When seven-year-old Ed Rappa walked with determination into the Harriman Clubhouse in 1948 and slapped down a nickel for his Boys’ Club of New York membership card, he knew he was choosing to be part of the solution to the city’s challenges, rather than joining the riff-raff causing problems.
Still, even Ed had no idea that, 60 years later, he’d be leading the charitable organization out of the country’s worst financial crisis in modern history.
There was a thin line between joining a gang and joining the Boys’ Club. “Both offered security and community and kept you busy,” Ed said, “you might end up in a very different place depending on which path you choose.” Lucky for the hundreds of thousands of boys who followed him into one of its clubhouses, Ed chose BCNY.
In 1986, Ed was asked to join the board of trustees. After 20 years as an effective and charitable board member, he was elected President, the first alumnus to hold the position. During his 10-year tenure, Ed successfully helped guide BCNY through the 2008 financial crisis. He is now Chairman of the Boy’s Club of New York.
Ed has no doubts he will always be a Boys’ Club boy, and he will continue opening doors to programs that will cultivate positive qualities in the young men of New York for years to come.
When an “encore” career leads to a second act of giving
When retiree Elissa Garr embarked on her “second” career through the website Encore.org, it was meant to be temporary. A former elementary school teacher, Elissa decided to use her skills, honed over a lifetime of teaching, to help shine a light on the issues affecting children most in need.
Elissa volunteered to be the executive director for First Star, an organization dedicated to addressing child neglect and abuse, the nation’s foster care system, and helping youth succeed in education and life.
Elissa soon became the president of First Star’s Greater Washington Academy, providing skills and education programming to ensure foster youth can succeed at high school, and eventually, college. But her work evolved into more than just a college preparatory program. Even after students embarked on their educational paths, Elissa kept in touch with students, teachers, and parents, helping to answer some of the most pressing issues these students faced.
After years of hard work and dedication to helping foster children in her area, she then turned her attention towards helping her peers. To date, Elissa has helped guide eight seniors through high school and into college. Three of them even received scholarships to four-year universities.
Elissa’s latest endeavor is the launch of First Star Institute, which builds on the organization’s effort to reform the foster system for children in Maryland.
Truly exceptional philanthropists are about as common as four-leaf clovers. So when you find a whole family full of givers, it is like stumbling across an entire field of the green good luck charms. One case is Philadelphia’s Haas family, who have quietly established themselves as a role model of how family philanthropy can work for all levels of society.
The Haas story begins, unsurprisingly, with an exceptional couple. Otto Haas came to Philadelphia from Germany in 1909 to begin expansion of his company, Rohm and Haas. The company, which started as a maker of leather tanning materials, grew to become a massive specialty chemical manufacturer, and Otto found success beyond his wildest dreams. In 1945 he used some of his wealth to start a foundation to address post-war social issues, particularly focused on helping fatherless children. This foundation eventually became the William Penn Foundation, a Philadelphia-centric institution that works on all manner of important causes, including education, conservation, and culture.
Otto’s wife, Phoebe Waterman, was every bit as successful and ambitious as her husband. Awarded a doctorate in astronomy in 1913, she became one of the first American women to play a major role in the rapidly growing field of space research. Even after she left the professional world, she remained an asset to science, volunteering as a citizen with the American Association of Variable Star Observers. Her passion for the stars and her family’s endowment to the National Air & Space Museum resulted in the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory, a fitting tribute to a pioneer of space research.
Otto and Phoebe had two boys, John and F. Otto, and they took after their parents in both brains and heart. They both took major roles in Rohm and Haas, carrying on the family legacy as well as ensuring that it was a company that promoted the advancement of women and minorities. And much like their parents, in time they were ready to step away from the business and put their efforts into philanthropy. Both served on the board of the William Penn Foundation as well as continued the giving tradition in personal ways.
The list of organizations the brothers played a part in is almost as long as the list of organizations in all of Philadelphia. John and his wife Chara founded the Stoneleigh Foundation to target the needs of vulnerable and underserved children. F. Otto focused a great deal of his energies on conservation, becoming one of the founding board members of Preservation Pennsylvania, who have since named their annual award after him. And this only scratches the surface of what the pair have achieved.
Philanthropy is a tradition that the rest of the family has carried on. The next generation founded the Wyncote Foundation to tackle social, environmental and cultural issues. What is more, nearly 40 family members share a fortune estimated to be around $3 billion, and already more than half of it is slated for charitable causes. This is not a family that brags or even seeks publicity, but the name Haas should continue to be praised from the streets of Philadelphia all the way to the stars.
Nearly 20 years ago, Ignacio Holtz was suffering from chronic kidney disease.
