there is no denying the role that organisations like LBF can play. On its opening, Saumarez Smith, the British cultural historian, offered that the LBF could one day become as important as the Guggenheim Museum.
The LBF may not have scaled those heights (Blouin might well say “yet”) but given its proprietor there seems little doubt that its impact will continue to grow. “I don’t do this for power. I have everything I want in my life. I do this to make a difference,” Blouin said recently, with customary icy determination.
Princess Grace Foundation
By Bruce Makous
Originally created to salve Monaco's royal family's grief, the Princess Grace foundation celebrates three decades assisting emerging talent in theater, dance, and film.
She was the ultimate fairytale heroine, a radiantly beautiful commoner who’d caught the eye of and later married a prince. So when Princess Grace met an early death in a car crash in 1982, at the age of 52, it was fitting that her bereaved husband, Prince Rainier III, would create a foundation in her own country to foster and celebrate the arts.
The Princess Grace Foundation-USA focuses on the Princess’s primary philanthropic interests—discovering and assisting emerging artists in theatre, dance, and film. The foundation, a publicly supported not-for-profit headquartered in New York City, provides contributions to artists who are beginning their careers, primarily in the form of scholarships, fellowships and apprenticeships. To fund the foundation, the Prince mobilized Grace’s supporters, which included the likes of Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant. (The foundation is distinct from the Princess Grace of Monaco Foundation, which the princess created shortly after her marriage to encourage local artists and crafts people.)
Through its flagship program, the Princess Grace Awards, the Princess Grace Foundation-USA provides the financial assistance and moral encouragement needed by emerging artists so that they can focus on the creative process. Applicants must be nominated by nonprofit arts organizations, and a panel composed of distinguished professionals in theatre, dance, and film annually selects the winners on a competitive basis. Since the Foundation’s inception, more than 750 Princess Grace Awards totaling nearly $10 million have been given to performing artists. Many winners have subsequently achieved public recognition and critical acclaim, including Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, and other awards.
Among the notable winners are Robert Battle, the dancer and choreographer who now serves as Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; Yareli Arizmendi, the Mexican actress who played Rosaura in Like Water for Chocolate; Bridget Carpenter, playwright and screenwriter nominated three times for Best Dramatic Series by the Writers Guild of America for her work on Friday Night Lights; and Stephen McDannell Hillenburg, the animator, writer, producer, actor and director best known for creating the SpongeBob SquarePants TV series.
Those Princess Grace Award-winners who subsequently distinguish themselves in theater, dance, or film receive an additional form of recognition—the Princess Grace Statue Award. To date, 54 artists have received this award. A third type of recognition, the Prince Rainier III Award, established in 2005 after the Prince’s death, is presented to eminent artists who have also made significant humanitarian contributions. This award, which includes a grant to the philanthropic organization of the honoree’s choice, has been given to such stars as Julie Andrews, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Twyla Tharp, Denzel and Pauletta Washington, George Lucas, and Glenn Close.
Her family is carrying on her philanthropic legacy. Prince Albert II is the vice chairman of the foundation, and Princess Caroline is president of AMADE Mondiale, the Monaco-based NGO that Grace founded during her lifetime to help children in the developing world. Recently, for example, AMADE has provided support to Syrian children in refugee camps and to families devastated by the typhoon in the Philippines.
In fairytales, the royal couple lives happily ever after. But even when death intervenes, it seems, they can make others’ dreams come true.
The Apple Founder's Philanthropic Legacy
By Sandra Salmans
By now, the story is the stuff of legend. How the tall blonde woman known only as Laurene met with a young Latina in East Palo Alto—a neighborhood bypassed by Silicon Valley’s dot-com boom—every few weeks for mentoring. How the girl confided in Laurene about her difficult childhood. How, without Laurene, she might not have become the first person in her family to graduate from college. And how, as a freshman at the University of California, Berkeley, she learned from a news article that Laurene was the wife of Apple’s co-founder, Steve Jobs—“Silicon Valley royalty,” as The New York Times put it.
As Steve Jobs’ wife for 20 years, Laurene Powell Jobs practiced a low-key philanthropy that matched the style, if not the substance, of her famously publicity-averse husband. In 1997, as a consequence of her experience working with high school seniors on the college admission process, she co-founded College Track, a comprehensive after-school advisory program that las year reached more than 1,600 high school and college students in Northern California, New Orleans, and Aurora, Colorado. Powell Jobs’ contributions to College Track, where she still serves as the chair, are made through Emerson Collective, an organization she established about a decade ago, and which—because it is incorporated as a small business rather than a tax-exempt 501(c)(3)—does not have to publicly report its donations. She is also a member of some half-a-dozen nonprofit boards, including that of Stanford University, where she earned an M.B.A. “If you total up in your mind all of the philanthropic investments that Laurene has made that the public knows about, that is probably a fraction of 1 percent of what she actually does, and that’s the most I can say,” Powell Jobs’ longtime friend and fellow philanthropist Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen—herself a member of Silicon Valley royalty, as the wife of Netscape founder Marc Andreessen—told the Times.
That commitment stands in marked contrast to Steve Jobs’ indifference, if not outright aversion, to philanthropy—an attitude for which he came under harsh criticism during his lifetime. Although some of his greatest fans, including the MacDailyNews blog, have speculated that Jobs gave away millions secretly (one rumor has focused on a very large anonymous donation to a San Francisco cancer center)—there is no paper trail to support such conjectures. On the contrary, Walter Isaacson, Jobs’ biographer, writes that not only was he “not particularly philanthropic,” he was contemptuous of people who “made a display of philanthropy or thinking they could reinvent it.” Although he “admired” Powell Jobs’ work in education reform, Isaacson adds, he never visited her after-school centers. Of course, it’s important to recall that Bill Gates and even Warren Buffet were criticized at one time for being tight-fisted, until they started to give billions away. Had Jobs lived, it’s conceivable that he would ultimately have met the challenge to “think different” in philanthropy as brilliantly as he did in technology.
Jobs’ death in 2011 left Powell Jobs as one of the richest women in the world, with some $12 billion, most of it in Disney stock, in her name. It also gives her greater freedom to lend her voice and spend her money openly on behalf of the causes she supports, and that is precisely what she has begun to do. One of the first issues she has embraced is immigration reform, a natural outgrowth of her focus on education and her personal experience as a mentor.
The Emerson Collective, which didn’t even maintain a website a couple of years ago, currently has an up-to-the-minute site that addresses progress on immigration legislation as well as protecting the environment, education reform, and gun control. Last year she bankrolled a 30-minute film, “The Dream is Now,” about four young people whose prospects are bleak because they are in the U.S. illegally; she took it to Capitol Hill to showcase it to members of Congress, and sat for a rare interview with NBC’s Brian Williams in which she shone as an articulate, earnest advocate, bearing out Isaacson’s assertion that “she is one of the smartest and most grounded people I have ever met.” She is also a deeply private person, like her late husband, and friends say that’s unlikely to change. However, given her commitment “to try to effect the greatest amount of good,” as she told the Times, it’s doubtful that she will be able to pass again as a tall blonde woman known only as Laurene.
The Persistence of Philanthropy
By Amy Singer
One of the most profound Ottoman legacies to modern Turkey is a long history of private philanthropy.
I fell into the study of philanthropy while trying to make sense of rural taxation and land tenure in 16th century Palestine, then under Ottoman rule. Several weeks in the imperial archives of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul brought me face-to-face with an exquisite series of long scrolls penned in gold, lapis, and black inks some five hundred years old. They recorded orders from Sultan Süleyman “the Magnificent” to transfer properties to his wife, Hurrem Sultan. From these she immediately created an endowment, a waqf, to support a public utility in the middle of Jerusalem, a space allocated for what we may now consider a soup kitchen, serving meals twice a day.
Ottoman sultans, and in fact Muslim rulers and their families since early Islamic times, made large endowments to support schools, mosques, roads, hospitals, baths, bridges, cemeteries, as well as the odd idiosyncratic fund to care for cats or feed birds in the winter. Founding public works was part of their job description, a function sandwiched between religious leader and politician. Meanwhile, individuals with any means often made their own endowments of every possible size, funding public welfare and their own families in the process. This type of giving is a common encouragement throughout the Qur’an as well as the Old and New Testaments.
The specific Ottoman cases also raise more universal questions about philanthropic giving. How voluntary is voluntary? Why do some gifts earn praise and others a shrug? What does practical altruism mean and does it really exist? Where do the boundaries lie between individual initiative and government responsibility? Who decides which people deserve to benefit from philanthropy (like who gets to eat at a public kitchen)? These types of questions offer insights from the past to today’s philanthropists, who in the very nature of their work look to the future.
Historians examine the past to understand how people functioned in societies and cultures in times preceding our own. We try to understand what people valued in the past, what worried them, how they coped with threats, what they celebrated and why, and what precipitated changes in their lives. We ask questions about how people did what we still do: make a living; pray; raise children; build; ail and heal; fight wars; trade. These constants link humans across space and time through experiences that are at the same time very similar and utterly distinct.
Philanthropy—voluntary giving of material wealth, time, and expertise for the benefit of individuals or communities—is one of those constants, persistently present. It is for this reason that a column written by an historian just might be of interest to an audience of contemporary philanthropists and philanthropic professionals. History not only enriches our lives by explaining how change comes about in the world but it connects us to people who participated in those changes. Our own world is more dynamic, complex, beautiful, and simply bigger when we understand more about someone else’s.
By Doug White
You can go home again.
Her grandparents “used to say that the most important thing is to keep the most important thing the most important thing,” recalls Zita Cobb, “and so, for Fogo Islanders, there’s no doubt that place is the most important thing.” Although she left as a teenager to study, make a fortune and travel the world, Cobb held fast to that belief, and several years ago returned to the tiny fragment of Newfoundland where she was born, to live and help others prosper.
After earning an M.B.A., Cobb had gone to work for an oil company, quit that job to spend six months in Africa, then joined JDS Fitel, an American-owned fiber optics company. By 2000, as the company’s chief financial officer, Cobb was the third-highest-paid female executive on American payrolls. When she left that job, a multimillionaire, she spent several years sailing around the world. Then, one of Canada’s wealthiest women returned to one of Canada’s poorest locales. “I’ve been coming back since the day I left,” she told The Island Review, an online magazine. “It’s never stopped calling out.”
The New York Times has described Fogo Island as a “freckle of land that lies off the northeast corner of Newfoundland, Canada, with a population of 2,700 or so scattered across a series of fishing communities with names like Seldom, Joe Batt’s Arm and Tilting. It has its own peculiar time zone, 1.5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time – though in truth it feels like it’s hundreds of years behind: when it’s 10 p.m. in New York, it’s 1825 on Fogo Island.”
In 1992, the island had been devastated, practically overnight, when the Canadian government outlawed cod fishing, the heart of Fogo Island’s economy. When Cobb returned more than 15 years later, the place had sunk to such depths that she had difficulty deciding what to do first. With her brother Anthony, she created the Shorefast Foundation, named after the line used to attach cod traps to the shore, and granted scholarships until someone told her, “It’s all really fine what you’re doing, but you do realize that you’re just paying our children to leave, don’t you?”
She then doubled down to learn as much as possible about the island’s needs, and devised a series of projects, including restaurants, academic studies, and art galleries, that would bring new vibrancy—and visitors—to the island.
That included exploiting its romantic past. For example, only a handful of people on the island still knew how to build punts, small wooden rowboats that had fallen into disuse after the cod fishing ban. And those people were getting old; as her brother told Cobb, “We’re eight funerals away from never being able to build another punt on Fogo Island.” Today there’s a punt-building program, and an annual race between Fogo Island and nearby Change Islands.
Cobb’s brief is to honor Fogo Island’s past while ushering it—gently—into the present, in order to safeguard a future for the place she loves. “There’s a plague of sameness that is killing human joy,” she says, “and that hasn’t happened here.”
Don & Mera Rubell
By Holly Howe
The Miami-based couple think of themselves as custodians with a grand purpose, sharing their 5,000-piece modern art collection with the world.
What to do when you have an art collection with over 5,000 pieces, including works by Keith Haring, Paul McCarthy and Jeff Koons? Share it with the world, according to Don and Mera Rubell, the Florida-based visual-art power couple. “You discover very quickly on this journey that you’re just the custodian of the important cultural artifacts of our time,” Mera once noted, in an interview with the Financial Times. “So how could you not make them available to the public?”
The Rubells never worked in the creative industries; Don, 74, is a retired gynecologist and Mera, 71, is former president of sportswear company Ellesse. But when they started dating, after meeting in the library of Brooklyn College in 1962, they discovered a shared passion for art and together explored artists’ studios and galleries in their free time. Initially there wasn’t much money to buy art—Don was in medical school and Mera worked as a teacher—but they allocated $25 a month from their $100-a-week income and set up the Rubell Family Collection shortly after they married in 1964. When Don’s brother, Studio 54 cofounder Steve Rubell, died in 1989, the Rubells inherited assets estimated to be worth $200 million. They sold those, freeing up cash to invest in hotel real estate and contemporary art.
Today, they have amassed what is widely regarded as one of the most important and edgiest private collections of contemporary art in the world. They are still collecting, an undertaking to which they devote about a quarter of their money. And, more than ever, it has become a family affair, particularly since their son Jason joined the board, and all three have to agree on a piece before they acquire it. (Their daughter Jennifer, an artist herself, opted out of the process to avoid any conflict of interest and to focus on her own career.)
In 1993, they took over a disused 45,000-square-foot facility in Miami where the Drug Enforcement Agency had housed confiscated goods, converted it into a 27-room museum and opened it to the public. The building displays some of their collection as well as their library of over 30,000 art tomes.
The Rubells see the museum as a way to educate people about contemporary art. “The major contribution of these private/public collections is it fills the gap for young people to see the art that’s being made today,” Don stated in an interview with the Art Economist. “I remember when our kids went to Duke and Harvard, and both of their art history courses ended with Andy Warhol... It’s a twenty-year lag. The young people never see what’s being produced that relates to their issues and passions.”
Staging exhibitions at most publicly-funded museums can be an arduous and time-consuming process, but the Rubell Family Collection has the agility to put a show together in a matter of months, and can display new acquisitions quickly. They also regularly loan items from their collection to other museums, and even transport entire exhibitions from their own museum to other institutions, such as the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC, and Fundación Banco Santander in Madrid.
But not everyone has welcomed the Rubells’ gifts. In the early 1980s, Don wanted to set up an art bequest with his alma mater, Cornell University, but the school’s art museum declined the gift, citing lack of space. A few years later, when Cornell reconsidered the offer and went back to the Rubells, administrators discovered it was no longer on the table. A shame, as they missed out on works by the likes of Jean–Michel Basquiat and Cindy Sherman.
Lord David Sainsbury
By Luke Norman
Sainsbury's Gatsby Foundation has spent more than fifty years at the cutting edge of British philanthropy.
"Impact" may be the buzzword in philanthropy these days, but it’s been at the forefront for nearly half a century for David Sainsbury, now Baron Sainsbury of Turville, whose great-grandfather founded the behemoth supermarket chain. Sainsbury’s Gatsby Charitable Foundation identifies a few tightly-focused areas and creates long-term projects to achieve its goals.
Some 42 years after Gatsby’s first grant—£50 to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine—Sainsbury in 2009 became the first Briton whose cumulative donations topped £1 billion. That money is directed into five major areas: basic plant science and neuroscience research to improve food security and mental health; agriculture development in Africa; scientific and engineering education; the Institute for Government and the Centre for Cities; and the arts, which is the particular interest of Sainsbury’s wife, Susie.
Its founder’s years in politics arguably influenced Gatsby’s strategic approach. Sainsbury, born in 1940, was an early member of the short-lived Social Democrat Party in 1981, ultimately rejoining Labour in 1996. As Minister for Science and Innovation, he was the third longest serving minister in Tony Blair’s government.
With that track record, Sainsbury had plenty of time to work out how best to steer major policy change. Accordingly, waiting for the right project to come along isn’t the Gatsby style. Sainsbury maintains that “private foundations should see part of their role as being, in some sense, a research and development arm of the government.” But because foundations such as Gatsby are private, they can often get out ahead of government.
And in some cases, they seek to tell government what to do. Presumably as a reflection of Sainsbury’s years in government, Gatsby has funded two initiatives: the Institute for Government, which works with political parties in Westminster and senior civil servants in Whitehall, to make government more effective; and The Centre for Cities, which produces practical research and policy advice aimed at helping Britain’s cities improve their economic performance.
Some of Gatsby’s projects operate at the scale one might expect of government undertakings. The Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University, for example, is home to more than 150 scientists researching plant growth and development, whose mission is to increase agricultural productivity, but in an environmentally sustainable way. Another huge, capital-intensive project is the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour at University College London, scheduled to open this year. With such large-scale investments, Sainsbury often seeks to make his money go farther by partnering with a like-minded organization—in this case, the Wellcome Trust.
Gatsby’s efforts range from the building of internationally recognized centers of excellence to smaller-scale educational initiatives. For instance, in the late 1990s there was a widely acknowledged shortage in the UK of qualified graduates for STEM (science technology, engineering, math) jobs. Gatsby highlighted the need for an improved program of practical science in secondary schools, with research that showed about one-quarter of UK schools serving 11-to-16-year-olds lacked even a single physics teacher. Last year, more physics teachers were being trained in England than at any time in the previous 30 years.
When it comes to impact philanthropy, that’s as good as it gets.
By Ben Huang
The Good Lab, a Hong Kong initiative aimed at bringing together changemakers.
Google “Ada Wong” and the first several entries you’ll see are about a mysterious but wildly glamorous industrial spy in the international video game phenomenon, Resident Evil. It’s only towards the bottom of the list that you might encounter the real Ada Wong—a demurely dressed Chinese-born Hong Kong attorney who is a tireless promoter of education and the arts in Asia generally, and in Hong Kong in particular.
Wong, who earned a bachelor’s degree at Pomona College in California and qualified as a solicitor in London, returned to Hong Kong in the 1980s and joined the law firm of Philip K. H. Wong, Kennedy Y. H. Wong & Co. in 1986, where she is the partner in charge of the firm’s commercial and corporate finance department. That would seem to be time-consuming enough, but Wong has been a relentless force for good outside of her day job.
Over a 12-year period that straddled the former British colony’s 1997 reunification with China, Wong served as an elected member of its Urban Council and then the Wan Chai District Council, which she later chaired. These positions brought her in close contact with the local residents of one of Hong Kong’s oldest, busiest and most colorful districts—and, ultimately, a successful opponent of what she describes as the government’s “demolition strategy” in the name of urban renewal.
At that time, many people viewed Hong Kong as a transient city and a place primarily for making money. Instead, Wong asked, “What does it mean to be a Hong Kong person and what should we cherish besides money?” To provide local residents with a sense of identity and promote cultural pluralism, Wong and a group of like-minded friends established an advocacy platform for cultural policy, known as the Hong Kong Institute of Contemporary Culture (HKICC) in 1998. Under her leadership, the HKICC launched numerous projects to promote Hong Kong in the international arena as well as sponsoring local arts education; that includes Hong Kong’s first major international bilateral cultural festival—with Berlin in 2000—and the establishment in 2006 of its first (and only) school for the arts, media and design education, the Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity, for senior secondary school students. She is the supervisor at the school, whose students she refers to lovingly as “the children I do not have.”
Next Wong created MaD (Make a Difference) under the auspices of HKICC in 2010 to empower young people across Asia to think “creatively and innovatively,” she says, about personal, economic, social and environmental change. Last year MaD’s annual forum attracted over 1,600 young “MaDees” from across Asia. And in 2012 she launched the Good Lab, an initiative aimed at bringing together changemakers from all walks of life to work, collaborate and take action for a sustainable, innovative and equitable future.
In a city historically dominated by the twin juggernauts of banking and real estate, Wong is seeking to carve out a role for artists and others who think outside of the box. “Hong Kong deserves a better future,” she said in an interview. As for what drives her, Wong says, “You are not in this world just to make a living. You are here to make a difference, to bring hope and positive changes to society.”
Mark Zuckerberg/Priscilla Chan’s $45 Billion Dollar Charitable LLC
By Doug White
Making Philanthropic History
In December 2015, Priscilla Chan and her husband Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive officer, made history — not because of their enormous wealth but because they pledged to use almost all of it to make the world a better place.
The couple pledged to give away 99 percent of Facebook’s stock, which, at the time of the announcement, was valued at approximately $45 billion, making it the largest pledge in the history of philanthropy.
When they made their stunning announcement, they were speaking primarily not to the media but to their newborn daughter Maxima.
In a letter that will undoubtedly rank among the most important that will ever be addressed to Maxima, her parents outlined their profound goals to improve health and education, and to decrease inequality. "Our society has an obligation,” Chan and Zuckerberg wrote, “to invest now to improve the lives of all those coming into this world, not just those already here. But right now, we don't always collectively direct our resources at the biggest opportunities and problems your generation will face."
They then acknowledged one of the more ignored basic truths of philanthropy: fundamental change requires time: “We must make long-term investments over 25, 50 or even 100 years. The greatest challenges require very long time horizons and cannot be solved by short-term thinking.”
Some people were quick to criticize the vehicle the couple is using to make their impact — a limited liability company instead of a traditional public charity or foundation. But the criticism is premature and shortsighted. Scholars and our better nonprofit leaders are coming to understand that new ideas about philanthropy are needed, that the world’s most difficult problems are going to need new approaches. While the traditional philanthropic model has resulted in remarkable social accomplishments, it is inadequate to addressing society’s most intractable and large-scale social problems. We need an addition, re-defined structure, and Chan and Zuckerberg may be doing exactly that.
Perhaps Zuckerberg comes to philanthropy naturally. First came the enormous wealth, even before Facebook went public. In 2010 he joined the Giving Pledge, a group of the world’s wealthiest people who have dedicated at least half of their fortune to philanthropy. (Currently there are 154 people who have committed to the pledge.) He was 29 when he joined, making him the youngest member at the time.
Despite what seems to be the gelling of his philanthropic thinking, Zuckerberg has had no roadmap. Our perception is still that those who give away vast sums of money do so in the context of years of worldly experience. Even Bill Gates, whose wealth also came relatively early on, worked longer to make his money and turn his attention to the broader needs of the world. Yet Zuckerberg and Chan are already consistently topping the lists of the world’s most generous philanthropists.
Still, it’s a learning process. In 2010, Zuckerberg devoted $100 million — his portion of a matching gift totaling $200 million — to help the failing schools in Newark, New Jersey. Dale Russakoff, who wrote “The Prize,” which details the gift and what turned out to be its disappointing impact, suggests that Zuckerberg learned that giving away money is a far more complex and humbling endeavor than he might have expected, a case study, Russakoff said, in the difficulty of translating good intentions into concrete results. Most of us tend to think $100 million can fix almost any problem. But in fact the scale of the problem in Newark dwarfed the size of the gift. In addition, the competing political and business priorities — to say nothing of the parents and children most affected (and, as it turns out, not much was said to them or on their behalf) — were overwhelming.
One key to understanding Zuckerberg, and perhaps it provides an insight to what drives his giving, might be that he can be described as a rebel, an anti-authoritarian. When he was still a high school student at Phillips Exeter Academy, he developed the Synapse Media Player, which would learn people’s music-listening habits. Although both Microsoft and AOL were interested in buying the program and in hiring him, he declined. College beckoned.
By the way, while Harvard was where Zuckerberg created Facebook, the story can actually be traced back to Exeter, which had something called The Photo Address Book so students could keep track of one another. Because the name doesn’t trip off the tongue with ease, for decades the students had been calling it “The Facebook.” In his senior year there, the school put the book online.
Another key, one that hints at an overarching thesis that brings together his business and philanthropic mindsets: Zuckerberg has said that what’s important in starting a company isn’t just to start a company but to “do something,” to go after problems and not do easy things, a philosophy that may have been the driver of his decision to go to college and rebuff offers from corporate America. “A lot of companies,” he once told students at Stanford University, “are operating on small problems.” The goal is to do something tangible. “The most interesting thing,” he said, “is to operate on something fundamental on how humans live. It was fundamental for me. I feel this need really acutely. I wanted this.”
He clearly wants a lot, and it looks like he has the intellect, passion and resources to make the world a better place.
We’re starting to see what that world will look like when the anti-authoritarian is the one in charge.
Terrorist Funding and Philanthropy
By Suzanne Reisman
One person's terrorist may be another's freedom fighter.
