Phil Henderson, President of the Surdna Foundation, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Phil Henderson, President of the Surdna Foundation, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Givng on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.


Phil Henderson

Denver: It was 100 years ago that John Emory Andrus created the Surdna Foundation to make access to opportunity available to one and all.  And that tradition has continued now for five successive generations. On this occasion of their centennial anniversary, it is a great pleasure to have with us this evening the President of the Surdna Foundation, Philip Henderson. Good evening, Phil, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Phil: Great to be with you!

Denver: So, tell us about John Andrus, how this all got started back in 1917, and some of the key milestones of the Surdna Foundation over the course of the last hundred years.

Phil:  Well, it’s exciting to think that we’re at 100 years, but John Andrus is someone that most people have never heard of before. But he was a self-made millionaire back in the late 1800s… into the early 1900s, and he did a couple of different things. One is that he developed an elixir called “peptonoids,” precursor to Pepto-Bismol, made a bunch of money from that.  He developed a lot of natural resources and then decided in 1917 to leave effectively half of his fortune to charity through the Surdna Foundation– which was the inversion of his name “Andrus” – Surdna. And the first thing that the foundation did was to build an orphanage in honor of his wife who had been an orphan.  Then it built a nursing home across the street. Both are still functioning up in Hastings-on-Hudson, just north of Yonkers, on Broadway.

Denver: Well, let’s briefly examine the kind of programs that the Surdna Foundation supports, and they really fall into three main categories. The first is the Sustainable Environments Program.  What you’re doing here is taking a fresh look at our crumbling and old infrastructure. Tell us about this “new generation infrastructure” initiative that you have.

Phil: So we’ve always approached our environmental work from the point of view of how people experience the environment. So, we have not been so interested in wetlands or saving trees in the forest, but really understanding how people and the environment interact. And so that led us to really  think about the built environment around people– particularly in our urban areas where that infrastructure, as you say, has been crumbling– really needs a rethink, a reinvention.  So we’re actually thinking about how we’re building our cities, how we’re building our urban areas for the future. And so we’re using less energy, allowing people to have more walkable lives, allowing people to experience their communities in a different way.

Denver: Water management… and things like that.

Phil: Water management, where they get their food, how energy is produced – all of these things… really thinking toward the future.

Denver: The other thing you’re doing is you’re trying to create Strong Local Communities, and this is probably guided by, more than anything else, your commitment to social justice and equity.


The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of The Children’s Aid Society

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social businesses and nonprofit organizations. 


Phoebe: Traditionally, we were pretty siloed. We’ve reorganized ourselves, as I said, to be thinking about this continuum to make sure that all of our staff understand their roles; what role they’re playing.  I have referred to it as “differentiated responsibility but a shared accountability”. Whether you are a nurse in our clinic addressing a young person’s chronic asthma, you know that that’s going to get that child get back to school and be successful in school. If you are a case manager meeting a child who has just been removed from a very violent and traumatic situation, we want you not only thinking about safety and permanency for that child but their over-all well-being. How do we make sure that they’re being successful in school despite everything that’s going on? How can we bring all of our powers to bear to help this young child?


Denver Frederick and Phoebe Boyer

Jenny: Children’s Aid Society is an organization that’s over 160 years. We are committed to ensuring that there are no boundaries to the aspirations of young people. Each person here is committed to helping the young people to learn, to grow, and to lead independent, successful lives. And we do that by being connected to these young children every step of the way through childhood up to college age because we know that having a college education will ensure that they’re successful, and I am so proud to be a part of Children’s Aid.

Keyla: The greatest sense of purpose that I get from working here at Children’s Aid is really having an impact on children and families, but most importantly is having the experiences of actually meeting those children and families, having a parent say, “Thank you so much. I’m able to enroll my child in after school now,” or “It’s really made a difference. My child is now socializing with more children.” So, I think that really that doesn’t compare to anything else and I hold that very dear to my heart.

On a more personal note, I think with the theme of really being family-oriented and supportive, as a new mom, I think that it’s critical. I’ve felt that as much as I give myself to the children we serve, that I have the same amount of support for my son through supervisors and colleagues and I think that’s definitely something that is important to me. I feel supported, folks are always making sure that I’m OK. So, that work and life balance is definitely something that I cherish.


Antonio: Along with the lines of professional development that Robyn noted, something that I think has been a very real attempt at Children’s Aid to refine and practice on professional development is what it looks like when someone is on-board and in the fold of work. And so I think within each varied division, there are separate tracks of leadership and pathways that provide people opportunities to learn, to get certified, to get additional training, both in the work that they do and then also to get scholarships or support to more education for the work that they can continue to do. I’ve been lucky enough to research and be a part of a lot of different professional development workshops through Children’s Aid partnership with Columbia, NYU, the Aspen Institute and a host of other agencies.

Casper: For me, one of the biggest, I guess, joy for me is developing staff, creating opportunities for them, just giving them a chance to grow like it was done for me. I started straight out of college here in the agency and worked my way up. So for me, to open doors and train and develop staff to move on and give them that motivation to do better and find other avenues, that’s very, very important to me, just having staff being able to take it to the next level. So creating those opportunities for the staff is like really the biggest joy for me, to see them grow and develop.

