Those who can fund a hospital wing or museum are not the only ones filling the ranks of philanthropists. Volunteers who paint seniors’ homes, tutor children, or give a few dollars a week through employer giving programs are just as important. What’s more, establishing the giving-back habit early is good for both spirit and career.
That was the message from panelists at the Philanthropic Leadership & Financial Insights discussion held April 20, 2016. It was presented by BNY Mellon Wealth Management, FIU College of Business, and the Business Student Philanthropy Council and took place at the college’s Special Events Center.
“Think about the contribution you want to make,” said Lillian Peters (BBA ’94), senior wealth director, BNY Mellon Wealth Management, and member of the FIU Business Dean’s Council. “I support organizations in health and education, and I’ve met individuals interested in the same types of issues.”
She was joined on the panel by Carmen M. Perez (BAcc ’82), president of FPL FiberNet and a member of the Dean’s Council and FIU’s President’s Council; Malcolm Butters (MSIRE ‘83), principal of Coconut Creek-based Butters Construction & Development, Inc., Danielle van der Eijk, FIU Business undergrad and chair, Business Student Philanthropy Council. Gloria Zaldivar, senior wealth manager, BNY Mellon Wealth Management, moderated the panel. Also at the event: Karla Hernandez, senior director of development, corporate and foundation relations at FIU Foundation.
Whether big or small, giving back, and making that part of one’s professional career, is personally enriching, and a way of shaping the future of a community, panelists said.
While it may seem difficult to donate at the start of one’s career, if you plan properly, it can be done. To start, said Butters, dedicate 1 percent of your salary to a charitable cause. “Most people can think of a way to make that happen,” he said. “Maybe two Saturday nights a year, you stay home.”
With so many causes out there, which one do you choose?
“Find something you are passionate about,” Butters said. “Once you are involved, you make connections.” His particular passion is giving back to FIU through the Malcolm Butters Real Estate Scholarship Award, given at the end of each school year to unburden one or two Master of Science in Real Estate students of their student debt. “I’m so happy when we present these checks and change their lives,” he said.
For Perez, giving back was a culmination of the immigrant journey undertaken by her parents, with a father who insisted on education for his offspring. “We didn’t get taught philanthropy,” she said. “I learned about philanthropy from my mentors.”
She started out giving to United Way, and now supports various charitable organizations, including the FIU First Generation Scholarship Fund, a cause she relates to as a first-gen student herself. “The money sure makes a difference in their lives.”
Career and passion meet.
Giving is also a way to infuse one’s career with a larger purpose.
“Giving back is important – and it’s not just your wealth, it’s your skills, your experience, your contacts,” said Zaldivar. It also builds a reputation and creates opportunities, while strengthening one’s own values and ethical standards, she said.
Student attendees had practical questions, including how to balance philanthropy with lives already bursting with work and family.
Peters, a mother to four children who sits on three boards, found that her professional and philanthropic interests often blend, enabling her to spend time on causes she cares about and network with potential clients who share her concerns. Perez noted that her time became more limited once she had children, but expanded again as they got older.
While FIU students may be new to the giving tradition, they are catching up. The Business Student Philanthropy Council was organized in the fall semester of 2014. One of its inaugural members was business undergrad van der Eijk, who chairs the group. The council has already promoted a successful Class Gift campaign and is planning others.
“It’s been great to cultivate an attitude of giving,” she said. “My message is, you are not only giving to this generation, you are contributing to those that come after.”