Business of Giving

Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer.

Michael Brune

Michael Brune © Sierra Club

Denver: Since the election of President Donald Trump this past November, some organizations have found themselves, well, a little bit more in the spotlight. That would be true of environmental organizations, not the least of which would be the Sierra Club— the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots organization, with some 3 million members and supporters. And I am delighted to have with us this evening, their Executive Director, Michael Brune. Good evening, Michael, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Michael Brune: Thank you for having me on the show.

Denver: The Sierra Club is now 125 years old. Give us some of the history of the organization and a few of a key milestone along the way.

Michael: Sure. Many folks say that we don’t look a day over 80. We have been around for 125 years. Sierra Club was founded by John Muir, really almost like an adventure travel company circa 1892. The purpose was to take people from the San Francisco Bay Area out to Yosemite in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, simply to experience the wonder of such a beautiful area, and then hopefully to engage people in protecting these places. Over the years, we continue to lead trips — tens of thousands of trips actually over the years — and we engage in exploring, enjoying, and protecting the environment… working to help to make sure we’re protecting forest, parks, and wilderness areas, and fighting climate change and other forms of pollution.

…our whole ethos is that we work to support Americans who want to make a difference in their own backyards. So, whether that’s taking folks on a trip, a hike in an afternoon, cleaning up a local river, or retiring a coal plant and replacing it with clean energy, we very much believe in the power of individuals to affect great change.

Denver: You know, Michael, if you are to take a look at the environmental organizations in this country — The Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Defense Fund, the World Wildlife Fund — where would you put the Sierra Club along that continuum?  And what specific or unique contribution do you make to this enterprise?

Michael: What separates Sierra Club is that we are old, very large… we have a strong grassroots presence. We have a volunteer chapter in every state with some staff as well; volunteer groups in almost every major city in the country, on college campuses. And our whole ethos is that we work to support Americans who want to make a difference in their own backyards. So whether that’s taking folks on a trip, a hike in an afternoon, cleaning up a local river, or retiring a coal plant and replacing it with clean energy, we very much believe in the power of individuals to affect great change.

Denver: Are there a few specific achievements that you have gotten over the last couple years that you’re exceptionally proud of?

Michael: Certainly, certainly. For the whole Sierra Club, what we are proud of throughout our history is: you probably can’t find a national park or state park where a Sierra Club volunteer wasn’t instrumental in helping to make sure that that place is protected. More recently, the work that we’ve been doing to accelerate the retirement of coal plants across the country. More than 250 coal plants– which is close to half of the fleet of coal plants in this country– either has been retired or will soon be retired and replaced with clean renewable energy. It is one of our biggest achievements… as well as much more recently, compelling US cities to make commitments to go to 100% clean energy as a solution to climate change.

Denver: Well, for an environmental group like the Sierra Club, there is before Trump and there is after Trump. So as a result of his election as President, has there been any essential change in your strategy, your approach, your tactics?

Michael: Yes, and no, actually. Certainly, we are a lot busier. We are working a lot harder. We are facing attacks on almost every issue that we care about; whether it’s cleaning up air pollution in this country, water pollution, climate pollution, endangered species, wildlife, public lands, our national monuments, international climate agreements, toxics issues, ocean issues. You name it. Pick an environmental issue, and we’re now facing rollbacks, or attempted rollbacks, or attacks, or lack of enforcement of laws, or the gutting of the agencies responsible for protecting them. So our approach is bifurcated. In one sense, we are fighting hard. We’ve hired lawyers, many lawyers who are challenging each of these attempts to roll back the safeguards that we’ve enjoyed, in many cases, for many decades. Working with Congress to help support those champions in Congress working to uphold strong environmental laws.

On the other hand, we don’t want to be all consumed by this President and Congress. We don’t simply want to play defense for the next two or four or eight years. The other half of our work is solutions-oriented. It is much more local. It’s an area where we are making dramatic progress, not just in retiring coal plants and replacing them with clean energy; not just getting cities to commit to 100% clean energy… But looking throughout the economy to figure out how can we take advantage of market forces and public will to really advance solutions at a much more aggressive pace than we currently are.

Denver: Scott Pruitt, the director of the EPA, he does seem to be a bit more organized and focused than a lot of the other cabinet members. I think he’s got about 30 environmental regulations that he is trying to roll back right now? Is that right?


Rodger DeRose, President and CEO of the Kessler Foundation Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Rodger DeRose, President and CEO of the Kessler Foundation, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer.

rodger derose

Rodger DeRose © Kessler Foundation

Denver: There are certain organizations that just bring with them a blue chip label. The Kessler Foundation, whether you’re speaking about their research, their programs, or their work culture would be one of those organizations. So, it is a great delight to have with us this evening, the President and CEO of the Kessler Foundation, Rodger DeRose. Good evening, Rodger, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Rodger: Thank you, Denver! Appreciate the opportunity.

Denver: Tell us about the Kessler Foundation, and the mission and goals of the organization.

Rodger: Kessler Foundation is over 30 years old now. It was formed as part of the fundraising arm of Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation back in the mid ‘80s. We owned the assets of Kessler Institute as the foundation, and we did a hospital conversion back in 2003 and 2004 and came into a sizeable endowment.

At that point in time, we had to make a decision: How are we going to spend the money? The two areas that we decided to focus on were: research in the areas of brain, spinal cord injury, stroke, and MS; and the other area was in the area of grantmaking, in terms of providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities because it’s one of the most stubborn issues that people with disabilities have… whether they’re born with the disability in life, or they have a disability in life in terms of getting into the workforce and remaining a productive member of society and the workforce.

So we decided that those would be the two focus areas. One, research in terms of addressing the functional issues that people with disabilities have in the areas of brain, spinal cord injury, stroke, and MS. The second area being: How do we help individuals with disabilities re-engage with the workforce?

Denver: Two great focus areas. Now, you continue to work closely with the Kessler Rehabilitation Institute, which is over in West Orange, New Jersey. What’s the relationship between the two of you now?

Rodger: You know,  while we’re separate organizations, separated by firewalls and we have our separate boards. We sold the hospital – Kessler Institute – to Select Medical, which is based in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and they really are a dominating force across the country in terms of medical rehabilitation hospitals. But we are still very, very close. We’re as joined at the hip as possible. We have our research center, our major research centers in West Orange on the Kessler campus, and that, of course, is part of the Kessler Hospital.

So the great thing about that, Denver, is the fact that when we’re conducting research, we’re almost vertically integrated where patients– either inpatients or outpatients that are coming there for their service in terms of the rehabilitation service–  they can actually migrate right into our research programs. And so when you have access to patients, you have the ability to do your research in a very effective and efficient way.

Denver: Absolutely. Truly translational.

Rodger: It is. It is truly translational. That’s the end benefit, I think, for Kessler Institute, is the benefit that they receive in terms of the new medical interventions that we are creating in these areas of brain, spinal cord injury, stroke, and MS that they can actually apply right in the hospital to the patients.

