Philanthropy in 2016—A Look Back, and a Look Forward

Lazar Finker Talks Philanthropy in 2016Another year has come and gone, and with the new year comes more chances to give back and help those in need. Technology, always improving and changing the landscape of our nation, has altered philanthropic efforts a great deal. Additionally, increased social awareness has driven the millennial generation to contribute to causes that they are passionate about.

With recent political turmoil and deaths of beloved celebrities, it can be easy to condemn 2016 as a subpar year. However, the philanthropy sector paints a very different picture, demonstrating that, for all of the unrest, the number of caring souls willing to make a difference is always growing.

The growth of e-commerce platforms has made donating easier and more productive than ever. Those looking to make charitable contributions are not only able to easily find an outlet, but are more capable than ever of ensuring that their money directly funds a cause that they care about. Additionally, the volume of information available online has led to greater scrutiny in charity, as sites such as Charity Navigator have promoted transparency in nonprofit organizations in a way that has never been seen before.

Perhaps one of the more surprising statistics to see when reviewing this year’s philanthropy efforts is the amount contributed by individuals and households rather than larger foundations. These donations make up a majority (around 70%) of giving for the year, and goes a long way in demonstrating the change that micro-donations can make. Growth in personal incomes has enabled more and more families to give back as much as possible.

Another notable trend is the rise of wealthy millennials are increasingly concerned with balancing work with personal values. Mark Zuckerberg, notable for choosing to donate 90% of his wealth to charity, is the wealthiest millennial on the planet, but in many ways exemplifies the attitude of the generation: determined to make a difference. Often derided as “special snowflakes,” we must understand that millennials may very well be paving the way for a new kind of collective philanthropy.

Still, even though 2016 was a good year to give, it behooves us as a country to look ahead to what we can accomplish in 2017. After the ball has dropped in Times Square, what can we expect next?

Well, so far, projections are looking positive, with an improved GDP cited as reasons for individuals and organizations to give more on all levels of society. New management tactics have served nonprofit organizations well, and now, they’ll have to find new ways to grow to avoid stagnation.

Collaborative efforts between multiple nonprofits are one way for charitable organizations to improve in 2017. Overlapping support networks can broaden the horizons of existing charities while hammering home the message that nobody undertakes a philanthropic effort alone.

An increased adoption rate of technology, both among individuals and organizations, can assist in bolstering peer-to-peer giving, which has become increasingly popular as of late. Giving can now be done at the push of a button, and the connectivity of technology can spur us to imitate peers that have already donated.

The philanthropy sector, having already undergone moderate growth in the past decade, continues to stabilize and improve incrementally. 2016 is a notable year for the diversification of the tools that organizations can use to promote their causes and spread awareness to the rest of the world.

Small Loans, Big Differences—The World of Microloans

Small Loans Big ImpactsMicrofinance, defined as “a type of banking service that is provided to unemployed or low-income individuals or groups who would otherwise have no other means of gaining financial services” according to Investopedia, is a vital facet to current global philanthropic efforts. The purpose of microfinance is to sustain low-income individuals and families until they are able to reach a point of economic self-sufficiency. With 1.3 billion people across the world living on less than $1.25 a day, it is curious that microfinance is not a more widespread phenomenon.

By providing microloans until economic sufficiency is reached, microfinance companies are able to not just support individual groups, but are forming savings groups, improving market development, and ultimately, benefitting the community at large. By breaking one family’s cycle of poverty, that family is able to contribute to other families and bolster the community, as they are no longer dependent on government aid.

The organization World Vision makes a dedicated effort to provide microloans to those who need them most across the planet. In their efforts to enable poverty stricken individuals to gain self-sufficiency without becoming a hindrance to the national economy, this fantastic charity has made some very insightful findings. In fact, according to this report located on their website, microloan clients eat more, send their children to school, rely less on healthcare programs, and even raise children with a higher “psychosocial well-being.”

Even more impressive is the fact that 98% of World Vision’s loans are paid back; similar statistics can be found with other microfinance organizations such as Kiva and Opportunity International. Many of these loans go toward women; empowering their community and small business endeavors in countries that may not be as supportive.