Atrocities, biological warfare, carnage. Aid, best practices, country building. Such are the ABCs of philanthropy in war-torn countries like Syria and the Sudan. While one person’s terrorist may be another’s freedom fighter, the same tragedies are suffered by all sides. And philanthropists who try to alleviate that suffering must negotiate their own minefields, strewn with a morass of government regulation and the threat of fines and criminal prosecution.
Syria is a prime example. It is common knowledge that while the world watches the unimaginable atrocities visited upon its civilian population, donations are frequently intercepted by members of ISIS (otherwise known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). In some instances brave individuals are driving cash and supplies over the borders, attempting to ensure that philanthropic aid is not diverted before it reaches its intended beneficiaries. The Charity Commission of England and Wales has recently published guidance that acknowledges the importance of providing humanitarian aid to those in Syria while warning of various obstacles, which in addition to the obvious physical dangers, include inadvertently engaging in terrorist financing. Syria is subject to a broad sanctions program administered by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Financial Assets Control (OFAC) in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, which apply to all U.S. citizens as well as U.S. entities such as private foundations and other 501(c)(3) organizations. U.S. charities that wish to make donations to Syrian charities must apply for a license from OFAC. Otherwise donations may be made to a U.S. charity that is registered under the OFAC Syria sanctions program or to a charity in a third country.
The most prudent and, in many cases, the most effective strategy is to work through NGOs with significant experience in the region. A Gulf-based donor with close ties to Syria has suggested that Médicins Sans Frontières, as well as the Maram Foundation and Karam, both of which are U.S. charities, continue to be successful in delivering aid to those affected by the Syrian crisis. The Maram Foundation runs the Atmeh Refugee Camp in Idleb, Syria’s largest refugee camp for internally displaced people, providing all food, medical and hygiene supplies. Karam operates a range of projects on the ground within Syria, including vital food distribution, and social and educational projects.
Of course Syria is not the only country in need of humanitarian assistance. It is however, along with Burma (Myanmar), Cuba, Iran and the Sudan, the subject of comprehensive OFAC sanctions programs. Sanctions and other anti-terrorist legislation have long been a part of governments’ foreign policy arsenal.
Various governments and international organizations (including the Financial Action Task Force, the European Union, and the United Nations) have issued guidance and sanctions in an effort to combat terrorism. Various countries, including the United States and the European Union, have also enacted anti-bribery legislation that impacts charities. The regulations and guidance issued by OFAC and the U.S. Department of Commerce include detailed guidance for U.S. donors and their foundations. They are also relevant for non-U.S. donors who may wish to fund projects by making grants to or partnering with U.S.-based NGOs. OFAC has also issued “Anti-Terrorist Financing Guidelines: Voluntary Best Practices for U.S.- Based Charities” which are, as the name suggests, voluntary but may be useful to many donors. (These guidelines in particular have also been the subject of significant criticism.)
As a general matter, donors may begin their due diligence by reviewing the “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List,” or SDN list, published by the United States and the United Kingdom’s consolidated list, which includes those persons and entities on the European Union’s and United Nations’ lists. The U.S. list includes individuals and entities throughout the world (including the United States) that are designated due to their activities in targeted countries as well as others such as terrorists and narcotics traffickers. Regardless of whether an entity or individual is on an SDN list, donors are required to undertake their own due diligence to determine if they are providing assets or services to entities that are owned, controlled by or acting on behalf of a person or entity on the SDN list.
The SDN lists can be problematic. Once an individual or organization appears on the list, it can be difficult to get off, regardless of circumstances. On July 18, 2013, the European Court of Justice issued an opinion confirming that the procedures used to list the plaintiff, whose removal from the list had been recommended over 10 years ago by the United Nations, were flawed. One U.S. court has found that the U.S. government froze charitable assets without probable cause, in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A second district court determined that illegal wiretaps were used to gather evidence supporting inclusion on the SDN list; however on appeal it was determined that the government had not waived sovereign immunity and the district court decision was vacated. OFAC issued guidance in 2010 relating the release of limited amounts of blocked funds to cover legal fees and costs incurred by U.S. persons who seek to challenge their designation as blocked persons.
The next step for charities interested in countries subject to sanctions programs is to review the relevant sanctions. Broadly speaking, the comprehensive sanctions programs allow for philanthropic activity through either general licenses (which may require reporting but do not require a license before the activity takes place) or specific licenses, which apply specifically to the applicant. Sanctions programs are subject to change at any time—changing even as this article was written. Donors are encouraged to continuously monitor OFAC licensing procedures and related guidance and regulations.
The United States first imposed sanctions on Burma in 1988 when it suspended aid to the country after the shooting of protesters by the military junta. Humanitarian assistance was permitted to continue. In light of the momentous changes that have taken place in the country over the past few years, the United States has eased its policy, paving the way for full economic engagement with Burma, while at the same time providing safeguards in the event that the Burmese government changes its policies. Sanctions relating to philanthropy have been eased accordingly. In April 2012, OFAC expanded the types of support for humanitarian, religious and other non- profit activities that could be provided in Burma, provided that they do not benefit any “blocked persons.” These developments should also pave the way for the creation of micro-finance projects in Burma.
Up until the recent announcement of reinstated relations between the two countries, OFAC maintained a comprehensive sanctions program against Cuba, and a new FAQ published by the Treasury Department updates the information as of January; licenses are available for a wide variety of philanthropic undertakings. The thawing of U.S. relations with Iran, historically referenced as part of the “axis of evil,” is also evident in the easing of OFAC’s sanctions programs. On September 10, 2013, OFAC issued two new general licenses as part of the Iran Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. One authorizes NGOs to export services to Iran in support of non-profit activities, subject to certain reporting requirements and a cap of $500,000 on the transfer of funds over a 12-month period. The other authorizes the importation and exportation of certain professional and amateur sports services and exchanges, including activities related to exhibition matches, sponsorship or players coaching, refereeing and training.
OFAC sanctions apply differently to different regions of the Sudan and to a large extent no longer apply to the Republic of South Sudan, which gained its independence in 2011. Generally, humanitarian relief is permitted in Darfur and “specified regions” of Sudan and favorable licensing policies are applicable in other regions. It appears that relations with the Sudan may be easing as well in light of a deal struck between the U.S. company, General Electric, in the Sudan and a reported statement by Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Kharti that several U.S. companies which applied for licenses to operate in Sudan were granted, which he believes “is an indicator that investments and commercial relations could overcome political difficulties.” In the meantime, it is permissible to donate articles that relieve human suffering such as food, clothing and medicine.
The United States has targeted programs which prevent individuals from doing business with blocked persons in Somalia, Western Balkans, Belarus, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Liberia (Former Regime of Charles Taylor), Persons Undermining the Sovereignty of Lebanon or Its Democratic Processes and Institutions, Libya, North Korea, Somalia and Zimbabwe, as well as other programs targeting individuals and entities around the world. In certain cases OFAC has been more flexible. For example, the U.S. Treasury website’s Frequently Asked Questions regarding private relief efforts in Somalia recognize that, due to the highly unstable environment and urgent humanitarian needs in the country, some food, medicine or payments may unintentionally be provided to al-Shabaab, a terrorist group. The FAQs state that, so long as the donor did not have reason to know it was dealing with al-Shabaab, “such incidental benefits . . . would not be a focus for OFAC sanctions enforcement.”
Legitimate concerns have been raised about the breadth of the power that governments may marshal to investigate and audit philanthropic endeavors and freeze assets. Depending on where one’s sympathies lie, these sanctions may be seen as necessary or the misguided edicts of Western governments. Some jurisdictions such as the European Union have promulgated regulations prohibiting compliance with U.S. sanctions where they conflict with the EU’s. Furthermore, the applications of sanctions may differ, based on whether the individual or entity is a charity, a corporation, or a branch of the U.S. government.
Take, for example, the case of Chiquita Brands International (“Chiquita”), which through its Banadex Unit owned banana operations in Colombia. From 1997 to 2004 Banadex made payments to United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (also known as AUC), a violent paramilitary and drug trafficking organization, for protection from guerrillas that had previously murdered Chiquita employees. As of September 10, 2001, it was a crime to finance AUC. In 2004 Chiquita sold Banadex to Banacol, which then provided bananas to Chiquita. Chiquita was subsequently indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice in connection with its payments to AUC, and in 2007, pled guilty to doing business with a terrorist organization and paid a $25 million fine. However “Chiquita turned a $49.4 million profit from its Colombia operations during the period while it was making the illegal payments to the AUC. . . . Defendant Chiquita’s payments may have protected its workers while they were working on the company’s profitable farms, but Defendant Chiquita’s payments field the AUC’s terrorist violence everywhere else.” During the sentencing hearing Chiquita’s lawyer noted that Chiquita had voluntarily approached the Department of Justice when it asked whether it should stop making payments, the government’s response was equivocal. The “government did not want to say ‘stop’ explicitly because it did not want to have blood on its hands if someone was, in fact, killed. It couldn’t say ‘continue’ because it did not want to hurt its case and so it looked for...a middle ground.”
If a charity made payments to a “specially designated global terrorist” its assets would be frozen and likely its directors would be subject to prosecution. Apparently when a corporation makes such payments, it is one of the costs of doing business in Colombia.
Could Chiquita’s predicament have been resolved if NGOs had trained managers to use nonviolent methods of conflict resolution? In Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that it was a crime for a U.S. NGO to train Kurdish and Tamil groups on the SDN list to use peaceful methods of reaching their objectives, such as petitioning the United Nations and other entities and to engage in political advocacy for groups. Ironically while everyone’s stated wish is “world peace,” it is a crime to assist terrorists to find peaceable methods of making themselves heard on the world stage. While it is understandable that tax relief is denied those who assist parties who are not in alignment with U.S. foreign policy, providing groups designated as terrorists with alternatives to terrorism is also a laudable result.
While donors are required to follow these rules under threat of civil penalties and criminal prosecution, the U.S. government struggles to end its own terrorist financing. In his July 2013 Quarterly Report to the U.S. Congress, John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) expressed concern about 43 cases in which material “supporters of the insurgency” in Afghanistan, including supporters of the Taliban, the Haqqani Network and al-Qaeda, had received government contracts. SIGAR reported that the Army Suspension and Debarment Office declined to act on these cases as it would violate the contractors’ due process rights if they were suspended or disbarred based upon classified information or findings of the Department of Commerce. Sopko concluded: “I am deeply troubled that the U.S. military can pursue, attack and even kill terrorists and their supporters, but that some in the U.S. government believe we cannot prevent these same people from receiving a government contract. I feel such a position is not only legally wrong, it is contrary to good public policy.... I continue to urge you to change this faulty policy and enforce the rule of common sense in the Amy’s suspension and debarment program.”
By Doug White
Andrew Carnegie’s Scottish Home
Skibo Castle takes its guests back in time in a way few places can. In the late 19th century Andrew Carnegie saved the the 800-year-old estate from almost certain ruin. Today, the nearly thousand year old estate is home to the Carnegie Club, one of the most exclusive of its kind in the world. Basking in its unique old-world charm, guests are treated to a lifestyle that even today’s wealthiest wish to duplicate. Skibo’s magic isn’t derived simply from its huge but cozy digs or its elite golf course and horseback riding opportunities; the site’s essence is a combination of all those things along with a special sense of place that exists beyond its geography, far from the madding crowd of Scottish Highlands.
The club’s founder, Peter de Savary, who bought the castle in 1982 directly from the Carnegie family, has said that coming “upon [it], with all its majesty, gives a glimpse of what it was like to live and be a house guest a hundred years ago. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have in this world, it’s pretty hard to repeat what you find at Skibo Castle.”
The experience comes as close as anything could—even in the most pleasant of imaginations—to the response Carnegie once provided when he was asked if he feared death: “Why should I fear death, for I here at Skibo have a foretaste of the heaven to come.”
By Luke Norman
With data dominating, Guidestar.org has become as familiar as Google to many American donors. Has the website filled a void for consumer education in philanthropy?
Data has been the buzzword in philanthropy for the last 18 months. Just as it has proved to be a major driver for the commercial economy, so it has become the lifeblood of the social economy. Not only are the provision and use of data now key to persuading donors where to place their money, but they are also vital in helping improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the charities and social enterprises funded by such gifts.
Guidestar.org is the shining beacon, or perhaps more accurately the behemoth at the vanguard of this spread sheet revolution. It is a portal, gathering information on nonprofits, packaging it and disseminating it to a hungry public. These numbers and facts are freely available but habitually buried in all manners of gunk, making them harder for the time-pressed donor to access than for a hungry traveller to find a sugar-free snack in a service station.
The idea behind Guidestar, similar to many that have ridden the internet wave, is based on dispensing important information to the masses for free. However, as demand has ballooned, so has it changed shape.
It is interesting to note that when commentators describe Guidestar’s function, many of them fall back on the terms “charity watchdog” or “evaluator”—The Washington Times and Time magazine provide two examples in the last 12 months. However, this is simply not true. Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “Never mistake motion for action.” He might have added, “And never mistake information for endorsement.”
This misnomer is a serious enough issue for Guidestar to have a “Clarification” announcement on its website, stating definitively that its users should not mistake information for endorsement. Indeed, Guidestar’s mission is clear enough: “To revolutionize philanthropy by providing information that advances transparency, enables users to make better decisions and encourages charitable giving.”
Clear enough then. But at some point services like Guidestar reach a tipping point. The level of information along with the number of people accessing and/or relying on that information combine to confer endorsement. And this is a problem. Guidestar’s own, hard-earned reputation should not be transferred seamlessly to the organisations represented on its sites, but it is. This presents a dilemma; if Guidestar and its ilk are presenting such information. should they be evaluating it as a matter of course?
While charitable giving in the U.S. accounts for less of the country’s gross national income than in other nations, it far outpaces any other country in pure financial terms. Particularly in a context of such heavy lifting, givers feed on information. Indeed a scan of the newspapers during Christmas every year, a key season for donations, often reveals almost unanimous advice: “know your charities.”
Donors are taking this onboard. More than 90%, according to a Guidestar report, said in 2013 that nonprofit performance was an important factor in their giving and one that they wanted to be able to analyze more easily. Conversely, the same donors admitted that just 30% of them actually research the charities their cash reaches.
Guidestar is caught in a conundrum. The majority of charitable donations in the USA are made by individuals, specifically, 73% of the $298 billion that was given in 2011. Concurrently, the vast majority of Guidestar’s users—98% of them—access just the free-to-air raw data that they provide. Guidestar and its competitors have all started to deliver premium services in which they rate, analyze and pass judgment on the performance of the charities they list. For instance in 2012, Guidestar teamed up with the Non-Profit Finance Fund comparing the financial health of nonprofits. It is a practice that has spread. In 2013, 15 of the biggest US foundations launched a “Reporting Commitment” making grants data available. Simultaneously, the China Foundation rated 2,000 of its foundations with an elaborate transparency index.
In these confusing waters, two things are clear: the first is that data use and access are set to be institutional for the entire social economy (with that comes ownership, another thorny question); the second is that raw data services, such as those that Guidestar provides, will inevitably become available at source. Guidestar’s core offering, the 990 forms that tax-exempt nonprofits are obliged to file with the Inland Revenue Services (IRS), has a shelf life. Currently, the IRS is ill-prepared to provide the information that organizations—and the clients they represent—are asking for. The provision of raw data via hard copy or DVD will soon have to give way to more easily accessible digital archives as demand for information continues rising.
So Guidestar is faced with a raft of key questions about its next steps: how can it maintain its core operation but continue experimenting? How can it analyze data without morphing into a full-out advisory service? How will it make open data an asset and not a liability?
Despite the "clarification" on its website, Guidestar already offers extensive analysis. In the recent past it has teamed up with several partners to provide evaluations. Philanthropedia, an internal division of the organization, rates nonprofits according to the work they do, with 2,500 experts reviewing 3,500 outfits in 2012, while Takeaction@ Guidestar measures impact to help identify the most effective nonprofits in particular cause areas. On top of this, a TripAdvisor-style offering, GreatNonprofits, provides personal reviews to produce average user ratings that accompany some nonprofit listings on Guidestar.
These are of course all premium services with corresponding costs. Still, just 2% of Guidestar’s users are paying for them. So surely the key question becomes, is there a paying market for this valuable data? Or, will it too inevitably become free-to-air?
It is a devilish Rubik’s Cube of a problem. Almost all of Guidestar’s users want free, raw data as a compass for their giving, but 90% of those surveyed want their data evaluated and analyzed. Still, just 30% of donors actually bother to research the causes they give to and Guidestar’s paying customers represent a tiny fraction of the pot. Headache? Imagine Guidestar’s and this is before one considers the thorny problem of storing, protecting, and dictating ownership of such data.
Given Guidestar’s history of excellence, it seems likely they will find a way. As our perfect case study, let’s hope they do, and quickly.
Lady Natasha Ri Isaacs & Lavinia Brennan
By Luke Norman
In a crusade to raise awareness of human trafficking, Lady Natasha and Lavinia Brennan found the power of the celebrity-crazed press to be their greatest weapon.
“We won a United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN-GIFT) award before we’d even sold our first dress!” That's a boast delivered with delightful innocence by Lady Natasha Rufus Isaacs, co-founder of Beulah, a small London-based fashion label that continues to land outsized punches in its fight to combat the horrors of human trafficking.
Beulah’s story is more than a little infectious. Its journey—perhaps more fairly described as a sprint—from idea to global recognition epitomises a type of philanthropy impressive in its immediacy and impact. Beulah had yet to make its first sale when the company received a formal nod of approval from the United Nations in January of 2010. Despite the startup’s lack of employees and being run from a parent’s basement, Beulah was news.
The label launched with the consciously one-dimensional public purpose of raising awareness of modern slavery. Largely thanks to the duo’s network, Beulah was able to almost instantly deliver their message through enviable channels.
Quickly, with star customers from Sarah Jessica Parker to Kate Moss (via Pippa Middleton), famous bodies were snapped in its clothes. And alongside each mention of the shade of silk that Demi Moore sported was often a reference to the company itself. With the attention of febrile, fashion-obsessed teenage girls as well as seasoned Hollywood fashionistas, the outrage of human trafficking hit fertile, new minds. The company boasts more than 600 pieces of individual coverage in publications like Vogue, Harpers, and Cosmopolitan. In kind, their butterfly-logoed brand has built a life of its own.
Surprisingly few people are aware of the prevalence of modern slavery. In 2010 the UN reported that human trafficking represents a $32 billion-a-year industry in more than 130 countries. Beulah’s founders were as ignorant as everyone else until a months long visit to the Atulya slum in Delhi, where they volunteered at an aftercare center for female victims of the sex trade. Appalled by the realities they’d never considered, the pair resolved to shed light on the widely ignored practice.
“People seem to love the story behind the brand,” Rufus Isaacs says. The potency of their message has captured their clientele, and their own social circle, which includes both Prince William and Prince Harry, has similarly dazzled the tabloid press. With the added nuance of their shared Christian faith, the brand has been ripe for widespread publicity. Perhaps most importantly in the long run, Beulah’s product quality may be its quietest source of pride. This latter fact is a further credit to both women, both of whom share a lack of professional fashion experience.
“We’ve been very lucky,” Rufus Isaacs admits. The Beulah founders have cleverly leveraged the press attention that they hadn’t expected. When Kate Middleton chose to wear a Beulah design on her first official tour of South East Asia with Prince William, recognition of the label soared.
As is the case in much social entrepreneurship, Beulah has implicitly traded commercial viability for a tangible impact. (In the four years since its inception Beulah has yet to turn a profit.) And, for once, Britain's tabloid press is performing a public service.
Marcelle Speller's Ambitions For Localgiving.com
By Marcelle Speller
Why small charities sometimes matter the most
Giving is always good, but if you harness your passion, make the best use of your skills and talents, and try to avoid your weaknesses, your giving can become more focused and effective.
My money came from the sale of Holiday-Rentals.com in 2005. I had co-founded the business in early 1996 and it became the first European website for renting holiday homes shortly after. At 55, I felt I was too old for another dot-com start up, but with no kids or other financial commitments, I wanted to do something “worthwhile.” I never called it “giving back” because I don’t consider that I ever “took.” Holiday-Rentals.com generated jobs, rental income for our advertisers, great value holidays for our online visitors, a continuing income stream for the company that acquired us, and I paid a lot of tax!
I worked with a few charities and made some random donations, but somehow it wasn’t very satisfying. Then I went to a workshop at the Institute of Philanthropy which was truly inspirational. It was a three-week workshop over nine months in the UK, Vietnam, and New York. Wherever we went I was continually impressed by local charities. They work at the rock face, know best about what is needed in their communities, do long lasting work with minimal resources, and, as they live in the community, remain at the front line of accountability. They have no place to hide if things go wrong. I’d found my passion!
But I’d also discovered my weaknesses: I’m hopeless in the heat, suffer badly from jet lag, and am ever susceptible to “Delhi belly.” As a result I decided to concentrate my giving at home in the UK. I realized that, despite its status as a relatively wealthy country, there remain glaring pockets of severe deprivation here. I saw how small local charities run by increasingly unsung heroes make a huge difference inside their communities, from offering counselling services to helping older people maintain their independence or establishing sports clubs which strive to set a good example for young people. And I saw they were at risk. This was in 2008. The need in our communities was increasing, but the various grants that local charities depended on were being cut. Online giving was on the rise but also represented a threat to local charities too small to register with the Charity Commission or to claim Gift Aid, a tax incentive in the UK that can increase the value of a donation by 25%. I knew that people wanted to support their communities but saw a disconnect between donors and the charities that so often operate below the radar.
Then I had a lightbulb moment. I realized that my experience and the technical skills I gleaned from Holiday-Rentals.com could be used to connect people with their local charities. And so Localgiving.com was born. Our goal was, and remains, helping small local charities and community groups on a path to sustainability and toward less dependence on grants. We provided an online platform for one-off and direct debit donations as well as fundraising pages for their supporters.
Six years later the project has taken longer and cost more than I ever planned, and like any enterprise we’ve had challenges and setbacks.
The first challenge was a digital divide: many of the small charities lacked the digital skills or personnel to use the platform. We set up digital training workshops to equip people—often volunteers—with the digital skills needed to promote their charity through online marketing and social media. To date we have trained over 1,000 local charities.
Today over 4,000 charities and small organizations have registered on Localgiving.com but we’ve only scratched the surface. There are probably 600,000 “micro charities” in the UK. They make up 50% of our voluntary organizations but receive only 0.6% of the funding. Up to a fifth are struggling to survive.
We have to do more, but we also have to be sustainable. Currently Localgiving.com’s income comes from a £72 annual subscription fee and an additional 5% brokerage fee from donations made online through the site. The burn rate is still considerable. So we’re adapting the business model.
We have two proven approaches that we are offering to philanthropists and grant makers who are looking for a cost effective way to support local charities.
Our pioneering “Grow Your Tenner” plan works by building a national pot of matched funds and has raised over £3 million for local charities since 2012. Through a combination of Gift Aid, tax relief programs, smaller local match funds, and online donations, a single gift of £100,000 from a generous higher rate taxpayer could facilitate up to £650,000 worth of donations to thousands of local charities across the country at an initial cost of just £68,750 to the original donor. When the campaign goes live, each online donation made through Localgiving.com is matched by up to £10. The good news is that the average donation is about 50% more than the amount matched. Ultimately, “Grow Your Tenner” provides an incredibly simple and effective way to make small but effective donations to local charities on a large scale.
The second arrangement builds on our training programs by providing a package of digital skills training to help an organization raise awareness and funds online through a dedicated, locally-based project manager. A pilot program in North Yorkshire, funded by the Peter Sowerby Foundation, resulted in huge gains in confidence in online fundraising and digital donations that added up to more than the original grant amount in the first year.
So far I have invested about £3.5 million into Localgiving.com and over £7.2 million has been channelled to small local charities. That money will help them continue their amazing work and make a huge difference to their communities. That’s pretty good leverage!
By harnessing my passion and skills I’ve made my money work harder. It has given me enormous satisfaction and I’m more than a little proud of what our team has managed to achieve. But there’s a long way to go yet.
The Top People
By Nelson Aldrich, Jr
The fate of almost everything that's good, true and beautiful in America is in the hands of that exclusive group called trustees.
Do you remember Jean-Marie Messier? A little over a decade ago, in New York City’s philanthropic circles, the then chief executive of the Franco-American company Universal-Vivendi was the toast of the town. Literally (in that fund-raising season Messier was toasted at benefits for the New York Public Library, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, and the Robin Hood Foundation) and figuratively speaking, too. At the time the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Radio and Television had made him a trustee; he was being considered for the board of the Metropolitan Opera; and his wife, Antoinette, was on the board of the New York Philharmonic. Less than a year later, with Universal-Vivendi’s stock in free fall and his own corporate vainglory under harsh scrutiny in Paris and New York, Jean-Marie Messier was toast. The moral of the Messier story was summed up by the woman who had wooed him for the board of the New York Public Library, Elizabeth Rohatyn, wife of the investment banker and former ambassador to France, Felix Rohatyn, and herself a notably public-spirited figure in the city. “When new top people come to New York, everybody wants them,” she said.
