Introducing Gene DeSantis: The Poor Man With a Heart of Gold

Introducing Gene DeSantis: The Poor Man With a Heart of Gold

Dec 07

Gene DeSantis is a private man. He has no phone or email, and even the friends in his life know little about his habits or past. He keeps to himself, a rarity in a time when social life is about expansion above all else. But that’s not to say he doesn’t make huge ripples. “I keep a busy schedule,” says DeSantis, and that schedule is almost entirely devoted to helping others. He runs errands and completes menial tasks for his elderly neighbors. He cooks, bakes, and packages food for the homeless. Basically, he volunteers wherever volunteers are called for in his corner of Baltimore, Maryland. Without a car, he walks miles a day to keep up his volunteer regimen, which includes donating blood as well. DeSantis isn’t a wealthy man, and can’t cut a check for these causes he obviously feels called to support. But he has time, and spends his hours freely on behalf of others. Atop of his work feeding the dispaced, on Saturdays DeSantis plants trees for the Flowering Tree Trails, a friend’s nonprofit reforesting project. “I’ve never gotten a penny for any tree I’ve ever planted,” he says proudly. “It’s all volunteer. But everywhere you look, you see my trees. I like to take walks and look at them. Some have died. But, most have thrived and matured.” “Gene comes in almost every afternoon and works through the evening serving food and washing up,” says Chuck Buettner, director of the Rescue Mission where DeSantis cooks, serves, and cleans for their soup kitchen service. “He’s forever going around asking people how he can help.” Hopefully, some of the lives he touches there thrive from his efforts as well. By DeSantis’s account, he’s donated over 300 pints of blood, planted over 15,000 trees, and fed countless hungry mouths. He’s hazy about his own age, but he knows those facts about himself. Gene DeSantis: the...

This Nonprofit Wants to Teach 20,000 Women to Code by 2020

This Nonprofit Wants to Teach 20,000 Women to Code by 2020

Dec 01

Fed up with how slow progress has been, a U.K.-based charity is going full throttle on closing the gender wage gap in tech. Code First: Girls, located in Britain, is an award-winning nonprofit dedicated to teaching free computer programming skills to women. The organization recently made headlines when it announced its 20:20 campaign—an initiative to train 20,000 women to code by the end of 2020. It’s bold, it’s revolutionary, and it’s inspiring. But most importantly, it’s possible thanks to myriad supporters both domestic and abroad. One such supporter is global investment firm KKR, which will provide financial backing for the campaign beginning December 2017. The firm’s generosity reflects a company culture that’s been cultivated by co-CEOS Henry Kravis and George Roberts, who have continually backed initiatives related to diversity and inclusion. “Coding is becoming an increasingly important skill that should be available equally to all, regardless of gender,” said Jean-Pierre Saad, Director of KKR’s TMT team in London. “We are hence [sic] delighted to partner with a pioneering organization like Code First: Girls and support them in tackling gender diversity in tech, which we believe will drive better outcomes for businesses and our communities.” “One of the biggest barriers to women entering the tech industry is education, and our 20:20 campaign is designed to address this by providing skills that are critical to the digital economy,” said Amali de Alwis, CEO of Code First: Girls. “Our partnership with a leading investment firm like KKR, which has such a deep and wide network with companies in the U.K. and worldwide, is a fantastic opportunity for our organization. Their support is key to us delivering our 20:20 campaign.” Since its initial founding in 2012, Code First: Girls has taught over 4,000 women how to program. If the organization is to meet its 20:20 campaign goal, they will need to teach approximately 16,000 women to code over the next three years. Challenging? Yes. Impossible?...

Trump Wants to Shut Down His Charity Foundation, But Can’t Due to Ongoing Investigation

Trump Wants to Shut Down His Charity Foundation, But Can’t Due to Ongoing Investigation

Nov 21

In December 2016, Donald Trump promised to terminate his charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, in order to avoid any possible conflicts of interest during his presidency. In an effort to make good on that promise, the Foundation announced its intent to shut down in a 2016 IRS document that was submitted this month. There’s just one problem: the Donald J. Trump Foundation is currently under investigation, and the New York Attorney General’s Office isn’t going to let the Foundation dissolve until that investigation concludes. “As the Foundation is still under investigation by this office, it cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete,” said Amy Spitalnick, the attorney general’s press secretary. In October 2016, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman ordered the Donald J. Trump Foundation to stop soliciting donations following a report that it lacked the proper authorization to do so. An investigation was launched after the Foundation admitted to having violated federal laws on “self-dealing” in its 2015 tax filing. These laws forbid nonprofit leaders from diverting charity funds to themselves, their businesses, or families. A spokesperson for the Foundation confirmed that it is currently under investigation, but maintained that the organization is cooperating with officials: “The Foundation continues to cooperate with the New York Attorney General’s Charities Division, and as previously announced by the President, his advisers are working with the Charities Division to wind up the affairs of the Foundation. The Foundation looks forward to distributing its remaining assets at the earliest possible time to aid numerous worthy charitable organizations.” There is still no word on when the investigation is expected to conclude. When it does, the Donald J. Trump Foundation will distribute its remaining funds to other charitable organizations. The Foundation reported assets of about $970,000 at the end of 2016. Representatives from the Foundation have yet to announce which charities will receive the...