In order to promote economic sustainability, World Vision aims to break the poverty cycle in economically inhibited communities. They claim that a child’s parents have the greatest impact on their economic well-being, and as a result, they focus on specific households and provide the fiscal resources necessary to bring a family from their knees to their feet.

At the same time, they do not just provide necessary access to financial resources. Rather, they abide by the age-old idiom: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” After providing the proper microloans, the organization instructs poverty-stricken families on best practices for starting their own business, how to maintain proper saving habits, and how to improve their farming. Similarly, the organization teaches individuals business operation strategies, gardening tactics, and agricultural practices.
All this said, World Vision is merely one, although one of the most prominent, of the charitable organizations providing microfinance opportunities around the world. I encourage you to do your own research to fully understand the enormous positive implications of widespread microfinance. Supporting or funding microloans is one of the best ways to give back to and make a lasting impact on a community in need. To learn more, please visit World Vision’s homepage.

From Surplus to Service—How Wealthy Philanthropists Have Changed the World

From Surplus to Service

The world’s most successful individuals strive to change the world above all else. Generally, they are problem solvers; presenting a profitable solution and benefitting from the opportunity while doing so. Though philanthropy may seem to run counter to the values of capitalism, there’s a surprising intersection between the two, primarily in the way that financial success enables individuals to better serve others.

Many ultra-wealthy individuals did not set out with the intention to be the best in their industry; their success was a byproduct of identifying and addressing a need. Their drive and desire to see change has placed them where they are today. I’ve talked about prominent philanthropists in past blogs, but now, I’d like to focus on three individuals who have changed the world and helped others in the process.

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, has been involved in philanthropic ventures since 2010, when he donated to a New Jersey school district. Not long after, he contributed even more to Silicon Valley schools, expressing his desire to support education efforts.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a program that the Facebook tycoon recently created with his wife, Priscilla Chan, is dedicated to a variety of causes, including scientific research, energy, and health. The Initiative is built on a contribution of 99% of Priscilla and Mark’s stock in Facebook, to be delivered over the course of both of their lifetimes.

Given that Chan is a pediatrician, it is no surprise that the couple has also donated to healthcare concerns, supporting research to cure disease and funding the fight against Ebola, among other charitable contributions.

Though the couple is still quite young, (Zuckerberg is 32 and Chan is 31) it is admirable that they have chosen to exalt others with their success. That said, Zuckerberg has come under fire from individuals who believe that his donations are made with the intent of only supporting causes that benefit him.

While these individuals raise some solid points about the nature of the organizations that Zuckerberg has chosen to donate to, the fact remains that his contributions are still benefitting the less fortunate. We can only hope that Zuckerberg and similar philanthropists will exercise caution when it comes to how they donate.

Bill Gates

Bill Gates has donated more than almost anybody else to charitable causes over the course of his life. Over the years, his methods and goals have changed drastically; Gates had an epiphany after attempting to donate computers to impoverished areas of Africa: that technology, though the focus of his life, meant very little to many groups of people.

Since then, he’s dedicated his philanthropic efforts to promoting education and treating disease, forming the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with his wife to accomplish these goals. Gates firmly believes that, from a lifestyle standpoint, he doesn’t need the billions of dollars that he has earned through Microsoft, and wants to divest himself of the majority of his fortune before he passes away.

He’s worked at eliminating poverty and diseases over the years, hoping that polio can be eradicated just as smallpox was. Gates stepped down as CEO of Microsoft in 2008, wishing to use his time on philanthropic advances.

What’s inspiring about Bill Gates is not only his wholehearted commitment to his causes, but his willingness to learn what other people need and deliver on it. He may have had a rocky start, but nobody could ever accuse him of being out of touch with the people that he helps.

Warren Buffet

Along with Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, business magnate and philanthropist, committed to the Giving Pledge, a promise that encourages billionaires to give over half of their wealth to charity. Buffet is considered by many to be the most successful investor in the world.