Robyn: Jenny mentioned the I Create Awards and that’s just not something that she just made up. It is really the cornerstone of our values, of the organization. Our staff is introduced to the I Create values at orientation, and we develop a lot of our goals and organizational goals and personal goals in which we do our work and people know that from the time that they’re here and are evaluated on that in terms of their performance.

Dedicated, compassionate, not always fun because we do some very, very serious work. But I think the people that are here really gather and coalesce around the mission of the agency, and that’s what makes us come to work every day.


Ellie Hollander, President and CEO of Meals on Wheels America, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Ellie Hollander, President and CEO of Meals on Wheels America, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.


Ellie Hollander

Denver: Most Americans are familiar with Meals on Wheels and hold it in very high regard, but not nearly as many understand all that they do and the vital role that they play in communities across America. We have with us this evening just the person to help us better appreciate how critically important they are to the health and well-being of so many. She is Ellie Hollander, the President and CEO of Meals on Wheels America. Good evening, Ellie, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Ellie: Thank you so much, Denver! It’s a pleasure to be here.

Denver: Why don’t you start by giving us a bit of the history of Meals on Wheels and the mission of the organization?

Ellie: Meals on Wheels actually has existed for decades. The stories tell us that it started actually in Great Britain when nurses were putting meals to be delivered to people of service in baby carriages and were wheeling them across lines. So the concept existed a long time ago. But in the United States, our first history was about 1954 when a small group of Philadelphia citizens began to support their local senior neighbors… to extend their independence and health as they aged by providing meals.  

We envision an America in which all seniors live more nourished lives with independence and dignity. At the end of the day, we all would probably love to have the choice of living out our lives in our own homes for as long as we choose. Meals on Wheels enables that to happen.

Denver: And what’s the mission of the organization?

Ellie: Well, today, we envision an America in which all seniors live more nourished lives with independence and dignity. At the end of the day, Denver, we all would probably love to have the choice of living out our lives in our own homes for as long as we choose. Meals on Wheels enables that to happen.

Denver: Well, in looking at seniors who are hungry and who are homebound…that’s a pretty big issue. How big is it? And how difficult is it for them to navigate this system of ours?

Ellie: Well, today, about one in six seniors struggles with hunger, which is a pretty daunting number, and we know that the senior population is slated to double by 2050. So, what we try to do is have community-based Meals on Wheels programs to be able to provide nutritious meals… and more than just a meal. We actually enter the home and have that important sense of companionship and socialization and a safety check while we’re in the home. And there are 5,000 Meals on Wheels programs across the country that are doing this on a daily basis.

Denver: Give us an idea of how that operation works, Ellie. What’s a typical meal? What’s the average cost? The number of meals you deliver every day?  And how they get delivered?

Ellie: We are a diverse grassroots organization, so there really is a variety of ways that meals are prepared and delivered. If you look in the aggregate, we deliver about one million meals a day. Yes, it’s very impressive, but it’s not enough;  we’ll talk about that in a minute – the need is greater than what we’re able to provide. But these meals are delivered in urban, suburban, and rural areas across the country. In many cases, it’s a hot, recently prepared meal that meets one-third of the daily nutrition requirements that we need as we get older.  And for many, it represents one-half of their entire food intake in a given day. So sometimes these meals are warmed and prepared, and sometimes they’re cold or frozen so that the seniors can decide themselves when they want to have the meal.

Denver: Well, we know the importance of a nutritious, high-impact meal that you serve every day, and I think the understanding of most people ends just about there. But as you touched upon before, you do so much more. Perhaps that case is best crystalized in your “More than a Meal” campaign. Speak a little bit more about what you do in addition to just providing a good, healthy meal.

Ellie: We consider the meal as the “entrée” into the home, if you will—no pun intended. We talked about one in six seniors struggles with hunger today, but one in four seniors live alone in isolation, and that number is also going to grow. So having that individual – whether it’s a Meals on Wheels staff, person, or a volunteer – knocking at the door, entering, having permission to cross the threshold into the home is very important to a number of seniors who may only see that  one individual in a given day. So it’s really about that socialization and knowing that there’s someone that cares about you… that’s coming in to check on you.

Often, our Meals on Wheels programs can do additional things while they’re in the home. So they can do a safety check. They may come back with the ability to do some home repairs; could be minor, could be major home repairs. We also can talk a little bit about the fact that many of our clients have pets. So there’s an additional added benefit to Meals on Wheels– coming in to not only provide this nutritious meal and companionship and that safety check.  But we also can do other things for that client while we’re there.

We view ourselves as a critical partner to health care to help improve health outcomes, quality of life, and reduce health care costs.

Denver: Oh, that’s very sweet. And you’ve really become the eyes and ears of the health care system in so many different ways. You’re a big believer in evidence-based results and are always building the business case. And to that end, you’ve worked with the AARP Foundation and Brown University. Give us an idea of the evidence and of some of the cost savings that result from this program.

Ellie: We actually believe that we are part of the health care solution, and that this is not new. We have this existing infrastructure that I mentioned – 5,000 programs– in virtually many, if not all, communities across America. And what we’re able to do is: by just providing a simple meal,  companionship, a safety check, we’re able to help seniors stay out of much more expensive health care settings. Many seniors can avoid unnecessary visits to the emergency room, hospitalizations. They can more rapidly recover from surgery or illness when they are discharged from the hospital. And also, we can avoid premature placement in a nursing home—all of which, as you know, Denver, are very expensive—and help reduce taxpayer dollars, Medicare and Medicaid expenses. So we view ourselves as a critical partner to health care to help improve health outcomes, quality of life, and reduce health care costs.

