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The Changing Face of Philanthropy

Miami Herald, The (FL)
2000-11-15
Section: Special Section
Edition: Final
Page: 25GI

Not so long ago, the prototypical philanthropist in these parts had already made his fortune in business and put the kids through school, and could be counted on to write big checks to big institutions whose logos and slogans have long been fixtures on South Florida's charitable landscape.


But increasingly, experts say, philanthropy is emerging as an activity that is as diverse as South Florida itself. Young, self-made entrepreneurs, women activists and a new generation managing old establishment money are all emerging as players in the world of giving. They are fueled in part by social conscience, in part by an aura of trendiness that surrounds charitable works and in part because philanthropy is an expression of good old-fashioned clout.

``Philanthropy today is like the lobby of the opera at intermission,'' says Michael Rierson, 47, the University of Miami's vice president for advancement. ``People who have been giving for decades and generations are now meeting and being joined by younger people and people who are first-time donors.''

It may have been true for some time, he added, but ``it seems so much more pronounced now because there has been so much new wealth created in the past number of years that more people are coming to the philanthropic way of thinking.''

Adds Jo Anne Chester Bander, 56, of the Donors Forum, a Miami-based associa tion of grant makers: ``There is a lot of transition going on from generation to generation in philanthropy.''

One element of the change, she says, is that members of the younger generation seem ``more driven by finding specific grass-roots charities than the major umbrella institutions.''

Young philanthropists in fact are said to be searching for innovative social change oriented causes. A community-specific case in point: While contributions are still robust to the Jewish Federation and other traditional institutions that fund universities and hospitals in Israel, younger people are also drawn to groups like the nonprofit New Israel Fund, which focuses on human rights, social justice and environmental issues in the Holy Land.

Evidence of this trend is largely anecdotal, from people who soldier on the front lines of nonprofit community activism. The Dade Community Foundation's Ruth Shack says no one in South Florida has done a comprehensive study of donor contributions by age group or tracked funding through the generations.

But for her and others, there's proof of the trend in this year's decision to honor Louis Wolfson III with the James McLamore Outstanding Volunteer Award, presented annually by the Miami-Dade chapter of the National Society of Fund Raising Executives.

At 46, Wolfson is decades younger than past recipients. And although he is from a well-known charitable family in South Florida, he has made his own mark as a co-founder with Janet Reno in the 1980s of Youth Crime Watch and mastermind of Greater Miami Neighborhoods, a nonprofit entity responsible for more than 6,000 units of low-income housing.

Today, he runs a for-profit business that builds low-cost housing across the state.

``I'm sort of like an entrepreneurial philanthropic person,'' Wolfson said. ``I get it from a family that for four generations has been teaching their kids just this: Give back to your community and help build your community from the ground up.''

Miami-Dade Community College's Wolfson campus is named for his grandfather, who was involved in good works, too. But, ``I think I was blessed with the ability to have the time to do it younger than my parents and my grandparents,'' Wolfson said.

Elsewhere, Miami-Dade's United Way, an umbrella organization that might seem vulnerable to a shift toward direct giving, has a Young Leader Society for donors ages 40 and younger who contribute $1,000 or more a year. Its membership has grown from 236 at its inception in 1992 to 755 today.

It's unclear whether young people dabbling in do-good organizations are part of an enduring trend, but for some, philanthropy is no longer a part-time or post-career activity.

Consider Jamie Rosenberg's nearly 3-year-old Adopt-a-Classroom program:

The 31-year-old lawyer, originally from West Palm Beach, quit a mergers and acquisitions position at a top Miami law firm to found the organization, which encourages individuals to sponsor a specific classroom with a $500 annual donation.

Donors learn the schoolteacher's name and get an invoice from the charity that outlines how the money was spent. They are encouraged to visit their class and serve as mentors to the students.

In 30 months, Rosenberg said, he has raised $175,000 for classroom supplies - everything from board games and microscopes to pencil sharpeners and construction paper - from small companies, big corporations (including the Florida Marlins) and individuals who want to lend local educators a hand.

``There's an entrepreneurial aspect of the new economy that's driving it,'' he said, explaining that he hopes to take his program national through the Internet.

Some see it as part of a national trend - so-called yuppies and boomers, wealthier than ever, are also more than ever interested in investing in the society's future. Others see it as part of the maturation of South Florida.

``For years, South Florida was the place where people came to retire, so this was the chance we got to capture them . . . to express their philanthropy,'' said Shack of the Dade Community Foundation, which helps groups and individuals manage charitable funds. ``We may be seeing gifts from younger people reflecting a second and third generation of leadership.''

Besides, the booming U.S. economy means there is simply more personal wealth these days. The American Association of Fund-Raising Councils' Trust for Philanthropy reported in May that personal giving is on the rise, representing $11.63 billion - three-fourths - of all charitable donations nationwide in 1999.