Denver: Great! Well, let’s take a couple of those that you just mentioned. You have six specialized laboratories in this research center. You mentioned a moment ago stroke rehabilitation–that research lab. How many people in this country, Rodger, have had a stroke?

Rodger: In the US, there are 800,000 new stroke victims every year, and the areas that we address, of course, are the areas of cognition. For example, the area of spatial neglect is a specialty that we have within the foundation.

Spatial neglect is:  if you think of the brain as a GPS system and it losing its ability to go left if you’ve had a right brain stroke.

Spatial neglect is a very, very special need, and it’s something that we have become a leader in, not only in research but also in terms of applying it now to every stroke patient that comes through Kessler Institute.

Denver: Speak a little bit about that because that’s really interesting.

Rodger: Spatial neglect is: if you think of the brain as a GPS system and it losing its ability to go left if you’ve had a right brain stroke. In 50% of the cases of an individual who has a right brain stroke, it’s a common occurrence to have what we call “spatial neglect” where you have an absence of leftness. So, for example, Denver, if you are an individual that has spatial neglect, and you’re eating a plate of food and we asked you if you’re finished, you would have most likely eaten the right-hand side and missed the left-hand side completely. And as we turn the plate, you would then start to see the remainder of the food that you missed. Or if you’re shaving in the morning, you would shave the right-hand side of your face but miss the left-hand side. Same with a woman applying makeup.

So it’s called spatial neglect, and it’s an area that we have specialized in over the last seven years and developed a very straightforward approach in terms of how we address this issue in 10 sessions, less than 45-minutes per session; in terms of helping individuals regain leftness; in terms of where their world can be complete again, whether they’re looking at an album, a picture book of their family members and being able to see the entire family; or in the case of driving, being able to go out and drive again. So what we’re trying to do is give them complete independence where they can go right back into the community, into the family, and into the workplace. The areas of paralysis with stroke is something that we deal with every day, but spatial neglect is a very, very special need, and it’s something that we have become a leader in, not only in research, but also in terms of applying it now to every stroke patient that comes through Kessler Institute. Now, all of their nurses and practitioners are trained in this methodology.

And now what we’re doing, Denver, is rolling this out across the country and around the world so that other medical rehabilitation centers become aware of what spatial neglect is because it really has been something that has been absent from neurologists.

Denver: Neglected.

Rodger: Yes.

Denver: No question about it. I just can imagine how dangerous that must be just in terms of walking around and taking falls.

Rodger: Well, that’s it! And then they end up back in the hospital or back at Kessler Institute for another issue that they might have had from the fall.

Denver: Any other symptoms of stroke that are somewhat invisible?  Or things that people don’t know about and that you’re addressing?

Rodger: Well, you know, aphasia– in terms of the ability to think and be able to speak clearly– is always an issue, and that’s something that’s addressed very clearly in almost every major stroke organization that deals with this from a rehabilitation perspective, Denver. But the area that we have really focused on in our research is this area of cognitive deficiencies that come from a stroke.

Denver: You know, one of your centers of excellence out there is your traumatic brain research center. What’s some of the work that you’re doing over there?

Rodger: In traumatic brain injury, the common areas are not only cognition-related issues, but also mobility-related issues. So the areas that you would see us focus on are in cognition– helping individuals think, learn, remember again, and address those issues of cognition deficits. And then the other areas that we’re working on are balance. One of the major issues with traumatic brain injury patients is regaining balance, and this leads to the type of issues that you mentioned with stroke patients– spatial neglect where they would fall. In this particular case, we’re working with the Department of Defense in a major area of helping individuals, civilians as well as veterans, address this issue of balance and how they regain it.

Denver: How is your research funded?

Rodger: Our research is funded by two methods, actually, Denver. We’re very fortunate that now that we have an endowment.  It does give us the ability to fund many startup programs that otherwise, you wouldn’t have the pilot data to collect this important information that allows you then to go to federal agencies to win the major grants. So we fund ours through the endowment in terms of giving them startup funds– our researchers, our scientists, our own scientists–startup funds so that they can get their pilot data. And then they can use that pilot data to go after the large federal grants at NIH or the Department of Defense or the VA or other federal agencies.

We’re also very, very fortunate in New Jersey, Denver. If you talk to competition that we might deal with across the country, they would call it an unfair competitive advantage.  And that is the fact that we have in New Jersey, the New Jersey Brain Injury Commission and the New Jersey Spinal Cord Injury Commission. They allow us to apply for grants and, again, collect pilot data that we can then use and leverage in terms of advancing research at the national level. And that’s what our scientists are really doing. They’re competing on the world-class stage in terms of these areas of brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, and MS.

Denver: And they’re winning a lot of those grants!

Rodger: They do. They are very successful at it. Yes!

Denver: Well, let’s talk about your other focus area that you mentioned at the beginning, and that is employment opportunities for the disabled. Now, from what I understand, there are about 60 million people in this country who are disabled. Of that group, how many of them are of working age?  And what percentage of those are working?

Rodger: That’s a great question. It grows each year, especially as we start to see the Baby Boomers rotate out of the market force. But of that 60 million, there are about 30 million that would fall into the category of 18-64, so that they would be in the working age population. The big issue is that of that group, only about 25% are actually working, and there’s a number of reasons for that. From an employer perspective, there’s always the stigma of disability and the fact that I call the fear, uncertainty, and doubt factor in terms of:  If I hire somebody with a disability, are they going to be able to perform? How are my other employees going to react? What happens if I have a legal issue and I have to, unfortunately, find a way to let that employee go?  Does that lead to potential lawsuits and complications? And actually, it’s just a reverse of that in terms of the employment funding that we have done across the country in the last 13 years. We’ve invested probably around $40 million in this area where we give funding to other nonprofit organizations that are creating innovative, new ideas to create employment opportunities for people with disability.

So let me give you an example of that, Denver. You had on your show back about a year ago or so, Carol Glazer from the National Organization on Disabilities. Carol and the NOD had received funding from us to do what we call the Bridges Project, which was in Lowe’s Department Stores. So we are sort of like a venture funder, if you will, and give organizations  like NOD the funding that they need to start up and do that three test market site in Lowe’s Home Improvement centers where they ended up being the consultants, if you will, on where to find people with disabilities with the Lowe’s management team, how to train individuals with disabilities against the skill sets that they were looking for in their distribution center, and then also how to train individuals in the workforce at Lowe’s on their first encounter in terms of how to work with people with disabilities. These of course are not sheltered workshops in any way. These are individuals that are working side by side with able-bodied individuals at Lowe’s Home Improvement centers where they’re earning the same pay, being held accountable for the same metrics, and getting benefits as well.