A Tribute to Eliza Hamilton, Whose Charitable Legacy Will Not Be Forgotten

A Tribute to Eliza Hamilton, Whose Charitable Legacy Will Not Be Forgotten

Nov 16

“And when my time is up, have I done enough? Will they tell my story?” There were always tears in the audience when Phillipa Soo sang that line near the end of the Broadway musical Hamilton. Soo was playing the role of Eliza Hamilton, who spent a lifetime trying to fulfill her husband Alexander Hamilton’s curtailed legacy. Eliza, who barely gets a footnote in the history books compared to her founding father husband, was a force of philanthropy. The ripples of her work can still be felt today. Eliza Schuyler Hamilton founded Graham Windham as an orphanage in 1806, and the organization is still alive today, over a century later as a family and youth services organization. They serve over 4,000 children a year, providing foster care, counseling for at-risk families, and a therapeutic school. Soo, together with Hamilton‘s creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, couldn’t resist linking their show to Eliza’s legacy. Soo initiated The Eliza Project, a scholarship program to provide Graham Windham students with workshops in acting, dancing, and rap. Hamilton‘s assistant dance captain, Morgan Marcell, recruited many cast members to participate in “Share Your Stories,” his pen-pal initiative between artists and Graham students. The goal is to encourage students to take “authorship over their own lives.” Members of the Hamilton cast and crew were also instrumental in connecting Graham Windham with Broadway Cares, a grant-making program which provides funding to projects for underserved communities. Broadway Cares was responsible for funding most of the above-mentioned projects. While Eliza Hamilton’s achievements were her own, it cannot be doubted that it is the flame Hamilton re-lit for her that is responsible for the Smithsonian placing her portrait in the collection of the National Museum of American History’s new philanthropy collection. Before it goes to its permanent home there, the portrait, which is in fact donated by Graham Windham, will be displayed beside Miranda’s green silk suit from his role as Hamilton in his own Broadway production. *Photo credit: EQRoy /...

Bill Gates is Putting $100 Million Towards Finding a Cure for Alzheimer’s

Bill Gates is Putting $100 Million Towards Finding a Cure for Alzheimer’s

Nov 15

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, with symptoms that range from mild short-term memory loss to being unable to manage basic self-care functions or remember one’s own life. It is incurable, and affects more than 1 in 20 people over the age of 65, worldwide. Bill Gates, billionaire and philanthropist, says that the disease is common in his family. As he turned 62 this year, thoughts of Alzheimer’s may be pressing in on him. But even if he weren’t personally at risk, medical research is a cause he’s supported before. Gates will be donating $50 million to the Dementia Discovery Fund, a fund to support industry and government research into treatments for the disease. This will be a personal donation, not made via Gates’ Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “It’s a huge problem, a growing problem, and the scale of the tragedy—even for the people who stay alive—is very high,” Gates said. It is arguably the most expensive disease in the developed world, with most affected needing round-the-clock care for years in their decline. The Dementia Discovery Fund includes drugmakers like GlaxoSmithKine, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Biogen Idec, and the government of the United Kingdom. In addition to the initial donation, Gates has pledged $50 million to medical startups that are pursuing “less mainstream” approaches to the disease. He has not yet identified any of these startups. He expects progress to be slow, predicting it to take 10 years or more before solid treatments are developed from his donations. He wants focus to be extended in five areas: disease progression, early diagnoses, multiple approach treatments, protocols around clinical trials involving those with dementia, and collaborating on medical research between for-profit companies. The effects of his generosity will likely outlive him, but rest assured, the impact of his donations will never be forgotten. *Photo courtesy of OnInnovation via Flickr Creative...