``Let's face it: Younger people are getting wealthier faster,'' said Shack, 69. ``One would hope that young people are getting philanthropic younger and faster. I'm thrilled.''

Young philanthropy today is a hybrid of people who inherited their wealth and developed a social conscience from their families - along with responsibility for distributing the money - and Young Turks who made it big as '90s-style entrepreneurs.

Either way, activists in the field say, younger people are more interested in less traditional forms of giving.

One example: Kimberly Green, 29, director of the Green Family Foundation (see Page 12), disseminating the wealth of her investor father while adopting a hands-on approach to work with the homeless.

In contrast: Kevin and Kim Smith are native South Floridians who made their fortune in the $175 million sale of Symbiosis, a multipartner biomedical engineering firm. They set up a foundation with former Symbiosis partner Tom Bales that funds scholarships for needy high school science whizzes.

``The difference in the philanthropy of old and the philanthropy of current people is the difference between mutual-fund investing and buying your own stock,'' says Kevin Smith, 42, whose charitable activism ranges from small local organizations to Planned Parenthood, a favorite cause, and the United Way.

Smith says he and his wife, Kim, 39, owner of the trendy vintage clothing shop Miami Twice, give considerable thought as to how and where they will contribute.

``I think that people who have worked hard and made their own money, who are self-actualized, results-oriented people, want to give their money to social causes that they care about - as opposed to being philanthropically lazy,'' he said.

Claudia Kitchens of the Miami-based Women's Fund, begun nine years ago as a $50,000 grant-making cooperative, says that in addition to a generational divide, there's also a gender gap in giving.

``Men write checks. They like to write big checks that impress their friends,'' says Kitchens, 50. ``Women like to pool it together to make a difference. Women like to give money to things that they are connected to,'' she said, citing Fifty Over Fifty (see Page 19), a hands-on group founded by Deborah Hoffman and Nita Prieto-Maercks to support local arts organizations.

Women and young donors both want a much more intimate involvement in their giving, Kitchens and other activists added. They want to learn about an issue and ``create specific strategies.''

Not to mention that it's fashionable and can tap into the young, fresh and trendy in a segment of the city that sees itself as cutting edge.

``Miami is so wanting in rich, social cause-related roots that exist in New York and San Francisco, for example,'' says Adopt-a Classroom's Rosenberg. ``People don't just want to drive their Ferraris to the Barroom at 2 in the morning.''

Besides, some people might have you believe that nonprofit activism is an aphrodisiac: People magazine last year designated Miami's own Michael Carricarte Jr., 32, its ``sexiest philanthropist alive.''

``We wanted to highlight someone who was as attractive on the inside as he was on the outside,'' People editor Cynthia Sanz said at the time.

An insurance executive and benefactor of the Miami Inner City Angels who has been active at Overtown's St. Francis-Xavier School since 1992, the Coconut Grove resident dreams of creating a top-notch prep school in inner city Miami.

``I'm of the belief that the only way to break the cycle of poverty and crime is through education,'' said Carricarte, accounting for his youthful activism this way: ``Gosh, people say, `When I have enough time, when I have enough money, I'll give back.' But when will enough be enough? Now is the time to give it.''

Still unclear is whether the new generation will significantly shift South Florida's philanthropic focus.

``It feels good,'' the Donors Forum's Bander says of the young giving. ``People are interested in it. It's the thing to do. What we don't know is how different their philanthropy is going to be over time.''

Kevin Smith, for example, expresses a strong bias toward social causes.

``I have a major problem with rich people putting a ton of money into arts organizations. That's wrong,'' said Smith. ``The arts benefit the community at large, to some extent, but you'd better give a lot of money to Camillus House before you give a dime to the opera.''

Whatever direction they take, younger givers are expected to have a growing impact on philanthropy.

Says UM's Rierson: ``There is an expectation, or at least a hope, in the world of nonprofits, especially in higher education, that we are about to see the dawning of a golden age where we accelerate the building of an ethic of giving. The challenge is to keep them coming back . . . .''

OLD VS. NEW: Kevin Smith, who made a fortune in biomedical engineering, says the difference between old and new philanthropy `is the difference between mutual-fund investing and buying your own stock.'
OVERTOWN `ANGEL': Michael Carricarte Jr. dreams of creating a top-notch prep school in inner city Miami.
A NEW APPROACH: Louis Wolfson III, an expert in affordable housing, describes himself as an `entrepreneurial philanthropic person.'
POSITIVE FEEDBACK: Adopt-a-Classroom founder Jamie Rosenberg hugs Mack Gaskie while Cameron Corley, left, Halia Braynon, Diamond Farlow and Shakara Moorer wait their turn at Martin Luther King Elementary.