In desperate need of a donor, his wife, Beatriz, made the life-saving sacrifice of a healthy kidney. Not long after, he joined a Rotary club and was inspired to help others in need.
Since then, Ignacio has founded and dedicated himself to an organ donation program in partnership with the Rotary Foundation. Heart 2 Heart, which is a collaboration between Mexican and US Rotary clubs, designed to save the lives of young people in need of kidney transplants and to help them find donors.
Every day, Ignacio and his team screen donors, recipients, negotiates rates and offer logistical support to those families who need it most. To date, Ignacio’s program has saved over 500 lives.
He still speaks with his first ever patient, then a 15-year-old girl, whose uncle gave his kidney to help her. Ignacio’s program enabled her to live a full and healthy life, and she is now a mother to her own little girl. It is these stories of the young men and women that Beatriz and Ignacio have saved, and the lives they go on to lead, which motivate and inspire them.
A Librarian’s Commitment to Young Life in California
Olga Valencia Cardenas, a librarian at Stanislaus County Library in Modesto, California, started a book club at the local Juvenile Hall and Juvenile Commitment Center for young men a couple of years ago. It wasn’t long before word started to spread out about how popular and successful the book clubs were, and how thrilled the youth were to have their ideas and opinions heard.
For her amazing work, going truly above and beyond her role as a local librarian, Olga was chosen to receive the I Love My Librarian Award, which comes with a $5,000 cash prize. While most people might have used the prize money for personal reward, Olga donated every cent to create a new Juvenile Justice Center Library at the Juvenile Hall and Juvenile Commitment Center. To her, the success of the book clubs showed that the need for a library at the Hall was paramount.
Though the money was obviously important for the completion of the project, none of this would be possible without Olga’s drive to do so much more for the community than expected. Olga is an inspiration to us all and her extraordinary generosity shows that any one person can change the world.
Olga Valencia Cardenas, youth services outreach librarian, Stanislaus County Library.
Olga Valencia Cardenas
Youth Services Outreach Librarian, Stanislaus County Library
Of all the donations Vartan Gregorian has received in his years of serving great institutions, one stands out in his memory.
During the nine years that Vartan served as president of the New York Public Library, he would join his old friend and NYPL Trustee, Mrs. Brooke Russell Astor, along with Chairman Andrew Heiskell and other Library leaders at the entrance of the 42nd Street Library to greet members and guests for the annual holiday open house.
Guests ranged from the prominent to ordinary citizens; famous faces and everyday New Yorkers. Some occasionally handed envelopes with checks or cash donations to Library leaders. Vartan would put the envelopes in his pocket for safe keeping.
Vartan fondly recalls one occasion when he later opened the envelopes and found a Social Security check with a note saying, “I don’t have lots of money but I hope this will help.”
To this day Vartan is touched by that giver. That check was a gift of sacrifice out of gratitude and, he believes, the essence of the spirit of true philanthropy. In such small gifts lie the hearts of great givers.
President and CEO of Carnegie Corporation of New York
Dmitry Zimin is many things. A Russian, a scientist, a businessman, and a philanthropist. As a donor, he is exceptional, not simply because of the millions of dollars he has given away to science and education-based projects, but because he is a trailblazer. He created the first family philanthropy in post-Soviet Russia. He had the insight to recognize the positive impact that this could have in Russia, particularly in the realm of science, and the ambition and wealthy to make it a reality.
Zimin’s own scientific work had made him a wealthy man, and he was not interested in leaving all his money to heirs – convinced that it would lead to their ruin. Instead, he retired from his successful telecommunications company, Vimpelcom, Ltd, and used his money to found the Dynasty Foundation. All at once, science in Russia had a major benefactor keen to fund young people engaged in research that could change the world for the better.
During its 13 years of existence, the Dynasty Foundation had an incredible impact on both the academic and philanthropic worlds of Russia, by fostering talented people. Starting in 2002, the Foundation helped provide stipends to university students and young physicists. Zimin was inspired by his early scientific background, lecturing in electrodynamics. Soon it was supporting students and experts doing groundbreaking work, while also increasing interest in science with the general population. They launched their own science program, hosted contests, created a prize for non-fiction literature, and began publishing books, including a Russian language version of the popular Bill Bryson book, A Short History of Almost Everything.
Zimin, 84, says: ‘Memorable donations include some of the lifelong grants we made to people who are now seen as icons. For example, we supported one of the greatest modern-day mathematicians, Vladimir Arnold. He was an extraordinary scientist, a teacher and promoter of mathematics. Memorable donations include some of the lifelong grants we made to people who are now seen as icons. For example, we supported one of the greatest modern-day mathematicians, Vladimir Arnold.