So what you see then through these demonstration projects – and there are hundreds of them throughout the United States that we have funded – is the ability to convince businesses that hiring people with disabilities adds shareholder value to them. No business is in business to hire people. They’re in business to do transactions, to make a better product or lower the cost of that product, and then they hire people. And that’s what we’re trying to do, is make sure that they understand that people with disabilities can be just as productive, just as creative, just as loyal as an able-bodied  a person, and make a contribution to that organization.

Rodger Derose and Denver Frederick

Rodger DeRose and Denver Frederick at the AM970 The Answer Studio

Denver: So, you do the proof of concept with that funding.

Rodger: We do. And I don’t think it ends there, actually, Denver. I think that the bigger picture is not just in…if I was the CEO of a Fortune 1000 company, the way I would be looking at it is: I would be looking at it from a customer perspective: How do I create best products that serve not only the needs of able-bodied individuals, but people that have disabilities? And then I’d be looking at it in terms of talent: How do I hire diverse and inclusive workforce? And then I’d be looking at it from a production productivity point of view as: How do I put the best processes in place that are going to address the workforce issues and the production of my product in the most economical way?

And if you address those three areas, you really come to the conclusion that you’re going to be developing products, services.  You’re going to be hiring people with disabilities; you’re going to be developing products for all individuals with universal design, and you’re going to be looking at productivity in a different way as well because you’re going to set up  your line operations and your manufacturing operations in a completely different way.  If you had people with disabilities working side by side with able-bodied people, that’s going to benefit every worker in that chain, that line of production.

…over 60% of individuals with disabilities wanted to work.

…there is an appetite, there is a need. Nobody is going to get rich living on Social Security disability insurance, that’s for sure. And so they would like to do anything that’s possible to earn an income, pay taxes, be a productive member of society…

They want to be productive members of the workforce and they want to be proud of it as well.

Denver: Absolutely. You mentioned before, we have 30 million people who are disabled; about 25% of them are in the workforce. Are people who are disabled… do they want to join the workforce or not? Have you done some studies on that?

Rodger: We have, Denver. In 2015, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, we did an updated survey, and that survey clearly indicated that—and this was with 3,000 individuals with disabilities–

Denver: Good survey.

Rodgers: –it clearly had a very high statistical confidence level, but it clearly said that over 60% of individuals with disabilities wanted to work. It was finding ways that they could actually get into the workforce and convince those that are making the hiring decisions to hire them.

So there is an appetite; there is a need. Nobody is going to get rich living on Social Security disability insurance, that’s for sure. And so they would like to do anything that’s possible to earn an income, pay taxes, be a productive member of society, and have the ability to go to an office party or a party.  And the second question that comes out from a person that you meet at that party after you make your introduction with your name is “Well, what’s your profession? What do you do?” Well, the last thing you want to do is be able to say “I sit on the couch and watch TV, and I collect the Social Security disability insurance paycheck.” They want to be productive members of the workforce, and they want to be proud of it as well.

Denver: Absolutely! A real sense of self-worth around there.

Rodger: It is.

… mandates only do so much. Working from the heart and doing things out of good will only do so much. You really have to attack this issue from the perspective that it is good business sense. It’s going to add shareholder value by having an inclusive workforce.

Denver: I know how I would feel, you know what I mean? So that really brings it home. You know, I noticed it’s always evolving, but what does the current law say about disability and employment today?

Rodger: Well, there was a law that was passed under the last presidential administration called the 503 Act, and that had required that any organization that had federal contracts, they had to hire 7% of their workforce with disabilities. Now, they started out very slowly. They didn’t really enforce that, and then near the end of the last administration, they started to enforce that.

I happen to believe, from my perspective, Denver, that mandates only do so much. Working from the heart, and doing things out of good will only do so much. You really have to attack this issue from the perspective that it is good business sense. It’s going to add shareholder value by having an inclusive workforce.

So, in the same ways that marketers market products to Asian-Americans or African-Americans or Hispanic population or the disability community, you have to look at the 60 million Americans as one of the largest majority minorities in the country, and their families and their friends– which make up over 50% of the population– and you have to say “What does that mean from an economic value perspective?  And how do I participate in that?” And once you do that, and you look at it from a business perspective, I think it starts to address the issue of employment in a more comprehensive way than just a mandate.

Denver: A more self-enlightened way, and it is self-enlightened. We have a hard a time finding good people, and there are a lot of them around in the disabled community that can fill many gaps within these organizations and corporations. Can an employer ask a job candidate whether they are disabled before they extend the job offer?

Rodger: No. You do not want to approach it that way. If it’s a physical disability that an individual has that you can actually see, you can ask the individual if there are any special requirements that they might have. But you’re really not supposed to dive into the disability. Now, the issue that many individuals with disabilities have is there are hidden disabilities that you and I would never see in the interview and, of course, you’re never going to go there as an interviewer. But you can ask: Are there any special requirements that you might have?

For example, there are some individuals that have back issues, and they may need a standing desk, for example, and that’s something that we provide to our employees if that’s something that they need. So those are issues that you want to tread very carefully on, and you want to make sure that you’re talking to your human resource department in terms of making sure that you’re asking the right questions.

I think that the culture in any organization that hires people with disabilities changes. It changes for the better…having a workforce that includes people with disabilities makes managers better managers…better parents…better citizens of the world. It makes them, I believe, better human beings that are going to approach issues in the workforce in a different way.

Denver: You know, we tend to look at the disabled through the lens of the limitations that they have. But boy, they can bring some incredible assets to an organization that we just tend to overlook. Give us a few of the special things that a disabled person brings to a workplace?

Rodger: I think that the culture in any organization that hires people with disabilities changes. It changes for the better. I think that having a workforce that includes people with disabilities makes managers better managers. It makes them better parents. It makes them better citizens of the world. It makes them, I believe, better human beings that are going to approach issues in the workforce in a different way. And so I think it will change the culture of that organization once you start hiring people with disabilities into the organization.

But as I was mentioning earlier, Denver, in terms of productivity, creativity, loyalty, these are the types of things that add value to any organization. When you can reduce turnover because you hired somebody with a disability that perhaps this is the first job that they’ve had, and they’re going to do everything that they can to make sure that they’re a productive member of that workforce, and they’re going to give you loyalty instead of looking for another job on the outside as long as you’re treating them fairly. That adds value to the organization because we all know what turnover costs are like in any organization.

Denver:  Much more than we expect.

Rodger: Exactly!

Denver: Absolutely. You mentioned Lowe’s before. Any other employers that stands out as exemplary in your mind?

Rodger: We have worked with funding projects with Pepsi, which is hiring people in their bottling plants and in their vending machine repair organizations. We’ve hired with OfficeMax, Office Depot. We’ve done a lot of innovative projects as well, where we’ve been funding the entrepreneurial spirit of people with disabilities in terms of if they have a special talent in the arts, for example.  How do you get that to come out in terms of their personality?

