Jason Franklin

In The News

Observer Internet, April 1st, 2015
“The Young and The Restless: The Top 20 Philanthropists Under 40”
Meet the impatient do-gooders who are changing New York and beyond
Link to original source

We’re No. 38! A recent analysis of IRS data from 2006 to 2012 by the Chronicle of Philanthropy found that New Yorkers gave 2.6 percent of our income to charity, an 8.8 percent decline during the six-year period. So many lesser cities — 37, to be exact — gave so much more. Salt Lake City, great skiing, sure, but Salt Lake City? Its residents top the generosity index, giving 5.4 percent (more than double the rate of New Yorkers) and increased their donations during the span studied, which included some economically depressing years. Memphis followed close behind with a giving rate of 5.1 percent; it’s enough to make New Yorkers sing the blues.

The study also examined donor incomes. The wealthy, defined as those earning $200,000 or more (we know 200K might go a long way in Utah, but Manhattan?) reduced charitable giving by 4.6 percent. During the same time, Americans earning less than $100,000 spent 4.5 percent more of their incomes on philanthropy.

The data should be a taken as a challenge rather than a rebuke. For further inspiration, meet 20 of our generous neighbors under 40 years of age who are profiled here. Some, like our cover philanthropists, designer Zac Posen, actress Olivia Wilde, the Giants’ Eli Manning and the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony, are familiar faces who leverage their fame to benefit society; others, such as Jason Franklin and Alexandre Mars, work behind the scenes to make it easier for philanthropists to give away more. For Michael Quattrone, John D. Rockefeller’s progeny, supporting charity is an old family tradition; while Michelle Javian conceived her innovative nonprofit to comfort the families of cardiac patients after witnessing her father’s ultimately fatal battle with heart disease.

Whatever the motive, there’s another compelling reason to open your checkbook often: Self-interest. As an article on the Cleveland Clinic’s website points out, giving is “good for the giver.” The story cites a 2006 National Institute of Health study that monitored the brains of the charitable with MRI’s. Giving apparently “stimulates the mesolimbic pathway, which is the reward center in the brain, releasing endorphins and creating what is known as the ‘helper’s high.’ ” So consider your next donation philanthropic Prozac. And we trust the stories that follow prompt you to refill your prescription. — David Wallis

OLIVIA WILDE AND BARBARA BURCHFIELD

The daughter of two journalists and the niece of the late leftist writer Alexander Cockburn, actress Olivia Wilde recalls growing up in a “very socially conscious” family. She attended political protests as a child and at 18 organized a large benefit for Doctors Without Borders. The event raised $50,000, “which was incredible,” recounted Ms. Wilde by email. “But we probably spent $10,000 on overhead. That was my first lesson in the frustrating reality of fundraising.”

As she achieved notoriety because of The O.C. and then House, Ms. Wilde, 31, adopted several causes, including PETA and Water.org. But the act of fundraising remained a burden. “The begging becomes monotonous,” admits Ms. Wilde, who “hated planning parties and courting celebrities to show up.”


‘We aim to Provide Consumers with more information and therefore power to participate in the global movement to stop humans from being such assholes to each other.’ – Olivia Wilde


Inspired by the success of TOMS, which donates one product for each one it sells, Ms. Wilde and her close friend Barbara Burchfield (who she calls “Babs”), a former film production coordinator, launched their own social venture, Conscious Commerce, in 2013. When she noticed coverage of TOMS in Vogue, Ms. Wilde says, “I knew the products-for-a-purpose trend was legitimized by the high fashion industry, and therefore would become a major movement.”

The nonprofit, according to its website, selects “the purposeful products that we think you’d buy anyway (this is not your source for recycled gum tampons) and organizes them for your perusing pleasure” and donates the profits to various causes.

Conscious Commerce, for instance, struck a deal with Anthropologie to market a “New Light” dress. The fashion brand agreed to donate 100 percent of the proceeds of the first 1,000 dresses sold to New Light India, which needed the funds to build a “shelter to take girls out of the sex trade in Calcutta,” explains Ms. Burchfield, 33. Sales of the dress, which Ms. Wilde often wore in public, were brisk and the shelter is currently being constructed.