‘He was an extraordinary scientist, a teacher and promoter of mathematics. For example, he published a problem book called 5 to 15, which I would strongly recommend to all children. It contains 100 problems for children to guess the solutions to. We initiated an all-Russia contest to solve problems based on this book, which was extremely exciting.’
Such has been Zimin’s impact on his nation that if you were Russian and involved in science, you were most assuredly positively affected by Dynasty.
Sadly, it could not last. Philanthropy remained a topic that many in Russia were wary of, and in 2015, the Dynasty Foundation was designated as a ‘foreign agent’ NGO by the Ministry of Justice. And while Dmitry did not hesitate in proclaiming this inaccurate, he also did not want to cast a bad light on all the success of the Foundation, so Dynasty decided to close down. But that does not lessen the impact of Zimin’s work – over 3,000 despairing scientists and members of the public signed an open letter protesting the Ministry’s decision, but it seems it was time to move on. Nonetheless, Zimin achieved a huge amount in opening Russians’ eyes up to both science and philanthropy. The impact of the Dynasty Foundation will last through this next generation of scientists, and it is only a matter of time before someone takes up the mantle of Russian philanthropy again, inspired by Zimin’s generosity, vision and practical zeal.
After Hurricane Mitch struck Honduras in 1998, some of the donations that came in included prom dresses. When Haiti was hit by a major earthquake in 2010, fertility drugs were among the items received. And back in 1994, following the genocide in Rwanda, gifts included weight loss drinks and chandeliers.
While probably well intentioned, these examples of inappropriate donations are not uncommon after disasters. In their yearning to help, people sometimes do not donate based on what is needed most and what is most efficient.
The recent disasters wreaked by hurricanes Irma, Harvey, Jose and Maria, and an earthquake in Mexico, have led to an outpouring of support from the United States and beyond. While such tragedies almost always create a need for philanthropy, experts say every act of generosity should follow certain guidelines.
The most important one to remember is that cash is usually best.
“What we always say and encourage people to do is cash donations – they are the most efficient way of assistance,” says Safiya Khalid, diaspora outreach specialist at USAID’s Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI). “Unlike material donations, cash involves no transportation cost, no shipping delays or customs. It also enables relief organizations on the ground to spend less time managing goods.”
Money also allows relief workers to buy the most urgently needed items. This is typically done locally, so it also helps boost the local economy, she says. And such purchases are usually financially smart as well. Sending bottled water overseas can be 1,000 times more expensive than producing drinkable water locally, according to CIDI.
Another important factor to consider is the long-term need for funding. Disaster-related giving reached $22.5 billion in 2014, and 73 percent of total funding targeted immediate response and relief efforts, according to the most recent report from the Foundation Center and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. It is worth considering recurring and long-term donations, as funding after a major disaster may be needed for up to 10 years, according to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.
Donors and funders should also consider which communities are most affected by disasters, and what can be done to prevent future ones, according to Ryan Schlegel of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
“We must be ready not just to rebuild houses and bridges, but to rebuild the power and elevate the voice of marginalized communities who were disproportionately impacted by the storms,” Schlegel wrote in a recent blog post.
Figuring out where to donate is not always easy. While American Red Cross often tops suggested lists, a 2015 investigation by NPR and ProPublica found a number of problems with the organization’s work following the Haiti earthquake. And in his book “Doing Good Better,” William MacAskill warns that generally speaking, donating to organizations that are best at fighting poverty and preventable diseases such as AIDS and malaria usually leads to greater returns than donating after disasters.
Whether you decide to donate to a national organization or a small community non-profit, here are some resources to help you give responsibly next time a disaster strikes:
USAID CIDI’s downloadable toolkit on giving includes all kinds of tips, including 100 fundraising ideas and 55 ways to repurpose material gifts. The “greatest good donation calculator” is a fun and informative tool that shows you how much good work organizations could do with the cost involved in sending U.S. items abroad. The center also has a page on the recent Caribbean hurricanes, which includes a list of organizations to consider donating to.
It is a characteristically direct comment. “I think it’s a bit ironic how much praise philanthropists get because I think it’s a privilege to have this kind of wealth; and my guess is if most of society had this kind of wealth, they’d get involved in philanthropy. Because what else are you going to do with it – roll around in your coffin with it?”
So say Stanley and Fiona Druckenmiller. They are a couple unlike any other in philanthropy. While they mostly shun publicity, they are not shy about taking risks or giving lavishly, and they have no problem doing one thing that most billionaires never need to do – asking others for money. Their giving, their motivation, and their leadership has made the Druckenmillers one of the most lauded philanthropic couples in the world, and while they mostly stay out of the spotlight, their good works speak volumes.