Let’s unpack that. “Top people” is an obviously enviable social niche. We all want to be ‘at the top’ in some category or other—a top dermatologist, say, or a top golfer at the club, or a top government official, or a top stamp collector. But to be among the top people is a different kind of wonder.
And to discover who belongs in it and how they got there, you need only look at the second clause of Elizabeth Rohatyn’s sentence. Who is “everybody” and for what, exactly, are the top people wanted? Jean-Marie Messier’s story holds the answer. “Everybody” refers to the guardians of a city’s nonprofit, nongovernmental institutions— principally other top people—and what they want from new top people is money, and as much as possible. In the course of Messier’s brief sojourn among the top people of New York, for example, he committed himself and his corporation to giving many hundreds of thousands of dollars to the civic institutions that had honored him with their toasts and, much more importantly, with a seat on their board of trustees. For all intents and purposes, in American society today “top people” and “trustees” are hyphenated terms, and the hyphen is a placeholder for money.
This arrangement, in reality as on paper, is unique in the modern world, and a bit breathtaking on the rare occasion someone takes a closer look. Trustees, as a group of people, often have in their charge an astonishing portion of the entire high-culture heritage of the nation, a very large part of its educational, scientific and medical institutions, ideological seedbeds of social and foreign policy called think tanks, agencies of social service and economic betterment, and vast and growing chunks of the country’s land itself.
For well over 200 years the system has straddled the encroachments of government bureaucracy and politics on one side and the clutch of private enterprise on the other. Protecting the tradition was precisely the intent of the Supreme Court in the famed Dartmouth case of 1819 that decided to create and protect a civic space where private money could accomplish public purposes in the unending struggle against misery, ignorance, and ugliness. The system is also the envy of some European politicians who want “voluntary taxation” to relieve them of the onus of having to support their nation’s cultural heritage with direct taxation. Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, for example, before his more recent controversy, wanted to take the alarming step—alarming to some lovers of art, anyway—of “privatizing” the glorious museums and churches of Italy.
Everywhere these days one hears loud cries for more “transparency” and “accountability” in corporate governance. But when it comes to the governance of nonprofits, there is only silence. A case in point: Business Week once ran an excited story about the bold drive of Harvard’s then president, Lawrence Summers, to reform just about everything in the university, and the grim opposition he was running up against from just about everyone. Everyone, that is, but the trustees (called The Corporation). This handful of men had chosen Summers as president, presumably after listening to what he wanted to do in that office, and after giving him firm assurances of their support. But Business Week did not so much as mention Harvard’s trustees.
This may be changing, however. Scandal has a way of attracting inquiry and inquiry can reveal structures that underlie the story of who did what to whom. The fact is that opportunities for abuse of trust by trustees are abundant in nonprofits, and some abuses are getting front-page coverage these days. The board of Boy Scouts of America is under surveillance by the media for its struggle with gay rights. Susan G. Komen, the cancer charity, recently underwent a leadership change in the wake of a scandal involving a board decision to deny funding to Planned Parenthood and continues to draw ire for its CEO’s grandiose salary. The Hershey School in Pennsylvania, with its $12 billion endowment, has been under siege by some of its most loyal alumni because of perceived conflicts of interest on the part of board members.
A few voices murmur of crisis in American trusteeship. There are too many nonprofits and too few available trustees. For one thing, a position that once brought little but honor now holds the possibility of dishonor as well, through liability to prosecution. For another and more important thing, trusteeship is at risk of becoming an onerous task and of going the way of other forms of civic participation. The problem seems to be one of time. Fifty years ago, most trustees were recruited from the ranks of the more or less leisured class, so-called old money.
But old money being almost by definition these days no money, its representatives have been replaced by new money (“new top people,” as Ms. Rohatyn put it)—that is, by folks who, again almost by definition, are extremely busy making money. And though this talent makes them attractive as donors, it might make them less so as competent, attentive trustees.
A talent for money-making is often paired with a penchant for ‘free market’ solutions to nonprofit problems. There was a time, for example, when the galleries of the new museum of German and Austrian art on New York’s museum mile were open three days a week, while the museum shop and the restaurant were open four. Or, to take a more poignant example, consider the case of the passionate and sole supporter of a modern dance group who asked one of his businessmen trustees to help him decide whether to carry on in the face of modest ticket sales. The businessman quite properly replied that very few, if any, dance groups made money but that he hadn’t supposed his friend had gone into it to get rich. The man was so dismayed at this verdict of the marketplace that he abandoned his passion forthwith.
But the principal infection that new-money trustees carry with them onto a board is called “corporatization.” The infection comes in many forms. One is commercialization, whether it’s the ascendancy of shops and restaurants in the calculus of institutional performance, or a university’s determination to flog its science faculty’s research products, or the near universal “branding” of great and proud institutions. Centralization is another guise, as essentially feudal structures are replaced by command structures with swim-or-sink performance guidelines. Still another is “consumer sovereignty,” as proudly traditional private schools, for example, are obliged to bend and break every ancient custom to suit student and parent demand. Another is a penchant for bold financial practices, such as the hedge-fund and other alternative investments that in the recent recession financially imperiled not a few well-endowed American universities, several in the Ivy League.
Critics of the corporatization infection seldom have any idea of what should be done about it. One can hardly blame them. It’s embedded in the culture and an assumed moral imperative of growth and competition. Yet every one of the problems (never mind the cultural issues) raised by corporatization demands unusual judgment from the people who hold the institution in trust for the public, and their employees. One sign of the strain in the system is the proliferation—in business schools, law schools, public-policy schools, and divinity schools—of courses in philanthropy and nonprofit management. The Third Sector is rallying to protect its turf, or maybe to negotiate its surrender. In either case, they have no one to do it with but the trustees—a.k.a. the top people.
By Bill Hangley, Jr
A self-made business success, Gerry Lenfest has pledged to give away most of his wealth.
It’s a sunny July morning about a decade ago, but Gerry Lenfest is smiling like a kid in December. A deliveryman has just deposited a six-by-four-foot plywood crate on his office floor, and Lenfest, who at the time was a hale septuagenarian, is going at it with a Phillips-head screwdriver. “Watch your fingers,” cautions his wife as he pries the crate open, and soon the entire staff of his foundation—three people, to be exact—has taken over the job. Lenfest stands back, still smiling, and watches.
Moments later, a million-dollar painting by Jacques Villon (Marcel Duchamp’s older brother) is standing splendidly by the front door, and the assembled group “oohs” and “ahhs” appreciatively. “It’s like Christmas here all the time,” says Lenfest’s accountant. “It’s always something coming in.”
And going out. In 2010, Forbes estimated Lenfest’s worth to be $430 million, and his primary activity these days is giving it away. When The Philadelphia Inquirer—which Lenfest ended up purchasing in its entirety last year in the interest of keeping the paper locally owned and operated—reported that he planned to “die penniless,” thousands of people wrote to him, looking for help with their bills, businesses and medical problems. Most wanted just a few thousand dollars, and Lenfest could have played Santa Claus to them all without denting his fortune. It’s true that he wants to empty his accounts. But he doesn’t want to do it that way.
Harold Fitzgerald Lenfest grew up in Scarsdale, N.Y., and Lambertville, N.J., the son of a shipping-industry executive who worked by the Manhattan docks. As a young lawyer, Lenfest served for a time as an assistant counsel to Walter Annenberg, the media magnate and philanthropist, and the seeds of his fortune were planted in 1974, when he bought a handful of tiny cable TV franchises from Annenberg and went out on his own. Sleeping on couches, he stayed one jump ahead of his creditors and slowly built a highly profitable business encompassing regional clusters of cable systems, mainly in rural and suburban Pennsylvania. In 2000, he sold Lenfest Communications to Comcast Communications for more than $7 billion. His personal take on the deal was $1.2 billion.
When he was growing up, he recalls, his family wasn’t poor, but “we weren’t that wealthy that we had to face the responsibility of what to do with it.” Today, as he considers the meaning of a billion, he is reminded of a long-ago meeting with another wealthy man, Roland Harriman. “When I practiced in New York, the firm represented the Harrimans,” he says, sitting in the boardroom of his offices high above the Schuylkill River near Philadelphia. “He liked me, and invited me up to Harriman, New York, the night before they opened their Goshen racetrack. He had a few drinks and said, ‘You know, Gerry, everyone envies me because I’m so rich. Well, when you’re as rich as I am, it isn’t fun, it’s responsibility.’
“I didn’t feel sorry for him at the time,” Lenfest continues with a chuckle, “but I now recognize that being a billionaire is a responsibility. What do you do with a billion? Do you hoard it and die with it? Do you give it away? I think if you have that kind of wealth, you have to be responsible, and figure out what you can do with it.”
Lenfest learned about responsibility long before he was rich. For two years in the 1950s, between college and law school, he commanded ships for the U.S. Navy. His first was a destroyer escort out of Bayonne, N.J., the USS Coates. “When I took over that command, it was the worst ship in the squadron,” he recalls. “The first step was to challenge [the crew]. In January, we were in Long Island Sound, with five other ships. We had been scheduled for a gun shoot, and it was a cold, cold wintry day, with high winds. We were the only ship that went out and did the gun shoot. All the others said, ‘It’s too stormy,’ and I said, ‘We’re going.’ And we went. And we shot. And that was the beginning. Two years later, we won every award in the whole Atlantic fleet.”
Today, Lenfest still challenges. He gives millions to fund prep school and Ivy League scholarships for students from rural Pennsylvania, but the students must maintain their grades to their schools' satisfaction. He gave $50 million to the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the condition that it keep its perennially unbalanced budget in the black. He supported global-warming research with a $15-million gift to the Earth Institute at Columbia University, where he currently serves as a trustee, on the condition that it cannot spend the money on routine costs like maintenance or phone bills. And he's referred to his purchase of the Philadelphia Inquirer as the most important thing he's ever done.
“He’s no pushover,” says Margaret Chew Barringer, founder and chairman of the American Poetry Center, a Pennsylvania arts organization that lists him as a major benefactor. “We asked him for some matching grants, and he made us prove that we had other sources lined up so that we wouldn’t have to keep coming back to him for more. He can be very hard-headed. But once you get past his demeanor as a businessman, he really has a heart of gold. He has the integrity of an artist. You can’t fake that.”
Lenfest didn’t get serious about philanthropy until he sold Lenfest Communications; then, cash in hand, with an eye toward doing something in education, he quickly learned that it would be easy to spend a lot without getting a lot. “I noticed that Walter Annenberg, my former boss, had given away five hundred million [for educational initiatives] and, in a sense, it went down the drain with no real impact.” Some of the mentoring models he saw seemed effective, “but mentoring people means we’d have to hire people, and follow young people through high school and into college, and it seemed like more of an infrastructure than we wanted to have.”
So he looked for a leaner way to do business, and he found it by following the pattern he had established as a businessman: set goals and conditions, delegate responsibility and stay out of the way.
In 2000, Lenfest gave a long interview to an industry Web site called The Cable Center, explaining how he had built his company. “I really owe a lot of my success in life to people that have worked for me,” he said at the time. “I’ve always had a sort of philosophy of individual responsibility. We never had many committees—or any committees—and we would put people in charge of cable systems in regions and pretty much let them run it as they saw fit .... As long as you made them feel that this was their area, their responsibility, and you gave them the freedom to make decisions and do it right, in most cases it worked out very well. So, you learn how to achieve through others.”
His philanthropy works the same way. Lenfest’s main philanthropic vehicle, the Lenfest Foundation, was originally endowed with $100 million and continues to be managed by a small staff. Once he and his wife Marguerite have decided what they want to fund, they delegate almost all the responsibility for the projects’ success to their grantees. He doesn’t hire program officers or evaluation specialists. Consultants fill the gaps when needed. Conditions built into the grants themselves ensure that the money doesn’t dribble away.
What Lenfest does, in effect, is pick targets and let the grantees aim. “It’s like on that ship. The gunnery officer’s better at gunnery than I am,” he says. “Don’t ask me how to do it—you’re the gunnery officer. You’re good at what you do. You do it.”
There’s a story about Lenfest that captures his tough side. Early in his career, he owned a tiny cable franchise near Binghamton, N.Y., that served about 1200 subscribers. The franchise came up for renewal, and Lenfest wanted to raise his rates. The subscribers, of course, didn’t want to pay more. Lenfest went for a showdown at the city council. “They had tough attorney, and he stood up and glared at me. ‘I understand you’re here to ask for that goddamned rate increase’,” Lenfest remembers. “I said, ‘No, I’m here to tell you that we’re taking down our lines and stopping service to your community’.”
Was he serious? Would he have cut down the lines? “Yeah, I was serious,” Lenfest replies. “But I didn’t think it would happen. That town was down the hole.” He chuckles. “They had no reception [of TV signals without cable]. The next day we had our increase.”
Today, being tough means saying no. His gifts fall in three basic categories—art, science and education—each of which is broad enough to ensure a constant stream of applications. “For everything we support, we turn down a hundred requests,” he says. “You have to learn how to say no. You have to decide what you think will have the most impact and do the most good.” Major recipients include Lenfest’s schools (his prep school, Mercersburg Academy; his college, Washington and Lee University; and his law school, Columbia), Pennsylvania arts institutions (including the Kimmel Center, the Curtis Institute, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the James A. Michener Art Museum) and environmental programs like the Earth Institute.
But along the way, Lenfest decided that the main way to make sure that his money can “do the most good” is to get it out of his bank account. He has long said that his foundation will cease to exist within 10 years of his death (or his wife’s, whichever comes later). In 2013, Lenfest stepped down as the foundation’s chairman—although he remains a board member—and his newly appointed executive director, Keith Leaphart, will head the eight-member board through June of this year. In 2014, Lenfest and a business partner bought out then co-owner of the Inquirer, George Norcross, after Norcross helped dismiss a much-loved editor, Bill Marimow. (Marimow refused to fire senior staff per Norcross’ wishes.) Lenfest subsequently become sole owner of the paper. By almost any account, his stake in the Inquirer will net him up to a $10 million loss in the interest of maintaining the paper’s local integrity.
Lenfest wants his legacy carried on in subtle ways: in the work of the institutions he and his wife have supported; in the philanthropy of his three children (who established their own foundations with their share of the sale of Lenfest Communications) and, he hopes, in the lessons that his fellow philanthropists glean from his actions.
“I read about the Philadelphia Orchestra’s four-million-dollar deficit,” Lenfest says from his seat in the boardroom, the new Villon now leaning against the wall behind him. “Four million per year! Annenberg [the Annenberg Foundation] has given them a gift, conditioned upon their balancing the budget.” Now the old commander’s eyes brighten and he laughs quietly. “They said, ‘We got the idea from you, Gerry.’”
Abusing Donor Intent
By Doug White
Successfully challenging Princeton's (mis)use of his parents' endowment, William Robertson stood up for donors and the terms of designated contributions.
“Look at what this project could accomplish for the country.”
The words were whispered, although not intentionally, as Bill Robertson's emotions emerged. The weight of some years — more likely, some decades, as he thought of it — was being lifted. He would finally be able to tell an immensely personal story that happened to be about the largest lawsuit in the history of philanthropy.
During a period of six and a half years, beginning in the summer of 2002, the actions of this man, whom most everyone would assume by his outward demeanor of gentleness and accommodation could do no harm, at first surprised, then irritated, then upset, then offended, then riled, and then, finally, exploded the sensitivities of those who work in the patrician atmosphere that permeates the charitable organization that is Princeton University.
From his perspective, his goal wasn't to inflict damage. But he did think it was high time Princeton stopped inflicting its damage.
He wanted the voices of his parents to be heard. They had spoken through their enormous charitable gift forty years earlier, and their altruism was intended to accomplish something. Charles and Marie Robertson actually wrote it all down on a piece of paper, a carefully drawn, legally binding document hovered over by several attorneys — the family’s as well as the university's — before it was declared satisfactory.
To the casual observer of Princeton's world-renowned Woodrow Wilson School, things seemed to be going swimmingly. But by 2002, Robertson, who sat on the board of the foundation his parents created, had put up with enough. “The whole idea had gotten so off course,” he says, “it was time to pull the plug.”
He wanted nothing less than to remove the original money and all of its earnings from Princeton’s control and go elsewhere with it, not to benefit himself or any other individual, but to use it at another, more deserving university, one that would adhere more faithfully to his parents’ wishes. So, with his brother and two sisters, he went to court. The genteel environment of the boardroom would be replaced by the much more daunting rough and tumble venue of the legal system.
The arguments, the animosity and the money were about a basic idea: assuring that the dream of two people would become a reality. Like tens of millions of other donors — some wealthier, many far less wealthy — they wanted to do good things for the world, and they committed a sizable portion of their fortune and intellectual capital to make that happen.
This is a story about their children, led by Bill Robertson, who were determined to ensure, at whatever cost, that their parents’ intentions would live in perpetuity. The good people at Princeton say they were ensuring the Robertson legacy, but they may never have suspected, when disagreement on that point arose, that the children would be as resolute as they were.
It was the largest one-time amount — $35 million — anyone had ever donated to benefit a university. Charles and Marie Robertson were specific about the way the money was to be used. It was intended to help Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School for Public Policy and International Affairs focus on sending its graduates into those areas of the federal government concerned with international relations. “But the university,” the son says, “was ignoring my parents’ intentions. ” Furthermore, he maintains, Princeton's administrators were “harming the country as well.”
That's not, as you might imagine, the way Princeton saw it — or sees it today. The people there say they not only assiduously honor the concept of donor intent for all its supporters, but that in this case they were particularly faithful to the donors’ intentions. “Princeton,” a top administrator once said, “ has always used the funds given by Marie Robertson solely for the purpose for which she made her $35 million gift in 1961.” The university contends that the Woodrow Wilson School has been and continues to be one of the best in the country for public administration and policy with an international orientation, and that it was unfairly disparaged.
By 2002, the corpus of the gift, even after annual expenditures were accounted for, had grown to almost $700 million, a sizable portion of Princeton's endowment. By the spring of 2008, the fund had grown to $850 million. In part because of the sheer amount of money and in part because of Princeton's prominence in American academia, the lawsuit, the longest and most debilitating litigation ever in the history of American philanthropy, was destined to draw scrutiny. Among nonprofit executives, board members, donors and students of philanthropy, it is the most discussed legal case relating to donor intent. As the lawsuit wended its way through the court, it was covered extensively in the media, not only in outlets that specialize in nonprofit news, but in the general-circulation media as well.
In addition to the sum of money at stake and the audacious, public challenge to a pillar of the most academically revered group of universities in the country, another, more important reason the world took note — and why all donors and all nonprofit organizations should never forget what happened — is that this dispute, at its heart, sharply raised the awareness of the need for trust and honor in the sector of our society that most demands and depends upon those qualities.
Princeton officials claim they fulfilled their obligations. The Robertson family claims Princeton made a mockery of them. No matter what the defendants might say, Robertson insists he wasn't the bad guy; he was just trying to protect the family's honor.
By Roberta d’Eustachio
Philanthropists everywhere are talking about "Fun" in philanthropy. What does "Fun" mean?
When Warren Buffet gave over $30 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one word turned up consistently in the media coverage: "fun."
The foundation’s official announcement of the gift read, “Warren’s wisdom will help us do a better job and make it more fun at the same time.” Buffet himself explained his decision by saying, “Over the years I had gotten to know Bill and Melinda Gates well, spent a lot of time with them having fun and, way beyond that, had grown to admire what they were doing with their foundation.” On the Charlie Rose show, Bill Gates said of Buffet, “The thing that stunned me the most after I met Warren … was that he was really having fun. I knew how to have fun, but not at that level.”
Observers like PC Magazine’s John Dvorak picked up the thread: “[Gates] will now have the stature of a King rather than that of a savvy entrepreneur. Big difference, and more fun.”
Here at Giving Magazine, that got us thinking. Is fun an essential element of philanthropy? Should philanthropists expect to have fun? What kind of fun? Is it possible to have too much fun? Clearly it’s important for anyone to enjoy their work, if they want to do it for long. On the other hand, the word “fun” conveys a sense of frivolity that seems wholly out of place when talking about responsible giving.
Which is why Alexis de Raadt-St. James, a philanthropist based in San Francisco, cringed when she heard Gates use the word. “The first thing that came into my mind was, this is too flippant,” she said. “Somebody didn’t coach him very well.”
De Raadt-St. James, who is the CEO of her family’s Althea Foundation, is deeply engaged with a portfolio of causes that are about as un-fun as can be imagined: mental health, depression, suicide and death. She was spurred into philanthropy by a series of traumatic events, including the deaths of loved ones and the 9/11 attacks, which left her shaken and anxious to help others. She has no interest in gala balls. “I don’t like the word fun at all,” she said. “I think it’s so trivializing.”
So when she heard the coverage of the Buffet gift, she sat down and wrote Gates a letter, explaining that, as a fellow philanthropist, she didn’t think that “fun” was the best word to use, if only because it would give people the wrong idea about philanthropy. “I would never use that word to describe what I do,” she said. “I work very hard at what I do.”
But even a short conversation reveals that de Raadt- St. James does draw great pleasure from her work, even when it has nothing to do with fun at all. Furthermore, it is clear that the pleasure helps drive the work and ultimately makes her effective.
Among de Raadt-St. James’s proudest achievements, for example, is a death-notice protocol – basically, a conversation guide that can be used to help health care professionals, military personnel, or friends and family notify others of the death of a loved one in the best possible way, minimizing the trauma experienced by both the bearers and the recipients of the shocking news. Her own personal experiences and subsequent conversations with soldiers and others convinced her that people need help navigating these singularly painful moments.
“I’ve had grown [military] men in my office in tears, telling me, ‘It killed me to say this. It killed me to talk to these parents,’” de Raadt-St. James said. So she spent years and over a million dollars to develop a death notification guide based on the highest psychological and medical standards. Today, her protocol is available to the public for free, and it is used by the U.S. military and the U.K.’s Scotland Yard.
And as serious as such a project is, de Raadt-St. James readily admits that she enjoys both the process and the results. Developing the protocol allowed her to combine her skills in education, science and communications. Now that it is in use, she gets a steady stream of letters and emails from users who tell her how much her work has helped them. “These are things that are helping change people’s lives,” de Raadt-St. James said. “It’s not glamorous, it’s not sexy, but it is fulfilling. Incredibly fulfilling.”
While that may not be “fun,” exactly, it is close. “Fun, I think, is another word for fulfillment,” she said. “And I receive great rewards from what I do. Handing someone a dollar won’t change their lives. But giving someone a modicum of hope, that can be transformative.”
Ultimately, de Raadt-St. James’s problem with Gates’ statement was more semantic than anything else. Her concern was that the foundation sent the wrong message about its seriousness. But if managing huge ambitious projects worth billions of dollars is “fun” for Bill and Melinda Gates, she said, then that can only be a good thing; it will increase the chances that they’ll stay engaged and be effective.
Kevin Murphy believes in fun, and he’s not afraid to say it. Murphy runs the Berks County Community Foundation, just outside of Philadelphia and is also the Chair of the Council on Foundations, a membership group based in Washington, D.C., including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Murphy’s is the kind of foundation that gets involved in every kind of project imaginable, from scholarships to environmental protection to historic renovations. Doing so requires him to deal with donors large and small, from first-timers to long-timers. When he spoke to Giving, he was in the midst of preparing a dinner for prospective donors. His menu included tilapia in a mango-tequila sauce. Fun was definitely on the evening’s agenda.
But for Murphy, “fun” means a lot more than a nice dinner party. Fun means engaged, effective donors. “Fun and effectiveness – it’s not a very big leap,” he said. “None of us do very well at a job that we don’t enjoy. Whether you’re a CEO or a basketball player – it doesn’t matter – you’ve got to enjoy what you do to be effective at it.”
So when Murphy is getting to know a particular donor, one of his first challenges is to find out what is going to engage that person. That, in turn, requires some careful probing. “I ask, when you wake up at night, what are you worrying about?” he said. “Because [having] fun is about making an impact, so you don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
Melissa Berman, CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, echoed Murphy’s words. “The issue of fun is a very powerful one for many of the donors we work with,” she said. Donors who enjoy themselves and their work are more engaged, make more gifts, and ultimately stay longer in the field, she said. “We think it’s in the interest of the nonprofit sector for philanthropy to be engaging and addictive.”