Seniors are at greater fall risk, particularly when they are malnourished or dehydrated…we know that falls cost this country $31 billion a year, and we know from our study with the AARP Foundation and Brown University that those receiving Meals on Wheels on daily delivery report fewer falls and less fear of falling.

Denver: That’s just great. I think I’ve heard you say that $7 a day — the cost of a meal– is a lot cheaper than $1,300 a day, which would be the cost of hospitalization. I noticed that Brown University, in their study, they said if each state increases the number of older people receiving these meals by just 1%, we would save $100 million. That’s fantastic!


“Take Five” with Kyle Zimmer, President and Co-Founder of First Book



Denver: I’m here with Kyle Zimmer, the President and CEO First Book to do Take Five. Are you ready, Kyle?

Kyle: I am ready!

Denver: What idea in philanthropy is ready for retirement?

Kyle: Traditional charitable giving.

Denver: What is today’s most underreported story?

Kyle: The lack of education for our kids.

Denver: What did you change your mind about in the last 10 years and why?

Kyle: I changed my mind about market-driven forces and that small enterprises can shift a whole industry.

Denver: When was the last time you were totally disconnected from all your devices?

Kyle: When I was asleep last night.

Denver: If you could have one gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say?

Kyle: It would say “Equal education for all” and it would be in front of the White House.

Denver: What is the one book you would give as a gift?

Kyle: Winnie-the-Pooh, The World of Pooh. It was my favorite book as a kid and I still think the philosophy is pretty sound.

Denver: Given the choice of anyone in the world, dead or alive, that you could have dinner with, who would it be?

Kyle: Amelia Earhart.

Denver: When was the last time you sang to yourself?

Kyle: Probably yesterday.

Denver: To someone else?

Kyle: Probably yesterday.

Denver: What do you do to keep your organization nimble?

Kyle: Always bring in brand-new thinkers. We talk to other social entrepreneurs. We have a steady stream of them that come into the organization and explain their models.

Denver: You pick up a magazine to read. What is it?

Kyle: It is The Economist.

Denver: You started First Book in 1992.  What advice would you give to the Kyle Zimmer of 25 years ago?

Kyle: Don’t be afraid. Be fearless.

The Business of Giving Visits the Office of GlobalGiving

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social businesses and nonprofit organizations. 



Jen: We have what we call our “kudos jar” in the common area, and that is filled with different types of candy have meaning to them. So Life Savers are for you to recognize someone that really pulled you out of a bind. Extra Gum is for the times that someone went the extra mile and went above and beyond to get something accomplished. And you go down the list, there’s a bunch of candy that represents different types of recognition that people can have.

Chase: And an example I’d like to give is within the first month of the fellowship, one of the other fellows was getting married in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the entire office came together and crowdfunded our trip to rent cars, rent a place to stay. The office sent out an email request for funds and they handed over an envelope full of cash and sent us up to the wedding. We came back with great stories and great memories, and an even deeper community across the Fellows. I think that’s been kind of one of my biggest embodiments and examples of what GlobalGiving is and what it means to me and what the people here stand for.

Cathy: And if you’re like doing this work with this heavy burden all the time, I don’t think we can sustain the energy amongst us and the positivity for our partners. So for me, I feel like that’s something very sort of GlobalGiving, is that we can be very serious about our work but also we can have fun with ourselves and bring a lightness to how we deliver our work.

Emma: One of the things that I love about GlobalGiving is how everyone is a high achiever and is constantly striving to take their work to the next level and is really committed to self-growth, organizational growth. We set goals, but goals are not kind of the point at which we’re trying to hit. The goals are kind of the starting point. We’re trying to exceed them beyond limits.


Jen: It’s as important to us that people are hitting their goals inside of GlobalGiving as it is that they are developing themselves personally. And so we spend a lot of time investing in the individual, whether that be having the professional development program that we’ve had where folks have a pool of funds that are available to them, a third of which can be used to pursue any kind of personal goal that they have, all the way to we did a Spirit Week earlier in 2016 where we had basically everyone stepping away from their desks for a couple of days to engage in personal development kinds of activity.

Nick: I think the culture here is one of made up of high achievers. We’re going to continue that, repeating that cycle until it gets where we want it to go. Having that mindset I think is really unique and something that for me and my role, I think really informs how I think about a lot of problems in a way that I might not do as naturally if it wasn’t such an omnipresent part of the way GlobalGiving operates. So that’s something that I think is really unique and that I’m really thankful for.

Jen: That premise is what is infused in just the way that we operate and the kind of person that’s attracted to working here, really questioning what is accepted to be the way that you have to do things and consulting the crowd or your colleague or what you have you to enrich your response or whatever it is that you develop as a solution. And then I think building upon that comes things like, well, we’ve got guiding principles but not hard and fast rules. Or you’ve got to make sure that your people are really quick, smart, high achievers, and able to think creatively about how to iterate on things, learn, and grow in order to keep that essence of the organization thriving.