Both Stanley and Fiona have had extraordinary success in the world of finance. For years Stanley worked for George Soros, one of the first recipients of the Medal of Philanthropy. In fact, Soros sought out Stanley’s help so that he could focus more on the philanthropy side of his life and less on the business. Clearly this made an impact on the Druckenmillers, and soon they too were putting a significant amount of their time and resources into giving.
Recognizing that their success came thanks to their access to quality schooling, much of their philanthropy has focused on providing opportunities for education. And like any good investor, they keep a certain amount of variety in the organizations they fund within the education sector. Along with giving out college scholarships, they have provided significant funds to programs like Teach for America and College Summit, an organization whose mission is to increase college enrolment rates in low-income communities. What they are most known for, however, is their involvement with Harlem Children’s Zone, the community organization providing education, social and health programs for at-risk children and their families. Stanley has had a significant hand in building up the organization, and has sat as the Chairman on the board of trustees for many years. The success of the organization has an impact that money cannot buy – hundreds of other organizations are springing up around the world, inspired by the work the Harlem Children’s Zone does in New York.
Recently, the Druckenmillers have sought to have an even bigger impact on childhood poverty, and that has put them in the unique position of asking other billionaires to chip in too. By pooling money with other wealthy philanthropists, the Druckenmillers are looking to Blue Meridian Partners, a philanthropic fund, to help decide the best and most effective way to use the money. Putting both money and brains together, they hope to identify the best nonprofit organizations working in childhood poverty, and provide them with the resources they need to thrive.
Stanley and Fiona might avoid the spotlight, nevertheless, their commitment to education is one of the most notable stories in philanthropy. And if the Druckenmillers are behind it, bet on success – that’s where the good money is.
Sports Stars are Using Their Platforms to Raise Money for Hurricane Relief
When the recent hurricanes swept across the United States and the Caribbean, many individuals and foundations stepped in to help. A growing number of athletes are among those who have given generously.
Sports stars gave their own money and solicited donations by turning to crowdfunding websites such as GoFundMe and YouCaring. Some donated proceeds from their winning tournaments, or committed to giving a certain amount based on their performance, such as $100 per birdie and $500 per eagle in golf.
Disasters aside, there are many athletes who are keen philanthropists year-round, whether it is through their own foundations or working with others. For example, the LeBron James Family Foundation works to help children access education in the NBA star’s hometown of Akron, OH. Tennis star Serena Williams has supported 12 charities and 19 causes, according to Look to the Stars, which tracks celebrities’ charitable giving. The Michael Phelps Foundation, run by the world’s most decorated Olympian, works to promote healthy, active lives and expand participation in swimming. Phelps is among the athletes named in last year’s Bleacher Report list of 10 very charitable athletes.
And while Colin Kaepernick may currently be best known as the NFL player who started a peaceful protest against police brutality and racial injustice by kneeling during anthems (and setting off a national debate about sports and the national anthem in the process), he has been engaged in community service and charitable giving outside the spotlight, donating causes as diverse as single mothers in Georgia to a clean-energy advocacy group. His website says he has donated $900,000 out of his $1 million pledge to give to organizations working in oppressed communities.
Tyson’s Corner, VA-based Athletes for Hope has worked with about 4,000 athletes representing 25 sports, helping foster their relationships with charities. Ivan Blumberg, the non-profit organization’s CEO, says that athletes want to ensure their efforts are having impact.
“There are those who have a strong desire to help, but like anywhere else in society, there are those who need a push or the education and resources to make a difference,” he says. “They need the tools to make sure that when they want to make a difference, they are doing it right.”
His organization runs workshops that inform athletes about their philanthropic options, help them explore their role in their community, and teach them how to maximize their charitable impact. Most of the time, starting a new foundation is not the best answer because of the time and money required to run one successfully, Blumberg says. He points out that athletes are often powerful role models for children, so it is great to see so many of them engaged in philanthropy in different ways.
“Athletes have a platform to inspire social change and some certainly use that platform to inspire others more broadly and engage in their communities to make a difference,” Blumberg says. “Social change can fall in many categories, whether it’s the fight for equality or disaster relief, so we certainly applaud athletes who are working to step up and make a difference.”
USA Today has a comprehensive list that includes recent donations from athletes, as well as teams and team owners).
J.J. Watt, who plays for the Houston Texas NFL team, has helped raise more than $37 million for the Houston Flood Relief Fund.
Carmelo Anthony, an NBA player who is half Puerto Rican, kicked off a fundraiser for Hurricane Maria relief with a $50,000 donation. His YouCaring campaign has raised more than $325,000.
Mark Cuban, the owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, loaned the team plane to the team’s guard, J.J. Barea, who flew to his native Puerto Rico to deliver supplies and assist with relief efforts. Barea and his wife, a former Miss Universe Puerto Rico, have also raised more than $200,000 for relief efforts.