Buffet prefers to funnel his money into other foundations rather than promote his own; his interest in the aforementioned Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation led to him donating millions of dollars to the the organization. He has also enabled his children to pursue philanthropy by donating to their respective foundations.

Before the end of his lifetime, Buffet plans on donating 99% of his net wealth to charitable organizations. This pledge is refreshingly down to earth; Buffet recognizes that many others give their time and energy to help others, something that he admits to not having done enough of. In general, it’s a heartwarming read. You can view it here.
Buffet believes that charity begets more charity; and this is reflected both in his children, all prominent philanthropists in their own right, and the Giving Pledge supports other wealthy individuals that wish to follow his example.

A Brief History of Philanthropy—Generations of Benevolence

A Brief History of PhilanthropyJohn Gardner once said “Wealth is not new. Neither is charity. But the idea of using private wealth imaginatively, constructively, and systematically to attack the fundamental problems of mankind is new.” The notion that fiscal donations are new is fascinating and worth exploring. It speaks volumes about the progression of society and the development of human beings. Gardner’s quote begs the question: why?

The earliest examples of philanthropy have their roots in religion. Many religions are built on charity, encouraging their followers to go out and do good in the world. While poverty was widespread, the promise of paradise after death was enough to spur many in society to make a difference through giving, though generally not in the form of monetary support.

Before the 15th and 16th centuries, humanity was relegated to a feudal system where peasants were more or less inextricably bound to landowners. In this serf-centrist system, the less fortunate were bound by their poverty, powerless to escape unless their feudal lord or landowner deemed it acceptable. This happened rarely, given that said lord was relying on serfs for labor. Following several wars and diseases that changed the very course of history, rural feudalism collapsed into the very dirt it was built upon.

Towns and cities rose from the ashes to create a new social order. The Reformation brought to light new religious philosophies. The Ottoman Empire reached its golden apex. Eastern Asian dynasties created groundbreaking technologies and contributed astounding gifts to humanity. The Age of Discovery inspired creativity and the exchange of ideas. It was the culmination of these things that eventually bred the notion of philanthropy as we know it.

With the increasing social concentration in cities and towns came the very real and noticeable presence of poverty, and with this presence came those willing to do something about it. simultaneous prosperity and despicable working conditions brought about by the Industrial Revolution. In the United States, Andrew Carnegie authored the 1889 Gospel of Wealth, which requested of millionaires of the era to distribute their wealth for the greater good. This was the first true piece in the foundation of modern philanthropy. The Gospel of Wealth had enormous implications across nearly all sectors of society including education, culture, science, and public health, both domestically and abroad.

From here, the modern notion of charity continued to develop in conjunction with the rest of the world. The Great Depression, social welfare, The Great War, World War II, racial inequality, and civil rights were but a few of the global concepts and events that continued to mold philanthropy into what it is today. World War II provoked an incredible outpouring of both fiscal and emotional support. Various communities developed in order to provide social support, and the effects of such groups can still be seen today in the form of countless nonprofits and NGOs.

Today, philanthropy continues to develop. Whereas in the post-Industrial Revolution era Andrew Carnegie called for millionaires and people of extreme fiscal resources to give, ordinary people are now able to contribute. The impact of many micro-donations can have a bigger impact than any single large donation. As society develops and refines its practices, so does charity. As we look to the future, let us give our children the life they deserve to live. The first step is continuing to refine philanthropy and to define what it means in the modern world and what it will mean for future generations.

Finker-Frenkel Legacy Foundation Gives Back to Children’s Home

Giving Back—Finker-Frenkel Legacy Foundation Donates to Children's Home

Dr. Lazar Finker and his wife, Dr. Raissa Frenkel, have always been passionate about giving back to the community, whether locally or half a world away. Their organization, the Finker-Frenkel Legacy Foundation, is committed to making an impact by supporting causes in multiple fields such as medical research, education, religious development, and children’s welfare.