While Ms. Burchfield works full-time operating Conscious Commerce, Ms. Wilde is much more than the organization’s public face. “We happen to be best friends so we often say that we’re running a family-run business,” Ms. Buchfield says. “So I would say she is highly involved.”

Ms. Wilde estimates that she and Ms. Burchfield “spend half our time on logistics and half on dreaming up bigger ideas for the future.”

And the pair has ambitious plans. “We aim to be a parent company to several ethically run businesses. To provide consumers with more information and therefore power to participate in the global movement to stop humans from being such assholes to each other,” Ms. Wilde says.

Asked whether she would run a nonprofit in her Sliding Doors’ alternate universe rather than act, Ms. Wilde expresses some reservations: “I’m not nearly as organized and meticulous as executive directors of nonprofits have to be. I would run the organization deep into the ground by ordering too many bobble-heads for the office.” – David Wallis

ZAC POSEN

Designing wunderkind and native New Yorker Zac Posen, 34, supports a slew of local charities, including Teachers Count, which, according to its website, aims to “raise the status” of educators. But lately, Mr. Posen has been taking his show on the road. “I do fashion shows around the country, and last year we raised over $2 million,” Mr. Posen said last month backstage at Grand Central Terminal, before the Fall 2015 runway show for his eponymous line (he doubles as Brooks Brothers’ creative director). In Boca Raton, Fla., for instance, he staged a benefit for Shuzz, which provides free shoes to needy children. In Toronto, he aided a pediatric hospital. “I wish that more designers would do it,” he said. “It becomes fashion-tainment, and there is a good use for that besides building your brand.” – Zachary Weiss

ELI MANNING

When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, Eli Manning, like so many Americans, watched helplessly — but not for long. The New Orleans-native “wanted to help out but there was so much uncertainty,” he recalled during a recent phone interview. “I talked to [my brother] Peyton a bunch about what was the best thing to do in a timely fashion and the Red Cross, who we’d worked with before, told us to get supplies down to Baton Rouge. So we filled up a big airplane with all the things the Red Cross suggested … [I] wanted to do as much as possible to bring back the city where we grew up.”

Mr. Manning, 34, reflected on the events of nearly a decade ago on a recent morning while en route to Jackson, Miss., home of the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children, the only hospital in the state devoted to pediatrics. In 2007, Mr. Manning undertook a campaign to raise $2.5 million to construct the Eli Manning Children’s Clinic, which offers outpatient services as well as acute care to more than 75,000 children in Mississippi each year. He ran up the score, exceeding his goal by $400,000.

The charitable impulse runs in the Manning family: The Giants’ star recalls that while he was growing up, his father, Archie, who quarterbacked the New Orleans Saints, “didn’t talk a whole lot about it, but he did a golf outing for cystic fibrosis for a long time. We saw the effect that it had on people, and the joy he got out of doing it.”


‘Know what you want to attack. Who do you want to help? Don’t just do it for the sake of starting a foundation.’ – Eli Manning’s advice for rookie philanthropists


The New York Giants’ quarterback likens successful philanthropists to successful athletes: Both are focused, laser-beamlike, on their passions. “The best football players are passionate about what they’re doing. They’re passionate about their jobs: Eating right, watching film, practicing,” he notes. “That’s what makes them good at what they do; it’s what makes them successful.” It’s a message the veteran delivers to rookies who are eager to give back to their communities. “When we get new guys in [to the Giants], some guys want to start their own foundation. I’d say, ‘Know what you want to attack. Who do you want to help? Don’t just do it for the sake of starting a foundation.’ ”

For Mr. Manning, his philanthropic focus remains focused like a tight spiral on helping children. “Sometimes you get a child who’s very excited; sometimes you get one who doesn’t feel like talking, who’s very sick,” he says. He’s experienced enough to know that sometimes, just being there can help. And, sometimes, there are the concrete results. “When [I] get a notice in the mail or a message from a family who used to have to go hundreds of miles to be treated, and now they can find the right treatment closer [to home, at the Manning Clinic], that’s when you see the impact. There’s great joy in knowing how many families and children you’ve helped.” – Lorraine Cademartori

CARMELO ANTHONY

Though an injured left knee prematurely ended New York Knicks star forward Carmelo Anthony’s basketball season, he moved around ABC Kitchen fluidly while schmoozing with donors at a recent $1,000-a-plate brunch to benefit his eponymous foundation. The event also raised funds for Seed Project, a nonprofit that established a tuition-free boarding school for student-athletes in Senegal. Held before this year’s All-Star game, the fundraiser attracted a remarkably tall crowd; many guests had to duck to avoid bumping into the restaurant’s many hanging light fixtures.