Like Murphy, Berman’s first step with a prospective donor is to help them chart a course that they will enjoy following. She sits down with clients and looks for the answers to four sets of questions: • First, what are your motives? What brings you to the field? Why are you giving? What do you hope to get out of it? • Second, what issues engage you? Is there a particular area of concern? • Third, do you have a preferred approach to solving the problem? • Do you want to work locally, or globally, or at a policy level, or a direct service level? Do you want to use a tried-and-true method, or experiment with new approaches? • And finally, Berman asks, how, specifically, do you want to be involved? Do you want to be heavily engaged? Do you want to stay in the background? Do you want to travel the world? Do you have obligations that keep you close to home? Armed with answers to questions like these, Berman said, she can help clients avoid getting involved in things that they don’t enjoy. “Philanthropy is a voluntary decision,” she said. “If it’s something you have to do, it’s work. If it’s something you have to pay, it’s a tax. Philanthropy shouldn’t be work, and it shouldn’t be a tax.”
And just as those who advise donors must consider the pleasure principles, so too must those who solicit donations. “People are motivated by pleasure,” said Andras Szanto, an advisor of the Wealth & Giving Forum, a New York-based organization that helps high-value individuals and families network among themselves. “Why shouldn’t philanthropy be like anything else? We are in a very unusual stage in history where we have a large number of people who can ask, ‘If I’m not having fun, then why am I here?’”
Institutions and organizations have no choice but to consider their prospective donors’ definition of “fun,” he explained. “The other day I was at the opening of the fall season at one of the major music organizations here [in New York]. The gala, you know,” he said. “And I looked over the audience, and half of them are in their tuxes and gowns. But the other half is in their regular concert-going attire. And I’m thinking to myself that this institution may be in trouble a few years down the road. One generation’s fun is not another’s.
“As we go through a cultural change in philanthropy, as a new generation comes in, the definition of fun changes. They might be trying to attract people to a gala who would rather be in a tent in the rain forest.”
So the word ‘fun,’ despite its lightweight implications, actually represents a profoundly important concept for everyone in the philanthropic field. Advisors need to consider it to help donors make good decisions. Would-be grantees need to consider it in order to attract donations and keep donors engaged. Donors need to consider it if they are to understand which of countless options for investment and involvement suits them best.But is there a danger in too much fun? There is, givers and advisors say, and it arrives when the donor’s pleasure takes precedence over the work needed to serve the philanthropic mission. “I suppose that the dark end of this is a form of narcissism – you’re just in it for yourself,” said Szanto. “As with anything, there are extremes. You don’t want philanthropy to turn into an action sport.”
The solution, donors, advisors, and grantseekers say, is to make sure that the giver understands the recipients' intention and that the goal is not to have fun, but to make the work fun. Keith Whitaker, a philanthropist in his own right and also a fellow at Boston College’s Center on Wealth and Philanthropy, has seen people get in trouble by aiming for fun as an end in itself. “Almost every client we see comes in with this as an underlying psychic state: ‘I want to have fun with my kids in our foundation,’” he said.
The problems come, Whitaker said, as the work – along with conflicting opinions about the work – piles up. His solution is to steer such donors away from questions about what they want personally, and towards questions about what their grantees need.
Focusing on the outcomes has the ironic result of making the work more fun. “One of the best things that an advisor can do is say, ‘Your fundamental instincts are correct. It’s your money, and just think of the great things you can do with it that will add to your happiness and your family’s happiness.’” Whitaker said. “What’s made it more fun [for many families] is really being clear about the family’s roles, and understanding the recipients’ needs – looking to others.
“I’m not trying to distinguish happiness from work. Happiness is work. Do I want my life to be about sitting back and drinking margaritas? When I talk to folks, I always say, ‘This is going to be lots of fun for you. And it’s also going to be a lot of work.”
If anyone understands that work is the critical element of successful giving, it’s Mario Morino, the Cleveland- based philanthropist who chairs the Venture Philanthropy Partners and the Morino Institute. What makes a successful philanthropist, Morino said, is not the ability to have fun, but the drive to do the work in the first place. In his experience, that drive is rarely fueled by a desire for pleasure.
Instead, it is powered by deeper forces. “I don’t think ‘fun’ drives somebody,” Morino said. “I think their enduring values are what drives them. The thing that makes the human soul persevere is purpose.” Morino’s personal purpose is to help impoverished children. This springs from a core belief that everyone is entitled to the same shot at education and success that he had. “I was not rich in money, but I was rich in family, and teachers and so on,” said Morino. “I had a great life. I go back to that same neighborhood and now it’s really rough. Those kids don’t have one thousandth of the chance I had to live the American dream.”
The fun he gets from the work comes through the particular methods he uses to pursue his purpose – setting up new projects and watching to see if they thrive. “I love building something,” he said. “The joy comes from building and solving.”
Thus Morino finds a fun means to address a deeply motivating purpose. His challenge to any would-be philanthropists that he meets is to identify their own purpose first, before they think about fun things to do. The purpose is the driving force; the fun is the grease that keeps the wheels turning. Without the driving force, he says, no amount of fun will keep a donor engaged beyond a check-writing level.
Philanthropists’ purpose may come from their religious beliefs, their family’s values, or even from tragic events that changed their life’s course (like de Raadt-St. James’ string of personal losses). But the purpose has to be there.
“If I don’t see one [a purpose] in place, then I know they’re not going to stick,” Morino said. “What is it you really want to do? Know that. Maybe you don’t tell anybody, but know it. Otherwise, you start smoking your own fumes. The whole thing is designed to make a donor feel like God. Fall into that and you start making bad decisions.”
When Morino heard the Bill Gates interview, he immediately recognized the spirit of the fun-loving, problem-solving entrepreneur in action. “I don’t know Bill, but I know a lot of people like Bill,” Morino said. “What they’d say is, ‘This is a bear of a problem, and really tough to solve, and it’s going to be fun to try to solve it.”
But he also recognized a man with a mission that goes beyond pleasing himself. And indeed, if one goes beyond the initial coverage of the Buffet-Gates gift, it becomes clear that both Buffet and Gates are motivated not by a desire to have fun, but a desire to solve a specific kind of global injustice.
In the Charlie Rose interviews, it is obvious that the two men richly enjoy each other’s company, and that they have a lot of fun together. But both Gates and Buffet stressed that they share a desire to grapple with the kinds of health and education challenges that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has embraced. “Bill is an American, but he’s basically a citizen of the world,” Buffet told Rose. “He has a world view. He thinks that the child in India is as valuable as the child next door, and he lives it. It comes out in how his foundation operates.”
It is the last point that sealed the deal for Buffet when it came time to put his billions to work for the public good. Like so many philanthropists, Buffet and Gates are clearly not afraid of fun. They recognize its utility. But just as clearly, they recognize that if the responsible philanthropist is to have fun, it should be fun with a purpose.
Her Royal Highness Princess Bandari Bint Abdulrahman Al Faisal
By Julie Shafer
The Princess has a clear definition of successful philanthropy and, in her view, being a woman in Saudi Arabia is a plus.
In a country where women aren’t allowed to drive, let alone vote, hold office, or do much of anything without a male guardian, what kind of role can a woman play in philanthropy? In Saudi Arabia, a significant one, in the admittedly exceptional case of Her Royal Highness Princess Bandari bint Abdulrahman Al Faisal. Princess Bandari has been the Director General of the King Khalid Foundation since its inception in 1999.
To a degree, she was groomed for the job. Her mother and grandmother were active role models of formal and informal philanthropy throughout her childhood. To ensure that she was not a “spoiled” child, they would have her accompany them on visits to nonprofits to listen to discussions on women’s rights, roles, and responsibilities within their community.
After graduating from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government with a master’s in public policy in 1998, Princess Bandari accepted the Directorship with some reluctance. She was apprehensive about her preparedness and qualifications for the role, but her gender wasn’t an obvious disqualifier. In fact, women in Saudi Arabia have frequently assumed The King Khalid Foundation leadership positions in foundations, nonprofits, and non-governmental organizations. (And, starting in 2015, they will be allowed to participate in the elective process.) If anything, the Princess says, her gender is a bonus—she’s allowed to be more aggressive and outgoing and “has nothing to lose.”
Although the Princess is traditional in many ways—for example, she has described the enveloping abaya as a relief because she doesn’t have to decide what to wear—in some respects she has been surprisingly bold. Last year, for example, she gave the go-ahead for a newspaper advertisement against domestic violence—a striking full-page picture of a woman with a black eye clearly visible under her burqa. Underneath the image a slogan read, “Some things can’t be covered,” and a list of phone numbers for local domestic abuse shelters. As the country's first-ever anti-domestic abuse advertisement, the campaign was as shocking as it was powerful, but Princess Bandari, who approved it, says she doesn’t understand the controversy. “My media and PR team were a bit nervous going into this, saying, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ I didn’t understand why. I don’t understand what is so controversial. Who will say, ‘Yes, it’s okay for women to be beaten up’?”
During her tenure, Princess Bandari has worked to build formal structures within the foundation, institutionalizing measurements and evaluations. She was handed a blank canvas and admits that making mistakes fast became part of her learning process. The Princess describes her management style as “growing organically” and strives to keep up pressure on the foundation’s impact not only for her local community but for the entire country.
One of the most critical discoveries has been the overwhelming need for capacity building in Saudi Arabian nonprofits. Princess Bandari focuses first on sustainability, not dependency. The foundation assists with strategic planning, mentoring and program development. Bandari has coached philanthropists and other foundations in the realities on the ground, including the need for program-building funds to ensure a robust nonprofit system.
And, perhaps to ensure continuity, she has also established the Princess Bandari Al Faisal Fellowship at the Kennedy School to support students from the Arab League. Women applicants get preference.
By Kent Allen
LinkedIn's co-founder brings his venture capital savvy to philanthropy.
Even by the frenetic standards of Silicon Valley, Reid Hoffman, 47, is a busy man. He’s been at the center or on the periphery of dozens of start-ups, most prominently as a principal at PayPal and as co-founder of LinkedIn, the modern-day equivalents of—and now just as vital to life as—the personal check and the Rolodex. A venture capitalist who seems to have a finger in every tech pie, Hoffman is “the most connected man in Silicon Valley,” according to Forbes, which gives his net worth at upwards of $4 billion.
His involvement in nonprofits is as wide and deep as it is in his moneymaking enterprises, and he takes pains to apply the same ambition and business sensibility to the socially conscious organizations he supports. His intensity and the diversity of his interests are what you might expect from someone with a degree in symbolic systems (which focuses on different aspects of the human-computer relationship) from Stanford and a master’s in philosophy from Oxford.
In Hoffman’s nonprofit orbit of interest, a primary planet is Kiva, an unconventional “charity” that is more of a lending facility than a donative vehicle. The organization matches up lenders with borrowers for small-scale ventures.
Generally, the borrowers, who dot the landscape across the globe, have an idea for a small business but require as little as a few hundred dollars in startup capital. With few exceptions, they nearly always pay back the no-interest loan in its entirety after their businesses are in gear. While that track record is vital to the organization’s survival, Hoffman sees other benefits: Both lenders and borrowers, he believes, have an opportunity to learn how a small amount of money can make a big difference. He recently gave the organization $1 million so that thousands of would-be micro-lenders—who can invest as little as $25—could get a feel for the lending side of Kiva’s potential power. He is equally enthusiastic about the receiving end of the loans.
“The pattern you want is to empower people to invest in themselves,” Hoffman told TechCrunch, a blog about technology startups, in an interview last year in which he lauded Kiva for making small businesspeople out of ordinary folks who might not otherwise have the chance.
Hoffman takes a similar approach to other nonprofit organizations with which he’s been affiliated, including Do-Something and Endeavor Global. Do-Something resembles Kiva but targets young lenders specifically. Its generation-next edginess was apparent recently on its website: “Join over 2.2 million people taking action,” it urged. “Why? Because apathy sucks.”
By contrast, Endeavor Global, while a nonprofit, is not a charity. It matches up successful businesspeople with prospective entrepreneurs in a mentoring program. Hoffman himself takes on the role of mentor. In a posting on the organization’s website, he offered his “top 10 rules of entrepreneurship.” They included “aim big,” “maintain flexible persistence,” and “look for disruptive change.”
Hoffman says that in college he decided he wanted to try to influence the state of the world on a large scale. “My plan was to become a professor and public intellectual,” he told Director magazine a few years ago. “That is not about quoting Kant. It’s about holding up a lens to society and asking, ‘Who are we?’ and ‘Who should we be, as individuals and a society?’’’ But he soon determined that he could make a greater impact as an entrepreneur—and now he’s trying to help others do the same.
By Jay Balfour
A series of international events aims to catalyze philanthropy in young wealth holders.
Philanthropy is rarely a young person’s game. Tech innovators and entertainers aside, those who can afford to give headline-grabbing sums generally do so later in life, towards the end of a career or in retirement. And with the millennial generation often stereotyped as unemployed, unmotivated, and generally adrift, it would seem unrealistic to look to them for buckets of cash. But next-generation philanthropists aren’t waiting for wealth, and their enthusiasm may be their greatest asset.
In July 2013 about 700 people, most of them young, gathered at the United Nations Headquarters in New York for a global youth summit on innovative philanthropy and social entrepreneurship. The organizing body, Nexus, was founded a couple years prior in partnership with the UN and other governments in an effort to involve young people in a global culture of philanthropy. That year's summit, Nexus’ third, was easily its largest and most exuberant up to that point.
What distinguished this gathering from, say, a dinner of Giving Pledge signatories, however, was not the number of zeroes before a decimal; it was a fundamentally different approach to giving. “I think people in our generation see the term ‘philanthropist’ as a passive term,” Nexus cofounder Rachel Cohen Gerrol said in an interview with Giving Magazine, “like, ‘I’m a check writer,’ and they feel that much of the value they have to offer is not located in their checkbook. If you go back to the larger sense of ‘philanthropist’ as a caretaker or lover of humanity, that would be much more in line with how people would define themselves.”
That’s true even of young attendees who actually have access to a checkbook, such as Zac Russell, the youngest and only next generation member of the board of the Russell Family Foundation (which has an endowment of roughly $135 million). Like many of his peers, Russell has a broader definition of what it means to be a donor. “‘Philanthropy’ means money in modern contemporary [terms], but I think of it as time,” he said during the summit. “I think of it as intention, of making the world possible that you want to see by your actions. It just so happens that in our contemporary world money relates to action.”
In connecting money to action, Russell is in good company at Nexus. “We’ve made this shift from philanthropic giving to philanthropic living for this community,” Gerrol said, “and that means that you’re voting with your dollars every time you purchase a candy bar or a purse just as much as you are when you decide where to write your foundation check to or what you do professionally.” (Notably, the conference gave out goodie bags stuffed with Kind cereal bars and “ethical” treats from Taza Chocolate and Kopali Organics.)
Perhaps nowhere was this concept better embodied than in a conversation during the summit between Kenneth Cole, better known as a designer than as an activist, and his daughter about fashionable philanthropy and clever social marketing. (Cole’s products—“be awear” bracelets, “hot in here” T-shirts about climate change—have garnered publicity and raised funds for causes for years.) In fact, one of the strengths of Nexus’ summits is their ability, as a watering hole for the upscale young, to attract bold-face names. Adrian Grenier, environmentalist and star of the popular HBO show Entourage, helped draw a crowd the first morning. By contrast, veteran civil rights activist and singer Harry Belafonte attracted about 30 attendees and issued a call to action on more ‘60s-style terms. He also added a note of deja-vu. “I’ve been before you before, Nexus,” he said, “because among a number of titles, I’ve also been a beggar. I don’t like it, it tampers with my dignity, but it’s a necessity. What bothers me is how often we have to beg for the same money, for the same cause.”
The distinction between traditional philanthropy and social or impact investing—and the issue of which is the more effective path forward—was reflected throughout the summit. Ladislav Kossar, the manager of a philanthropic investment group in Eastern Europe, asked attendees to place their own endeavors on a spectrum, from “pure philanthropy” to investments with an expectation of financial return. The response resulted in a watershed moment: It became evident that the room was full of entrepreneurs and self-starters, not traditional givers.
Judging from such measures, young people at the summit were the actors rather than the funders of change. Heirs such as Zac Russell were far outnumbered by ambitious entrepreneurs that need money like his family’s, and the summit is less an explicit bridge between the two than it is a meeting ground. At the same time, as Gerrol noted, many participants wear more than one hat. For example, she pointed to Lana Volfstun, who is the executive director of One Percent Foundation, which is trying to encourage giving circles and philanthropy within the millennial generation; she is also from a very philanthropic family and has been involved with two programs for young philanthropists in the Jewish community. “She might come off as a social entrepreneur, but she’s also a philanthropist,” Gerrol noted.
Of the dozens of panel discussions, most were on issue-driven topics related to equality and awareness, with names like “How Pop Culture Can Drive Social Change” and “Women and Girls.” Yet there were also a few breakaway sessions for current and prospective possessors of wealth: “Taking on a Role in the Family Foundation” and “How to Distinguish Oneself When a Parent’s Legacy Casts a Wide Shadow.”
It’s likely that Nexus’ future lies in its potential for breaking down walls between the askers and the givers in its own ranks. For now, the summits have done an impressive job in sparking a dialogue—and with it the recognition that some of this dialogue has been held before. “These are conversations that were percolating in the hallways and the hidden corners of conferences about similar issues twenty or thirty years ago,” Gerrol noted. “If you look at who were the students in the ‘60s, they were radicals and revolutionaries, and they are now people in their sixties today. I think as we build a movement of youth, we need to be standing on the shoulders of those who laid the foundation for this movement to exist, and to learn from them.” For today’s older donors, that could be as good as it gets.
The Community Foundation
By Sandra Salmans
How a hundred-year-old idea is reshaping philanthropy around the world.
Carnegie and Rockefeller had recently established—and lavishly endowed—their eponymous foundations when Frederick Goff, president of the Cleveland Trust Company, had a different idea: a “community trust” to which the city’s philanthropists could all contribute. Interest on the money, it was declared, would fund “such charitable purposes as will best make for the mental, moral, and physical improvement of the inhabitants of Cleveland.”
Thus, 100 years ago, was born the world’s first community foundation. (Bequests were, not coincidentally, deposited at the Cleveland Trust Company—setting a precedent for the charitable funds later established by financial services companies such as Fidelity, Schwab and Vanguard.) The Cleveland Foundation was soon leaving its mark on the city, supporting the creation of the so-called “emerald necklace” of the city’s parks, shaking up the corrupt judicial system, spearheading public school reforms that included equal education opportunities for girls. And within five years, community foundations (CFs) had sprung up in Chicago, Boston, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Buffalo, NY.
The growth of CFs since then has been immense, immeasurably greater than even the visionary Goff could have dreamed. Today there are an estimated 700 CFs in the US. According to CF Insights, a consultancy specializing in community foundations, assets at CFs in the U.S. totaled $66 billion in 2013, an increase of $8 billion over the previous year. The Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) led the way, at $4.7 billion, followed by the Tulsa Community Foundation, with $3.9 billion, and the New York Community Trust, with $2.4 billion. (SVCF’s assets, which ballooned with a $1 billion gift from Mark Zuckerberg in 2013, surged ahead again in 2014 with a $500 million stake in the camera maker GoPro from its founders.)
In 2013, commemorating the 100 years since the first CF was established, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation created a chair on community foundations at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. And this past October, to celebrate the centenary of the CF, the Council on Foundations gathered leading philanthropic organizations in Cleveland, where it all began.
What’s more, the rest of the world—including the developing world—is rapidly following America’s lead. According to the latest tally by WINGS (Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support), a global network of grantmaker support organizations, and the Community Fund Atlas, which is underwritten by the Cleveland Foundation, there are currently some 1,100 CFs outside the US, in more than 50 countries and on six continents. Having launched in the US and Canada in 1914, the CF crossed the Atlantic to Britain about 35 years ago, took root in Germany around the time of reunification, spread to Russia and the former Soviet states, and is currently establishing a foothold throughout the developing world. Between 2010 and 2014, eight new CFs were established in Asia-Pacific, four in sub-Saharan Africa, four in Latin America and two in the Middle East. As the Mott Foundation aptly declared in its 2012 annual report, CFs are “rooted locally, growing globally.”
Whether in the industrialized world or the emerging one, CFs are identical in one key respect: They are public charities that tap the wealth of their communities, with the goal of redistributing it locally. That mission has universal application, asserts Emmett Carson, who is the SVCF’s chief executive officer and is also the visiting holder of the new Mott chair on community foundations. “We should think of the community foundation concept like water,” he says. “The water is the same, but it takes on the shape of whatever community you pour it into.”
And the fact is that CFs differ markedly from one country to another—and, increasingly, even within a country. In the developed world, many CFs are taking on a more activist role than in the past, initiating projects and partnerships as well as donating to established programs. What’s more, many are traveling far beyond their borders, accepting funds from a wider audience and playing a role on the national and even international stage
Meanwhile, the CFs that are springing up in less developed areas—Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe—are digging deep into their communities to convince residents to trust the very concept of pooling and distributing funds. While endowments and professional leadership are the hallmarks of long-standing CFs in the US, money necessarily takes a back seat to other priorities among CFs in emerging countries, where there are only small pockets of wealth. “They have to prove they’re relevant to the community and need to establish trust where often there are low levels of trust,” notes Nick Deychakiwsky, program officer for the Mott Foundation’s civil society team. In fact, in many cases those CFs have received a jumpstart by foundations such as Mott, Ford, Open Society and Aga Khan, and also appeal to the diaspora for funds.
As Jenny Hodgson, director of the South Africa-based Global Fund for Community Foundations, observes, community philanthropy is as old as, well, communities themselves. “Every country and culture has its traditions of giving and mutual support between family, friends and neighbors,” she has written, pointing to the tradition of burial societies across Africa and hometown associations in Mexico.
However, the new generation of community philanthropy institutions—fueled by factors ranging from a growing concentration of wealth to the popularity of social media, according to WINGS executive director Helena Monteiro—take a more strategic approach to giving. “Most are about development rather than donor services, and they do a lot of capacity building,” Hodgson told Giving. “They’re building civil society, essentially.” As the Kenya Community Development Foundation, a CF established in 1997, asserts on its website, its goal is “the growth and sustainability of communities by their strong engagement in owning and driving their development efforts.” (Italics are KCDF’s.)
A sampling of this new breed of CFs offers a glimpse of the variety of programs being undertaken:
- In Egypt, the Community Foundation for South Sinai is working to support the Bedouin, who have long been marginalized. The CF is working on several fronts to raise the tribes out of poverty and preserve their heritage; projects have included teaching the women how to make useful wool products, and providing a camel to a boy who was his family’s breadwinner.
- In Costa Rica, the Monteverde Community Fund, initially founded to invest tourism revenue in preserving the rain forests, has added a social portfolio. Among other projects, it is promoting a community Internet-based radio station, training local youth to create programming and encouraging them to engage in public discourse.
- In Romania, multiple CFs have organized annual “swimathons” to raise their profiles, garner funds and spread the ethos of sharing. In Cluj, the country’s second most populous city, revenue went to support new programs for young people, including a robotics class in an elementary school and education for students with special needs.
- On the West Bank, the Dalia Association, a Palestinian CF, gave women from nearby villages $6,000 to build a park. The women went on to secure additional donations, including the land, utility hookups, a basketball court, a playground and a library.
- In Slovakia, the Banska Bystrica City Foundation—Eastern Europe’s oldest CF, initially launched as a World Health Organization project—has assembled a group of local donors that assist the city’s street children, provide support for the local Roma community, and encourage younger people to take an interest in philanthropy.
While all these CFs have struggled to raise money, elsewhere they have also encountered tight governmental controls or opposition. Even there, however, they are making headway. According to a recent report by CAF (Charities Aid Foundation) Russia, a support group for charitable and nonprofit groups, nearly two-thirds of the membership of CF governing boards comes from the authorities and business; even so, starting with one CF in 1998, Russia today has more than 45 community foundations. The situation is more problematic in China, where very few private organizations are permitted to do fundraising, grantmaking is relatively unknown and civil society is weak. Still, says Hodgson, “everybody is talking about community foundations in China. There’s lots of energy right now.”
That’s also an apt description of the situation in the US, where the biggest CFs are stepping up their game. Rather than limiting themselves to making grants to established programs, “community foundations are increasingly moving into the sphere of brokers for community solutions,” declares Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, who heads the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo in New York State. Dedecker’s group was the prime mover in launching Say Yes to Education, an initiative that has brought together school parents, union leaders, the business sector and other stakeholders to provide year-round support to students K-12, including college scholarships.