And so we’ve done smaller projects. We have done projects in terms of training individuals with disabilities on how to become lab technicians in New Jersey– with the pharmaceutical industry being one of the largest in that scenario– that there’s a growing need as well. So we’re trying to address it across different technology and different sectors in industry in terms of how we can address these issues for people with disabilities and make them employable.

Denver: Let me talk a little bit about your personal journey, Rodger. You’re one of those executives that has moved from the private sector over to the nonprofit sector. You were at SC Johnson and then Arthur Andersen, and became the President of the Kessler Foundation back in 2008. What are some of the differences that you’ve noticed in leading a nonprofit organization, as opposed to leading an enterprise in the private sector?

Rodger: I would say that in business, you move very, very quickly.  At SC Johnson, which was a family company, we had the ability to spin on a dime because we didn’t have to answer to shareholders, and we could make investments that other companies couldn’t necessarily do. So coming from an organization like that, coming from Arthur Andersen– which was a partnership before the Enron scandal– which, by the way, was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2003, but by that time, they had unfortunately lost all their clients.

Denver: Damage had been done.

Rodger: But the one thing, moving from a for-profit into nonprofit, is many people get a sense that there’s a lack of urgency in the nonprofit sector. I think if you can be sensitive to that and try to address those needs as you come into an organization… address the cultural issues that go with that in a nonprofit organization, you can be successful in terms of making the transition.

I think the other area is dealing with a nonprofit board versus a for-profit board. Many of the individuals that come into a nonprofit board come from a business or a legal or a financial background, so they have a mindset of operating in a for-profit segment, if you will. And when they come to a nonprofit like Kessler Foundation… or any other nonprofit organization or public charity, they have a certain mindset in terms of expectations. So you have to make that adjustment as well and work with them… make sure that they are understanding of the needs of the organization, and get them to understand how we’re moving forward with the mission of the organization.

So those are some of the complications that you typically go through in any organization from for-profit to nonprofit, but you can make the transition. The problem is, I think, for many individuals that try to leap and make it too fast, they stumble; they expect it to turn around like a for-profit organization and operate like a for-profit.  And when they stumble, often times they can create hardships on the organization and start to have very, very high turnover of key asset personnel. So you want to be very careful when you’re making that cultural shift to a nonprofit organization.  

… be human first; be a manager second, and still do the best thing that’s in the interest of the organization.  But know that your key asset that is helping you make all of these business transactions that you’re doing on a daily business are your people.

Denver: Well, you were careful, and you’ve made it really, really well.  And that’s why the Kessler Foundation is considered one of the best places to work. You’ve been on New Jersey Business list for six years in a row. You took a big jump, higher on that list this past year, and the NonProfit Times has the Kessler Foundation as the fourth best nonprofit organization to work in the United States. Tell us why people say that… and a little bit about the corporate culture at Kessler.

Rodger: I believe, Denver, that any great organization has to treat its most important asset, which are its people. They have to have competitive salary, and they have to have competitive benefits. But I think beyond that, they have to relate to the mission. It’s one thing to be working for a tobacco company. It’s another thing to be working for an organization that is actually helping to change the life of an individual that has a disability, and actually see it first hand in the work that you day in and day out. And so relating to the mission of the organization is fundamentally critical, and I think that that’s first and foremost, in addition to making sure that the playing field is level in terms of benefits and pay.

I think the other area that is so important is if you manage your organization with a real human element– where you are human first and manager second, it really shows in the culture of the organization… and how you address personnel issues, for example, that are going to live with the organization for a long period of time. Every organization has to release somebody at some point for not meeting the performance metrics. How you release that person, for example, says a lot about the organization. If you do it in a very dignified way, in a way that allows an individual to leave with grace and dignity, it says something about the organization. And that as that person leaves, that you continue to have a very meaningful discussion or relationship with the person, so that it’s a positive relationship as opposed to a negative one. That translates to how people view you in the marketplace.

That’s an example, but my point to you is: Be human first; Be a manager second, and still do the best thing that’s in the interest of the organization.  But know that your key asset that is helping you make all of these business transactions that you’re doing on a daily basis are your people. And I think it comes through in how you manage and how you lead the organization.

Denver: That’s a great point, Rodger, and particularly, as you were talking about releasing someone. I’ve been with so many organizations that when they do that, they’re completely unaware of the impact that it’s going to have with everybody else who is still there. And they pretty much all say to themselves, “Oh, I see what’s going to happen when my time should ever come and how they’re going to treat me,” and they make their plans accordingly. So that’s a wonderful point.

Well, you talked a little bit about individuals, and I want to close with that because we’ve been discussing your two major programs: research and employment. But at the end of the day, what you’re doing is you’re impacting one person, one family at a time. Give us a success story of one of those people that Kessler really has played a role in touching them and changing their lives.

Rodger: I would suggest to you that there’s an individual by the name of Chris Tagatac. Chris is an individual that lives in Vermont, fell off his roof, had a spinal cord injury and was destined to be in a wheelchair. He is a business person, a finance individual, and he really wanted to address a number of issues. Those issues for him, even though he knows that at this point in time in the history of spinal cord injury, that he’s going to live a good portion of his life in a wheelchair, that he wanted to address the complications so that he could have a higher quality of life. And that being issues like bone density loss, muscles mass loss, urinary tract infection, sexual function, circulation, pressure sores, pressure ulcers that create the long-term medical complications of being in a wheelchair.

He was one of the early participants in our robotic research that we started back in 2011 as one of the very first centers in the country to move into robotics for spinal cord injured patients. He’s become an ambassador for us in terms of a spokesperson that not only talks about the fact that being in a robot–which is like exercise for you and I in terms of going to the gym each day– if you can be walking in a robot several times a week and getting that exercise and addressing these issues of bone density loss, muscle mass loss, circulation, pressure sores, urinary tract infections, et cetera – those are life-changing issues that he has to address from a functional perspective that’s going to keep him out of the hospital.

So that’s a personal story that Chris would tell you is life-changing from his perspective until we can find a cure for spinal cord injury.

Denver: Well, Rodger DeRose, the President and CEO of the Kessler Foundation, I want to thank you so much for being here this evening. Tell us about your website, some of the information that is there, and how people can get involved in helping support your organization.

Rodger: They can go to and learn about the foundation. They can certainly volunteer. We’re always looking for new board members that can come to the board and want to have an impact. They can reach out to me personally on our website by just emailing me, and I’d be happy to have a conversation with them and carry on the great work that Kessler Foundation does every day.

Denver:  It sure does. Well, thank you very much, Rodger. It was a real pleasure to have you on the program.

Rodger: Thank you, Denver!

Rodger Derose and Denver Frederick

Rodger DeRose and Denver Frederick

The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at

Mari Kuraishi, Co-founder and CEO of GlobalGiving Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Mari Kuraishi, Co-founder and CEO of GlobalGiving, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer.