Chase: I rank in my mind all values equal but if I have to pick a favorite right now, I would also say that my favorite is “Listen, Act, Learn, Repeat” because that relates to transparency at GlobalGiving, which I think in my experience has been something that I’ve never seen at any other organization that I’ve had the opportunity to work with, in a sense that all decisions kind of are crowdsourced in a way at GlobalGiving and that’s something, which is rare, I feel like in other organizations. And not even just like decisions, but failures are not hidden or covered up at GlobalGiving. And this just kind of relates back to “Listen, Act, Learn, Repeat” because a part of that is learning how to fail and fail effectively and fail productively, and failing fast and not continuing to fail and acting like you’re not failing.

Cathy: I’ll also ask instead of like “Tell me about yourself,” and I’m sort of notorious for this question, for the person to describe themselves as either a glass of water, iced tea or orange juice. And there are pros and cons to each of those things but it forces you to think differently about how you’re going to give your response.


Emma: Those kinds of additional interests and knowledge areas and passions don’t just kind of come into play in kind of the daily work together, but we also do things like today, for example, we had a brown bag where one of our fellows led a session on learning the Cyrillic alphabet and then talked to us a little bit in Russian, and next week, he’s leading a discussion on Russian politics. And we have a guy here whose background is in neuroscience and he’s led some brown bags for us on…we have someone in the office who’s a juggler and he’s taught juggling. That kind of creativity is such an important outlet because we are I think constantly on the move, trying new things, iterating, being really vulnerable and talking about failures and challenges and so having those moments to kind of shift our brains a little bit and let that creative energy out and build relationships a little bit more, I think that’s really important.

Nick: And so someone will hit the bell and stand up and say, “We just got $50,000 donation from someone we never heard of before. Isn’t that cool?” and everyone will clap. And it’s a great way to kind of celebrate just little wins. We also have a gong for really big wins. It happens less frequently, but is terrifying when it happens because it just catches you right off guard. Inevitably, every now and then, someone will accidentally brush the bell and everyone has this Pavlovian response of “What happened?” People will stick their heads out of conference room doors and that person will have to stand there and say something to make them go away. But it’s just another great way of keeping the lines of communication open, sharing successes when they happen, and I think it’s a great little microcosm of what makes GlobalGiving GlobalGiving.

Jen: The Space is intentionally underscoring this flat feeling that we have here where we don’t have executives down a long hallway with office doors that are closed all day long. Everyone’s mixed in at every level of the organization together. It’s very bright and open — lots of sunlight, lots of color, bright orange and green and our brand colors everywhere. Lots of pockets for people to gather on an ad hoc basis. Either in the lounge or in our little island that we call Fiji which is literally like a cubbie with no doors and a hula person with that bobblehead in there with a sandbox. It’s a free open environment to encourage open communication. Lots of collaboration and transparency and if you’re walking by and you hear something that you’re interested in, you’re invited to join in on the conversation and offer your perspective.


*The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @BizofGive on Twitter and at Facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving.

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social businesses and nonprofit organizations. 


Denver: Today, we’re going to visit the 88th largest charity in the country, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) who have their headquarters up in Rye Brook, New York. The organization has undergone a remarkable transformation in the recent years under the leadership of their CEO, Dr. Louis DeGennaro, who happened to be a guest on The Business of Giving this summer. We’ll start the segment with his vision of the kind of organizational culture he has looked to establish at LLS and then hear from a number of people who work there. 



Dr. Louis DeGennaro:  I’ve been CEO now for just under two years. What I’ve established is an environment around a set of values, among which are: collaboration, openness, accountability, and transparency. And I’ve asked the team to live by these values, because it’s in the best interest of blood cancer patients, and it’s in the best interest of our ability to steward donor dollars.


Dr. Louis DeGennaro and Denver Frederick

Mark: And there’s  something very distinguishing about LLS from the other places I’ve worked and that is we really are curing cancer in real time. I’ve never worked at a place where, literally, the funds you raised, the investments in the science…..and then last year multiple new drugs approved by the FDA and these are drugs for blood cancer. So that cause and effect being so close in, it’s very powerful. And I suspect it brings lots of people joy. I know it brings lots of people joy, obviously, our patients but here as staff and volunteers.


Pamela: I have seen such change in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. When I first started way back, we were known as the Leukemia Society of America. And the mandate from our boss was “Please don’t attempt to connect with any patients because the life span….they have enough to worry about….youngsters were living maybe six months or so, so leave them alone.” And its brought great pleasure to myself and to my friends to see what has happened and the progression that we’ve made over the years. Where would we be today without our outreach to patients and their families? They’re primary in our fundraising efforts. They, in turn, appreciate being asked because we are helping them and they, in turn, want to help us as such.

Beatrice: My team and myself really need to constantly collaborate among ourselves to make sure that we’re not missing any crucial piece of information. So what brings me joy every day coming to work is how collaborative everybody on my team is. So we take calls, but when we’re on a call, we have ways to jabber among ourselves or exchange emails, and we constantly do that just to make sure that the patient who is at the other end of the line is getting as complete a piece of information as they are going to need. We really want the patients to get all that information upfront because we really don’t know whether they will ever call us back and whether we will have another chance to interact with them.

Andrea: I come in every day knowing that something I’m doing is really making a difference for patients and their families. As a member of the communications team, I have the opportunity to tell our stories every day, whether I’m talking to a reporter or I’m posting something on the blog or in one of our newsletters or even sharing it internally because we do both internal and external communication. So sharing a great story or even telling our colleagues about a media placement that helps raise our awareness, it’s just really gratifying to be able to do that.