Arguably the most striking example of the supercharged CF is the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The result of a merger of two leading CFs in 2006, SVCF is not only the largest single grantmaker to Bay Area nonprofits, it’s the fifteenth largest international grantmaker in the United States, according to Carson. Furthermore, while SVCF draws much of its wealth from the affluent high-tech community, it also has donors who neither live in the Bay Area nor give to it, but choose to use SVCF as the means to distribute their philanthropy.
To Carson and others, these developments represent a natural progression for CFs in a society that is ever more global. “People increasingly see themselves as national citizens and, more likely, as global citizens,” he notes.” And because many Americans, or at least their parents, hail from different countries, they want to be able to send money overseas as well as to contribute to their new homelands. To compete in this arena—and also to counter the inroads made by financial services companies such as Vanguard and Fidelity, which are vying for donor-advised funds—the leading community foundations are carving out a niche in international philanthropy.
To some people in the CF world, venturing so far afield seems incompatible with the very notion of a community foundation. “A part of me says, ‘Shouldn’t it all be local?’” says the Mott’s Nick Deychakiwsky. But as someone with his own strong spiritual ties to Ukraine, Deychakiwsky concedes that “we’re all living in a more globalized world.” Ultimately, he hopes, globalization will lead to US-based CFs becoming more involved with community foundations abroad—relationships that could benefit organizations in both the developed and developing world. (And there are surprising similarities: Experts notes that CFs in emerging countries have a lot in common with those in rural areas of the US such as the deep South, where “hyperlocal” community development remains the sole focus.) “It’s amazing how much is transferable,” agrees Dedecker of the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo, who is exploring the sharing of best practices with a CF in Nottingham, England. “The universal drive is for significant change and a strong sense of place,” she concludes. “That’s what unites us all.”
By Jay Balfour
Ibrahim faces tough criticism of his prize for Achievement in African Leadership.
It’s not always easy giving away a lot of money, and arguably no philanthropist has learned that lesson more than Mo Ibrahim.
Born in the Sudan in 1946, Ibrahim—who describes himself in his Giving Pledge letter as “a very lucky African boy”—earned a degree in electrical engineering in Egypt; after emigrating to Britain in the 1970s, he did graduate work in engineering and mobile communications that became the basis for his career. After working for several other telecommunications companies in London, including British Telecom, he founded Celtel, which built and operated mobile networks across Sub-Saharan Africa. Less than a decade later, in 2005, Ibrahim sold Celtel for $3.4 billion. Around the time of the sale he wrote, “I had to face the big question, ‘Now what? Where to go from here?’ I knew that I needed to go back and do something for our people. It is a moral duty and African custom to look after your extended family. I felt my extended family reached from Cairo to Cape Town.”
The result was the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and its brief was to encourage better governance in Africa. To do this it created the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, a $5 million award distributed over ten years with an additional $200,000 annual payout for life. The prize is awarded to African heads of state who “deliver security, rule of law, economic opportunity, infrastructure, management of public finance, transparency, education, health and citizens rights” to their citizens and who are elected to office and democratically transfer power to their successors. Under the scope of the foundation, Ibrahim also created an Index of African Government, a scorecard that measures more than 100 parameters of governance. Ibrahim's focus on leadership grew out of his own experience walking away from bribes and corrupt licensing deals in Africa, and business transparency became a central publicity campaign for Celtel.
The problem with the award is that the foundation has had a notoriously difficult time finding deserving recipients. Since it was launched in 2007, the prize—which dwarfs the Nobel Prize of about $1 million—has been awarded only three times. “No Mo Ibrahim Prize awarded, once again,” a headline in Al Jazeera proclaimed in 2013, the second consecutive year such an announcement was called for.
The prize was first awarded in 2007 to President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, and then in 2008 to Botswana President Festus Mogae. In 2011, the foundation granted former Cape Verde president Pedro de Verona Rodrigues its third prize (excluding the honorary prize it gave to Nelson Mandela the first year).
While Ibrahim and his blue-ribbon board defend their right to withhold the award, the omission year after year has heightened what was already a storm of criticism. At one point, Ibrahim asserted that spotlighting the winners helped erase the “cartoon” image of African leaders, but the shortage of winners has itself been something of an embarrassment. Furthermore, the award itself has proven highly controversial. In a piece in The New Yorker, critics asserted that the prize has been given to worthy leaders of countries that are nonetheless riddled with corruption, like Mozambique; that it has not been given to the heads of state of countries, such as Ghana, that are better-run than Mozambique; that it rewards—even bribes—people for behaving the way they’re supposed to behave; and that it “overemphasizes the power of leaders and underemphasizes the power of everyone else.” Above all, it has been suggested that, especially on a continent where poverty is rampant, the money might be better spent elsewhere. Separately, the Index of African Government has also come under fire. Critics complain that the scoring is distorted, giving equal weight to “freedom of expression” and, say, “immunization from measles.”
Ibrahim, for his part, defends both the prize and the index. He argues, with some justice, that those who equate the prize with bribery are naïve, that—unlike Western heads of state like Bill Clinton or Tony Blair—African leaders have little opportunity to make legitimate fortunes when they retire. He maintains that the important thing is to raise the bar for African leadership, even if it means often withholding the prize. And others, some of them African, say that the index, whatever its drawbacks, has influenced contributions from the West and spurred African countries to compete with each other for superior rankings.
Perhaps recognizing the prize’s limits, however, Ibrahim has also established foundation fellowships: Every year a few individuals will be paid handsomely to work for the heads of three institutions—the African Development Bank, the World Trade Organization and the Economic Commission for Africa—that have considerable sway over the future of the continent. Conceivably, those fellows could one day emerge as leaders of their countries—and recipients of the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement.
In the meantime, it’s arguable that Ibrahim’s greatest contributions to democracy in Africa are the cellphones he made accessible. As The New Yorker recently noted, the Arab spring that begain in 2010 in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya was fueled by mobile phone emails, Tweets, and videos. Ironically, it’s been as a businessman, if not as a philanthropist, that Mo Ibrahim has most transformed Africa.
By Sharilyn Hale
Whether you give time, money, or expertise, the author outlines how individuals can be most effective with their gifts.
“Giving away money is easy—doing so effectively is much harder,” declares Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen in her introduction to Giving 2.0. It’s a common realization for those in the industry, but can still be a hard-earned truth. In language that is sometimes a little flowery, Andreessen positions philanthropy as a powerful pathway to emotional, intellectual and spiritual fulfillment, and ultimately a tool of personal and communal transformation. The book has been endorsed by a who’s who of America’s leading philanthropic leaders, including Melinda Gates, but this not entirely grounded book will likely be irrelevant to savvy givers. And if you are looking for a prescriptive how-to manual, Giving 2.0 will almost certainly fall short.
Arrillaga-Andreessen has philanthropy in her DNA. Her father is noted real estate mogul and philanthropist John Arrillaga, Sr. and her husband is Silicon Valley pioneer and investor Marc Andreessen. Thus her book is written from a place of obvious privilege. Still, Arrillaga-Andreessen has credentials. She describes herself as a “pracademic,” a practitioner as much as a scholar of charitable giving. She is founder of an organization called SV2 (the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund), president of the Marc and Laura Andreessen Foundation, founder and chair of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, and a lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where she teaches a course on strategic philanthropy.
Giving 2.0 takes a deeply personal, anecdotal, and reflective approach to philanthropy that evolves over time. It is part philanthropic memoir inspired by the example of her mother, part conversational guide, part academic reader. Arrillaga-Andreessen provides a fair contextualization of philanthropy in historical terms and includes more than a passing mention of social media, an issue close to her family and home. She offers extensive lists of thought-provoking questions, and encourages philanthropists to learn from their giving in order to inform future gift decisions and create greater impact. Her suggestion to begin a giving journal to explore and document one’s journey towards effective philanthropy may not resonate with or be practical for everyone, but her premise that giving effectively requires a high degree of personal engagement is solid.
To her credit, Arrillaga-Andreessen consistently acknowledges her standing and addresses the often unspoken and complicated role of ego in giving. She quickly identifies the need to respectfully navigate relationships with charitable and nonprofit leaders as expert teachers and collaborators. She admits to past giving experiences that missed the mark, lending the book an air of authenticity. And she articulates the importance of advocacy and social justice philanthropy, two areas that are frequently sidelined and misunderstood, yet where systemic transformation is often rooted.
The author says she wrote Giving 2.0 for “anyone who gives anything, in any amount to create a better world.” Aspirationally, this includes donors at all giving levels (whether $10 or $10 million), volunteers, and social change advocates. The inclusive acknowledgement of the whole range of players in philanthropy is refreshing, albeit a little superficial. At the same time, it contributes to a cumbersome lack of focus and depth that doesn’t reflect Arrillaga-Andreessen’s obvious expertise.
The book may be especially useful to those who are new to intentional philanthropy, are highly motivated and want a broad survey of the “oceans of possibility.” Arrillaga-Andreessen refers to navigating these oceans herself, but the book would have benefited from more sophisticated navigation tools. More explanatory chapter titles and greater use of headings and subheadings would have made it easier to reference. Charts, checklists, and worksheets might have helped bring shape to the valuable approach, considerations and questions she offers.
Patient readers will be rewarded, however. The writing style is informal and conversational, which helps make it an accessible read in spite of the dense content. Comprehensive “Making It Happen” summaries at the end of each chapter help round things out and avoid the need for pen-in-hand reading. Philanthropists with children will also find some wonderful examples and tools to nurture and practice generosity as a family.
In the end, Giving 2.0 doesn’t offer a plan or framework to make giving easy as much as it welcomes readers to the path with a description of the many options available and a bracing call for self-reflection and exploration. Add this book to your library, but don’t expect a tell-all.
By Clare Brooks
Brought down under to lead the Australia Communities Foundation, Brooks shares what she calls her "marvelous adventure."
“The Australian countryside looks so . . . so . . . savage,” my Melbourne host told me. That wasn’t her view of course; she was quoting a British visitor.
Did I think the same? No, I reassured her. Quite the opposite, I found it marvelous.
Terra Australis has a beauty, complexity and originality that are breathtaking and intoxicating. I’d heard of the uniqueness of its wildlife but it’s hard to imagine how larger-than-life Australia is until you’ve stepped off the plane. It has giant landscapes, skies, wilderness, and belief systems; the Australian Aboriginal culture is the oldest maintained culture on the planet.
It also has a unique culture of giving. Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), a nonprofit organization that conducts research on international giving trends, ranked Australia first in its 2012 World Giving Index as a function of the public’s open-handedness in times of need. CAF’s Index is far from a measure on purely financial terms—it includes categories for volunteering time and “helping strangers”— but its findings do reflect Australia’s generosity.
The country has its pantheon of philanthropists, many of them with connections to the state of Victoria, home to Melbourne and 80 percent of the country’s charitable trusts. (Victoria is Australia’s most densely populated state.) Still, most Australians are almost vehemently self-effacing about their giving, even if some are beginning to understand that they can better further the causes they care about if they go public.
Dame Elizabeth Murdoch, mother of media tycoon Rupert, was particularly admired for her giving and her personal involvement in the charities she supported, and she was universally mourned upon her death in 2012. The country’s charitable landscape is dotted with other venerable (for a young country) family names, like Potter, Myer, Felton and Holmes à Court. And new names in philanthropy are springing up, the result of an economy that boomed in 1990s and weathered the recent global recession.
But while charitable donations are at record levels, some critics complain that the increase simply reflects the economic boom, and that the proportion of those giving has been flat, at 50 percent. Some Australians are calling for more streamlined charity legislation and more transparent and accountable philanthropic practices. In more than one way the country has shown a commitment to push the philanthropic needle even farther.
To encourage leadership, for example, the state of Queensland holds an annual Philanthropist Awards ceremony. Recently a partnership of charitable organizations launched the publication of Australia’s 50 Top Philanthropic Gifts of All Time. The list, which goes back to the 1800s, makes fascinating reading and isn’t exclusive to the mega-wealthy. It invited the public to vote online for Australia’s Top 10 Gifts. I never said Australians weren’t competitive.
The Australian Communities Foundation, an organization I had the good fortune to be associated with during my time down under, also proved to me that mateship and the idea of a fair go aren’t just Australian cultural myths but realities. In the charitable world, they lend themselves to a host of very democratic and often sociable donor-advised funds and Gumnut Accounts, which donors can open for a few dollars a day.
Alongside growing gifts of cash, there is also some epic social entrepreneurism. One venture that began in Australia but has now gone global is Movember, the mustache-themed awareness month that aims to “change the face of men’s health.” It began with some mates having a pint in a pub.
See what I mean? Jokes over a few beers raise 1.1 million new Mo’s and around $100 million across the globe for charity. Marvelous!
What Is CSR?
By Sandra Salmans
A quick look at the pros and cons of Corporate Social Responsibility.
Philanthropy is the rock star of corporate giving, enabling companies to plaster their names across museum exhibitions and public schools. But another form of corporate benevolence, while less showy, may be at least as important. That’s corporate social responsibility (CSR), also known as good corporate citizenship or even corporate conscience.
As the name suggests, CSR is generally defined as corporate behavior that’s in the public interest. While the term came into vogue in the 1960s, historians can cite numerous examples of good corporate citizenry—or paternalism—from the business archives; it was a century ago, for example, that Henry Ford doubled his workers’ pay (to $5 a day). In the years since then, CSR has evolved to embrace a wide variety of business practices unimaginable in Ford’s day. These include community involvement (supporting employees who want time off to volunteer, for example); ethical manufacturing and marketing (not out-sourcing—or, if out-sourcing, ensuring that factories don’t use child labor); and environmental sustainability (recycling, waste management, buying fair-trade coffee beans).
What’s in it for business? Nothing, according to hard-core capitalists, who are also no fans of corporate philanthropy; they argue, as they have for a half-century, that a business’s responsibility is to maximize shareholder value, not to exercise a corporate conscience. And, at the other end of the political spectrum, liberal critics suggest that such practices are mere whitewashing (or green-washing, when it involves environmental activities), designed to help businesses avoid stricter government regulation.
However, advocates of CSR—notably corporations—maintain that such actions represent enlightened self-interest. Better pay and health insurance for employees can improve the workforce and reduce turnover. Ethical manufacturing and marketing foster a marketplace eager for products and services. Greater integrity on the part of the financial community might have helped avert the recent global recession. And so on, and so forth.
And outwardly, at least, good corporate citizenship is on the rise, worldwide. In 2000, the United Nations called on businesses to sign a new “global compact” in which they committed to “ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption.” At latest count, more than 8,000 businesses in 145 countries had signed on. They include Novo Nordisk, the Danish pharmaceutical multinational, and Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch food conglomerate.
Companies that aren’t signatories also espouse in CSR in their own ways. On its web site, the Toyota Corporation displays an elaborate graphic that illustrates its corporate citizenship by making cars that are safe and environmentally friendly, and by providing education in traffic safety, car mechanics and other areas. In New York, in lieu of a cash handout, it recently applied its famous kaizen—continuous improvement process—to dramatically shortening the waiting times at food pantries and soup kitchens.
In the U.S., commitment to CSR has led to the emergence of “B corporations”—for-profit companies that promise to adhere to specific social and environmental standards, and whose performance is regularly certified by a nonprofit called B Lab. According to the New Yorker, there are more than 1,000 B corporations in the U.S. today; they include Patagonia, the sportswear maker, and Warby Parker, the eyeglass maker beloved of hipsters, which distributes a pair of glasses in the developing world for every pair it sells.
In fact, an argument could be made that genuine adherence to standards of corporate social responsibility serves society better than corporate philanthropy. In an academic paper on CSR published in 2009, two researchers noted that Enron’s fraudulent behind-closed-door practices led to a bankruptcy of unprecedented size and immense collateral damage. Before then, however, particularly in its Houston hometown, Enron was a conspicuously open-handed donor.
By Chris Hornsey
“If you give, let people know,” says Australia’s first Giving Pledger.
Much about Andrew Forrest is larger than life. “Twiggy”—the boyhood nickname by which Forrest is still known throughout Australia—is one of the richest men on the continent thanks to his no-holds-barred approach to business, which is currently profiting handsomely from China’s insatiable appetite for iron ore. At the same time, he has fast become one of the most generous Australians ever, giving away tens of millions of dollars in a short span and, in 2013, cosigning with his wife, Nicola, the Giving Pledge, with a promise to donate “the vast majority of our wealth” to benefit “those less fortunate, within our lifetime or at our death.”
“Wealthy people in Australia tend to give, and give very quietly,” Forrest recently said in an interview with the national radio station ABC Radio. “That is wonderful that they do that, but if they actually give and let people know, it acts as an inspiration.” In fact, a few years ago Forrest, now 52, stepped down as chief executive officer of Fortescue Metal Group (FMG), his mining behemoth, because he was devoting more than half his time to philanthropy, he said.
Although they are newcomers to the Giving Pledge, the Forrests’ commitment to helping native Australians has some history. In 2001, with a contribution of more than $90 million in company shares, they established the Australian Children’s Trust (ACT) to assist underprivileged youth. ACT’s first annual report, published in 2011-12, highlights the Forrest family’s donation of $260 million to charitable causes “committed to ending indigenous disparity, improving the lives of disadvantaged Australians, supporting the arts and education, and ending modern slavery around the world.” The Forrests also partner with other wealthy Australian entrepreneurs in underwriting projects aimed at educating, training, mentoring and employing indigenous Australians.
Separately Fortescue Metals launched the Billion Opportunities program, which set a goal of awarding $1 billion in contracts and subcontracts to Aboriginal businesses by the end of 2013. The company said it met the target ahead of schedule. Writing in Sydney’s Telegraph newspaper, Forrest himself applauded the initiative with an acknowledgement that granting Australia’s Aboriginal communities with such employment opportunities represents a shared path forward. “I’m asking governments, Aboriginal elders and businesses all to take the history-making example of Billion Opportunities and lead us all out of welfare and out of indigenous disparity,” he declared.
More recently, Forrest announced a donation of $65 million for higher education in his home state of Western Australia. According to Philanthropy Australia, which charts the country’s charitable industry, the 2013 gift was the largest of its kind in Australian history, and, as a high profile donation, it was typically Twiggy. The money will go towards a $50 million scholarship foundation for the state’s five universities and a new residential college at the University of WA.
While the Forrests’ generosity is often celebrated in Australia, critics have also questioned their philanthropy as well as the business deals that make it possible. Years ago, many Australians rallied against his falling far short of his promised delivery of relief housing to communities devastated by fatal bushfires in Victoria in 2009. Many laud the assistance while others have remained critical of his high-handed approach in dealings with indigenous communities. Early in 2014, Forrest released a review of Indigenous Employment and Training commissioned by the Australian government and has since attracted widespread criticism for his campaign to instate a cashless welfare system that would bar recipients from purchasing restricted items.
Separately, a profile published in 2013 by The Monthly, an Australian political and cultural magazine, canvassed his investments, philosophy, and philanthropy with a report that noted that “while Forrest’s $90 million in Australian Children’s Trust donations was ‘the largest exercise in philanthropy in Australian history,’ tax benefits (and some coincidental slumps in share prices) meant his true net loss was ‘probably less than $2 million.’” And a new, unauthorized biography chronicles Twiggy’s bare-knuckles approach to business deals and, in court, a casual relationship to the truth.
In that context, Forrest’s Giving Pledge letter is particularly revealing. “Australians cherish the right to accumulate capital and distribute it any way they feel,” he wrote. It may be that very attitude that lets Twiggy lead by example. Generosity “is at the absolute heart of being Australian,” said social analyst David Chalke. For Forrest, he continued, “it’s not so much giving but the encouragement of giving that is important.”
By Cheryl Chapman
Together with his recently divorced wife Jamie Cooper-Hohn, Chris Hohn has built up one of the largest charities in Britain.
Until recently, London hedge fund manager Chris Hohn was private to the point of reclusiveness, the philanthropic fund he shared with his wife one of the few public things about him. In November, a record-breaking divorce settlement between Chris and Jamie Cooper-Hohn made headlines after a judge ordered Hohn to pay out $531 million of a fortune that had topped out at $1.3 billion previously. The next month, news trickled out that Cooper-Hohn had chosen not to appeal the decision.
The divorce offered details about the couple’s 17-year marriage and a focal point throughout was The Children’s Investment Fund that they founded together and where Cooper-Hohn served as chief executive until 2012. The fund was established more than a decade ago and with its current endowment of $4.6 billion it has fast become one of Britain’s biggest charities. For years, until recently, the money was fed into the charity on a contractual basis from Hohn’s wildly successful hedge fund management firm TCI. Last June, The New York Times characterized the early divorce proceedings as the source of a split between the fund and the foundation and announced that Hohn had decided to end the contractual donation agreement. Leading up to the announcement, TCI had already pumped just under $2 billion into the charity over a ten-year span, easily making Hohn as one of the most generous philanthropists in the U.K.
From the start, TCI channeled 0.5 per cent of its assets each year to CIFF, which last year donated $123.8 million to causes such as child survival and early learning, and gave out another $106.4 million in grants.
According to The Financial Times, Hohn established the donative formula to make himself work harder—although, given his career, it’s unlikely he’s ever lacked motivation. He grew up in humble circumstances, the son of a secretary and a Jamaican-born car mechanic who immigrated to England in 1960. His grades were impressive enough to propel him into Harvard Business School, where he met Cooper-Hohn.
TCI and CIFF shared a similar business approach with a high risk formula at the forefront. TCI, which at one point was the world’s largest activist hedge fund and now manages assets of around $12 billion, has become notorious for its aggressive investment strategy, particularly towards state-held companies undergoing privatization, such as Britain’s Royal Mail. (Hohn's firm has emerged as the Royal Mail's largest private shareholder in recent years.)
Institutional Investor called Hohn specifically “a fearsome corporate agitator” and a German executive who fell prey to his tactics characterized him as “a locust.” CIFF, for its part, states it “invests where the evidence indicates that there is the potential to make the greatest difference. We expect to affect decision-making about resource allocation and policy at the highest levels of influence, and to shape the implementation of large scale programs in key geographies.”
The foundation works with governments and NGOs to maximize the effects of its direct investments in a way they hope will catalyze programs that sustain themselves. In an effort to de-worm schoolchildren in Kenya, CIFF is operating on a scale that aims to treat more than 5 million children annually and establish a self-sustaining operation within the country with the capacity and infrastructure to guarantee permanent control of the problem. The fund has also invested in perinatal mortality, acute childhood malnutrition, and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS in countries such as India, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe. CIFF has also added two other strategic priority areas under the rubric of climate change and energy transformation.
For each of its programs, CIFF has developed a series of success measures to determine the depth of the problem, the scalability of its own approach, and the impact that can be expected.
Even without TCI’s contractual donations to CIFF, discretionary gifts aren’t out of the question. More importantly it seems, the foundation is already large enough to sustain itself as a mainstay. One of the most revealing details about the couple’s recent divorce wasn’t the shocking settlement figure, but the simplicity of their shared philanthropy. “Our family had three pillars at its core: work, philanthropy, and the care and nurturing of our children,” Cooper-Hohn said around the time of the settlement announcement. “I was primarily responsible for two of those — raising four children and, as C.E.O. and founder, creating one of the world’s largest and most impactful foundations.”
By Doug White
The Swedish billionaire is increasing his philanthropy, but his lifestyle is as minimalist as IKEA's flat packed furniture.
There’s a good reason that IKEA is a household word while virtually nobody can name the man behind it. The Swedish company, now based in the Netherlands, was founded by multibillionaire Ingvar Kamprad, whose lifestyle is as modest as IKEA’s minimalist product design, packaging, and pricetags.
Born in 1926 in Sweden, Kamprad reportedly developed the no-frills retailing concept behind IKEA as a teenager at his uncle’s kitchen table. (IKEA is derived from its founder’s initials plus Elmtaryd, the family farm in Sweden where he was born, and the nearby village of Agunnaryd.) On a less positive note, he also flirted with fascism during World War II, an interest that he later blamed on his family’s German roots and that he has called “the greatest mistake of my life.”
In 2007, Forbes ranked Kamprad the fourth wealthiest person in the world with a net worth of $33 billion; by 2011 he’d suffered the biggest downgrade of wealth on the list, and is currently said to be worth about $3 billion. The reason for the drop? Philanthropy . . . and tax laws. Most of IKEA’s stock was transferred to a holding company and the Stichting INGKA Foundation (INGKA is derived from Kamprad’s first and last names); under the laws of the principality of Liechtenstein, where the foundation is headquartered, he cannot profit from the business. In June of 2013 Kamprad stepped down from the board, turning over control to his three sons.
