Passing on Philanthropy: Teaching the Next Generating to Care

Passing On Philanthropy_Lazar Finker

Today, being aware of the world around us and finding ways to help other people is easier than ever, but many people remain oblivious to ways they can participate in philanthropy throughout their lives. To truly pass on the values of philanthropy, we need to teach youth to care for others from a young age. The more young people are exposed to philanthropy and the importance of helping others, the more likely it is that these values will be instilled in them and remain present throughout their lives.

Make it a normal part of life

If you want youth to truly value philanthropy, you need to make it something they recognize as part of their lives. Parents should have a conversation with kids when they’re young and explain what philanthropy is, then begin getting them involved with simple opportunities where they can begin experiencing what it means to give back. Take used clothes to a charity, donate food, or have them save up some money to give to a charity of their choosing. It is up to parents to find child-friendly opportunities, but the foundation is out there. Showing kids the little ways they can be philanthropic will help them make giving a habit.

Teach lessons about philanthropy

After explaining philanthropy and sharing ways to participate in it, give deeper explanations to your children and teach them lessons about the different issues that nonprofit organizations help to address. Explain that there are people in the world who need help with lots of different issues and that it falls to these organizations to help them out, which can be done in various ways. Teach them to be thankful that your family is in a position to be philanthropic and educate them on different events and causes they can focus their philanthropy on.

Set a positive example

If you want your child to understand philanthropy, you need to get them involved. The best way to accomplish this goal is by taking them with you to volunteer or do something philanthropic. Make these activities a regular part of their young lives and they will soon be the norm to them. As they see you being philanthropic in daily activities, they’ll feel inspired to do the same and consider philanthropy a part of family life rather than an activity only done on occasion.

Let them take the lead

Once you feel that your child is old enough to make good decisions or volunteer on their own, let them take the lead. Ask them where they’d like to volunteer and what they feel passionate about, then either encourage their interests and take them to volunteer for that organization or even go with them and make it a family event. If your child thinks of new ways to work on their philanthropic pursuits, support their ideas and work with them to accomplish this goal.

The Problem With Raising Awareness

The Problem With Raising Awareness—Lazar Finker

What are you passionate about? There’s a lot worth standing up for, and as an individual on the Internet, you may find yourself bombarded with messages claiming that a particular cause is important enough to warrant further action on your part. Sometimes, you won’t even get that. Plus, depending on what the message is, the way an audience is addressed may change; would you make an anti-smoking PSA the same way you’d make an anti-cancer PSA? You’d be hard pressed to find anybody that is pro-cancer, but for the target audience of a hypothetical anti-smoking ad, you may need to use some measure of persuasion. However, regardless of the cause, the recent trend is to strive to raise awareness regardless of cause or message. While raising awareness isn’t necessarily a bad thing, this trend in activism is worth examining to analyze the good and bad that it is capable of doing.

It’s worth mentioning the sheer number of “awareness” campaigns that occur yearly in the United States. The American Journal of Public Health lists almost 200 health awareness days over the course of the year, not counting the time ostensibly set aside for promoting other causes. So, any citizen hoping to be more informed certainly has their work cut out for them.

Let me be clear that I’m not deriding awareness as a concept; it’s often a vital first step to making a change. Sometimes, it’s one of the few steps necessary; in the case of some diseases, education about signs and symptoms can lead to earlier treatment and save lives. Beyond this, some causes can escape the notice of individuals until awareness campaigns bring them to the forefront; for instance, the issue of racially-rooted police brutality would likely have flew under the radar of the public eye if not for the #blacklivesmatter movement. The trouble comes when organizations focus solely on the nebulous goal of awareness without a concrete goal or next step in mind. Charities dedicate large portions of their funding to “education,” something which has earned them the ire of groups that feel that they are addressing problems without providing solutions.