Richard: So I was recommended to this place by a friend and on day one, I was on an airplane headed out to Silicon Valley to visit with some field offices along West Coast. I was so amazed at that first visit in our San Jose office. I thought I had stepped into a rah-rah program at Mary Kay Cosmetics. I’ve never seen so many people so energized about what they do and the funds they’ve raised in so many creative ways. I got to tell you, I had no idea what I was getting into and I was really amazed.  Over time, what I’ve come to appreciate in this organization is every single person here is a fundraiser. I’ve worked in higher ed, I’ve worked in healthcare and in hospital settings – in this place, every employee is a fundraiser.

Mark: I oversee 56 chapters and we have a new leadership in our HR department that brought this, it’s a McKinsey-based product called “nine box” and it’s a way to look at the talent you have and place them where they are in their development, and then bring to them training that meets them where they are. And I say this because just last week, and everybody knew there’s big sign out in front, we had 15 executive directors in. They were our top executive directors who are thriving. So what do they need in situational leadership management that’s focused on them, individually on them. And so I see us doing things at LLS, whether it’s the matrix management or the nine-box personal growth. For 34 years I’ve discussed this in the organizations I’ve been, but I’ve never been in an organization that’s truly doing it. And I give that credit to Dr. Lou and his vision.

Pamela: Yes, we have a culture here. Maybe five years ago, perhaps that would be ‘we’d like to have a culture here.’ We’re all human and we resist change. We dig our feet in and say, “No, it was OK before. Why should we change?” But with the change in our management leaders as such, people have sort of taken a step back and evaluated and said, “If they think change is good, then we should climb on board and embrace the change and such.” And a change that I have seen is transparency. The silos that we had under our previous CEO hopefully have now been sort of torn down and people understand that they can cross lines and cross departments, whatever and such.


*The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @BizofGive on Twitter and at Facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving.

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of B Lab

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social businesses and nonprofit organizations. 



Denver: This week, you are going to go inside the New York offices of B Lab which are located on Chamber Street here in Manhattan. What is B Lab, you ask? Well, you will first hear from co-founder, Andrew Kassoy, who will spell out the nonprofit organization’s mission and purpose and then from members of the staff who will share their experiences of what it is like to work at B Lab. 

Andrew: B Corp is a certification for good companies. Similar to fair trade for coffee or leads certification for green buildings but it tells us that a company as a whole is trying to use its business to create benefit for society. 

Andrew Kassoy.jpg

Denver Frederick and Andrew Kassoy

Jen: We have a very open office plan here at B Lab in New York. And I think that really helps to create a sense of community and friendship amongst employees. So I feel like all of our colleagues will gather in the kitchen and will have beers after work and spend a lot of times getting to know people outside of their role as professionals, and that for me really reinforces the fact that these people are not just my coworkers, but they’re also my friends.

Amanda: When I first started B Lab, the thing that struck me most about how our layout reinforces our culture is that there is no hierarchy of office and space. So, the co-founders of B Lab sit amongst and with the teams of everyone at B Labs. So they don’t have a larger desks, they don’t have a fancier chair, which makes them really approachable and I think it resonates down to having all of our management be approachable and of ideas flow through out the entire organization.

Alexis: Speaking as an intern, one of the best things I think about working here is that I’m not really treated as an intern. I think at so many companies that they really like stress the separation between interns and full-time employees, and at B Lab we’re sort of treated as just any other worker.


Holly: I think that everyone at B Labs and everyone who comes to work here who’s successful is very independent; able to think for themselves and create their own space. They also take initiative and have a lot of drive to succeed and they’re all incredibly joyful, fun people.

Jack: “When does the new employee know that they really belong?” And I think the answer for that is very simple, it’s in the first day– maybe the second day. But the community that’s present in the office is really wonderful and opening the door… On your first day of work, you’re greeted with so many [founding faces] and they’re so excited to have you on the team.

Dannie: For as long as I’ve been here– which is just over two and a half years and I think for a long time prior– B Lab has always put out what’s called Friday fun day. Which is an email that goes out at the end of every week, actually pulled together by the longest standing non co-founder employee named Heather. So for about nine years now, Heather has sent this sent this email 52 times a year and basically what it says, “Snapshot of all the funny, silly, goofy, hilarious jokes, things that happened throughout the week.” And it’s [unintelligible] I look forward to and I think it really does build a great sense of camaraderie and culture of the organization and just brings a lot of lightheartedness at the end of the day which usually accompanied by four or five beers in the office.

Holly: And I think that the beginning of [unintelligible] silos ‘cause we were so tiny, but as we’ve grown increasingly I’m seeing evidence of silos. But what I think that’s interesting about B Lab’s reaction to that is that we’ve acknowledged them and we’re trying to deal with them, and really take the initiative to overcome them. And I think that’s kind of indicative of B Lab as a whole; there’s a flexibility and a degree of like nimbleness that we are trying to instill and build into the organization as it grows.


Amanda: I’ve been at B-Lab now a year and a half, and when I started last year it was three weeks before our annual staff retreat. And one night of our annual staff retreat is a dinner where we hand out awards for folks. What I do not realize then that I’ve realized now is those awards are nominated by everyone at B Lab. So it’s great to have an opportunity to acknowledge your colleagues and your peers on your team and then also watch those individuals be celebrated by everyone else in the room.