Whether the foundation was established as a philanthropic vehicle, a tax dodge, or an anti-takeover device is debatable. In 2006 the Economist reported that the INGKA Foundation was the largest of its kind in the world, with assets estimated at $36 billion; it also noted that it was “one of [the] least generous.”
That might not come as a total surprise, given its legacy. Kamprad, who relocated from Sweden to Switzerland decades ago to save taxes (he has stated that he plans to return to Sweden) is famously frugal. He drives a 20-year-old Volvo, flies economy and books second-class rail, stays at inexpensive hotels, reuses his tea bags, and pilfers salt and pepper packets from restaurants. In an effort to preserve natural resources as much as pinch pennies, he also asks employees to use both sides of a piece of paper when they are writing anything down. (Among the maxims from the so-called IKEA bible which he authored: “A waste of resources is a mortal sin at IKEA.”)
To his credit, however, Kamprad is working to change the image of the foundation, which he chairs and whose stated purpose when it was established in 1982 was “to promote and support innovation in the field of architectural and interior design.” Following the Economist’s critique, he went to court for permission to give more funds to young people in the developing world. In 2011, the foundation announced plans to increase its contributions to about $135 million per year, to be divided among a refugee camp in Kenya, United Nations agencies that help children and refugees, and Save the Children.
Great Castles, a One Act Play
By Jade Shames
Editorial Note: A fictionalized dialog of The Giving Pledge founders.
Warren Buffet, Melinda Gates, and Bill Gates sit in a living room. The room is lavishly decorated, but currently in a state of disarray. Empty wine glasses are peppered throughout the space as are half-eaten plates of hors d’oeurves. The party is over.
Melinda gets a notification on her Windows phone. Bill plays with his Microsoft Surface. They all nurse drinks.
Melina looks up from her phone.
MELINDA: Bettencourt is out. It’s official.
BILL: Oh well.
WARREN: A shame.
MELINDA: I’m a little surprised you guys aren’t more upset about this.
BILL: It’s one woman.
MELINDA: Exactly. One more down. How many billionaires are left in the world? The amount of signatories outside the US has been few and far between.
WARREN: The US is one of the most generous countries in the world.
MELINDA: Does that make any sense to either of you? France just elected one of its most socialist presidents in history. Hollande wants to give the rich a 75% income tax. Bill and Warren snicker.
WARREN: (Looking at Bill.) Oh brother.
MELINDA: So clearly they see the value in redistribution of wealth.
WARREN: Charity and socialism are two very different concepts.
MELINDA: Still, it seems a little backward that the French are so unwilling to give to charity after agreeing to such a high income tax! I mean first Arnaud Lagardère and now Bettencourt -
BILL: There’s a logical explanation.
MELINDA: Which is?
BILL: ...I was hoping you had it.
MELINDA: Seriously, is this a cultural issue? America is a young country - perhaps it’s growing up with a history of castles and kings. Louis XIV said that God wanted him to be king. He didn’t care about the people outside his castle.
WARREN: Après moi, le déluge.
MELINDA: Right. What did he care if people suffered? It wasn’t his place to give away his God-given right. And maybe there’s residual entitlement left over from centuries of King Louies.
BILL: I have a theory, and I really like your castle thing so I’m going to steal it...I think this is less of a cultural issue and more of a human issue. I think that adulthood is partially an illusion, and that everyone, no matter how old -
WARREN: (Laughing a little.) Melinda, why did he look at me when he said that?
BILL: We all like to play games. Some people feel that their wealth is the reward of the life game. You work hard and you build this great big castle of wealth. The child in them is saying “why would you give away your castle?”
WARREN: I’m reminded of Dennis Kozlowski’s $15,000 umbrella stand.
BILL: Yeah, see, it’s all about showing off. If you’re not a member of a world superpower, i.e. France, you might feel the need to show off a bit more.
MELINDA: I refuse to believe that all wealthy people can be so childish. Warren, do you believe this?
WARREN: I have a thought...but I don’t think either of you are going to enjoy it.
BILL: Please, go on...
WARREN: To reuse the idea of a castle...a castle is also a place designed to keep its inhabitants safe from the outside. I remember Jimmy Carter showing me pictures of children in sub-Saharan Africa wearing round black glasses. And I thought, “why are these children, who are clearly in poverty, shirtless, shoeless; how are they wearing glasses?” And the former President said, “they’re not glasses. They’re flies.” You see the children were never taught to wash their faces and so very small flies nest around their eyes. This eventually causes blindness. There are no words that capture that level of human suffering. But I remember hearing about these children and feeling, of all things, fear. Not for them, but for me. It’s not a rational fear. I know very well that I will never experience what these children experience, but to see it and accept it as real...well, it’s frightening. Kings built castles not just because they felt they deserved them or because they wanted to show off their grandeur...they built them to separate themselves from the rest of the earth. Remember Siddartha, the Herman Hesse novel. The Indian prince leaves his kingdom only to find the world is full of suffering and desire - and he welcomes this into himself. Once we accept that pain exists and it is happening all around us, are we not somehow responsible? Do we not welcome it in to our lives? I know it’s awful to say, but I wish...I wish I was never told what the glasses really were. There is silence for a moment.
MELINDA: If holding on to your wealth is like building a wall between you and the world, and, as you say, experiencing life differently - then what is philanthropy?
WARREN: I don’t know. Philanthropy involves a lot of faith. Maybe it, too, is about seeing the world for what you want it to be.
BILL: Or maybe it’s seeing the world for what it is.
By Sandra Salmans
Once the masked marvel of anonymous giving, Chuck Feeney now preaches the gospel of “giving while living.”
At one time, Chuck Feeney would have done everything in his power to keep his name out of this article—and off this site. He was so completely committed to his brand of covert philanthropy that beneficiaries were warned that his gifts would be snatched back if they revealed the source; funds were conveyed so clandestinely that some university dons fretted they’d be suspected of receiving laundered money. Yet his contributions were so large that when, inevitably, word of his magnanimity began to leak out, many in the philanthropic community automatically assumed that every “anonymous donor” was Chuck Feeney.
And, in many cases, they were right. Although the ranks of anonymous donors are, by definition, unnumbered, Feeney has surely been among the most generous. Over the past 30 years, he has given billions of dollars through his foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, to a wide range of causes, starting with his alma mater, Cornell University, spreading to the entire university system in Ireland—and to the peace process in Northern Ireland—and more recently encompassing large-scale projects in education, science, health care, and other areas in Vietnam, South Africa, and Australia as well as the United States. In 1997, when a business transaction finally outed him, Time declared, “Feeney’s beneficence already ranks among the grandest of any living American.”
But in the past 17 years, having been forced to shed his cloak of invisibility, Feeney has become an eloquent—if still low-key—spokesman for philanthropy, and specifically for “giving while living.” In 2011 he signed the Giving Pledge launched by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to encourage initially only the wealthiest Americans to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to good works either during their lifetime or after their death. (Feeney chose the first option, and Atlantic Philanthropies is slated to spend down its assets and go out of business by 2016.) He has allowed the press to tag along on his visits to donees; expounded on his views in a one-hour documentary about himself; cooperated in a biography, “The Billionaire Who Wasn’t,” by Irish journalist Conor O’Clery; and accepted honorary degrees and other recognition, including induction into the Irish American Hall of Fame. He has even released previous beneficiaries from their vow of silence. “The idea of anonymous giving was good, but eventually we became synonymous with anonymous,” Feeney told O’Clery. “It became evident we were kidding ourselves.”
All this amounts to a transformation for a man whom Forbes once called “the James Bond of philanthropy.” In his biography, however, Feeney notes one constant: “I had one idea that never changed in my mind—that you should use your wealth to help people.”
Although he is a modest celebrity today, at least in philanthropic circles, Feeney is unchanged in other respects, too. He remains a deeply private person, spurning the displays of wealth he could easily afford in favor of a simpler life that includes off-the-rack suits, $15 watches, and economy-class plane tickets to visit Atlantic beneficiaries. While he thrives on competition, money, for him, is just a means of keeping score. Growing up in blue-collar New Jersey, Feeney won a scholarship to the Cornell School of Hotel Management and then—through a combination of luck, street smarts, and sheer hubris—embarked on a business selling cars, perfume, and liquor to U.S. servicemen and tourists in Europe. That experience led to the founding of Duty Free Shoppers (DFS), a chain of airport shops that, capitalizing on a surge in international tourism, were an almost immediate success. But because DFS was privately owned by Feeney and three partners, it satisfied his penchant for secrecy. One reason Feeney was able to fly under the radar for so long was that the source of his fortune—as well as its uses—went undisclosed for years. In 1984, he transferred his sizable DFS stake to Atlantic. It wasn’t until he sold Atlantic’s DFS shares to a publicly-traded company in 1997 that Feeney’s cover was blown—and, with that, his curious identity as the world’s leading anonymous donor.
Those who know Feeney—and many more who don’t—have struggled to explain his obsession with secrecy, particularly when it comes to giving. Feeney likes to recount the story about his mother, a nurse, who used to jump into her car to pick up a disabled neighbor as he struggled to walk to the bus stop, insisting that she was going his way. Some family members have suggested that he became used to operating covertly in his intelligence work during the Korean War, a pattern reinforced when he was growing DFS without stirring up the competition. Still others point out that Feeney insisted on a low profile when he and his family—which ultimately included five children—lived in Europe during the 1970s, a time when criminal and political gangs over the border in Italy frequently kidnapped wealthy children for ransom. Feeney has also said that he did not want to be besieged by requests for donations, or to discourage other contributors from giving to a worthy cause.
Then there’s the critical role played by Harvey Dale, a Harvard Law professor and founding president of Atlantic Philanthropies, whom Feeney has described as the most influential person in his life. It was Dale who introduced Feeney to the writings of Maimonides, the 12th-century Jewish philosopher who said that it was best if the giver and receiver didn’t know each other, and Dale who pointed out that anonymous giving was favored in both the Sermon on the Mount and the Koran. Dale also urged Andrew Carnegie’s essay, “Wealth,” on Feeney, who has distributed copies to family and friends. Although Feeney resisted Carnegie’s lavish lifestyle, he responded to the steel magnate’s view that the rich had an obligation to use their assets responsibly to help others.
Feeney will be 85 when Atlantic Philanthropies allocates its last grants in 2016. At that time, he can probably—and gratefully—embrace a less visible lifestyle. But his name is inscribed among the world’s great philanthropists. He is Anonymous Donor no more.
By Doug White
Learning from the Norton divorce.
Peter Norton, founder of the company whose ubiquitous computer software bears his name, sold his firm in 1990 to devote himself to philanthropy. With his wife, Eileen Harris Norton, he ran the Peter Norton Family Foundation, which has given heavily to arts organizations and some social-service groups. In 2000, Peter Norton filed for divorce. As often happens when a large fortune is at stake—Norton’s assets exceeded $100 million—the case was heavily litigated over a period of years. Eileen won the first round when a judge ruled that roughly 87 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the software company were to be considered community property, subject to equal division. One issue not on the table, however, was what would happen to the foundation.
This is an especially tricky subject. A foundation, strictly speaking, is not a marital asset—once money is donated, it is no longer under the personal control of the benefactors. Yet this is a grey area because influence over the foundation is, in a way, a fringe benefit of a marriage. That’s why many divorce attorneys will put the family foundation on the table during negotiations even though it is not a financial asset. “Say there’s a $100 million foundation,” explains William D. Zabel of Schulte Roth & Zabel in New York, a leading divorce lawyer to the rich and famous. “The husband says to the wife, ‘That’s it, you’re out, you have nothing more to say about it.’ I’d take that case in a minute.”
The confluence of two factors—the astonishing growth in the number of family foundations and a national divorce rate that continues to hover near 50 percent—suggests that family foundations will increasingly become an issue in divorce. “People are establishing foundations at a younger age,” says Virginia Esposito, president of the National Center for Family Philanthropy. “Everything in this founder generation is new. And changes in the family, happy or otherwise, are inevitable.”
Established in 1989, Norton's foundation had a market value of some $26 million by the end of 2002, a year in which it distributed more than 100 grants totaling $3 million. The biggest gifts went to the California Institute for the Arts, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Studio Museum of Harlem, and New York’s Symphony Space, which named its concert hall for Norton following a $5 million pledge. A one-time Buddhist monk, Norton has also made some offbeat philanthropic gestures, such as buying the notoriously personal letters written by the reclusive author J.D. Salinger to Joyce Maynard at auction from Sotheby’s for $156,000 and then returning them to their author.
After the divorce, a court order split the foundation 60/40 between the two, with, according to its 2011 IRS filing, a “substantial contraction.” A final return representing 2012 would be prepared, indicating that the foundation, which reported assets of only $50,000 in 2011, would shortly be out of business. Both Peter and Eileen continue to serve as trustees, along with Anne Etheridge, who is executive director.
Of the possible paths for family foundations caught in the middle of a divorce, some are exceedingly civilized. Virginia Esposito remembers an instance where both parties stayed on the board after the split. “They talked about it and decided that what they were doing transcended their personal problems, and now they seem to be doing just fine.” In another case, not only did both exes remain on the board, they were joined by their adult children and a new wife. “They realized the foundation was a part of their selves and have stayed focused on the work,” Esposito says. “It may not be personal property, but it’s part of their personal responsibility.”
Sometimes it’s important to give the participants “some breathing room,” she adds. “It may just be a matter of getting past the immediate difficulties. And you have to factor in the possibility that feelings might change. You could have the husband say, ‘I’m not that involved; you go on ahead with our adult children.’ Then, a few years later, he realizes there’s a space in his life and he wants to be more involved in his community.”
Of course, not everyone can be so calm and rational in the midst of divorce, and one option at the other extreme is to split the foundation in two. This isn’t terribly difficult as a technical matter, although there is some lawyering involved. “The basics aren’t that hard, but for people in that situation everything’s a big deal,” says Jerry J. McCoy, a Washington-based attorney specializing in charitable issues. “She says, ‘Most of the money was from my family,’ and he says, ‘But I tripled it in the boom,’ and she says, ‘But you tripled my money.’ It often degenerates into bitterness and that inability to get along.”
Karen Greene, who heads family foundation services at the Council on Foundations, recalls a number of occasions when a giving vehicle was rolled into two separate ones. For example, Norman Waitt Jr., who founded Gateway Computers with his brother Ted, later established the Andrea and Norman Waitt Jr. Foundation. After the Waitts’ divorce, the fund split into Norman’s Kind World Foundation and Andrea’s Messengers of Healing Winds Foundation.
But the same effect can be achieved more informally. “We frequently make claims that the wife has the right to direct a certain amount of foundation spending after the divorce,” says Raoul Felder, the dean of New York divorce lawyers. “As part of the settlement, the husband gives from his foundation to, say, the New York Community Trust, where she can set up something and control the spending. This is happening as people are getting more sophisticated.”
“Money is a socially prestigious weapon,” says Bill Zabel. “[Women] serve on boards where they have to make a $50,000 or $100,000 annual contribution. Take away that money and you’re causing tremendous harm to her social life. That’s why, in a majority of substantial divorce cases with a foundation, the departing spouse usually has an issue about how to share in the distribution. You can have a foundation giving away a million a year, and she might say, ‘I need $200,000 of that to keep up my contributions.’ So as part of the deal, you might give her the right to designate that amount. It’s usually done as a side letter, not as part of the public document, and the wife isn’t usually on the board after that – they want her out of there.”
Zabel has even seen foundations used for underhanded maneuvers in this realm: “Say a guy has $60 million, has been married 30 years and wants a divorce. So, he transfers $10 million to his foundation and says, ‘We have $50 million to split.’ Does he negotiate and give her certain rights to distribute that $10 million? Or does she say, ‘I should get $30 million, since he gave that money away knowing he would divorce me.’ It’s all arguable and negotiable and litigable. I don’t believe anyone’s ever litigated it—I’ve threatened to and settled—but it probably will be someday.”
The best way to avoid these sticky scenarios, experts say, is to think things through in advance. “When setting up a family foundation, you need to define what you mean by ‘family,’” advises Mary Philips of Grants Management Associates, Boston-based philanthropic consultants. “Set the criteria upfront so it doesn’t become personal. Make it clearly written: in the event of divorce, the divorcing spouse goes off the board—or not. Do we want only lineal descendents? Think of board eligibility in terms of your goals and the experience you want rather than who you want.”
“Ideally, families should treat eligibility in a fairly rigorous way,” says Karen Greene. “This applies not only to the founders, but to later generations. It seems inconceivable when it’s just you, the wife and the kids, but go down a couple generations and you’ve got 20 or 30 people. Someone’s divorced, another one never shows up at meetings. Do you just want lineal descendants? What about adopted children, stepchildren, offspring of gay and lesbian partners? Should your foundation exist in perpetuity, given how much families can change? It can be a ticklish situation, very uncomfortable if you’re the in-law who becomes the ‘out-law.’ It’s always better to make policy in the abstract, but you can’t foresee every circumstance. I remember one gentleman who came up and asked me, ‘How do I keep my daughter-in-law and get my son off the board?”
The Nortons are only one of many examples where philanthropists must think through all the implications of their divorce.
By Cheryl Chapman
Skoll's rise is a tale of ingenuity and a belief in the power to change the world.
As a weedy teenager growing up in Montreal, Jeff Skoll harbored an ambition to be a writer in the vein of dystopian novelists Aldous Huxley and George Orwell “and get people interested in big issues—and try to make a difference.”
Today, Skoll, 50, who made his fortune by the age of 34 as the first full-time employee and first president of the online auction site that became eBay, is trying to build a more Utopian world in which “self-enlightened empowerment” reigns supreme and connected individuals bring about world change. Quoting one of his heroes, the late John Gardner (founder of Common Cause and Independent Sector), Skoll says that he is interested in building “a sustainable world of peace and prosperity” with a simple approach—“betting on good people doing good things.” He has already parted with half of his net worth, an estimated $3.75 billion,
Skoll focuses much of his considerable personal wealth and business acumen on social enterprises, working through a number of organizations, some of which bear his name: the Skoll Foundation, Oxford University’s Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and its annual World Skoll Forum; his Capricorn Investment Group that supports such ventures as electric cars, solar panels, and rice plantations in Tanzania; The Skoll Global Threats Fund, which confronts the greatest dangers our world faces today; and Participant Media, which has produced more than 30 socially motivated movies and in August of 2013 launched TV network Pivot to 40 million homes. Most recently, in November, Skoll announced a $10 million endowment to help launch a new Center For Social Impact Entertainment at the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television
The Skoll Global Threats Fund targets issues such as climate change, water scarcity, pandemics, nuclear proliferation and, what he considers the most worrying threat, the lingering conflict in the Middle East, “the hardest thing I’ve bitten off,” he says. “When anyone tells me I can’t do something, I stop listening.”
In a recent Huffington Post interview he spoke about the skepticism he faced in Hollywood when he launched Participant. “I just wanted to make good quality films that were about something and not worry so much about whether they were successful commercially or not,” he recalled. “And they’ve done just fine commercially—clearly there is an audience for this kind of thing.” That’s a characteristically modest statement for films that have harvested four Academy Awards, out of 18 nominations, and are now referenced worldwide. His film North Country is credited with influencing the signing of the 2005 Violence Against Women Act. Participant’s blockbuster documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, is common viewing in classrooms around the world, and has unquestionably influenced the debate around climate change.
The Skoll Foundation, founded in 1999, offers grants to budding businesses, schools, and services for communities in need. Its approach is highly engineered with a focus on so-called inflection points—opportunities for outsized results. It currently supports 74 entrepreneurial organizations, or what it dubs internally “Uncommon Heroes,” in about 100 countries, granting around $23 million in 2011. Beneficiaries include Gaia Amazonas, a nonprofit that is attempting to pull endangered land in the Amazon back from the brink and has helped protect Colombia’s forests encompassing one-fifth of the entire nation. It is funding “weather-makers” like Sakena Yacoobi, founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning, which since 1995 has sustained education and health programs despite the Taliban’s opposition, and William Foote, an investment banker who has developed a leading model to help Latin American farmers adopt accessible and sustainable practices.
So, how is Skoll doing? He admits that the jury is still out. “For all the things we’re doing,” he said, “I don’t know that it’s enough. The social entrepreneurs are great and making a difference in the world. The movies are doing well and having an impact. But there are still major problems in the world. I don’t know what’s next.” He’s mulled over the idea of entering politics. “Maybe that’s the next frontier—to really engage politically—because that ultimately is where the power is held.”
Still, in a relatively short time, Skoll has become a prominent voice in philanthropic circles. In 2013 he appeared alongside Muhammad Yunas at the Forbes philanthropy conference at the United Nations on market- based solutions to global poverty, and on a separate occasion he dined with Michael Milken, Bill Gates, and Rwanda president Paul Kagame. In 2012, Canada awarded Skoll its highest civilian honor, the Order of Canada, for his wide-ranging philanthropic work. The Order carries the motto Desiderantes Meliorem Patriam—”They desire a better country.”
That’s certainly a fitting way to characterize Skoll. Another might come from one of the films funded by Participant Media—Waiting for Superman, an analysis of the US education system. It could be argued that Skoll has earned the right to Superman’s cape—though modesty would no doubt prevent his putting it on.
By Doug White
Allan English wants to microfinance a million people out of poverty by 2020. How's he doing?
You never know what a gift solicitation will lead to.
By the early 2000s, Allan English had achieved a good deal of success with Silver Chef, a firm he founded in 1985. Around that time, he responded to a request for $10,000 from Opportunity International. He’d had no history with the charity, but its work struck a chord with him. Specifically, he was asked to support a micro-finance center in East Timor.
The idea for Silver Chef came from a trade show in the United States. The American home delivery pizza market was booming, and English saw the market’s potential in Australia. Soon after he invested heavily in conveyor ovens, however, he discovered that many small pizza operations couldn’t afford to buy them. So he decided to rent them out and, pretty soon, when the pizza store owners began generating revenue, they began to buy the ovens. Ten years later, Allan devised a funding option that enabled small businesses to procure the equipment they needed without committing large amounts of capital up-front. It’s called and trademarked as Rent-Try-Buy.
As a moderately wealthy man and as an occasional donor, he was looking around for ways to do something significant. “The idea of owning big boats and big houses didn’t do it for me," he says. When English saw a request from Opportunity International and their outlined cause, he recruited as many friends as he could to the cause. “And away we went,” he says. Then, about a month later, “I was catching a glass of red and I received a report from Opportunity International that explained the impact we were making. The forecast was that 40,000 lives were going to be changed over the next five years because of the project we were supporting.”
And that’s when it happened: “It just hit me like a rock. Forty thousand people—that’s a football stadium full of people. And there was no ego attached to this. It was absolutely pure impact. Imagine doing that every year. Wouldn’t that be fun?”
He decided it would be. “Now I had a purpose to go back to work and create wealth. So I hired someone to take over my volunteering stuff and I went back to work.” After he returned, the company grew 600 percent over the following six years. And in 2005 the company went public on the Australian Stock Exchange.
Then he set up his own family foundation. Endowed with $20 million in Silver Chef shares, the foundation distributes about $1 million annually. Forty percent is earmarked for poverty-alleviation programs overseas. “We have a very audacious goal to fund one million people out of poverty by the year 2020. So far we’re at 200,000 and we’re on our way.” Another 40 percent is distributed in Southeast Queensland and the remaining 20 percent is in a social innovation fund for, as English puts it, “young people with vibrant ideas.” He senses that he’s “not in a sexy space" by his own admission: "I don’t go for puppy dogs and kids’ charities—I tend to go for the things that are a bit tougher in our community, which probably sometimes get ignored.
“It’s my journey from success to significance," he adds. "From financial success in a business sense to having more significance in my life because of the work that we are doing.”
By Doug White
The CEO of the National Philanthropic Trust is going global with the brand and donor-advised funds.
“Charitable giving has a new look,” Time magazine recently reported, “one that is broadening the giving pool and helping keep the dollars rolling into nonprofits even during tough economic times.”
That new look is a method for giving called “donor-advised funds,” or DAFs. This is how it works: A donor opens an account at a “sponsoring organization,” such as a community trust or the charitable arm of a financial services company. While any contributions to the account are immediately tax-deductible, the donor generally has no deadline for disbursing the funds. It’s today’s go-to for philanthropists who aren’t ready to commit their wealth to specific organizations or don’t want the burden or expense of establishing their own foundation. DAFs, reports Giving USA, which tracks the annual growth of philanthropy, “are the fastest growing charitable vehicle in the country.” They have become so popular that they now represent more than $37 billion under management in the United States alone.
