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What Happens When You Mix Spirituality And Finance? More Giving

25 Mar

Brent Kessel is the CEO and co-founder of a wealth management firm, but it’s the combination of that with his other beliefs that’s led him to a life of generosity (and a financial company that’s a little different from what you would guess).

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How does one’s spirituality influence their generosity? For Brent Kessel, the CEO and co-founder of Abacus Wealth Partners, 20 years of yoga and meditation practice has affected everything from the firm’s investment philosophy to its culture. His ability to bridge the worlds of finance and spirituality has helped him build one of the country’s most interesting wealth-management firms, which is part of why we’ve selected him as one of our Most Generous on Wall Street.

Born and raised in Apartheid-era South Africa, Kessel witnessed blatant racial and economic inequalities that still resonate and fuel his empathy today. An active Acumen Fund Partner, he recently traveled to East Africa to meet with several of the social enterprises in which they invest. On his January 2013 trip, he visited one company that is enabling micro-entrepreneurs in Nairobi’s slums to buy franchised toilets. By keeping it clean, they earn money to pay off the toilet, and at the same time help reduce the spread of disease. To earn additional revenue that helps keep the cost of the toilets low, the company composts the waste, transforming it into fertilizer using a new technology created in conjunction with the Gates Foundation. In addition to his work with Acumen, Kessel is an avid charity: water supporter, has sponsored two Cambodian children for many years, and has helped raise over $600,000 to help find a cure to Type 1 Diabetes, the disease one of his sons was diagnosed with in 2003.

Click here to read the full article on FastCo.Exist.

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How The Impact Of Collaboration Led One Man From Wall Street To The Millenium Development Goals

22 Mar

Jeff Walker was a successful investment banker who focused on giving back while in finance, but then left the industry to give even more of his time, hoping that his collaboration with younger social entrepreneurs would send ripples of giving back throughout the world.

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Jeff Walker is the former chairman of CCMP (the successor of JPMorgan Partners) and philanthropist whose approach to giving is tied to his practical spirituality. Known for integrating business strategies with the nonprofit world, his charitable influence has reached renowned charitable initiatives. Collaboration is his mantra; his career on Wall Street taught him that managing your ego enough to work with others not only makes you more efficient but also increases your creativity and impact.

Click here to read the full article on FastCo.Exist.

Using The Power Of Video To Illuminate Our Nation’s Homeless

28 Nov

We’re recognizing game changing careers and inspiring acts of generosity beyond deep-pocketed philanthropy. The Series profiles continue today with Mark Horvath, a Most Generous Social Media Maven. It continues through the winter with most Generous Designers, Tech Founders, Wall Streeters, Marketing Gurus and Filmmakers. Follow the series every Monday, Wednesday and Friday  for in-depth profiles of all our honorees.

Mark Horvath’s InvisiblePeople.tv strives to expose more people to the plight of our nation’s homeless, in the hope that homelessness becomes an issue we try to solve every day, not just on Thanksgiving.

On the evening of the final presidential debate, while others were busy quipping bayonets, Mark Horvath offered a sobering counterpoint, “Found a large homeless camp under a freeway. I don’t have enough socks for everyone and not sure if it’s safe to go in.” The self-described Chief Evangelistic Officer for Invisible People TV, Horvath is on a mission to make the homeless visible. By the end of the debate he had tweeted about a run to Walmart, the delivery of 100 pairs of clean, dry socks to the camp, and an encounter with a mother and her two young children. With social media, it’s easy to navigate human suffering from a distance and still feel engaged, but Horvath isn’t about to let you get away with it.

Click here to read the full article of FastCo.Exist.

How Nicholas Kristof Uses His Pulpit To Engage People With Empathy

26 Nov

We’re recognizing game changing careers and inspiring acts of generosity beyond deep-pocketed philanthropy. The Series profiles continue today with Nicholas Kristof, a Most Generous Social Media Maven. It continues through the winter with most Generous Designers, Tech Founders, Wall Streeters, Marketing Gurus and Filmmakers. Follow the series every Monday, Wednesday and Friday  for in-depth profiles of all our honorees.