Jen: I think my favorite part about working for B-Lab and the people that we have on this team is that we hire just the most amazing individuals. We’ve recently had a staff retreat that was at my house and my mom was there and she came to meet everyone, and she pulled aside one of the co-founders and was like, “I cannot believe how nice the people are that work here. Like everyone is nice and all that, so how do you do it?” I think that that’s really essential to just who we are as an organization is that we just hire really good people, and so those really good people that do really good work, and make a really great family. And so that’s like kind of [unintelligible 10:30] of this organization.

Holly: I think that B Labs culture and the experience of working from B Lab can really be summed up in one of B-Labs principles. And to me it’s really the most important principle. It&’s the principle that it’s quoted the most throughout the organization, which is that we take the work not ourselves seriously. And I think that it’s a perfect example of how B Lab operates and how everyone comes to work everyday. We love what we do. We are incredibly dedicated to the vision on our work that we’re able to achieve. At the same time, we have fun doing it.

Letecia: I think one of the things I was looking for when I came to B-Lab was a place where people were happy with the end goal of what we’re doing. And I think something I’ve observed in other workplaces is that, it’s not the case. I’ve met very few people who were actually happy to go to work everyday before I joined B Lab. And I think that every workplace has different processes and the way things get done is different, but I think that the end goal is something that is really important at B Lab and that everyone really believes in and is very engaged in.

BLabs staff.jpg

*The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @BizofGive on Twitter and at Facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving.

Kyle Zimmer, Co-Founder and CEO of First Book, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Kyle Zimmer, Co-Founder and CEO of First Book, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.


Denver: It is always interesting and inspiring to speak with a social entrepreneur who has done remarkable things to make the world a better place. But it can be exceptionally rewarding when what they have done is so simple, yet so meaningful: Put a brand new book in the hands of a child who otherwise would have never known the pleasure. My next guest has had that privilege millions and millions and tens of  millions of times over. She is Kyle Zimmer, the Co-Founder and CEO of First Book. Good evening, Kyle, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Kyle: So grateful to be here! Nice to see you.

What we focus on is the need for physical resources to elevate educational opportunities so that every kid has a chance. We focus on books – that’s the heartbeat of what we do – but we have a broad range of resources that we provide now to over 300,000 sites.

Denver: Despite the extraordinary, some might even say “legendary” success of First Book, there are still a number of people out there who haven’t heard much about it. So give us a quick overview of who you are and what you do.

Kyle: First Book is now an international organization. It’s a nonprofit social enterprise, and what we focus on is the need for physical resources to elevate educational opportunities  so that every kid has a chance. So, we focus on books, of course – that’s the heartbeat of what we do – but we have a broad range of resources that we provide now to over 300,000 sites.

Denver: You got started on this back in 1992. You were a corporate lawyer in Washington D.C.,  and you were volunteering at Martha’s Table. What did you see there that inspired you to set out on this quest?

Kyle: It was a long time ago, of course, and it was a critical period in Washington’s history. It was the middle of the crack epidemic, so the city was as violent as it had ever been. I think during those years, we were the “murder capital of the world.”  I had been raised that you have a responsibility to get out there and to help in the community, so I started tutoring after work at what fundamentally was a soup kitchen at that time. I would go in, and there’d be 50 or 60 kids from the neighborhood, and the kids were doing every single thing that you want them to do. They’re doing everything right. They’re coming in off of dangerous streets. They are looking for adult intervention, and every night I would sit there with them, and I would think, “Boy, I’m not an educator; I’m not a teacher, but I could make these hours so much more meaningful if I just had books.” And that really started me on the journey of beginning to figure out why there weren’t books.

We always knew that with a problem this gigantic that we needed something that would affect the whole nation and that could be scaled. That meant that it had to be on a business model footing that was sound, that was strong, that was scalable, and that made economic sense.

Denver: I always like to speak to social entrepreneurs about the beginning of those journeys, and I would be very curious, Kyle, as to whether when you started out, if you had a vision for the organization, an idea of where you were going and what ultimately it would become?  Or were you simply just putting one foot in front of another… getting a couple of books here, give them to a kid… or to a library… or to the local school…. and  building it out as you went along?


Skoll Foundation CEO Sally Osberg Talks about Social Entrepreneurs: Getting Beyond Better

Getting Beyond Better, a new book by Skoll Foundation CEO Sally Osberg and noted management strategist Roger L. Martin, explores how social entrepreneurship developed and how it works to disrupt and replace systems that entrench inequality and marginalize large swathes of society.

In this segment from the Business of Giving, Ms. Osberg talks about social entrepreneurs who are challenging the status quo to address the world’s most pressing problems. She traces the four stages of transformation an effective social entrepreneur must undertake and presents vivid examples of how each contributes to building solutions for a better, fairer world.

The following is conversation between Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.


Sally Osberg

Denver: In 1999, Jeffrey Skoll, the co-founder of eBay, decided to turn his attention from entrepreneurship to social entrepreneurship and started the Skoll Foundation. When he went looking for someone to run the organization with him, he was fortunate to find my next guest– who was also fortunate to find him.  Now we’re all fortunate to have her with us. She is Sally Osberg, the President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation and the co-author of Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works. Good evening, Sally, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Sally: Thank you so much, Denver. It’s a pleasure.