Technically, the DAF dates back to 1931, when The New York Community Trust invented the arrangement. However, not much happened for the next 60 years. “People didn’t realize the donor-advised fund model would work,” says Eileen Heisman, president and chief executive officer of National Philanthropic Trust (NPT). But in the early 1990s the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund received a favorable ruling from a federal appeals court that said DAFs have charitable status, even when they’re under the aegis of an investment firm. Other groups quickly joined in.
Located in the Philadelphia suburb of Jenkintown, NPT, founded by the Pitcairn family in 1996, is today a DAF heavyweight. With more than $1.7 billion in charitable assets under management, NPT ranks among the 25 largest grant-making bodies in the U.S.
Heisman says that DAFs give donors the benefit of professional guidance. “Whether a donor wants to turn an illiquid asset into a gift or create a global grant or a multi-year grant, we hold a mirror up to what the donor wants and reflect best practices in the philanthropic world,” she says. That can include advice on how to structure the gift and outline its goals, as well as ongoing stewardship as donors regularly make their charitable decisions into the future.
But when it comes to how they want their money spent, donors “know what they want to do,” says Heisman. “Donors to DAFs are pretty well informed. They come in with a lot of energy about giving to their causes. They’re engaged philanthropically, many serve on charitable boards, and they’re using us as a way to fulfill their monetary philanthropic goals.”
Still, groups such as NPT do more than distribute alms. “Some people think a DAF is merely a wink for total [donor] control, but it’s really not,” Heisman notes. “Every document clearly states that NPT has the final say over how the money is to be spent. And we reinforce that verbally. We will honor requests that are legitimate, but if you want to go outside things that are legal then we won’t do it.” For example, a gift to an individual from a DAF is forbidden.
Although NPT’s donors are savvy, they still need to be reminded that their wishes might not stand the test of time. Heisman recommends that they include an escape clause in their gift agreements, permitting NPT, usually after a donor’s death, to spend the money on a similar cause if the original intent is no longer possible. “We have the obligation—and undertake the risk—to distribute the money properly,” Heisman says, “and we’ve seen so much that we almost always know more than donors when it comes to structuring the gift agreement. We also tell them that something might be legal now but the laws could change five years from now. Some donors embrace an escape clause in an instant. Others go kicking and screaming. If they never want to change any of their donative intent and if the purpose becomes obsolete, it’s going to be our job to figure something out.”
Congress and the IRS have long struggled with the concept of the donor-advised fund, and in the Pension Protection Act of 2006 Congress did clarify for the first time many definitions and regulations relating to DAFs. Still, the absence of a spending rule worries some legislators. Although foundations are required to spend at least five percent of their assets on their programmatic activities, public charities are not. So, the concern goes, DAFs are nothing more than parking lots where donors can stash money indefinitely and take healthy charitable deductions without actually helping society. The reason the charitable income tax deduction exists is to encourage people to give; the idea is that the foregone tax revenue will help society in ways that government cannot. So legislators might very well think there should be some minimum requirement to ensure that at least some of the deducted donations are actually injected into society’s bloodstream.
But that concern is misplaced, according to Heisman. “Donor-advised funds are actually paying out between 17 and 24 percent, and that doesn’t include overhead, as is the case with foundations,” she says. The National Philanthropic Trust conducts a lot of research on the model throughout the country, perhaps the most of any organization. “The issue about us being these warehouses is not warranted,” she adds. “Money is pouring out the door. We encourage philanthropy.” She sees no need for a required minimum annual payout. In fact, it could be counter-productive. “If you impose a five percent minimum, it may very well become a maximum in people’s minds. It actually could hamper giving. Why would you take a group of entities that are paying 20 percent and say you have to give out five percent per account when the aggregate is humongous?”
Heisman sees her biggest challenge, and perhaps NPT’s biggest opportunity, as one of shaping the future. While there’s no way private philanthropy can ever replace the government’s role in helping society, it can seed some interesting projects. She mentions NIH, the National Institutes for Health, which is a government agency. “NIH won’t fund anything without preliminary findings from smaller experiments, and private philanthropy often funds those smaller experiments. And not just in medicine. Private philanthropy can provide seed money for new ideas to emerge in many areas. “
A favorite teacher of Heisman’s once talked to her about “ideas coming from the fringe of society, and that when they mature they become mainstream.” Philanthropic money can be used to attack the root cause of a problem, not just the symptom. “You want to be funding the stuff on the fringe,” she says. “Some of it will become mainstream.” The women’s rights movement is another example. “There was a time,” Heisman says, “when women’s shelters were considered fringe organizations. Rape assistance? That was really radical. Now, nobody thinks they’re radical, but at the time it was difficult. Things shift and then people don’t even remember.”
When she talks with donors, she says she always tells them “not to be afraid of taking a risk. Some of the most creative thinking in the social sector is by people who are in emerging organizations. If the idea doesn’t mature, it doesn’t mean you were a failure. Maybe that idea could be the next big change in the social sector.”
At NPT, the next big change is expansion overseas and the organization is soon going to be offering the same services to donors outside the U.S. that it does domestically. To be sure, Great Britain’s philanthropic landscape is different from America’s. The federal government in the US as well as many state governments has passed legislation to actively promote charitable donations to a degree that few other nations have. It’s still unknown whether the British will take to the American approach, but it’s worth finding out. As Heisman counsels her donors, “Always take risks.”
By Sandra Salmans
Li describes his foundation as a "third son" and has pledged to donate a third of his assets to philanthropic projects in China and globally.
Li Ka Shing is known by many superlatives: the richest man in Asia (Forbes estimates assets of $31 billion), “superman” (for his business acumen), even (such is his celebrity) the only businessman to have a wax statue at Madame Tussauds in Hong Kong. But these days it is as a philanthropist that he truly stands out. Not only is Li, age 86, a leading donor (at least $1.65 billion from his foundation, to date, and more from his other sources), he is the outspoken exemplar of the kind of socially progressive giving which, although increasingly popular in the U.S., is rare in China, where wealth is traditionally kept within families and donors favor a low profile.
In fact, when he established his foundation in 1980, one of the three objectives he defined was to “nurture a culture of giving.” His two other goals are education reform and advances in medical research and services, and he’s made major contributions in both of those areas in Hong Kong (where he lives), China, the U.S., Singapore, and India, among other countries. In 1981 he founded Shantou University in Southeast China, with the intent of establishing it as a showplace for both higher educational reform and the life sciences, partly through a network of international partnerships and exchanges with some 20 colleges abroad. In the U.S., Stanford University’s medical school opened the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge in 2010, and in 2012 the University of California, Berkeley, opened the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences. Closer to home, Li has sought to inspire a culture of giving through a campaign called “Love HK Your Way!” which encourages grass-roots projects designed to bring people together and improve the community.
As his website attests, Li’s dedication to philanthropy is the result of a difficult youth. In an unusually soulful note, the site declares that “trials, hardship, and a sense of loneliness accompanied him on his journey from a small coastal village in China to the flourishing enterprise he oversees today.” Born near Shantou in mainland China, Li fled to Hong Kong with his family during the Japanese occupation, then was forced to leave school at the age of 15 for a job in a plastics factory after his father died of tuberculosis. As bootstrap stories go, Li’s is unparalleled: He became the factory’s general manager by the age of 19, and by the age of 22 had started his own plastic manufacturing business. His empire today, under the umbrella of the Cheung Kong Group and Hutchison Whampoa, includes immense holdings in real estate, shipping, telecommunications and biotechnology, and makes up 15 percent of the market capitalization of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Li, whose two sons manage his businesses, has described his foundation as his “third son” and has pledged to donate one-third of his assets to support philanthropic projects. “To be able to contribute to society and to help those in need to build a better life, that is the ultimate meaning in life,” he has said. “I would gladly consider this to be my life’s work.”
By Doug White
A Soviet emigrant to the US, Blavatnik is becoming a generous establishmentarian in education and beyond.
“Leonard Blavatnik is making possible a new way for Oxford to contribute to the world.” So began the September 2010 tribute by Lord Christopher Patten, Chancellor of the University of Oxford, in his remarks acknowledging Blavatnik’s “once-in-a-century” $120 million gift, which established Europe’s first major school of government at the oldest university in the English-speaking world.
Blavatnik, like many other donors with an eye on making transformational gifts, is not new to philanthropy.
Through his family foundation, he recently donated $50 million to fund the “Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists” at the New York Academy of Sciences. The money is helping to expand the number of people who are eligible to receive the award, which will now be open to faculty-rank scientists across the United States age 42 or under. The idea of “young” is key. According to Eric Lander, a director of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, “Young scientists drive scientific discovery and innovation. They feel urgency and impatience. They think creatively and boldly. While we must support promising scientists at all levels, young scientists are a critical resource that we must nurture for the good of the whole scientific enterprise.”
But while academic pursuits feed the mind and eventually improve lives, Blavatnik is also putting his money where it will have immediate impact on people who desperately need it. He gives much every year to Colel Chabad, an Israeli charity that operates a network of soup kitchens and food banks, dental and medical clinics, daycare centers, widow and orphan support, and immigrant assistance programs. Founded in 1788, Colel Chabad is the oldest continuously operating charitable organization in Israel. Blavatnik’s support provides food every month for 5,000 families in 25 Israeli cities and towns.
In 1978, during a period of mass emigration for Soviet Jews, Blavatnik left his home in the Soviet Union for the United States. After then earning advanced degrees at Columbia and Harvard, his business career took off. He founded and is chair of Access Industries, a privately held multi-national company headquartered in New York, that invests in natural resources and chemicals, media and telecommunications, and real estate. In 2011 a subsidiary of Access bought the Warner Music Group for $3.3 billion.
As his generosity shows, Blavatnik tends not to think of starting new charitable enterprises; what makes his gifts noteworthy is his well-funded focus on improving what’s already working. There might be no better example, and thus an explanation for his comfort in giving away so much of his wealth, than his bet on one of the world’s premier educational institutions—a grand gesture meant to fuse history with the future. In Lord Patten’s words: “Oxford will now become the world’s leading center for the training of future leaders in government and public policy—and in ways that take proper account of the very different traditions, institutions and cultures that those leaders will serve. It is an important moment for the future of good government throughout the world.”
True enough. But even so, his gifts might say as much about the man, and his vision of what’s right in the world, as it does about the institutions that he supports.
What Women Want
By Kecia Barkawi
When I started VALUEworks, a Zurich-based multi-family office, over ten years ago, two concepts were still rather nascent in the wealth management industry: philanthropic advisory as a service and women as a market. Back then, it was not the norm to put philanthropy at the forefront of wealth and family estate planning as it was a consideration usually reserved for retirement, old age, or even death. At that time, women were also not viewed as the most desired clients and more frequently were considered wives or daughters who married into or inherited wealth with little financial knowledge, let alone decision-making power, of their own.
Much has changed since then. Philanthropy has now become a valuable component of family governance and multi-generational planning for wealthy families. Moreover, the tide for women has shifted. In the US, it is believed women will own two-thirds of wealth in the next decade, driven by generational and spousal transfers. In Asia, a new generation of women is transforming the region’s cultural legacy as more affluent, educated, and empowered women come into the picture.
Women are wielding more financial power and astuteness. The movement is real, global, and here to stay. However, the financial industry does not seem ready to serve the needs of wealthy women, even though these are more likely than men to work with advisors whom they value highly. A study on Women of Wealth by Heather R. Ettinger and Eileen M. O’Connor published in 2011 showed that women know what they want. They want to be understood and listened to—the whole story, not just the financials. They want a tailor-made approach focused on their unique needs—not a generalization about women issues, or a product. They want honesty and transparency, and a clarity of their undertakings and what the risks involved are. And philanthropy advisors, too, must fully grasp what this means.
Much has been written about gender differences in giving. Sondra Shaw-Hardy and Martha Taylor have expertly illustrated these in their 2010 book, Women and Philanthropy. In my twenty years as wealth advisor, I have come to believe that gender differences are important to keep in mind. Yet, still today, many women of wealth continue to face challenges getting customized services. They struggle to find a truly understanding advisor, because they are either patronized or treated differently on account of their gender. In competing to offer services for women, many in the industry have opted for a cosmetic shortcut. As someone once wrote, “Changing the font to pink doesn’t change the service.”
Together with my mainly female team I pursue a sincere and holistic approach that allows our valued female clients to become engaged and motivated leaders in their philanthropy, not wallflowers.
While writing this article I have reflected on what I have learned from years of philanthropy advisory, but also as founder and CEO of a multi-family office. Below is a list of five key observations which could be useful and equally applicable to any of an advisor's clients.
- Understand their journey. Women play multiple roles. They own successful businesses, but are also mothers who care for kids and manage a household. They are wives who support their spouses, and daughters who care for older parents. Where they are on their professional and personal journey matters tremendously to their philanthropic decisions. As Heather Ettinger and Eileen O’Connor highlight in their study, transition issues such as death, divorce, retirement or being caught in the so-called “sandwich generation” of caring for children and aging parents, define the needs, expectations and financial concerns of successful women. Advisors have to approach these phases in the client’s life with deep sensitivity as these roles matter a great deal. Equally important is taking in the big picture on how these roles change over time. A good advisor should think ahead of these transitions.
- Encourage leadership. While we celebrate how many women have taken the reins of the most influential philanthropies today, there are countless others who remain in the background. Being a leader isn’t easy as it means accountability for financial, operational and strategic decisions. It also implies understanding more fully the intricacies of running a foundation, or spearheading fundraising, or being the face of an advocacy. As advisor I can provide a great service by identifying the personal development needs of my female client, identifying skills or experiences that will help her fulfill her role and be proud of her philanthropic achievements.
- Address issues of risk. Women are characterized as more risk-averse and conservative when it comes to finances than men. The 2011 Study of High Net Worth Women’s Philanthropy by the Center on Philanthropy reports that nearly 40% of women are not willing to take any risks with their philanthropic investments versus just 22.8% of men. I generally believe in a conservative approach. We women are less prone to overconfidence and tend to plan more carefully for uncertainty. As an advisor faced with a highly risk-averse client, I find providing an educational path the most effective approach to ensuring she feels comfortable with her decisions. It is important to acknowledge and highlight risks and to admit that we cannot possibly know everything and investigate every scenario. Nevertheless, by bringing in experts, organizing open discussions, exchanging useful readings and creating an atmosphere of discovery, we can all learn together. The most meaningful philanthropic engagements come out of such dialogues and exploration.
- Connect them to other philanthropists. There are many successful women of wealth who are seeking to make a real difference with their philanthropy. Often they come across the same challenges and obstacles. One of the initiatives I am very proud of is a Swiss-wide network for women in philanthropy which VALUEworks initiated in 2012. By creating a highly exclusive space for women philanthropists to come together to exchange ideas and learn from each other, we can give them the keys to empowering and enriching their own giving journeys. As advisor I am really motivated by the outcome: clients and contacts are inspired, energized and truly appreciate the connections they make through the network. They become more open to sharing their views and talk about problems encountered and to partnering with others, raising their effectiveness and efficiency as givers.
- It isn’t all about gender. According to the study of Ettinger and O’Connor a big amount of dissatisfaction of women clients stems their perception that gender is the reason for poor financial advice, disrespect and condescension from the financial services industry. We need to reframe our entire approach so that it is not gender-centric which has the tendency to patronize women, alienating them even further from advisors. Successful, empowered, educated women need and deserve competent philanthropy advice, served to them with care and professionalism. Service providers are better advised to invest their time and resources in creating a tailored approach that makes their philanthropy both socially relevant and personally meaningful. And this way, we as advisors can have a greater impact, too.
If we care about excellent service to our clients - male and female - we need to keep our gender biases in check. What women truly want is to be understood and treated as equally special as every other valued client.
The Philanthropist Voice Worldwide
By The Editors
Why quiet, modest or so-called “humble” philanthropy is muting the potential for giving in countries across the globe.
Billions of dollars are being devoted to vital causes across the world in almost complete silence. Those making a difference with donations are usually successful and creative people of intelligence and compassion whose opinions deserve to be heard.
But quiet philanthropists rarely discuss the who, what or—most importantly—why of their giving. If asked privately, they talk of not wanting any attention, preferring a low profile or even being embarrassed by their wealth. Some suggest that talking about oneself and personal giving is not part of their culture.
But such unassuming generosity is being challenged by the causes they support as well as by their fellow philanthropists. Those who want to add decibels to donations have good reasons for urging philanthropists to speak out.
A big gift that’s well publicized can have double the impact of one that’s made covertly. The recipient gets a boost of confidence. Thought leaders and decision makers, from governments to nonprofits, sit up and pay more attention—and, perhaps, match funds—to previously overlooked issues.
And finally, where one leads, others follow. When a philanthropist endorses a cause with support on a large scale, others follow suit, and give big.
By going public, philanthropists bring others into the sunlight, helping generate a tradition and expectation of generous philanthropy amongst their peers. Those keen to see more and better giving largely reject donor concerns about negative perceptions or unwanted attention. Instead, they note that publicized gifts can encourage awareness, understanding and empathy—and, ultimately, commitment by others.
They point to philanthropists like Hong Kong’s James Chen, who contests the claim that Asian cultures are among those requiring the silent approach. Rather, he notes that the Chinese are among the world’s biggest enthusiasts for sharing their lives through social media.
Perhaps the best evidence comes from the experience of the United States, where between those who give prominently—from Rockefeller and Ford to Gates and Buffet—and the millions that make up “the crowd,” the philanthropic voice is strong.
In recent years, countries that have cultivated and supported the voice of their philanthropists have reaped the reward of a strong and expanding philanthropic culture. It’s no surprise so many are waiting for more donors to speak up.
His Highness, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum
By Sandra Salmans
His Highness is using one of the largest charitable donations in history to ignite effective human development across the Arab world.
Memories are long in the Arab world. So perhaps it was not surprising that, when he announced plans nearly eight years ago to create a foundation with a gift of $10 billion, one of the largest charitable donations in history, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum harked back nostalgically to the Bait al-Hikma (the House of Wisdom), which was a center of learning during the Islamic golden age of the 800s. “I have always asked myself, ‘Why doesn’t the House of Wisdom come back renovated in the Arab capitals?’” said Sheikh Mohammed, 65, who is prime minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and constitutional monarch of Dubai.
Now, through his Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation and other philanthropic efforts, Sheikh Mohammed—whose net worth Forbes estimates at $18 billion—is trying to answer his own question. The foundation is intended to bring the next generation of Arabs more fully into the knowledge economy, focusing on three areas: culture, entrepreneurship and employment, and knowledge and education. So far, the foundation has invested in literacy (for example, pledging 100,000 books to children in the Arab world as well as grants to children’s book authors) and international exchanges of ideas, including conferences and access for its own fellows to prominent universities in the U.S. And like Bait al-Hikma 1,300 years ago, the foundation has supported the translation into Arabic of literary works from other countries. (The Sheikh is himself a prolific composer of traditional Nabati poetry.)
As the popular saying goes, it’s good to be the king, and that’s certainly true in Dubai. The foundation is the most ambitious—and lavishly endowed—of Sheikh Mohammed’s philanthropic undertakings, but it has plenty of company. From the moment he took over the reins of the UAE and Dubai from his elder brother in 2006, Sheikh Mohammed plunged into projects aimed at educating, empowering, and uplifting not only the Middle East but the entire developing world. His first step was to create the Dubai Harvard Foundation for Medical Research, to replicate the Harvard Medical School research model and bring the best training, research, and healthcare practices to Dubai, the Gulf, and the Middle East.
He has also sponsored a number of other philanthropic initiatives; while it’s unclear whether they receive direct contributions from his foundation, they benefit from his name and influence. They include Dubai Cares, which helps children in developing countries obtain an education, partly through providing them with school meals and healthcare such as deworming, renovated classrooms, and trained teachers; Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, the first licensed non-profit shelter in the UAE for women and children who are victims of domestic violence, child abuse, and human trafficking; and Noor Dubai, which provides health services to visually-impaired people in the developing world. Recently a UAE-based foundation announced the launch iof a $1 million annual prize for “the world’s greatest teacher”—a “Nobel Prize” for education, the press release declared, “under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.”
The Russian Paradox
By Luke Norman and Nick Cater
Russian oligarchs not only face a moral responsibility to give back, their evergreen President makes sure they’re doing their bit.
One collects Fabergé eggs, another acquires supermodels, and a few more invest in football and basketball teams. But whatever their avocations, Russia’s oligarchs have two things in common; their wealth is unimaginably vast and their ties to President Vladimir Putin are undeniably strong.
This situation has produced what could be called the Russian paradox. The advent of a free-market economy has led to an explosion in private wealth and according to Forbes, Moscow is home to 84 billionaires worth a total of $360 billion—and with that an unprecedented boom in philanthropy. But, increasingly, under Putin’s guidance, the philanthropy of these new tycoons resembles nothing so much as an extension of the national government.
The roll call of Russia’s philanthropists is, predictably, a Who’s Who of the country’s most affluent and successful: Alisher Usmanov (possibly the richest man in Russia), Roman Abramovich, Vladimir Potanin (who in 2013 became the first—and, so far, only—Russian billionaire to sign the Giving Pledge), Dmitri Zimin, Mikhail Prokhorov, Mikhail Fridman, and the husband-and-wife teams of Dmitri Zelenin and Alla Zelenina, and Viktor Vekselberg and Marina Dobrynina. (It was Vekselberg who spent more than $100 million in 2004 to triumphantly return the 194-piece Forbes Fabergé jewellery collection, including nine exquisite eggs, to Russia.)
Noticeably absent from the list are two prominent critics of Putin: Mikhail Khodorkovsky, formerly the richest Russian, now living in Europe, and the late Boris Berezovsky, both of whom could legitimately claim to be forefathers of modern Russian philanthropy.
The pattern is clear. If you garnered vast wealth thanks to the break-up of state-owned assets in the 1990s, then you owe, big time. Campaigning in 2012, Putin frequently noted that he was considering a special tax on entrepreneurs who had benefited from acquiring state assets at “unfair prices.” Whether he does this or not (it seems unlikely), he clearly remembers his debtors. And he has not been shy about collecting.
From dropping tycoons into the governorships of obscure, dilapidated regions to strong-arming cash donations for projects of international resonance, the former KGB chief maneuvers some of Russia’s private wealth to the places he sees fit. Subtly and not so subtly (Khodorkovsky, after all, served ten years in a Russian prison for fraud and tax evasion before being released in 2013), the once-and-seemingly forever President has made it clear that, in return for their continued economic and even personal freedom, Russia’s capitalists must pay.
By all accounts, they paid handsomely to fund last year’s Sochi Winter Olympic Games, reportedly the most expensive Olympics ever, with an estimated price tag of $50 billion. A major infrastructure program has been announced for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, and it’s certain that it will generate both lucrative contracts and donations from grateful businessmen.
Such donations add up. In 1998 individual giving in Russia amounted to a piddling $200,000. From 2010-12, 10 of Russia’s 15 richest gave away $1.3 billion, according to Bloomberg Markets. It is an astonishing amount but there’s lots more where that came from: The combined wealth of the 10 stood at $127 billion, as of April 2013.
When compared to the West’s big donors, the figures appear a little less impressive. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, backed by Warren Buffett, gave away $6 billion of the trio’s combined $124 billion wealth in 2011 alone. However, Americans have had more time to perfect the nuanced art of modern philanthropy. What’s more, such lists fail to acknowledge the regional development underwritten by Russia’s oligarchs.
For example, Roman Abramovich reportedly gave $310 million to charity in 2010-12, but that doesn’t include the $164 million that Evraz, a steelmaker Abramovich owns in part, spent on social projects in its operations area in the same period. Similarly, Mettalloinvest, which Usmanov controls, gave $260 million to local services and social programs in 2010-12, on top of $247 million in personal donations.
Public office is a favourite tool of Putin’s. Fridman, Abramovich, and Zelenin have all taken a turn in the last 15 years, and it isn’t cheap. Abramovich is reported to have given or invested $2.5 billion in local services and charitable initiatives in the remote Russian Far East region of Chukotka, where he was Governor for eight years. Chukotka seems to have benefited. From 2000, Abramovich’s first year in office, to 2006 average salaries rose in the region from $165/month to $826/month. Housing and healthcare also improved with Chukotka boasting the highest healthy birth rates in Russia during Abramovich’s tenure.