Mr. Anthony’s nonprofit, according to its website, strives to improve the “lives of those living in under-served communities through three key focus areas — education, recreation and community outreach.” Asani Swann, executive director of the Carmelo Anthony Foundation, says it looks for grantees that it can support long-term. “We’re a small team,” she said. “One of the things we wanted to do was create events that our communities look forward to every year … We were not going to do a one-off and say, ‘Hey it was great to do this one thing and you’ll never hear from us.’ ”

For instance, Mr. Anthony, 30, runs an annual 3 on 3 tournament at the East Baltimore Recreation Center bearing his name. The center “will forever stay with me and stay with that community,” said Mr. Anthony, a hard player with a soft voice. Though Mr. Anthony feels at times as if he’s “throwing a rock in the ocean” given his old neighborhood’s many challenges, he understands the importance of the gym, as well as his regular visits to the community. “When I was growing up,” he said, “nobody really … cared about my neighborhood. … We needed people to come back and believe in us,” he went on. “We never had anyone come out and encourage us.” – David Wallis

HELENA DURST

For Helena Durst, philanthropy — and business — is a family affair.

“My great grandmother had instilled in her children the importance of giving,” said Ms. Durst, 38, a vice president and a fourth-generation family member of one of the city’s oldest family-run real estate firms.

Aside from helping manage her family’s foundation, which has given grants to local organizations including the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance, Ms. Durst advises several nonprofits. She sits on the board of directors of the Lower East Side Ecology center, which provides community-based recycling and composting programs, and counsels Just Food, which helps community leaders in underserved neighborhoods increase access to locally grown food.

Ms. Durst’s emphasis on food isn’t surprising considering she grew up working on McEnroe Organic Farm, which her parents founded in 1985 in Millerton, N.Y. She’s performed every job on the farm but driving a tractor. “If you understand where your food is coming from,” she said, “it’s really empowering for people on the grassroots level.” – Lauren Elkies Schram

MICHELLE JAVIAN

Imagine the sensory overload new arrivals experience during their first days in New York City. Now, imagine that same overload for those checking a loved one into a hospital for urgent cardiac care. Michelle Javian, 31, witnessed the dizzying effects firsthand when her father was in New York-Presbyterian for a 2008 heart transplant. “I met so many families from all over the world who had no place to stay, no place to shower, and weren’t eating well,” she recalls, noting that her own family was lucky enough to have a Manhattan apartment during her father’s hospital stay. After consulting with doctors on how she might give back, Ms. Javian co-founded Harboring Hearts, a nonprofit that provides cardiac patients and their families with housing, meals, transportation and emotional support.

MAYA NUSSBAUM

With women holding less than 20 percent of elected positions, winning less than 12 percent of Nobel Prizes in Literature, and directing just 5 percent of major U.S. films, it seems obvious that their voices aren’t being heard. Maya Nussbaum, 39, is determined to change those numbers through her nonprofit, Girls Write Now. She started the organization in college, “at the age of most of the girls we serve now.” A mentoring program is “the heart” of the organization, says Ms. Nussbaum. The nonprofit pairs high-school girls from underserved neighborhoods in New York with successful women such as Emma Straub, author of The Vacationers for weekly meetings, as well as access to a panel of therapists. Girls Write Now also stages readings by prominent guest speakers such as Gayle Forman (If I Stay series) and Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist), an annually published anthology, as well as free college preparation classes. The organization boasts impressive results with a 100 percent college acceptance rate for participants, one of the reasons the organization was recently nominated for the prestigious Diane von Furstenburg “People’s Voice Award.” – Molly Shilo