Mari Kuraishi

Mari Kuraishi ©

Denver: Crowdfunding is a fairly recent phenomenon, with sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo changing the way money is raised to support and finance many a project. But did you know that there was a fundraising venture to fund nonprofits and good causes all the way back in 2002…before Facebook, before Twitter, before social media as we know it today? Well, there was, and with us now is its co-founder. She is Mari Kuraishi, the President and CEO of GlobalGiving. Good evening, Mari, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Mari: Thank you, Denver! I’m pleased to be here.

Crowdfunding is a way for anybody really to ask other people to fund them… this is an amazing thing to use the web to get people to come together for a common cause.

Denver: Before we get into the work of your organization, for those listeners who may only be casually acquainted with crowdfunding, tell us what it is and how it works.

Mari: Crowdfunding is a way for anybody really to ask other people to fund them. So you can go to a site like Kickstarter, someone’s got this great idea for how to build a new and better cooler, and he shows people the prototypes, photographs and how he’s going to attach a boombox to the cooler.  And the cooler is going to have these wheels, and it’s going to do all these awesome things, and he says, “I can build this if I get $100,000 from you all.” People can give as little as $10 for these things.  And Lo and Behold!  People look at the cooler and think, Oh, this is going to be so awesome for my barbecue in the summer; I’m going to go and take it to the beach…I’m going to give this guy $80 and get the first one that comes off the production line. So that’s one form of crowdfunding.

You can crowdfund for a documentary, which you might get a DVD… but it’s not as tangible as a cooler. You can crowdfund for somebody who’s fallen on hard times. So someone’s daughter gets sick with cancer; their medical insurance can’t cover all the cost. They put up that cause on a crowdfunding site, and they can get people to donate. It’s not all tax-deductible. I use the word “donate” sort of in a conceptual form, but this is an amazing thing to use the web to get people to come together for a common cause.

Denver: Good explanation. Well, you can also finance for a good cause. So tell us about GlobalGiving and the mission and goals of your organization.

Mari: So we founded GlobalGiving to make it possible for anyone in the world to give to a grassroots project, again, from anywhere in the world. I worked for a long time at the World Bank, and I traveled the world, and I would see people in the hardest places to work, where electricity wasn’t reliable; transport wasn’t reliable. The hurricanes would come through, but they were doing amazing things. They were helping girls get an education. They were providing water for a community that didn’t have access to clean water unless they walked 10 miles to the next village. They were everyday heroes, and yet they’re unknown to most of us here. So could I take their work? Could I show everybody what was going on in these remote communities and make it possible for people to contribute to those things?

We’ve been able to send over $260 million from over half a million donors to 17,000 or so projects in 166 countries. We’ve also worked with almost 200 countries along the way.

Denver:  And as I said in the opening, this was founded in 2002. What have you been able to accomplish over the course of the last 15 years in terms of the projects, and the countries, and the amount of money, and things of that nature?

Mari: We’ve been able to send over $260 million from over half a million donors to 17,000 or so projects in 166 countries. We’ve also worked with almost 200 companies along the way.

Denver: That’s very impressive. Well, you mentioned a second ago you were at the World Bank, and that’s a very well-respected organization.  But they deal at the very highest levels – the minister of finance – and they address problems with a lot of money often, and it’s kind of a top-down. So GlobalGiving, as you described it, is really just the opposite of that. It is on the ground, bottom-up, in communities with those problem solvers. Tell us what instigated this dramatic change of approach with you.


Alberto Ibargüen, President and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Alberto Ibargüen, President and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

Denver: There haven’t been too many newspaper guys that have gone on to lead one of the premier foundations in the country. But if my next guest, who has served as a publisher at the Miami Herald… and has done stints at the Hartford Courant and Newsday among other places… is any indication, then it might be a good place for a foundation seeking a CEO to take a look. He is Alberto Ibargüen, the President and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Good evening, Alberto and welcome to The Business of Giving.

Alberto: It’s a great pleasure to be here. 

Denver: Tell us about John S. and James L. Knight, who started this foundation back in 1950… what their original vision was, and the influence that vision has on the work of the foundation today..


Alberto Ibargüen

Alberto: They were originally from Akron, Ohio. They were newspaper people. They saw newspapers as a way of informing communities, and in Jack Knight’s own words, “So that the people may determine their own interest.” Although I would say, not actually really sure that he was a partisan, but I would say he was a patrician, republican, very wealthy man who was actually a small-d democrat. He truly believed in an informed society. He also believed in technology, and he used new technology to advance his business, to advance the telling of news and information–reliable and consistently reliable product– that people would come back to as a matter of habit and as a matter of staying informed about things that were going on in their community. He used the telephone as the new modern thing in the early part of the 20th century in the 1920s to go from Akron, first to Miami, then later Charlotte, Detroit, Philadelphia, and so on… And created what in his day was the biggest newspaper company in America, when newspapers were the key source of news throughout the country. 

Denver: As a matter of fact, I understand he even had some fax technology back in 1948. Although it was short lived, he was delivering the news like that. 

Alberto: It’s actually a great story, I didn’t know it until somebody pointed  out there’s a German engineering magazine that talked about this crazy American, who in 1948…I don’t think 99.9% of the world knew what a fax was…in 1948, there’s this American guy talking about one day faxing his newspaper to his customers. They also lost a lot of money, early internet with Viewtron. I think this was before pictures, before motion, before video. It was just text, but they made a big investment, and I think it’s typical of the history of the Knights– and then later Knight Ridder– that the early Knight Ridder should have invested in whatever the technology was, so that when the customers were ready to go there, they were already there with their reliable news package.

…it was absolutely clear that we had to move away from ink on paper. Why? Because the world had moved away from ink on paper, and it was never about the paper, and never about the ink.  It was always about the news. And how do you get people really well-informed so that they can make the best choices? That’s what journalism should be– always about, it seems to me. 

Denver: Well, that spirit of adventure is still alive today with the Knight Foundation as you do all you can to try to stay ahead of the curve. Now, you’re a national foundation, both I think, in impact and scope, but you’re also a local foundation in that you’re rooted in the 26 cities which had Knight Ridder newspapers. That’s a somewhat unusual structure for a foundation. Have there been advantages and disadvantages in that kind of set-up? 

Alberto: I think there are huge advantages from my perspective. In the first place, we’re not a behemoth like Gates, or even extremely large, like Ford. Two billion dollars sounds like a lot of money until you start figuring out how much it costs to do all these various things in 26 cities. The Knight Brothers were really pretty clear: they explicitly said, “We don’t have a crystal ball, and we know that just like our business, the foundation will need to evolve to stay relevant. What we care about is journalism and the communities that made us successful.” And so, that gives us a really clear “true north” for what we do, and how we do it depends on what’s available now.  And so for me, it was absolutely clear that we had to move away from ink on paper. Why? Because the world had moved away from ink on paper, and it was never about the paper, and never about the ink.  It was always about the news. And how do you get people really well-informed so that they can make the best choices? That’s what journalism should be– always about, it seems to me. 