Denver: Tell us about the Skoll Foundation, a bit more about how it got started, and the mission and objectives of the organization.

Sally: Happy to! You’ve already mentioned Jeff Skoll, and Jeff Skoll is an iconic Silicon Valley entrepreneur, renowned for, as you said, co-founding eBay with Pierre Omidyar. Jeff, as an entrepreneur, really resonated to a very special kind of leader who took the discipline and the drive and the disruptive vision to the work of trying to make the world a better place.

So right from the get-go, although neither Jeff nor I had the frame for social entrepreneurship, much less the term, we had a really clear sense of the kind of individual and organization that we thought could really drive the scale of change that Jeff was after for his philanthropy. That was the grounding for the foundation’s mission. It took a couple of years, but eventually we landed on a mission to drive large-scale change on the world’s most pressing problems– by investing in, connecting, and celebrating social entrepreneurs and the innovators who help them.

So, that really was the genesis of the foundation. Jeff’s vision for a world of peace and prosperity that was sustainable, translated into a mission, and that really then became our work with social entrepreneurs and their organizations.

Social entrepreneurs are attacking a system that leads to the marginalization or suffering of some very large segment of a society, and it’s that paradigm that the social entrepreneur is really driven to transform… Social entrepreneurs drive equilibrium change on the world’s pressing problems, consistent with the way entrepreneurs do their work with the business model.

Denver: What is a social entrepreneur? I know that was a gist of your piece back in 2007 when you wrote the article about “The Case for Definition.” What is a social entrepreneur and how does that differ from social enterprise?

Sally: That’s a big question, Denver. As we landed on this idea of social entrepreneurship, one of our board of directors, Roger Martin, who is himself renowned for his work and strategy, felt it was really important. In fact, it was our responsibility to come to clarity about the term and what we meant by it. Because we couldn’t really develop… much less execute a good strategy without being really clear about the kind of folks we were looking for and in whom we wanted to invest.

That’s what led to that article you referenced that we published in 2007 in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition.” And there, we advanced the idea, first of all, that social entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs, and that entrepreneurs are disruptors. Entrepreneurs really shift a status quo, whether it’s in business – it has to do with a product or service, or lack of a product or service. Think of Larry Page,  Sergey Brin, and the internet before you had Google, before you had search engines. It was impossible to really get the information you needed and wanted from the internet. They created a disruptive service that really transformed the way people use the internet.

Same with social entrepreneurs. The difference is that social entrepreneurs are attacking a system that leads to the marginalization or suffering of some very large segment of a society, and it’s that paradigm that the social entrepreneur is really driven to transform. So that was the definition we put forward:  that social entrepreneurs drive equilibrium change on the world’s pressing problems, consistent with the way entrepreneurs do their work with the business model.

The most transformative changes have really come from either government policy innovation… or they’ve come from business innovation…It’s really about adapting the principles and the practices of business and government in creating something entirely new to the world.

Denver: Where does this fit on the continuum or spectrum of society, Sally? If we have government  on one end, and we have private industry on the other: where does social entrepreneurship fit? And what is its unique contribution? (more…)

Robert Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Robert Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

robertlynch2011Denver: There are thousands upon thousands of arts organization across the country – local theatre groups, art exhibits, musical performances in great halls, school programs – all adding to the richness, diversity, vibrancy, and economic health of America. But who represents their collective interests, speaks to their importance, and advocates on their behalf? Well, that is left to a nonprofit organization called Americans for the Arts. And with us this evening is their President and CEO, Robert Lynch. Good evening, Bob, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Robert: Hi. It’s great to be here.

Denver: Give us a brief history of Americans for the Arts and an overview of the work that you do.

Robert: Americans for the Arts was founded with a different name back in 1960, and it grew out of a movement of local arts councils, local arts agencies. There was one in 1947;  that one came into being because a returning veteran from World War II wanted to see things happening in his own hometown of Quincy, Illinois. That one grew to some 100 and 4  state arts agencies in 1960, and they formed this national service organization way back then: the Associated Arts Councils of America.

It had three goals. It’s “Let’s get more local arts agencies to happen here in America!” And today, there are  5,000 of them all across the country. “What about a national arts council?” they said, and so our organization was the lobbying entity to create the National Endowment for the Arts in 1965.  And then there should be more of these state arts agencies because they all fund the arts…those three levels of government. And so there was a plank put in in the middle of the night in the appropriations enabling bill for the National Endowment for the Arts that said “Any state that had a state arts agency could get matching money.” So within a year, the 4 became 50.

Denver: It’s funny how those things happen.

Robert: Yes, absolutely. So that was the beginning of our organization. And then over the years—I’ve actually been there now for 32 years, amazingly, as of two days ago—we did six mergers: a merger or two with organizations that were focused on the arts and the business world; arts and individual philanthropists; and then also state arts advocates and arts education organizations. We brought them all together, and it became Americans for the Arts back in 1996. That’s who we are.

Today, our work is to focus:  one-half of the work on serving the needs of those 5,000 local arts councils who themselves fund and serve the 100,000 nonprofit arts organizations out there. And the other half of the work, with a 501(c)(4) political wing of our organization, is to lead the advocacy effort for federal, state, and local government support for the arts.