ZACH COOPERSMITH

Zach Coopersmith, 30, a founding partner of Leading Ridge Capital, a private equity firm, moonlights as head of Make-A-Wish Foundation’s 40-and-under board. He has helped to raise more than $1 million for local chapters of the organization, which works to grant wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses. And Mr. Coopersmith has been involved with a number of wishes himself, most of which, he said, cost him about $8,500 — “a very measurable and manageable number as far as personal fundraising goals go,” he said. He has arranged a rendezvous with Elmo of Sesame Street, trips to Disney World and safaris. New computers are a common request from children. Recently, he helped get a 3-year-old boy a blue computer. It had to be blue, Mr. Coopersmith recalled, including the desktop. And witnessing the delight such a gift brought to the boy was profound, Mr. Coopersmith said: “It hits you on so many levels.” – Matthew Kassel

ELIZABETH KURPIS

“It’s probably more of an art than a science,” Elizabeth Kurpis, 32, says of orchestrating a successful benefit, while at one of her many charity events she attends. This time it’s at David Yurman’s Soho store opening, benefitting New Yorkers for Children. The corporate attorney devotes much of her time as an event organizer to a few charities, including the Frick (“where I’m still lobbying to be a resident”), the New York Botanical Garden (“I’m a sucker for flowers like any girl”), and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (“which is close to my heart. It’s where my mother fought, but ultimately lost, her battle with Leukemia”). But she attends many, many charity galas and has tips for party organizers. “The chairs should be drama free, and have the right connections … Egos and attitudes have to be left at the door. The sponsor is the most underrated piece of the puzzle. The right sponsors don’t just bring the cash; they also bring in a certain level of glamour, including the guests they wrangle and press attention they bring, to the charity. If no one reads about your event, did it really happen? You also need to do everyone a favor and keep the speeches short.” – Zachary Weiss

SPENCER ACKER

The 24-year-old Spencer Acker is a third-generation heir to the Sleepy’s mattress fortune. But he’s not resting on his laurels. Aside from working as a marketing manager for the company his grandfather started in 1957 — “I like to think of myself as a Sleepy’s brand ambassador,” he says — he’s the youngest board member of Spence-Chapin Services to Families and Children. Founded in 1908, the agency specializes in the adoption of older children, sibling groups and children with special needs. “I wanted to join an organization that … really touches my heartstrings,” said Mr. Acker, who turned to Morgan Stanley’s Philanthropy Group to find a nonprofit that matched his interests.

Though a relatively new board member, he’s already making his presence felt at the agency. “My personality, whether at work or at Spence-Chapin, is I’m never one to sit quiet and take notes,” he said. “A meeting never goes by without me saying something.” – Brianna McGurran

LIANA M. DOUILLET GUZMAN

In 2007, Liana M. Douillet Guzmán, her roommate and a friend whose mothers both suffered breast cancer, banded together to battle the disease. But the trio found few philanthropic organizations catering to younger people. “Most seek contributions from wealthy donors or offer opportunities like breast cancer walks,” said Ms. Douillet Guzmán, 32, who thought about what she and her friends liked to do at night — “go out … and have drinks!” She realized carousing could support breast cancer research and launched The Pink Agenda, organizing its first fundraising bash at the Princeton Club. The nonprofit has grown “organically” since, noted its co-founder, expanding to three cities; and hosting more splashy events that have attracted Lauren Bush, Nick Loeb and various Kardashians. All volunteer from the start, more than 90 cents of every dollar TPA raises funds breast cancer care and research programs. Though Ms. Guzmán, who works in the legal world, stepped away from her co-president role last year, she still sits on TPA’s Founders Board, a role she enjoys. “Fun,” she says, “and philanthropy are not mutually exclusive.” – Neal Santelmann

MICHAEL QUATTRONE

Michael Quattrone, 38,may have one of the most demanding jobs in philanthropy; he manages the personal charity budget of his extended family, which happens to be the Rockefellers.Tough crowd. The David Rockefeller Fund, named for Mr. Quattrone’s grandfather, donates about $1.5 million annually to nonprofits involved in the arts, the environment and criminal justice.