Denver: Well, when you arrived at Knight, a bit over a decade ago, the foundation was apt to make some really large gifts to universities to endow some chairs in journalism.  But you started to fund innovation along the lines you just said– with smaller grants to start-up enterprises. Tell us how that change evolved, and how it changed the way the foundation both operates– and its corporate culture. 


Dr. Larry Brilliant Discusses His Latest Book, Sometimes Brilliant

Larry Brilliant has had a career that lives up to his name. In the 1970s, he played a key role in work in Bangladesh and India to eradicate smallpox, personally witnessing the end of “an unbroken chain of transmission that went back to Pharaoh Ramses.” He then co-founded the Seva Foundation, which helps prevent and treat blindness in the developing world. He was the first director of tech philanthropy, and today he chairs the Skoll Global Threats Fund, tackling issues such as climate change and water security that, like smallpox before them, pose an existential danger to enormous swaths of humanity.

In his new memoir, Sometimes Brilliant, the physician and philanthropist details that remarkable journey, from his youth in Detroit and early medical career, through immersion in the ‘60s counterculture and Eastern philosophy, to his work today with tech moguls like eBay co-founder Jeff Skoll to achieve social change on a truly massive scale. In this edition of the Business of Giving, Dr. Brilliant walks us through some of his adventures as a civil-rights marcher, radical hippie doctor, meditating mystic, and groundbreaker in global health and Silicon Valley giving.

The following is a conversation between Dr. Larry Brilliant, author  of Sometimes Brilliant, and Denver Frederick, host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City. This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.


Denver: Back in July, Dr. Larry Brilliant joined us to discuss the launch of an HBO movie he had produced called Open Your Eyes, a compelling story of a husband and wife in Nepal whose sight is restored as result of the work of the Seva  Foundation founded by Dr. Brilliant and his wife. Well, he’s been good enough to come back and join us again… this time to discuss his memoir that will be released on Tuesday and aptly entitled Sometimes Brilliant. Good evening, Larry, and welcome back to The Business of Giving.

Larry: Nice to see you again, Denver. Thank you.

Denver: You have had a most remarkable life, so much so, it’s hard to know where to begin. But I think I’ll start with you sitting in Hill Auditorium at the University of Michigan campus on November 5, 1962… listening to a speech. Tell us about that day and the impact that it had on you.

Larry: I think everybody who’s gone to college remembers the sophomore year. It’s a tough year, anyway. And for me, it was tougher because my dad was dying of cancer.  As it would turn out, my dad and my grandfather both died inside of five days.

So, it was a tough time, and I had no inner resources to deal with that. I sort of locked myself up in my room in South Quad in Ann Arbor, and I think I was gobbling down burnt peanuts and reading Superman. That was my high and exalted way of dealing with depression. And I saw a little note in the college newspaper “The Michigan Daily” that said  Martin Luther King was going to be on campus. Nobody really knew who Martin Luther King was. He hadn’t yet given his speech “I Have a Dream.” He didn’t yet have his Nobel Prize. The world outside was filled with the Cuban missile standoff. Bob Dylan was singing “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”

It was a pretty complicated moment. It was raining and miserable weather, but somehow I took my sophomore ass out of the dorm and wandered into the auditorium.  And hardly anybody came. This huge auditorium that holds 3,000 people, it was hardly half-filled, or even less. The President was embarrassed, introduced Martin Luther King, and he looked out.  Instead of feeling bad, he laughed. He just laughed. And he said, “You all come on up here and sit on the stage; there will be more of me to go around.” And not everybody went up on stage…it kind of crowded the stage, and we all listened to him. And it was not like anything I had ever heard before. I had never heard someone talk about brotherhood. I had never heard anyone say, “We are all God’s children. We’re all in it together.” I had never heard anybody say that there’s a great movement for justice. I had never heard anyone say that “the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, but you and I have got to jump up and help bend it.” I had never heard anybody say, “Join me, and make the world a better place.” He said things that opened up a space for me — a depressed, wonky, kind of pimple-faced kid — something I could do. I could kind of crawl out of my depression, and it wouldn’t all just be about me and the pain that I felt. And, of course, everybody that was on stage with him that day… that was in the auditorium, just began to march. Most went down that summer to Mississippi. Many had encounters that would change their lives. I stayed home with my dad because he was sick, but shortly afterwards I was marching in Chicago.

Denver: Got arrested, right?

Larry: Well, when I went to medical school and had a white coat on, the Medical Committee for Human Rights said, “Come on down to Chicago. Martin Luther King is going to make his march to the city. We want people wearing white coats with their stethoscopes dangling ostentatiously to form a cordon to protect him.”  I marched with Martin Luther King. We were all arrested together. And here’s a little secret: If you are ever going to be arrested — I tell my children — for a good cause, and there are some good causes, get arrested with 200, 300, 400, 500 of your best friends because then they put you in “pretend jail.” And you’re “pretend arrested.” And you can bring a guitar.

Denver: That’s great advice.

Larry: The cops were wonderful. This was not the kind of scene you think of when being arrested. They had to arrest us because we were blocking traffic. We had to go into Grant Park. They had to build a pretend jail, and Martin Luther King was there, and he just kept talking to us. I can’t remember the number of times I marched with him, but it certainly became the organizing principle of my life — the Civil Rights Movement, the movement against the war in Vietnam, and the movement itself. Because as it led into the ‘60s and the ‘70s, my generation, we thought we sensed that right around the corner was a better world… a world that had room for all of us, a room where black or white or male or female or tall or short or old or young… that we were all allowed into this great dream called America. And that was the magic that led to Haight Ashbury and the counterculture… and all rest of it.

Denver: And all the rest of it. Well, that day did have a profound influence on your life. As you noted, you became a doctor, I think, in part  because your father had cancer.  I know you had your own bout with it as well. So I’m going to move to the part of the book which really reads like fiction– not great fiction… because it’s almost too preposterous!  We’re going to start in 1969 at the infamous Alcatraz prison in San Francisco Bay, and it’s going to end in Bhola Island in Bangladesh in 1977. Take us on that extraordinary journey.

Larry: I was in pretend jail in Chicago. It was a real jail in Alcatraz, but I wasn’t a prisoner. I was finishing up my internship at what was then called Presbyterian Hospital; now, it’s called Pacific Medical Center.The treaties that the Indians had with United States of America were breached more often than they were upheld. But there was one treaty called the Laramie Treaty that said that if any land– having been taken from Indians, any federal land having been taken from Indians– is declared surplus, it must first be returned or offered to be returned to the Indians from whom it was taken. It seemed like a fair deal.