With this in mind, the Foundation’s donation to Solomon, a Jewish Community Center in Moscow, is logical, given the couple’s heritage and previous charity work with other Jewish organizations. The funds that they provided went toward providing repairs, food, and clothing to Beit Chaya, a Jewish children’s home.

Beit Chaya Children's Home

With the contribution, Beit Chaya was able to renovate an entire floor of rooms and help give orphaned children a better life. Solomon recently contacted the Foundation with news on how its donations had improved the facilities, including pictures of the updated home and a bio on one of the many children that reside there.

Beit Chaya Children's Home

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Residents of Beit Chaya

The floor that the Finker-Frenkel Foundation improved is home to younger residents, including Artem, a four-year-old whose life has been touched by the home.

Artem, a child living at Beit Chaya

After spending his first few years locked in an apartment with his alcoholic mother, Artem found a home at the Beit Chaya, and has now become much more open to exploring its hallways and interacting with others. It is Raissa and Lazar’s sincere hope that other children like Artem can find happiness with the help of philanthropy.

The couple, along with the rest of the Foundation, is excited to continue to support their home country of Russia and to see what positive change can come about as a result of their giving.

Growth Through Giving—A Look At Prominent Philanthropists

Growth Through Giving

Throughout history, there have always been patricians and plebeians, the fortunate and the unfortunate, the wealthy and the poor. Fortunately, in light of the radical monetary differences inherent in this fiscal stratification, there have also always been charitable, philanthropic, and altruistic efforts to balance the spectrum and help tip the scales toward equality. While not all may be so generous, there are many individuals at the pinnacle of net worth who are willing to lend a hand to those who need a hand; and they deserve to be acknowledged for their charity. Listed below are some of the wealthiest and most altruistic members of society who put the “human” back in “humanity”:

George Lucas:

The mastermind of the Star Wars franchise has developed not just a cult-like following through his vast imagination, but also a fortune to match it. In 2012, the Walt Disney Company offered Lucas the enormous sum of $4 billion for his stake in LucasFilm. He took it, but he isn’t keeping it.

Instead, the world-renowned filmmaker opted to sign the Giving Pledge, an initiative spearheaded by Bill Gates, that urges the wealthiest men and women in the world to donate the majority of their net worth to philanthropic organizations/efforts. While it is not yet known what specific charities will receive Lucas’ Giving Pledge generosity, it is clear they will be tacked onto an already extensive list of beneficiaries including, but not limited to, the George Lucas Educational Foundation and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

Indeed, Lucas’ primary interest is in education, having invested in project-based school systems that emphasize creative learning, and creating Edutopia, a website dedicated to reforming K-12 education.

“As humans, our greatest tool for survival is our ability to think and to adapt — as educators, storytellers, and communicators our responsibility is to continue to do so,” said Lucas.

His charity places the Star Wars creator in the ranks of the few individuals in the world to donate over $1 billion to altruistic causes.

David Geffen

Possibly not as well-known as Lucas, unless you’re familiar with the classic rock industry, David Geffen is a talent agent responsible for an abundance of world-famous musicians and the names they made for themselves. The Eagles, John Lennon, Aerosmith, and Guns N’ Roses all blossomed under Geffen’s guidance, leading and contributing to his incredible $6.9 billion net worth. Geffen has made a lifelong commitment to fiscal altruism as evidenced by his numerous sizable contributions to a multitude of charities. In 2002, his generosity included a $200 million donation to the UCLA School of Medicine, followed by a $100 million donation in 2012.

Geffen also blessed Avery Fisher Hall in NYC with a $100 million donation to put towards renovations. It should be noted that, at this point in time, a large portion of his fortune has not been donated, with possible plans for the money and his vast collection contemporary art currently unknown. In the meantime, Geffen continues to support a myriad of causes, such as health, education, LGBT equality, and, of course, the arts.

Paul Allen

Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak. Bill Gates has Paul Allen. A co-founder of Microsoft alongside Gates, Allen has since gained an astounding $17.5 billion net worth. Yet, like Gates, he refuses to hoard his cash, giving an amazing $1.8 billion to philanthropic causes over the years. Two years ago, Allen was dubbed “Philanthropist of the Year” by Inside Philanthropy for his $100 million contribution to containing Ebola and frequently ranks in lists of top philanthropists. Beyond that, he has donated $2.6 million to ocean conservation, focusing on research to prevent the destruction of coral reefs.