The start to leveraging awareness campaigns to do good in the world is the aforementioned call to action. Promoting discussion is a good start, but the social gestalt is likely to move on to the next issue without affecting meaningful change unless charities turn that interest into action. In order to do this, they must clearly define their desired outcomes for a campaign. For instance, if they are hoping to encourage people to get tested for or inoculate themselves against a disease, it would be wise to give them instructions on how to do so. If an organization is collecting donations, they should strive to be transparent about where the money’s going and the good it can do. Many nonprofit organizations try to quantify the benefit provided by a donation, citing specific progress made to spur on potential donors and make them feel that their money is well spent.

It also behooves any nonprofit to ensure that they’re reaching the correct audience. When an organization is passionate about a cause, it’s always tempting to adopt a shotgun approach to education, informing as many people as possible without regards to whether or not they’d be in a position to help. Additionally, nonprofits can fall into the trap of continually preaching to the choir, trying to raise awareness among individuals that are likely aware enough as it is. While there is value in leveraging an existing audience to take action, it takes careful planning to reach individuals that may not have had prior knowledge and persuade them of the value of a certain cause. The more segmented your audience, the more likely it is that they’ll be willing to act on your campaign. It’s a case of the bystander effect; the more a request for assistance is publicized, the less likely it is that any given person will answer it. Of course, if a campaign goes viral, so many will respond to it that this will seem a non-issue, but improper targeting can waste resources and even lead to backlash against a cause.

Additionally, when planning an awareness campaign, it’s important to create an engaging message that will last in the minds of an audience. This is a gross oversimplification; there’s no one-size-fits-all way for every nonprofit to effectively reach their audience. However, strong campaigns tend to share well-developed, overarching goals and act as a sort of vessel for a specific call to action.

This is perhaps the worst mistake that any nonprofit can make; assuming that a solution that works for one cause will also work for another. The days of fearmongering PSAs have largely passed, and what has developed is a mire of media competing to win the attention of a massive and often fickle audience. In this free-for-all of memes, fundraising drives, and “challenges,” the truly savvy nonprofit needs to recognize that the value of awareness only goes so far and that further steps must be taken to make a difference.

How Nonprofits Can Leverage Social Media

How Nonprofits Can Leverage Social Media—Lazar Finker

Changes in how information is spread have forced nonprofits to adapt or fall behind. To that end, may of these organizations have tried to create strong brands for themselves online, an endeavor which requires the creation of social media accounts and consistent delivery of content. There’s an audience for every cause; but not all nonprofits are created equal when it comes to generating support through social media.

With this in mind, I’d like to discuss a few of the factors to consider when running a social media account as a nonprofit.

What do you want to achieve?

Social media is an effective tool, but it’s not enough to just start an account and expect followers to come out of the woodwork. Before a nonprofit creates social media properties, it should consider the possible outcomes of their campaign and determine what they’re hoping to achieve. Part of this involves defining an audience; they will inevitably play a role in an organization’s outcomes and should be considered carefully.

Conducting surveys and crafting personas are both solid first steps when it comes to defining an audience; and segmenting it as much as possible can create a few different angles to consider when creating content.

What value do you provide through social media?

Once an audience has been established, nonprofits will need to consider methods to properly engage with them. Often, nonprofits will opt to establish themselves as authoritative figures in their subject of choice by crafting original content. This approach is the most useful for establishing brand recognition for a certain nonprofit and education, as it gives an organization control over the message they are sending.

Alternatively, a nonprofit can become a curator of content in their field of choice, a similar approach that allows for easy sharing of news and establishing relationships with other organizations. Lastly, nonprofits can use social media as a platform for bringing their community together, promoting an exchange of ideas and creating passion for the cause.

Really, all three of these have merit, and a balance of the three depending on objectives is the best way to provide value to an audience.

How do you deliver good content?

Part of prompting engagement and raising a strong audience is delivering solid content to stakeholders. Content should be regular, match an organization’s voice and brand, and, perhaps most importantly, be authentic. Don’t go into a social media endeavor with the open intent of leveraging an audience to accomplish something; provide them with answers, engage frequently, and help them as much as you can. This will keep followers coming back and make them more likely to spread the word on their own volition.