Alcatraz was Indian land, and it was seized and turned into a prison, and then the prison was closed in the early ‘60’s. And when the prison was closed, a number of Indians invoked the Laramie Treaty and said, “Give it back!” And the government didn’t want to do that. So, one night, undercover, several dozen young Indians from many different tribes — the Mohawk Indian Richard Oakes was leading, and a Lakota Sioux Indian named John Trudell was later one of the leaders — they occupied Alcatraz before the name “occupy” had much meaning. And they took over, and they would stay on the island for 18 months.  That became a big social drama. Every day in the newspapers and on TV shows in San Francisco, there would be interviews with the Coast Guard, who were ordered to put a ring around it and embargo and quarantine the island.  And somehow there’d be an interview with Buffy Sainte-Marie, who would fly out there, or Joan Baez who would go out there; The Grateful Dead would do a concert on Alcatraz. And they did a scorecard, and they asked people in San Francisco Bay, “Who do you want to vote for?” They loved the Coast Guard… I mean, we do love the Coast Guard of San Francisco. But it was 90/10 for Indians over the Coast Guard.


Brad Smith, President and CEO of Foundation Center, Joins Denver Frederick

In this interview, Brad Smith, the President and CEO of Foundation Center, describes the next frontier of philanthropy: managing information, and producing and sharing knowledge.  The Foundation Center is a global data platform for philanthropy, equipping donors with the knowledge they need to be strategic in their giving & providing transparency to the philanthropic sector.

The following is a conversation between Bradford K. Smith, President and CEO of Foundation Center, and Denver Frederick, host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City. This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

bradford-k-smith_personfullDenver: The rate of change is increasing in every field of endeavor, including philanthropy. And in order to be a true leader in the field, a person can’t be 100% consumed with just the well-being and state of their own organization; one also must leave some space and time to contemplate what all these changes mean for the entire sector. One individual that fits that description perfectly is my next guest… He is Bradford K. Smith, the President and CEO of the Foundation Center. Good evening, Brad, and welcome back to The Business of Giving.

Brad: It’s great to be back here.

Denver: For those listeners that are not familiar with the Foundation Center, tell us about the work that you do.

Brad: Great. I think the easiest way to understand us is:  what Bloomberg does for the financial markets, we do for philanthropy!  Basically, we publish data and information about the transaction of philanthropy. In other words, these endowed foundations that make grants to support organizations in the social sector to make the world a better place…We track all that information. We put it out there in an unbiased way so that you can search it; you can find it; you can understand who’s funding your cause, who’s not funding your cause, what foundations are doing, and what they’re not doing.

Denver: Let’s talk about foundations for a moment. When we look at philanthropy in the US, last year about $375 Billion was made in contributions. What percentage of that comes from foundations?

Brad: It’s roughly 16 – 17%,  and this is a common misunderstanding. A lot of people look at nonprofits in America, and they assume that their larger supporters are wealthy foundations and maybe individuals, but the largest source of income for American nonprofits in the aggregate is actually government. Foundation money is very important because it’s one of the few sources of income that nonprofits have that usually is not earmarked; it’s very flexible.

Denver: Well, let’s talk a little bit more about that. I think foundations are pretty abstract to most people. It’s kind of a big idea out there, and I think you have a wonderful way of explaining it by talking about the sources of influence that they hold.  There are three of them,  and let’s pick up on each.   I’m going to start with the one you just mentioned. The one that is obvious to everybody: money, but as you say it’s a very special kind of money, right?

Brad: Correct! Foundations have a really important role in American history and American society. Basically, our government has created a kind of social pact in which wealthy individuals are given a tax incentive for creating a charitable foundation. They make a donation of a portion of their assets to the foundation. They no longer control those assets. They can’t take them back for personal use. They get a tax exemption in exchange for creating a stream of charitable giving in the future. Now, there are a lot of ways to look at the size of the philanthropic sector in the US. There are a lot of foundations. I  know when the Foundation Center was created in 1956, there weren’t near as many. In fact, when the Foundation Center published the first print directory of American foundations, there were about 4,000 foundations. Today there are well over 80,000 foundations…about 87,000 to 88,000. And the assets they manage–their investments–surpassed $800 Billion. And it’s the earnings on those investments which are tax-free, that are used to actually fund grants and fulfill their charitable purpose.

Denver: Right. The second source of influence that foundations have is “convening power.”

Brad: Well, there are not a whole lot of people in this world whose job is to give away money. And people always were sort of perplexed about that. They said: “Gosh, how do you find the organizations to be worthy of getting the support of the foundation?” And I used to tell them: “Look, when you are in the business of giving away money, you don’t have to go looking for people; they find you.” So, one of the things that gives a foundation virtually a seat at any table is the fact that they’re giving away money.

And the other thing is, they’re giving away money which, unlike congressional money or city money, isn’t earmarked by elected officials for their pet causes. It’s very flexible, long-term, risk-taking money.  But this also gives them the ability to “convene.”  And we find that the foundations that are having the greatest impact on the issues that are working– whether it be criminal justice, or climate change, or job creation–are not just giving away grants in a retail kind of way. They’re actually creating tables to which policy makers, academics, activists, and others can come, and really think about what the long-term solutions are to these serious problems that our society and world face.

I think the next frontier for philanthropy is going to be managing information, and producing and sharing knowledge.


Denver: And it would seem in an era of collaboration, they do have that special role to be able to do that. They don’t have a dog in the fight; they’re neutral…

Brad: Correct.

Denver: They give money away, and they have an incredible ability to get everybody to come when they call a meeting.

Brad: Yeah. When I worked with the Ford Foundation, the two jokes they always tell you when you start to work there is that all your phone calls get returned. And immediately, it seems like all of your ideas are brilliant.

Denver: That’s right, and you also become a little funnier and better looking too.

Brad: That’s right, yes, of course. Two of the perks.

Denver: And finally, and this is so important:  the accumulated knowledge that foundations hold.  Speak to that.

Brad: I think this is really the frontier for foundations. Roughly, I think we can say that… and I know you’ve had a lot of speakers come on this program… foundations have moved from the notion of just giving away money… a charity approach… to what a lot people call social investment. The idea that even though you’re making a grant, you’re investing in a solution, and you’re expecting return in the form of impact.

But another way to look at foundations is–I gave a presentation on this recently–and I said: “When it comes to knowledge and information, foundations are like black holes, and they need to become supernovas.”


Robert Egger, Founder of LA Kitchen, Joins Denver Frederick

The founder of LA Kitchen and the DC Central Kitchen, Robert Egger, discusses his initial idea to teach homeless men and women basic cooking skills, and how that idea has blossomed into a program with huge impact— from training unemployed adults for culinary careers, to reclaiming healthy, local food that would otherwise be discarded.


The following is conversation between Robert Egger, Founder and President of LA Kitchen, and Denver Frederick, host of The Business of Giving, on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

Denver: There are not many founders who would build a world class social enterprise, then one day leave it all behind, move 3,000 miles across the country, and start up another one. But my next guest is not your typical founder; he is Robert Egger, the Founder of the DC Central Kitchen, and now the President and CEO of LA Kitchen. Good evening, Robert, and welcome to The Business of Giving.