With a focus on community and sustaining the environment, Allen is truly an exemplary model citizen who we should all strive to emulate.

As we build our careers, our professional networks, and our fiscal resources, we need to remember to give back to the communities that enabled our development. The above men did, and I hope to follow in their footsteps as much as possible.

Donations and Determination—Lessons Businesses Can Take From Nonprofits

Donations to Determination

The not-for-profit industry has come under fire as national trust in many philanthropic organizations rapidly declines. The charity sector of the economy is subject to more and more meticulous scrutiny while many of its fundamental institutions are falling by the wayside. Community hospitals are facing closure across the country. Traditional churches and synagogues are emptying their coffers while simultaneously losing membership across nearly every sect affiliation. Moreover, the sector itself hasn’t grown in the last ten to fifteen years, be that with respect to overall revenue or number of employees.

At the same time, it cannot be said that nonprofits are not prolific or motivated. Many have taken lessons from traditional businesses over the years. Though concepts such as strong branding, improved money management, and a robust leadership structure were once taboo among nonprofit organizations, the majority have adopted the conventions of the modern business in order to better deliver on their promises to do good in the world. Now, in an era of suspicion of corporate motives, businesses would do well to learn from the engagement practices of nonprofits.

While the nonprofit sector has not profoundly expanded in recent history, the management skills of the industry have improved exponentially. The stigma behind management, once regarded only as a byproduct of corporate greed, is gone, now exemplifying a commitment to shrewd fiduciary responsibility, especially in a sector where funds are often tight. Therefore, strong financial and logistical planning is generally something that nonprofits do very well, enabling them to focus further on their mission.

With resources scarce, nonprofits must not only rely on effective branding and building strong relationships with stakeholders to gain support. Granted, there’s a big difference between average consumers and the individuals that nonprofits assist, but learning and acting on their needs is necessary for any business.

The difficult part of this process is often finding enough support to effectively complete a mission. In order for this to happen, benefactors will have to care about the cause that the nonprofits are supporting, a tricky proposition with so many charities clamoring for attention. Nonprofits have, as a result, become adept at telling a story. These stories often humanize the community in need of assistance, explain how the nonprofit plans to help, and includes a call to action in which the audience is encouraged to contribute. Even in for-profit businesses, appealing to an audience on an individual level can often drive others to action more effectively than broadly espousing a product or service.

This whole process is about making connections on an emotional level. As nonprofits can rally communities and bring people together for a common cause, so too can businesses create a passion for their products and services that leads to brand loyalty. A consumer should ideally feel that the companies that they support are in turn supporting them; communication is, as previously mentioned, the key to building a significant relationship.

Viral marketing may be one of the latest trends to grace the Internet, but nonprofit organizations codified the process of getting advertising to socially propagate itself. Even on social media today, nonprofit-oriented news stories dominate feeds, encouraging readers and viewers to make some small difference on their own. And this approach works quite well, gathering support through emotions in a way that for-profit businesses stand to learn from.

Chabad of Southside’s Groundbreaking Event

“This past Sunday, September 18, over 250 people attended Chabad of Southside’s Jewish Life Center for a groundbreaking event that marked the beginning of construction on their new, 10,000 square-foot religious hub.”

The Finker-Frenkel family (Raissa Frenkel, Lazar Finker, Eugene Frenkel and Brooke Frenkel) attended the Chabad of Southside’s Groundbreaking Event. Donations have been made by the family as well as through their family foundation. See more here

New Endowments, Dedication Campaigns at The University of Miami School of Business

Recently, the Finker-Frenkel Foundation bestowed upon the University of Miami a $125,000 dollar gift in addition to establishing two scholarships. Each year for the next five years, the Foundation will award $5,000 to a deserving student based off of financial need and merit. To learn more, please proceed to the following article.