“We try to be nimble and responsive, first movers and talent scouts,” said Mr. Quattrone. Even a modest grant, he suggests, can have an “outsized” impact on a nonprofit, which can then leverage an association with the Rockefeller brand to attract larger gifts. Mr. Quattrone describes the fund as unifying: “I am not experiencing this stereotype of the Thanksgiving table, where there is a big conflict.”

In Mr. Quattrone’s spare time, he and his wife run their own nonprofit, Hearthfire — “a mom-and-pop shop” providing artists and actors with an expense-paid retreats in nature. Mr. Quatttrone believes his great, great grandfather, the oil baron John D. Rockefeller, would approve. “The impulse to give back,” he mused, “is really in our DNA.” – David Wallis

JASON FRANKLIN

Self-described “certified philanthropy geek” Jason Franklin, 35, serves as executive director of Bolder Giving, a nonprofit with a mission, according to its website to push people out of their “uninspired giving rut” and increase charitable donations; currently Americans give just between 2 and 3 percent of their income to charity. Bolder Giving compiled an online archive where readers can learn about “extraordinary givers,” who devote up to 90 percent of their income to philanthropy. Arguably, Mr. Franklin’s greatest coup was, as Melinda Gates has pointed out, inspiring the Giving Pledge, the high-profile campaign to convince the world’s wealthiest people to donate the majority of their fortunes. “I spend all of my time — daytime, evening and weekends — thinking about how we can move more money for social change,” Mr. Franklin said. — Sage Lazzaro

ERIC TRUMP

Sitting behind his desk in Trump Tower, Eric Trump, 31, bears a strong resemblance to his father in looks but not in tone. He speaks in a calm, almost sober voice. But when the topic turns to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, his favorite charity, Mr. Trump’s eyes widen, he leans forward in his chair and sounds like an excited kid. “These guys are, they are the most brilliant doctors, researchers, scientists, computational biologists, in the world,” says Mr. Trump, whose personal foundation recently committed $20 million to establish a surgery and ICU center at St. Jude. “They’re super-geniuses. Their IQs are off the charts.”

Mr. Trump, who estimates that he devotes 95 percent of his foundation’s resources to support the Memphis hospital, which specializes in pediatric cancer care and famously treats all patients for free, offers free advice to nonprofits and benefactors alike: “Three words: Focus on expenses.” He frets that some philanthropists prefer glitz to good deeds. “Some … have started to do charity for the purpose of holding a party, and being seen,” he says. “If people are raising a hundred thousand dollars but ninety thousand dollars is going to the event planners, that’s not philanthropy.”

To avoid telling a charity, you’re fired, Mr. Trump implores potential donors to personally conduct due diligence, which, for him, meant multiple trips around the country before writing a check. “I went to a lot of the different hospitals,” he recalls. “When I got down [to St. Jude], I just saw something very different. … You walk into the lobby, you see a fish tank, you’re in a children’s hospital, a children’s hospital shouldn’t [have] vanilla walls with beige floors.” Patient rooms, he continued, include a large window and a connecting room for parents “so the kid never loses sight of the family, yet the family can still be productive … It’s not like they’re going four blocks to the Marriott while their kid has a bunch of IV’s stuck in them.”

Mr. Trump, who comfortably chats about the power of proton beams to destroy tumors, admits that had he not entered the family business — “We’re building the greatest projects in the world,” he says, momentarily sounding Trump-ian — he would have enjoyed practicing surgery. “In a certain way, it’s kind of building, right?” he says. “At its core, it’s carpentry.” – David Wallis

ALEXANDRE MARS 


‘There are many powerful people with money who have a hard time giving it away because they have no trust, no time, and don’t know where to start.’ — Alexandre Mars, Epic Foundation


Philanthropists want to know their donations are going to good use, but they do not always have the time or resources to verify it. Enter Alexandre Mars. A French-born entrepreneur who has started and sold communications and social media companies, Mr. Mars recently traveled the world — “Vietnam, Russia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Thailand, Peru” — to search for solutions to improve philanthropy. Along the way he had a revelation: “There are many powerful people with money who have a hard time giving it away because they have no trust, no time, and don’t know where to start.”