Putin tweaked the rules in 2005 to facilitate this kind of appointment and now has personal responsibility for the hiring and firing of the governors for all 83 regions. As a result, when Abramovich made noises that he’d had enough of the cold of Chukotka after one term, Putin insisted otherwise. Although Abramovich was finally allowed to resign in 2008, his gift keeps giving: In 2010-12 he gave $98 million to the Territoria and Pole of Hope foundations, which support humanitarian work in Chukotka. And even several years after Zelenin left the governorship of Tvor Oblast, his wife raised more than $300,000 per year for their “A Kind Start” charity.
This type of state-directed philanthropy has elements of the old Russia. For centuries under the czars, charity was linked to the church and the largesse of the more enlightened aristocracy. The 1800s saw the rise of individual philanthropists like Baron Horace Gunzburg, and wealthy families such as the Morozovs and Mamentovs, who supported orphanages, hospitals, museums, and the arts. The Bolsheviks halted giving when they took power in 1917, and for more than seven decades philanthropy was banned. Soviet control enforced donations to officially selected charities and required millions to “volunteer” their time.
But with perestroika, new private enterprises were born, and they immediately began making donations to charity. By 1998, more than 75% of Russian companies were engaged in corporate philanthropy, although the giving was concentrated among the biggest companies. Even in 2004, more than half of Russian philanthropy came from just 20 corporations. Money went to fund the Olympic team, student exchanges and, under new accounting standards, certain business costs inherited from the Soviet era, such as staff housing. Lukoil, for example, made charitable contributions to train oil-industry recruits as well as to support young children, old soldiers and disaster victims, religious groups, and cultural endeavors.
Virtually all giving was by companies, rather than individuals, until 2000, when Potanin (who later invested in the Ford Modeling Agency in the US) launched Russia’s first private foundation. (Not until 2011 were individual charitable donations finally made tax deductible.) A year later Khodorkovsky established the Open Russia Foundation, with Lord Jacob Rothschild and Henry Kissinger among its trustees, and with the goal of fostering a democratic society with activist citizens demanding a functioning state, an accountable government, and transparent human rights.
Before he was arrested in 2003, Khodorkovsky observed that his country had squeezed the progress of generations of the Rockefellers and Morgans, from robber barons to philanthropists, into just five years. Khodorkovsky himself was an exemplar of such rapid progress. Once a Communist Youth League activist, he did well in commodities and banking in the early 1990s. Subsequently, he bought cheap privatization shares and in 1995 gained control of the state oil giant Yukos for $350 million, a fraction of its market value. It became the world’s fourth largest oil company, with a one-time net worth of $15.2 billion. Until prison cut short nearly all of his activities, Khodorkovsky was putting $200 million a year into Open Russia.
As Khodorkovsky’s dramatic trajectory suggests, sizable forward movement in Russian civil society is often followed by an equally sizeable retreat. In 2012, Putin demanded that all Russian institutions receiving financing from foreign sources be registered as “foreign agents,” a regulation that crippled many of the NGOs operating there, increasing the need for Russian philanthropists to step up to the plate. Now sanctions imposed by the West in response to conflict in Ukraine are starting to take their economic toll. How this will play out for Russia’s oligarchs and their newfound philanthropy remains to be seen.
Ambassadors for Philanthropy?
By Dame Stephanie Shirley
The British Government’s Founding Ambassador for Philanthropy revisits her appointment.
The call from the Cabinet Office came in March 2009. Would I be interested in being appointed as Britain’s first- ever Ambassador for Philanthropy? Many said, after the fact, that I was a logical choice: I was self-made and had given generously to autism research and technology and was at home talking about all aspects of giving. I weighed the offer for about five minutes, and promptly signed on.
In the end, the position turned out to be both more and less than I initially imagined. We had few victories in a push to truly unleash giving in Britain. A year is a very short time. But, while the ambassadorship expired with the Labour government in 2010, it led to a number of developments that continue to this day.
It wasn’t long after taking the honorary position that the penny dropped—literally. I’d assumed that the undertaking would be allocated some funds for expenses, travel, and related activities such as research and aggressive outreach. However, I learned, the maximum government contribution would be roughly £10k and that amount was meant to cover the overhead for meetings in Admiralty Arch, at the time a government owned, iconic building in central London, and cups of tea for my guests.
Ultimately, I met the direct costs—approximately £250,0000—myself. And while Prime Minister Gordon Brown did finance a promotional video endorsing my ambassadorship, I was mostly on my own, and that fit the entrepreneur in me just fine. Because the ambassadorship itself was ill-defined, its existence was never properly discussed, evaluated, or, for that matter, acknowledged. I’d hoped that Whitehall would supply data to support the work, but they didn’t seem to know how much the government itself was allocating to “good works.” And agencies that did give significantly to developing countries, such as the Department for International Development, were looked at disapprovingly as overstepping colonialists.
Then an election was announced, and everything stopped. The office of the Ambassador for Philanthropy was closed officially nearly as abruptly as it was announced. But the closure didn’t stop us from carrying on privately and forming a purpose driven enterprise under the name— Ambassadors for Philanthropy—with a manifesto of unleashing giving worldwide.
When we set out, I’d known that the non-profit sector had a voice, and financial institutions and their philanthropic advisors, including attorneys, had a booming one, but philanthropists themselves were often unheard and underreported. With the Ambassadorship and after, I decided to focus our attention on philanthropists and giving them a voice.
Historically, the British rarely talk about money or what we do with it. To a degree, we began to change that paradigm. We promoted philanthropy as an activity to be enjoyed and celebrated and urged media outlets to report on philanthropists as individuals whose generosity should be examined as to its success, intention and impact, rather than solely as people whose wealth should be coveted. I delivered some 40 speeches throughout the country to promote this view. We persuaded philanthropists who’d never before discussed their giving publicly to speak up on camera. And when other countries expressed interest, our movement began to grow, initially within the Commonwealth, and then eventually worldwide.
Although the initial position was a creation of the British government, we were able to evolve and activate many of the ideas that emerged from the experience, including the curation of the digital publication you are now reading.
And while we didn’t provide the type of transformational change we’d hoped for in Britain, we at least helped preserve the benefits of philanthropy within the country. In mid-2012, the Conservative government proposed a tax action that would have sharply curtailed incentives for donors to give and give generously. Thankfully, we were able, along with others, including our network of philanthropists, to rally strong opposition to this measure, and the plan was eventually scrapped.
The philanthropist voice lives on!
By Lucy Bernholz
The do's and don'ts of citizen surveillance, Sudan and George Clooney.
Celebrities know a lot about being watched. Maybe that’s one reason for actor George Clooney’s enthusiasm for the satellite camera he’s trained on Sudan.
Sudan has been a longstanding interest for the actor. He’s testified before Congress about the country, and in June 2012 was arrested for protesting outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington, DC, against alleged war criminal President Omar al-Bashir. Since 2010 he’s also funded the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), an organization that independently observes the volatile border between Sudan and South Sudan. SSP has become not only a witness to genocide, it is opening up a new frontier in civilian humanitarian aid.
Working through partnerships with the Enough! Project, DigitalGlobe, Google and the Harvard Humanitarian Institute, SSP pairs satellite imagery with on-the-ground mapmakers and analysts. The project tracks military movements, records human rights violations, and builds an evidence base of satellite images paired with reports and data from the field. Even in an age of widespread government surveillance, SSP represents a number of ‘firsts.’ It is a groundbreaking application of military technology within civilian peacekeeping; it is a unique partnership between tech companies, scholars and aid workers; and it brings new data to bear on international policy.
For a full year beginning in 2011, the SSP recorded more than 25 violations of existing peace agreements and military movements that threatened Sudanese villages and people. The broad peripheral vision of the satellites also ensured that the movements on both sides—government as well as rebel forces—were captured. Satellite images of mass graves and smoldering villages provided incontrovertible evidence of events previously hinted at by those on the ground. They not only revealed the extent of the damage, but could be knit together to show the direction and pace of destruction in the wake of moving troops.
It wasn’t long before project leaders recognized that the combination of satellite imagery and ground level analysis could be used to predict future disasters. In September 2011, for example, SSP analysts realized that their satellite images of troop movements pointed to a surefire attack on the village of Kurmulk. They took the unusual step, as a watchdog organization, of issuing a warning, and thousands of people were able to flee ahead of the onslaught.
Not surprisingly, the international response to SSP’s images lags significantly behind the technology. For the humanitarian aid community, however, SSP has signaled a sea change. Humanitarian groups are mostly trained to respond to crises, not to avert them. Nonintervention has been a stalwart feature of humanitarian aid for centuries, and a key reason these groups are given access to war zones in the first place. Changing their rules of engagement may mean saving lives in the near term, but could also result in being banned from conflict zones the next time around. Actively shaping the direction of a conflict means new responsibilities and the need for an updated code of ethics.
The SSP is teaching us that new technology can be applied to humanitarian aid faster than we can predict the consequences of doing so. This is often true of cutting-edge technologies. But rarely is it a matter of life or death.
Elizabeth Wallace Ellers
By Bruce Makous
Introducing social innovators directly to philanthropists, Liz Ellers is making global impact philanthropy more accessible to women in her area.
In a way, Elizabeth Wallace Ellers has been rehearsing all her life for the role she’s playing these days in impact philanthropy. After studying international relations at UCLA, Liz spent time in Mexico and Brazil, and then earned an MBA at Columbia University. She worked as an investment banker for years and then embarked, informally at first, on the path to founding her own donor-advised fund in Philadelphia.
Ellers jumpstarted The globalislocal Fund with a few more than a dozen other local women in 2005 with the intention of addressing the root causes of poverty throughout the developing world. In the ten years since, globalislocal’s membership has grown to more than 50 and the group has dispensed more than $2 million in either outright donations or loans as a part of its growing project portfolio, which includes funding for organizations like Root Capital, a nonprofit investment fund that helps finance small agricultural businesses in Latin America and Africa.
Ellers traces the founding of globalislocal back to her decision to leave Wall Street following the birth of her son; in the early ‘90s, she became involved with collaborative funding and philanthropy out of her own passion for economic development. Even as a well-connected donor, Ellers encountered roadblocks as she developed her own philanthropic portfolio.
“I was just doing this for myself,” she says. “And then I just got a little annoyed. Back then there were a couple conferences that were really the only places you could go to convene with like-minded funders and smart NGO leaders, and, as we evolved, social entrepreneurs. But they were invitation only.”
She more fondly recalls local networks of female philanthropists in her area as a spark and her time at The Philanthropy Workshop, a Rockefeller Foundation education program on strategic giving, as a final step in realizing globalislocal.
“As I learned more and more about the issues—and the impact that is possible—I knew that I had to create a way to share it with others,” she says. “I never, ever intended to do this,” she adds with a laugh. “It got to a point where I had to do it.”
The same Wall Street discipline that shaped Ellers’ thinking for years now pervades the globalislocal structure. The philanthropists are “investors” and “partners” and before an organization is added to the funded “portfolio” a projected social return on the investment must meet minimum requirements. It’s a model built on careful calculation of impact as much as it is on more subjective or emotional social or environmental measures. Metrics include household income, viable crop yields, volume of accessible water, access to health care professionals, and business productivity.
Annual investments from participating partners generally range from $3,000 to $15,000 and Ellers encourages members to meet face-to-face with social entrepreneurs on the ground in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to learn about the issues intimately themselves. Each year, partners receive impact reports that inform their next round of investments. “You’re not just leveraging your money,” Ellers says of the collaborative approach. “You’re leveraging all of your resources. Different people and different foundations have different kinds of resources. It’s knowledge, it’s network, it’s access. People don’t talk about access a lot. Access is sometimes way harder than money.”
Ellers also mentions globalislocal’s ahead-of-the-curve grantee curation as a source of pride: “Our investees are really great,” she says. “We’ve invested in some of these social entrepreneurs before some of the biggest funders in the space have found them.” Besides Root Capital, examples of recently selected social enterprises include the One Acre Fund, which channels loans to farmers in Kenya and Rwanda as they try to increase annual yields, and Partners in Health, which provides patient-centered health care in settings where resources are scarce.
Ellers says that she didn’t set out to make globalislocal itself an all-women group, but she’s embraced the natural development. “Women enjoy collaborating with their peers,” she said a few years ago upon receiving a leadership award from Women’s eNews. “And the majority of the most vulnerable people in the world are women and children. When targeting the causes and consequences of poverty, by definition, we’re targeting women and children. So there’s this great sense of connectedness.”
Still, as gratifying as the results can be, Ellers admits that the type of philanthropy globalislocal pursues is a hard-fought long game. “We focus on solutions to poverty in the developing world,” she says. “Already you’re talking about really challenging, multifaceted, interlocking puzzle pieces. Even when you’re addressing the root causes and providing the access to opportunity for the community to make choices about how to climb up the ladder, these are long term propositions. You don’t go from living on a dollar-a-day to middle-class in five years.”
As for the fund's next steps, Ellers says, "Ultimately, globalislocal's goal is to increase dramatically the number of investors and volume of investments actively engaging these issues. To this end, globalislocal is actively exploring strategic alliances and partnerships in the United Sates and abroad."
The Bipolar Nature of Philanthropy in Hong Kong
By Susan Yu & Luke Norman
With one of the highest concentrations of millionaires in the world, Hong Kong's philanthropic industry is still growing. But despite big donations, the city's giving remains a quiet affair.
The protests and widespread student demonstrations that made headlines through the end of last year marked Hong Kong indelibly as a city in-between. An unabashed beacon of over-the-top 21st-century capitalism, Hong Kong’s putative manager, Leung Chun-ying, is known not as “the mayor” but as the city’s chief executive. Leung currently faces increasing opposition and calls for resignation as the representative of Beijing politics, yet under a recent ruling candidates for his job must be nominated by committee, effectively stifling the city’s hopes of self-governance.
While the ongoing unrest is recent, the rift between Hong Kong and mainland China is long-standing and has made the city one of the most politically complex places in the world.
Not surprisingly, similar polarities mark Hong Kong’s approach to philanthropy.
As the world’s ninth-largest economy, with more billionaires in its 426 square miles than in the whole of the UK, Hong Kong is an ideal host to thriving philanthropy: government social services are widely considered underfunded, income disparity is growing, and the underclass is crying out for attention.
Yet in Hong Kong, philanthropy keeps a mostly low profile. The silence and apparent fear of engagement that characterize the city's philanthropy are less a reflection of a dormant industry than a purposefully quiet one. From the long-running Tung Wah Hospital to newly innovative social entrepreneurism, philanthropic examples abound, but few practitioners seem to have any desire to talk about them. There may be more than 7,200 nonprofits in Hong Kong and donations in 2010-2011 topped $1.2 billion—with more than two-thirds of residents dipping their hand into their pockets—but philanthropists willing to go public are thin on the ground, especially considering that high-value gifts dominate the scene.
Gifts from middle-class donors in the city are still growing, but in 2012 alone, “104 donations worth $1m or more were identified in Hong Kong...with a combined value of $877m” according to a recent Coutts report. Most recently, Ronnie Chan, a property tycoon who shares his $3.2 billion net worth with younger brother Gerald, made headlines for a $350 million gift to Harvard, catching flak for supporting a university that was not only American but already well-endowed. As the recent Chan family trust donation bears out, Hong Kong’s philanthropists are not always quiet, but increasingly donor-critical public opinion shows why they might want to be.
The work of the Kadoorie dynasty, one of the richest and most famous families in Hong Kong, is a good example of the sector’s low-key style. More than 60 years ago, the Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Association was established as a community service for Chinese refugees spilling into Hong Kong from the Communist mainland. Over time the association morphed into the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, which now engages in environmental and conservation research.
With the growth of the Kadoorie fortune, its philanthropy has apparently diversified. Thanks to the family-run China Light & Power Company, along with the Hong Kong & Shanghai Hotel Group, the current scion, Sir Michael Kadoorie, landed the 115th spot on the 2013 Forbes Rich List, with a reported personal fortune of $9.5 billion. The Kadoorie Charitable Trust, founded in 1997, now directs most of Sir Michael’s philanthropy, supporting projects in China and throughout South and Southeast Asia. Still, a lack of public records makes it impossible to gauge its activities and a director of the Trust quietly explains, “The family doesn’t normally give interviews."
In fact, Sir Michael and the Kadoories have plenty of company. Sir Run Run Shaw, the famous movie maker and television magnate who passed away at 107 early this year, Sir Joseph Hotung and his older brother Eric Hotung, and Dr. Hari Harilela—a who’s who of Hong Kong’s recent heavyweights—are all entrenched in a generous but anonymous culture of giving.
That culture may be a product in part of the city's entangled religious past--ancient and largely culturally Buddhist, on one hand and more recently Christian due to British colonialists, on the other. More practically, there’s also an obvious financial motivation behind Hong Kong’s blockbuster giving: philanthropists get a tax break for their donations, so they may want to downplay their gain.
Still other issues may factor into the pervasive secrecy. “Safety is the first thing that is in people’s minds,” Bernard Charnwut Chan says. Chan is a fourth-generation heir to a Hong Kong-by-way-of-Thailand fortune who also serves as Vice Chairman of Oxfam's regional operations. “It is the low-profile high-net-worth people who do not want to publicize their giving,” he adds. “Another reason is that they don’t want people to keep bugging them. Once they know you are a giver, the next thing you know you will have private bankers, lawyers and charities coming after you. So they like giving but they don’t want to advertise this and be chased.”
This keep-your-head-down approach isn't surprising in light of Hong Kong's continuing political unrest, with democracy protesters still blocking off access to some of the city's most expensive real estate as a part of ongoing demonstrations. In 2012, at the height of recent growth, the number of the city's millionaires rose by 40 percent. It rose by 27 percent over the last five years, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report. (At last count, Hong Kong ranked 20th in a list of countries with the highest number of millionaires.) Carry on up the ladder and the four richest men in Asia, with a combined wealth of $90 billion—Li Ka-shing, Lee Shau-kee, Lui Che Woo, and Cheng Yu-tung—all call Hong Kong home. By contrast, a recent study by the city’s chief executive’s office found that one in five residents lives in poverty; the region’s Gini Coefficient, a measure sometimes used to predict the potential for social unrest, also climbed into the danger zone in recent analyses.
For a city economy that is now based almost exclusively on high finance and real estate, there is little provision for a growing and increasingly vocal underclass. With the introduction of a city-wide minimum wage in 2011, some of Hong Kong’s last manufacturers fled for the cheaper, neighboring province of Guangdong to the north. Leung, who came into office vowing to reduce the record wealth gap, is trying to help the poor by increasing welfare spending, giving tax incentives to more than 400,000 OAPs (old age pensioners) and rekindling a long dormant policy permitting the subsidized sale of public housing. Backlash against Leung in recent weeks has been anchored in unrest over the near-future prospects of self-governance in Hong Kong as student groups blame the chief executive for mischaracterizing legislation that will require democratic candidates to be nominated by committee. But the form of protests has shown repeatedly that class division remains central to the discontent.
In the meantime, a few of Hong Kong’s philanthropists are seeking their own solutions and encouraging others to do the same. James Chen is the chairman of the Chen Yet-Sen Family Foundation, which has funded more than 150 social initiatives in Hong Kong, China, and West Africa. The foundation’s activities are unusual for being mostly public and uncommonly traceable.
“Part of our leverage is being able to reach out to other families,” Chen says. “It is about celebrating the successes and learning from the failures not only for us but for the wider community. Other wealthy families inclined to support philanthropy might have a different model to look at and to see what could be done.”
Initially, Chen recalls, his foundation chose a traditional, private route, even disdaining a website for its first few years. The change came with the realization that as positive news started to trickle back from beneficiaries to the funders, other potential stakeholders pricked up their ears and got on the telephone. The more successful the foundation became publicly, the more it was approached by interested philanthropists. Now, it not only supports active social projects, but also backs informal capacity-building gatherings in Hong Kong and China to enable nonprofits, volunteer groups, and individuals to similarly share information.
“People in Hong Kong are very generous with their money but [don’t] organize it well,” Chen adds. “They aren’t very deliberate in thinking about the impact or difference they have made with their philanthropy. It is more driven by emotion or business and not real philanthropy or meaningful engagement.”
Another philanthropist who is trying to change the giving culture is Darius Yuen, formerly a senior managing director at Bear Stearns. When the firm collapsed, Yuen saw an opportunity to reevaluate his life and decided that going to work in a worthy charitable cause was a good first step. Unsurprisingly, even flush with funds, he didn’t find what he wanted in a traditionally tight-lipped culture. “Part of me wants to solve social problems and try to figure out a solution to these social problems, whether it’s the environment, poverty alleviation, or education,” he says. “I believe that this world needs more solutions than just giving away money.”
Yuen travelled to Germany to attend the European Venture Philanthropy Association Forum and soon after founded the SOW Asia Foundation. The foundation has ploughed a mostly lonely furrow in Hong Kong, investing in commercial businesses that offer a high rate of social and/or environmental return. Grants have ranged from $50,000 to $250,000 to SOW Asia projects in Hong Kong, China, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa. From supplying low-voltage solar-powered computers to facilitating research into environmentally friendly building materials, Yuen has his hand in projects that would look perfectly at home in other venture philanthropy portfolios. In 2010, he was named one of 48 Heroes of Philanthropy in Asia by Forbes magazine.
But Yuen isn’t necessarily a hero in Hong Kong, where that kind of philanthropy is rare. “I don’t think people get the concept of venture philanthropy,” he says. “They are still confused as to which bucket to put their money in. They wonder, is it investment or is it philanthropy?”
By Cheryl Chapman
He signed The Giving Pledge with a commitment to raise millions out of poverty. Can he do it?
Born in Soweto in 1962, South African magnate Patrice Motsepe early on proved himself a business asset as a youngster helping out in his father’s small grocery store in a mining community. “My father used to say that the family made a lot more money when I worked behind the counter, which I was doing from the time I was about five years old,” Motsepe recounted in a recent interview. And because his parents gave away groceries to their poorer customers and even paid school fees for some of children, he was also exposed to Ubuntu—the African belief that one’s well-being and happiness depends on the wellbeing and happiness of others.
Those were formative experiences for Motsepe, who went on to earn a law degree from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and began practicing corporate law in 1994, the same year that Nelson Mandela was elected president. Benefitting from South Africa’s black economic empowerment laws which mandated that companies be at least 26 percent black-owned in order to gain a government mining license, Motsepe founded African Rainbow Minerals, the country’s first black-owned mining company, and grew it rapidly through a series of acquisitions. Today with a net worth estimated at $3 billion, he is South Africa’s richest man and its first Black billionaire.
Now Motsepe and his wife Precious, a physician, have set their sights on an even more ambitious goal: lifting their continent out of poverty. Their foundation, established in 1999, seeks to “improve the lifestyles and living conditions of poor, disabled, unemployed, women, youth, workers, and marginalized South Africans, Africans and people around the world,” according to its website. It has funded structural projects and capacity-building in schools, faith-based organizations and traditional community, leadership, women and youth empowerment initiatives, health improvement initiatives, and a major program that encourages leadership through one of the country’s most popular pastimes: soccer. (Motsepe also owns the soccer club Mamelodi Sundowns.)
In 2012 he and his wife became the first Africans to sign the Giving Pledge. “The businesses that we started or participate in also became important instruments for job creation, education, health care, poverty alleviation, and wealth creation,” he wrote in their Pledge letter. “We will continue to work with and encourage Governments on the African continent to implement fiscal, legislative, anti-corruption, and other measures to ensure that their economies are globally competitive and attractive to private sector and other business investments.”
Recently, Motsepe has doubled down on a commitment to help South Africans out of poverty with low-cost loans and development support for sustainable micro-enterprises. In 2013 he announced the creation of a local community investment fund to be used mainly to underwrite sustainable new business ventures in two rural areas of Cape Town. The $1.2 million donation was designated to be spent over a year-long period "because sometimes you find amounts of money stuck in a bank are not used while people go hungry,” he said. The foundation also announced plans to spend about $50 million over the next few years across South Africa on education, women- and youth-owned businesses, and other initiatives.
Some critics have argued that Motsepe might exercise his philanthropy more even-handedly by raising wages for mine workers, who are notoriously badly paid. Motsepe, for his part, has argued that mining companies cannot afford to pay more and don’t get sufficient credit for their good work. Meanwhile, the increasingly public figure made headlines at the end of 2014 for a personal purchase of a $6 million luxury Cape Town retreat.
Still, Motsepe believes that Africans can lift Africa out of poverty. “There is a new generation of Africans that have studied in different places, such as France, the US, the UK, and who have returned to the continent with a wealth of experience and knowledge,” he says. “I am excited when I meet these people across the continent and believe that they will provide the energy, passion and enthusiasm to drive Africa forward. The future of this continent is looking very promising in the hands of these dynamic entrepreneurs.”