The Growth of Sustainable Philanthropy

Philanthropy has become a significant field in today’s society and has not shown any signs of slowing down. In 2012 alone, Americans donated a total of $316.23 billion to charitable efforts around the country, indicating their passion for helping those around them. In recent years, a significant amount of donations have begun to support sustainability.

 

It is not difficult to understand why this has slowly moved to the forefront of many people’s minds, with growing concern about how much humans continue to harm the environment. As a result of this concern, more nonprofit organizations and philanthropy efforts are dedicated to developing more sustainable practices. With this in mind, I’d like to recognize some of the organizations that are dedicated to sustainability.

 

Sierra Club

The Sierra Club has been responsible for spearheading some of the largest Acts to protect the environment. The Acts that Sierra Club helped pass include the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act, to name a few. Sierra Club is currently focused on finding a renewable source of energy that can replace coal plants for good.

 

The Environmental Defense Fund

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is another organization that focuses on issues that continue to plague our environment. They focus on issues that range from pollution and climate change to creating sustainable food production. In addition, the EDF is working to create cleaner energy in an effort to reduce the amount of waste that non-renewable energy has on the environment. These efforts can include solar energy and wind energy.

 

The World Resources Institute

The World Resources Institute (WRI) focuses primarily on preserving the natural resources that humans have been using. By having a stronger understanding of how many resources we use and its effect on the planet, WRI can work to create more sustainable practices moving forward. Some of their initiatives focus on finding clean energy sources, reducing the amount of waste generated by humans, and creating plans to help preserve and protect forests and bodies of water. Like Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund, WRI is actively working to find renewable forms of energy in an effort to preserve the world’s natural resources.

 

Each of the organizations that were discussed is actively working to find more sustainable practices in order to reduce long-term environmental damage. While sustainability is not a worldwide initiative right now, with the help of organizations like the ones we discussed, we can become a more sustainable population.

 

What Crowdfunding Means For Philanthropy

Lazar Finker—Crowdfunding and Philanthropy

Whether it’s for medical expenses or to produce an aspiring artist’s new album, the impact of crowdfunding cannot be ignored. The “traditional” avenues of philanthropy—soliciting donations and support through a nonprofit—seem far less effective when individuals can easily set up a page on a site such as GoFundMe and immediately reach an audience. Nonprofits have worked to not only help individuals but the causes of issues that affect them as well, whereas crowdfunding gives interested donors an avenue directly to an individual.

 

It’s certainly noteworthy, but to what extent will these new platforms change existing charitable efforts?

 

I believe that, rather than supplanting traditional philanthropy, crowdfunding fills a distinct niche that can coexist alongside nonprofits. It’s not hard to see why crowdfunding is popular. For decades, nonprofits have struggled to reach potential donors and make them inclined to donate, with initiatives that have sometimes come across as tone-deaf or condescending. Overall, it’s not just about selling the idea of a noble cause, but about the stories that make the cause worth contributing to.

 

Humanizing the people that benefit from philanthropy has become especially important in recent years, something that crowdfunding platforms do well. Nothing is more authentic than an individual personally coming forward to tell their story and request assistance. Add in the power of social media and an instant audience in the form of online connections, and we have a formula that has already raised billions of dollars.

 

With nonprofits, missions don’t always include provisions for individual support. These initiatives are highly impactful, but leave some people seeking other options. Crowdfunding turns this on its head, giving the beneficiaries the oversight over where the money goes and changes the narrative about what donations can accomplish. However, nonprofits aren’t experiencing fewer donations; the numbers have more or less stayed the same. This is a pain point for many of these organizations given that the industry as a whole has not made significant gains in recent years, despite a recent surge of funding.

 

The question of impact also characterizes the differences between these two approaches. Donors, particularly younger donors, display a desire to see the immediate impact that their funds make. This is far more pronounced with crowdfunding, particularly when donation goals can illustrate the collective accomplishments of donors. Savvy nonprofits will take note of these changes and find ways to demonstrate the value of a contribution to their audience.

 

Crowdfunding has also called into question whether these donations should be considered tax deductible. Some people believe that this makes donating more appealing, as any funds will not be filtered through a charity’s ecosystem before being put to use. Others believe that the lack of rules around crowdfunding opens the door for fraud.

 

Whatever the case, the instant support network created by crowdfunding provides a new type of philanthropy, one centered around grassroots movements and the notion that people should give back to their neighbors. This coming at a time when nonprofits try to reinvent themselves indicates that, perhaps, these organizations should focus on their stories—as well as providing transparency about where their funds go. There’s still a place for nonprofits, but this dichotomy of giving may only become more pronounced as time goes on.

 

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.

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.