Additionally, organizations should ensure that anything posted is of solid quality; paying for stock images or leveraging existing video of charitable efforts can create interesting, visually-dynamic updates.

What to do with an active audience?

In the best case scenario, all a nonprofit need to do to turn a social media following into capital is ask for donations.

This is, however, only practical with an active and engaged following. For that matter, it helps if a nonprofit has an objective that they’re looking to accomplish; involving social media followers as closely as possible is great for generating further engagement.

In many ways, working with social media followers is fairly close to working with potential customers in a for-profit business. Measuring each step of the process is crucial, and involves monitoring outreach activity, page traffic, conversion rates, and retention rates. It’s all about building a relationship that works two ways, and although nonprofits seldom have time to interact with each and every social media follower, they can still be responsive and prolific enough to make meaningful connections through various networks.

Home for the Holidays—Finker-Frenkel Legacy Foundation Gives Back to Children’s Home

Home For the Holidays—Lazar Finker

Recently, a contribution from the Finker-Frenkel Legacy Foundation was able to fund a Hanukkah party for the Beit Chaya children’s home in Moscow! Raissa and I are happy to continue to support the Solomon Jewish Community Center and see the impact that our donations have made. See the full presentation here.

Beit-Chaya3 Lazar Finker

Beit-Chaya4 Lazar Finker Beit-Chaya2 Lazar Finker Beit-Chaya1 Lazar Finker

Why We Need Millennials—How Generation Y is Redefining Philanthropy

Why We Need Millennials—Lazar Finker

In a recent article of mine, I wrote about how, in 2016, millennials proved that they can have a significant impact on the philanthropy sector. Now, I’d like to delve a little more into this generation, what drives them, and why they have become a valuable asset to the nation.

The term “millennial”—used to define anybody born between 1980 and 2000—is often the subject of derision. Frequently characterized as lazy or oversensitive, studying their giving habits has revealed a much more complex truth. As individuals attuned to recent technology trends, millennials have forced nonprofits to reconsider how they reach out to potential donors. The diversity of social media platforms has given organizations more ways to reach their audience, but has also given them more concerns about how to construe their message.

This is because studies have found that millennials seek a certain authenticity when it comes to causes to support. They don’t just want to give for the sake of giving—they want to be emotionally invested in the charities that they donate to.

Nonprofits will have to adapt their message with consideration to a new generation of givers and realize that it’s not about being trendy—it’s about being passionate about a cause and being willing to engage with both the people they’re supporting and those supporting them.

Millennials, often of modest financial status, are able to give less, but the majority are more than willing to volunteer portions of their time and money to help causes that they feel invested in. In many ways, charity work is tied intrinsically to social activism, the latter reflecting the generation’s desire to affect change in the world.

Indeed, millennial philanthropy is often marked by social connections. The cynical among older generations might argue that sharing charity efforts is done for the sole purpose of gaining attention, but I’d like to believe that the social aspect of charity galvanizes more individuals to action.

For the first time in 2016, an organization attempted to learn about millennial charity habits from their point of view rather than that of nonprofit organizations. Achieve, a research agency, and Case Foundation, an innovative philanthropy foundation, partnered to study the generation’s behaviors.

What they found was that millennials are more inclined to change jobs, relationships, and lifestyles more than their older counterparts. Whether this is positive or negative is up for debate, but the organizations also discovered that this fluidity also encourages dedication to a multitude of causes, regardless of how they got involved with them.

So what does this mean for the future of philanthropy?

It means that nonprofit organizations will need to be more visibly active in communities if they want to gain donors. Technology is, as always, a growing vector for micro-donations, and can enable millennial contribution with a minimal amount of effort.

The connectivity afforded by social media reveals many causes all competing for attention. Oddly enough, this forces nonprofits to improve their branding and marketing if they want to stay afloat, a seemingly disingenuous prospect that can nevertheless lead to a positive outcome.

So, like it or not, the future of our country is in the hands of millennials and, all things considered, I’m not too worried about it. Like the causes that they champion, they strive for authenticity and forward progress, and bring an ardent passion to everything that they do.

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.