The Times reporter helps direct our attention to some of the most dire situations in the world, and hopefully makes us all more willing to do something ourselves to help change it.

A typical Facebook post from Nicholas Kristof: I’m crossing into Syria now… Any suggestions for topics I should focus on in Syria? What do you want me to ask Syrians for you?

Access isn’t a problem for Kristof; he’s as often found interviewing a suspected warlord as he is lounging on a mat in the Congo with George Clooney. Since joining The New York Times in 1984, Kristof has forced his audience to look at hard questions, with his focus on global poverty, health, and gender. As Bill Clinton said, “I am personally in his debt, as are we all.”

Click here to read the full article on FastCo.Exist.

Unlocking The Power Of Mothers for Social Good

21 Nov

We’re recognizing game changing careers and inspiring acts of generosity beyond deep-pocketed philanthropy. The Series profiles continue today with Jennifer James, a Most Generous Social Media Maven. It continues through the winter with most Generous Designers, Tech Founders, Wall Streeters, Marketing Gurus and Filmmakers. Follow the series every Monday, Wednesday and Friday  for in-depth profiles of all our honorees.

Mom bloggers have become an incredibly important facet of the consumer economy. Jennifer James is working on taking that influence and redirecting it toward giving back.

According to a 2009 study by BlogHer, 23 million women read, write or comment on blogs weekly. That’s 4 million more than the entire population of Florida and 2 million more than serve in the military worldwide. That’s some serious power and Jennifer James has figured out how to harness it for social good. Less than a year ago she founded Mom Bloggers for Social Good after creating the Mom Bloggers Club and Mom Blog magazine, the leading social network and news site covering the mom blogging industry. She is also a member of the ONE Moms Advisory Council and in 2011, she was named a top Twitter Moms of 2011 by Babble.com. Last April, she received a National Press Foundation Global Vaccines Fellowship.

Click here to read the full article on FastCo.Exist.

How Arianna Huffington Uses The Powerful Potential Of Social Media To Create Change

19 Nov

We’re recognizing game changing careers and inspiring acts of generosity beyond deep-pocketed philanthropy. The Series profiles launch today with Arianna Huffington, a Most Generous Social Media Maven. It continues through the winter with most Generous Designers, Tech Founders, Wall Streeters, Marketing Gurus and Filmmakers. Follow the series every Monday, Wednesday and Friday  for in-depth profiles of all our honorees.

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The Huffington Post founder talks about how the development of online tools has changed giving back.

Arianna Huffington is the president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, a nationally syndicated columnist, and author of 13 books including biographies of Picasso and Maria Callas, a political satire and several scathing political commentaries. In 1998, she famously changed her political affiliation from conservative to liberal, underscoring her commitment to meaningful political engagement beyond bipartisan entrenchment. She’s a vocal supporter of numerous social good causes and a proponent of sleep, and she she serves on the Boards of A Place Called Home, EL PAÍS and the Committee to Protect Journalists–she’s also got a great accent.

Click here to read the full story on fastcoexist.

Announcing the Catchafire / Co.Exist Most Generous Person Series

16 Nov

We’re recognizing game changing careers and inspiring acts of generosity beyond deep-pocketed philanthropy. The Series launches today with Social Media Mavens and continues through the winter with most Generous Designers, Tech Founders, Wall Streeters, Marketing Gurus and Filmmakers. Follow the series every Monday, Wednesday and Friday  for in-depth profiles of all our honorees.

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Why are some people seemingly hard-wired for compassion, while others hardly notice suffering? Is generosity the by-product of a virtuous upbringing; a quality we learn primarily through early observation? Or is altruism something we can develop later in life through practice? What do we really know about generosity?