Denver:  You’re sort of three organizations rolled in one. You have the 501(c)(3) with the members, and you have the lobbying piece with the 501(c)(4). But you’re also a political action committee, and you support candidates who are favourably disposed to the arts. So, let me take that last one for a moment. What do you anticipate from a Trump administration in this regard?  And how do you think it’s going to differ from the last eight years under Obama?

Robert: The work that we do with the political action committee, it’s called the Arts Action Fund PAC. The work is to basically look at leadership at the government level, particularly House and Senate, and find pro-arts– either candidates or incumbents– and reward them to the extent that we can. And so we probably do in a best election cycle: a hundred gifts, which is a lot. And the gifts are simply to recognize that they have recognized that the arts are important. What we see now with the Trump administration coming in, and what’s important to realize is that there’s the presidential cabinet and the administrative part.  There’s also a very different House and Senate profile, and they all have to work together. The Republicans themselves have differing points of view.

So, we have people who are not supportive of the arts for a variety of reasons. The biggest one has nothing to do with the arts. They don’t think federal government should be involved. It’s a philosophical issue. And then for other reasons, others do support the arts. We did a survey with The Washington Post of Mr. Trump’s feelings a few months before the campaign ended—we actually got all the presidential candidates to talk about their arts positions—and his position was that he likes the arts; he’s supportive of the arts; he wants to be, he said, “an advocate for the arts.” But as far as decision-making, he thought maybe that was something he would leave to Congress, so there’s that split again. And as far as decision-making for things like education, he thought that should be a state or a local issue. So it’s unformed at this point what he will actually do, but the good news is that he’s not against the arts.

And other people who he has listened to in this campaign were adversaries in the past, like Newt Gingrich, for example. But even Mr. Gingrich, we had a conversation a couple of years ago, was much more interested in the arts at that particular time as something that was good for the nation and good for communities, and maybe the government could be involved. So we’re hopeful that there will be some positive energy. We know that what the arts can do around issues like jobs, economic impact, community development, infrastructure are things that the Trump administration has already said they want to focus on early.

Denver: Talk to that a little bit, if you would. What is the economic case that you would make to potential donors and to the government on why they should support the arts?

Robert: The truth and what people know is very far apart. Because the arts are often seen as something that’s poor, that has to be subsidized, that has to be a charity. And in fact, the government itself– the Department of Commerce– pegs the nonprofit and for-profit arts in America as a $704 billion industry, 4.1% of gross domestic product.

Denver: It’s a lot bigger than many other industries that we would think were bigger.

Robert: Absolutely. Bigger than tourism itself.

Denver: Bigger than construction.

Robert: Bigger than construction. And that figure is something, I would venture to say that almost nobody knows, and certainly nobody knows the comparison that you just made to other industries. So that is important, and it’s important from both a domestic point of view, which the Trump administration is very interested in, and an international commerce point of view because we are, as a nation, exporting things that can be exported. And we’re trying to attract people here, and tourism is something to be attracted. So, it’s an interesting case.

Now, when you go to the nonprofit organizations, which is about 100,000 of about 700,000 organizations that we can see are art-centric organizations… those 100,000—we did a study five years ago (the new arts and economic impact study will come out this summer), but the last one showed that the nonprofit arts in America were a $134 billion industry– a huge chunk– and that they supported 3.1 million jobs in America, directly and indirectly. We’ve done that survey every four years, and it keeps increasing. So it’s a growth industry; it’s got big economic numbers, and it is something that mayors, for example, from an economic point of view, continually invest in. Those are the biggest government investors– local government money. The mayors have a 15 or 17 point plank for the new President of the United States, and they have taken 2 of those planks to be about the arts because they feel it’s so important for the economic and community development growth.

Denver: Digging a little deeper on that, how are the arts funded in the United States? What’s the breakdown in that source of funding?

Robert: Every arts organization is different, and they will tell you this if they hear my numbers. But when we looked at, and also the National Endowment for the Arts separately looked at, the almost 100,000 nonprofit arts organizations out there.  It looked like that about 60% of the money today is from earned income. Now, that’s a big change from 25 or 30 years ago;  it was much less back then. But before the National Endowment for the Arts, it was much higher because there was no money coming in. So the 60% is earned income, so that means they’re small businesses. They’re out there actually generating income from ticket sales or restaurants that they might have as part of their bigger institutions; 30% is from the private sector, mostly individuals–about 20% of them–and followed by foundations at about 5%, and corporations at about  5%.

What’s interesting about that is that that’s a lot less than people think. People think that the corporations and the foundations are doing a lot more. I’m often asked to speak in Europe about this. They want to follow the American model. They think the American model is 100% corporate because corporations have been so good on getting their logos on everything. So that’s the second chunk, the private chunk.

And then the last piece is about 9% government– mostly local government, then state government, which is almost $.5 billion in a given year, and then finally federal. And federal, if you looked at everything that the federal government invests in, it could be up close to $2 billion, but that includes the Smithsonian and the Kennedy Center and our national treasures, as well as even pieces of the military, and so on. If you just look at what is given out by the federal government to the rest of the nation, that’s under $150 Million. There’s the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for Humanities on top of that.

In my opinion, it ought to be at least $1 billion that the arts should get…we have a national treasure and a contributor to the economy here in the arts, in the nonprofit arts, and it’s proven that we ought to invest in it.

Denver: Yes and that’s about 46 cents per capita, right?

Robert: For the arts, yes.

Denver: And you’ve been looking to get it up to a buck.