With all the CO 2 spewing into the atmosphere and extreme weather events in California, Louisiana and the MidWest, we’ve heard a lot about “sustainability”. Sustainability has to do with avoiding the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance; it’s about environmentally conscious living. Sustainability courses and degrees in environmental conservation, environmental science, urban planning and architecture are cropping up at colleges and universities.
In the last year or two, I have embarked on volunteering for non profits and social/political causes that are concerned with sustainability. It’s fascinating to collaborate with others whose professional careers have been focused on educating, advocating, and engaging in community affairs, to make the neighborhoods and the world more sustainable, safer, saner and more just. Sometime I wish I had followed this path earlier in my life.
My volunteering started before the pandemic took hold when I attended an industry event with a life long activist which was held at Northeastern University in Boston. For me, volunteering in retirement, keeps me mentally active, helps reduce social isolation and provides a sense of community too. It’s a cause that’s much bigger than me; it’s good for society and good for my soul.
The kind of volunteer work I like best is providing research-based intelligence and marketing support to a social advocacy group. Using my independent information research skills, I develop philanthropic profiles of donors and prospects for major gift campaigns. The impact is immense for smaller shops. It’s not rocket science. It’s prospect research.
I find it fascinating to learn about the associations and causes, early years and careers that truly wealthy yet charitable people pursue. Some learned about giving early in life, whereas others found it through faith and family, their careers, spouses and travel. The wealthy are sometime characterized as “high net worth individuals” (HNWI), and there are millions of them in the US. According to the “Capgemini World Wealth Report” and Credit Suisse’s “Global Wealth Report” (both published in 2019) there were 675,000 new millionaires in US in 2019 alone! There are currently over 18 million millionaires in the US, or about 5.5% of the total US population! (HNWI are those having investable assets of greater than 1 million dollar excluding primary residence, collectibles, consumables, and consumer durables). Fortunately many HNWI volunteer with non profits. In fact 47% volunteer and give donations to causes of their choice, big and small.
This means many HNWI are not just sitting on their wealth parked in the stock market but are committed to investing in socially conscious ways, supporting their values and beliefs helping low income communities, educating the poor and disabled, improving the quality of life for marginalized and underserved children, adolescents and families. Some HNWI are rising to the challenges of the pandemic and Black Lives Matter, and giving to the thousands and thousands desperately in need of financial assistance, a helping hand, a second chance, a bridge to security. There’s something “very American” to help people in disasters.
HNWI I have “met” through research has shown me that the wealthy are truly different. One person I got to know belongs to a social register known as the New York Society of the Cincinnati. The original members were founders of our nation. They were statesmen in the Revolutionary War and were framers of the Constitution. First organized in 1783, members authenticate their lineage with genealogical proof. Members today are former presidents, mayors and congresspeople.
Other than social registers, I’ve learned about foundations, funds, think tanks and PACs. One fund of particular interest is the John Merck Fund. This fund is paying out its last $100 million by end of the 2022. The directors believe the need is so great and urgent right now that they’re giving it all away now to help spur more innovation and solutions. The fund supports agencies that benefit human health, environmental sustainability and the developmentally disabled. Beneficiaries of this fund include dozens of well-known organizations such as the National Wildlife Federation, Conservation Law Foundation, Center for Public Interest Research. Digging deeper there’s also a Super PAC called “43 Alumni for Joe Biden” which is founded by former George W. Bush administrative and campaign officials in 2020 to support the election of Joe Biden against Donald Trump. (Bush aka “43” is not involved in the group).
Obviously you don’t have to be a millionaire to volunteer or contribute to a cause, and plenty of research reports and annual reports spell this out already. Most everyone I know volunteer time and money to causes of their choice.
If you’re interested in sustainability and want to volunteer consider Sustainable Consumption Research and Action (SCORAI). It’s an organization that’s changing the ways we consume, how we interact with the land. As their website states it: “people are innovating in face of the failure facing us through short-sighted capitalist actions and ecological disaster”. See http://www.scorai.net to learn
about sustainable consumption behavior and community actions. Pretty interesting stuff.
As this is probably my last post before the election November 3, I did want to add a fact about Donald Trump’s participation in charitable organizations. On December 10, 2019, the unscrupulous huckster that he is “admitted to misusing funds raised by the Donald J. Trump Foundation – set up as a charitable foundation – to promote his presidential bid and pay off business debts”, the New York State Attorney General found. Included in the lawsuit was evidence that he purchased a $10,000 portrait of himself that was ultimately displayed at one of his Florida hotels. (It is illegal for charitable foundations to advance the self-interests of their executives.)
Isn’t it just like him to do something like that?