Very little, as it turns out, but that’s changing. In 2009, Christian Smith launched the Science of Generosity Initiative at Notre Dame to lead “an international effort to uncover the causes, manifestations, and consequences of generosity.” In a September 2012 paper in Nature, Harvard University researchers David Rand, Joshua Greene, and Martin Nowak conclude that when given the choice, our innate first responder–intuition–is pretty generous. But in a span of just 10 seconds, a stingier impulse arises, and the cooperative impulse decreases dramatically.

We can see that happening around us right now. Just after Hurricane Sandy, New Yorkers exhibited the kind of intuitive outpouring of generosity the Harvard paper suggests. Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell coined the term “disaster utopia” to explain how people band together and help one another when crisis hits. But now, as with all crises, we see this immediate and spontaneous generosity receding: New Yorkers back to jostling each other on the subway and pretending not to see the homeless as we scurry by.

The importance of generosity is strongly rooted in all cultures: Buddhists believe that dāna (generosity) has positive transformative powers on the mind of the giver. In Judaism, the idea of tzedakah holds an interchangeable meaning–righteousness and charity–you can’t have one without the other. In the book of Mark, Jesus pointedly observes a poor widow parting with her last two coins  and tells his disciples that the sacrifices of the poor mean more to God than the proportionately larger donations of the rich. Muslims believe no charity decreases wealth, it will be returned to the giver by Allah, all in good time.

But congregants’ adherence to philosophies that encourage generosity are on the decline, and there’s even some fibbing involved. A national survey of churchgoers by Christian Smith and Heather Price at the Association for the Sociology of Religion Meeting this year, found that while a quarter of respondents claimed that they contributed 10% of their income to charity, in reality, only 3% of the group gave more than 5%.

But perhaps our interest in generosity isn’t declining, it’s changing and in need of new models for expression. A 2010 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by James H. Fowler and Nicholas A. Christakis, revealed that social networks inspire greater generosity. In lab experiments, subjects played a series of games with strangers (choosing how much money to give away and to keep). Subjects were “influenced by fellow group members’ behavior in [their] future interactions with others who were not a party to the initial interaction.” This influence kept up for multiple rounds. In other words, generosity is learned, it’s contagious and most effective when it’s a shared experience.

At my organization, Catchafire, we’re creating new opportunities for talent-based generosity. We work with professionals who, not content with just doing excellent work at their day jobs, join Catchafire looking for ways to put those same skills to good use for nonprofits and social enterprises they admire. You simply register on Catchafire and the site delivers you highly accurate matches to specific nonprofit projects based on your skills and cause interests.

The projects you get to work on are high impact and high value, spanning a few hours to a few months, and they are designed to be executed in parallel with regular life. Jim Craig, an executive from Virginia, helped empower low income urban kids by leading a Mission and Vision Analysis for Quest Adventures. Faigy Gilder, a New York non-profit manager, helped alleviate poverty in Kenya by designing a Social Media Strategy for The BOMA Project.

In celebration of generosity, and in the spirit of inquiry on how to understand it and to create new mechanisms to express it, we’re announcing a series running on Co.Exist examining some of the most generous people in a variety of fields. You can find it on Twitter at #GenerositySeries.

We’ll be showcasing monthly lists of honorees based on professional excellence and demonstrated acts of service (rather than just deep pockets). Then we’ll be talking to each of them about their personal philosophies on generosity and who in their lives have inspired them the most. Together, we’ll attempt to get to the bottom of how to embed, encode, burnish, and lock-in ongoing, meaningful, day-to-day service into our collective DNA.

Today we unveil our Top Ten Social Media Mavens, who have innovated the use of social media for the greater good. In the coming months we’ll keep going with profiles of Designers, Tech Founders, Wall Streeters, Marketing Gurus, and Filmmakers.

Now, ready for the Top 10?

This is the first post in a series on generosity, in conjunction with fastcoexist.

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