Tapping the can-do, tech-savvy spirit of the age, Mr. Mars, 39, recently launched Epic Foundation to “disrupt the philanthropic industry” by “developing new tools that will enhance how donors select, monitor and experience their impact.” Epic’s approach involves soliciting applications from NGOs and social enterprises throughout the world and recommending 20 to its clients, tracking where donations go and making it easier for clients to see their money in action. Epic has already attracted 1,400 applications, which its team is busy vetting. Cost for the service? “We charge nothing, so 100 percent of what you give will go directly to the organization,” says Mr. Mars. And how is Mr. Mars paying Epic’s staff of 15? “I’m self-funding everything,” he says. “That was the point of making a lot of money before I got into philanthropy.” – Neal Santelmann

MELISSA BOLONA

Melissa Boloña is a model philanthropist. The actress and fashion plate, who is 25, has been involved in charitable endeavors since high school, when, she said, she’d go door to door in her hometown of Rumson, N.J., fundraising for the American Heart Association. Since then, Ms. Boloña has amped up her charitable involvement considerably. In 2013, for instance, she became the charity ambassador for the menswear line Gents, raising money for the James Blake Foundation, which funds cancer research. For the past two years, she has supported the J/P Haitian Relief Organization founded by Sean Penn (Ms. Boloña’s childhood friend was in Haiti during the devastating 2010 earthquake). Earlier this year, Ms. Boloña helped raise $200,000 for a charity poker tournament sponsored by the Clinton Foundation. “I would like to point out,” Ms. Boloña said jokingly, “that I did come in ninth place …  I do have good poker skills.” She hopes to soon open her own charity to help pet owners pay for surgery for their sick companion animals. Ms. Boloña said she has four dogs, one of which is blind. “I feel so bad for her,” she said. — Matthew Kassel

CHRISTINA LEWIS HALPERN

A month before his untimely death from brain cancer in 1993 at age 50, financier Reginald F. Lewis appointed his 12-year-old-daughter Christina to the board of their family’s foundation. This decision by Lewis, one of the most successful American businessmen of his era and one of the wealthiest black men in history, profoundly influenced his daughter, now 35. “It was one of the last memories I have [of my father],” said Christina Lewis Halpern. “I grew up thinking about grantmaking.”

Ms. Lewis Halpern, who began her career as a journalist and worked at The Wall Street Journal, has since embarked on a quest to address the lack of diversity in the tech industry. In 2013, she founded All Star Code, a New York-based nonprofit that prepares young men of color for careers within the tech sector. Its flagship program, a six-week summer intensive course, expects 40 students (double the number from last year) and incorporates a computer science curriculum while fostering management skills. “Tech today is like Wall Street in the 1960s,” Ms. Lewis Halpern said. “It’s a relatively closed, clubby, insider-y world.” But she envisions a more inclusive future: “In 10 years, I’d like to say that All Star Code has transformed the tech landscape,” she said. “I’d like to say that we created the new generation of diverse tech entrepreneurs who are bringing new ideas and new innovation to our country that will make a more equal place for all of us.” – Danielle Schlanger

TODD LAWTON AND JEFF LEBLANC

Todd Lawton and Jeff LeBlanc, co-founders of Out of Print Clothing, were born 12 hours apart. “Since early on in our lives, we’ve been fortunate enough to be around family and people who cherish books, and that rubbed off,” said Mr. Lawton, who, like Mr. LeBlanc, is 38. So, in 2009, the childhood friends started the Manhattan-based company that sells T-shirts, tote bags and other accessories featuring classic book covers to sow awareness of an enthusiasm for books. Mr. Lawton and Mr. LeBlanc have shipped products to more than 80 countries, and for every item sold, they donate one book to Books for Africa. According to Messrs. Lawton and LeBlanc, they have given away more than 1.3 million books — ranging from resource textbooks to the Merck Manual of Medical Information — to organizations in more than 20 African countries. “There are millions of people who have no access to books, and for us that was a call out to make a difference,” said Mr. LeBlanc. The social entrepreneurs have also gotten into charitable endeavors closer to home. Last year, they helped raise money to create a scanning system for a library in a public school in Queens. “Ultimately,” Mr. LeBlanc said, “our belief is that books change lives.” – Matthew Kassel


 
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