Billionaire Tom Steyer Gives $2.3 Million to Pro-Immigration Orgs

Billionaire Tom Steyer Gives $2.3 Million to Pro-Immigration Orgs

Nov 10

An individual arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is in a particularly vulnerable position in United States law. To begin with, they have no right to counsel. So while as many as 20% may have mitigating circumstances that make their case to remain valid, most have no access at all to legal advice on the matter. But that’s why organizations like University of California Immigrant Legal Service Center exist. The UC Center is the first and only university system to provide free legal advice to undocumented immigrants and their families. It’s not abstract to the University of California; approximately 4,000 UC students are undocumented immigrants, many of them residents of California since infancy. “From increased ICE raids to the repeal of DACA to the Muslim travel ban, Donald Trump and his administration are systematically attacking the immigrant community,” said billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer. “Many live in fear that at any moment they will be ripped away from their family with no one in their corner to defend them. Our partnership with the UC Immigrant Legal Services Center will allow more students and their families, in California and across the nation, to seek the legal guidance they not only need but have a fundamental right to receive.” Tom Steyer is a mega-donor with a history of environment and social wallet-activism, and the partnership to which he is referring is the $2.3 million donation his nonprofit, NextGen America, is making to the UC Center and seven other immigrant aid organizations. His gift will allow the UC Center to hire full-time immigration attorneys, reducing their reliance on donated time from lawyers working elsewhere. The other seven organizations to benefit from the massive donation are UC Davis School of Law’s Immigration Law Clinic, UC Hastings Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, Asian Americans Advancing Justice: Asian Law Caucus, the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, the Center for Community Change, the American Immigration Lawyers Assn. and the Council on American-Islamic...

Family Foundations Help Philanthropists Share and Save Their Wealth

Family Foundations Help Philanthropists Share and Save Their Wealth

Oct 27

George Soros, famous (or infamous, depending on which side of the political spectrum your beliefs lie) for donating to liberal causes and Democratic candidates, has transferred $18 billion of his vast wealth into his Open Society Foundations. The transfer immediately dropped him out of the ranks of the 50 richest Americans and catapulted his foundation to the second largest in the U.S. by assets, just behind the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Although reports framed the donation as a sudden gift, Soros’ transfer of wealth to his family foundation has been going on for a while. “It’s an ongoing process of migration from a hedge fund toward a pool of capital deployed to support a foundation over the long term,” said Bill E. Ford, CEO of private equity firm General Atlantic, in a Wall Street Journal article. It was a brilliant move because family foundations, also known as private foundations, can be extremely effective philanthropic vehicles when created by savvy individuals like Soros. There are three very strong motivators behind most family foundations: Caring, legacy, and permanence. And of course, there are the tax advantages. At its core, philanthropy is about caring, and family foundations are a great way to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. Soros’ worldview, formed by growing up in Hungary during the Nazi occupation and later under communism, is a very strong motivator behind how he has chosen to distribute his wealth. Family foundations are also great tools for leaving a legacy. They help to get the family involved in charitable giving, training them to become wise philanthropists. “To whom much is given, much is expected,” as the old saying goes. And according to research, nearly 70 percent of inheritors of huge fortunes will become more involved in evaluating the impact and results of their giving. One of the most appealing things about family foundations is that they last long past the original donor’s death. That allows the wealthy founders to ensure that the institutions and causes important to them will be funded in perpetuity. It would be foolish to believe that idealism is the only factor at work in the creation of family foundations. They also bring substantial tax benefits, both to the donor and their descendants. Giving to a family foundation can reduce a donor’s income tax for each year in which they make a donation to that foundation,...

Rivals GM and Ford Form Partnership in the Name of Charity

Rivals GM and Ford Form Partnership in the Name of Charity

Oct 18

General Motors Company and Ford Motor Company have a long, contentious history between them, a rivalry called “the hundred-year” war by some. Founded only 72 miles and five years apart in the Detroit area, the two have battled over profits, market-share, and the American image for over a century. It is this inextricably linked history that GM is honoring with their recent charitable maneuver. General Motors Co. is donating $5 million to The Henry Ford, a museum complex in Dearborn, Michigan founded by its namesake to commemorate not only his own business and industry, but his collection of American history as well. GM’s donation is earmarked to sponsor the museum’s rotating exhibit, a gallery devoted to promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The exhibit will now be known as “The Gallery” by General Motors. Henry Ford might roll over a bit in his grave at the idea, but his great-grandson, Edsel Ford II, was part of the decision-making process. It began with a 2013 lunch between him and Mark Reuss, the head of global product development for GM. The Henry Ford, as an independent nonprofit, is not officially affiliated with Ford Motor Co., and so it was not a conflict of interest when Reuss joined its board of trustees in 2016. “We know that Henry Ford and Ford Motor Co. have always been and will always be inextricably linked. There’s no getting around that,” Reuss said. “But the museum is a celebration of American innovation, particularly in the transportation space, and you can’t tell that story without General Motors and Ford together.” The first exhibit to be shown in the GM-sponsored gallery is going to be “The Science Behind Pixar.” The conjoined history of Disney and Pixar is as American as these auto companies, and a stellar example of the histories of innovation that the museum wants to...