Robert: Thanks. It’s a real pleasure to be on.

Denver: Well, from the time you were a kid, you wanted to be Rick in Casablanca, the character played by Humphrey Bogart, open a night club, and change the world through music. But instead, you started the DC Central Kitchen in Washington. So you pivoted, Robert–long before anybody ever heard that word…outside of a few basketball coaches. Tell us how this came to pass.

Robert: Well, I was, as you suggested, a night club guy. I really dreamed–since I was very young– and wanted to be part of the social movements that I grew up watching in the 1960s. I wanted to be part of something, to contribute. As you suggested, man, I thought music was the vehicle, and I still believe it has power.  But I just ended up like a lot of people in the late 1980s.  The issue of homelessness became so “in-your-face” in DC,  but also in every city. I thought  I had to go out and do something. So one night I went out innocently  to serve people on the streets of Washington and encountered the kind of charity model–which is sadly and often times wrapped up in a kind of redemption for the giver, versus the liberation of the receiver. In short, I was serving food that was purchased at the grocery store to people who were standing outside in the rain.

And so I innocently proposed an idea that eventually became the DC Central Kitchen, mainly because all the groups I went to– to try and give it to them– liked everything the way it was. That’s been a benchmark of my career. It’s that sense of: “what we’re doing is great, but it could be better! Let’s always be open to trying something new.”

I also proposed the cooking program, that in effect said: Let’s teach homeless men and women basic cooking skills… and I don’t mean people right off the street. But, let’s try and be part of a system that would start to create an exit door. And restaurants could donate food. Then they could also help teach, and would have access to entry-level people who could help them make money! Everybody would win something!  That was where it started– this idea of quid pro quo.

Denver: Well, tell us a little bit about the DC Central Kitchen: what your business model was there; where you sourced your food; who you hired;  and what you were able to achieve.

Robert: OK. The first time I went out, I purchased food from a grocery store, served the people outside in the rain. So I said: “Hey, look: restaurants, hotels, hospitals, universities throw away a ton of food every night.” And they hate throwing away food; they just don’t want to be sued. So, if you could find a safe, healthy way to get that food…boy, you could serve more people…better food, for less money.

Denver: Yes.


Kate Roberts of Maverick Collective and the Women-Centric Model of Philanthropy

“Money doesn’t solve problems. People do!” says Kate Roberts, co-founder of the Maverick Collective, an organization that aims to redefine what it means to be a philanthropist.



Kate Roberts, Co-Founder of Maverick Collective

In this interview from The Business of Giving, Ms. Roberts explains how Maverick Collective members invest a minimum of $1 million over three years to pilot an innovative solution for girls and women in the developing world. The organization, co-chaired by Melinda Gates and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway, is an initiative of Population Services International (PSI).

The following is a conversation between Kate Roberts, Co-Founder of The Maverick Collective and Denver Frederick, host of The Business of Giving, on AM 970 The Answer in New York City. This interview has been slightly edited for clarity.

Denver: With the constant barrage of messages, tweets, ads, Facebook posts and the rest, it is extremely difficult for any new initiative to break through and capture people’s attention. But then along comes The Maverick Collective, which has quickly become a hot topic in the world of philanthropy….. and beyond. So it’s a great pleasure to have with us this evening its co-founder, Kate Roberts. Good evening, Kate, and welcome to The Business of Giving.

Kate: Good evening! It’s great to be here.

Denver: The Maverick Collective, which is still quite young, has really captured many people’s imagination. What is it?  And where did the spark of this idea come from?

Kate: The spark of it came from being so impressed with watching philanthropists, such as Melinda Gates, who serves as our co-chair. Coming to the realization that she’s leaving so many of her own resources on the table — and having the smarts, as well as money, to create social change. So, personally, I was really inspired by her journey and the great work that she was doing at the foundation. She then started to mobilize billions of dollars for the issue of family planning. So, that really led us to believe that there is an incredible platform for other like-minded, bold women who really do want to use their skills, their resources and their voice to create change…. rather than just writing a check. Go beyond the check…really get involved and amplify your impact as a philanthropist. And then, of course, the sustainable development goals were announced–very aggressive goals.


Gordon Berlin And The Role of Research Evidence in Shaping Social Policy


Gordon Berlin, President of MDRC

For organizations seeking government and philanthropic funding, reliable proof of progress is an increasingly important currency. “Programs that had good evidence would get the bulk of the money,” says Gordon Berlin, President of MDRC, a nonprofit research organization focusing on education and social policy. In this segment from the Business of Giving, Mr. Berlin discusses about the role of rigorous research evidence in informing how government and philanthropy invest in education and social programs.

The following is a conversation between Gordon Berlin, President of MDRC and Denver Frederick, host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City. This interview has been edited for clarity. 

Denver: After this country’s “war on poverty” in the 1960s, there was a growing concern that the programs that were being funded were ineffective and selected simply because they sounded good. So, enter MDRC, an organization founded in 1974 to rigorously test and evaluate programs before they became public policy. And here to join us this evening is the President of MDRC, Gordon Berlin.

Good evening, Gordon, and welcome to The Business of Giving.

Gordon: Well, thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Denver: Notwithstanding that brief introduction, tell us in some detail what MDRC does. What are the mission and purpose of the organization?

Gordon: Sure, I’d be happy to. So, MDRC, as you said, was founded in the mid-1970s. Put yourself there;  Nixon was President.  There was broad disaffection with social programs. We’re beginning to wonder about the “war on poverty” and how effective it really was. And there was a growing sense that what we needed to do was to develop new ideas and test them more rigorously before we made them public policy. That was really the spirit with which MDRC was founded.

“You take a group of people that are eligible. You flip a coin essentially in a lottery-like process. Everybody who gets a “Heads” ends up in a program. Everybody who gets a “Tails” does not. You follow both groups over time, and the only thing that could explain any difference you find is that one group participated in the program.”

Denver: The gold standard of evaluation designs is the use of randomized control trials, a term which is almost synonymous with MDRC. What are randomized control trials? And why are they so useful in determining the effectiveness of a program?

Gordon: Well, one of the biggest problems in evaluating a program is trying to figure out what difference the program made… above and beyond what might have happened to anyone. So take a job training program. Let’s say the program has a 60% placement rate, and people stay on the job for 90 days at that 60% rate or so.

Well, in the middle of the great recession, what do you think of that rate? Is it a good rate or a bad rate? Now, go back to the roaring 1990s,  and ask yourself  the same question–when the unemployment rate nationally was only 4%. So, the idea here is that you need a counterfactual–a control group, a comparison. That is a group of people that are just like the people that you’re serving in this program– to tell you, over time, what would have happened. The problem in most studies– when they try to identify that group–is that there are a huge amount of statistical assumptions involved.  And there are always arguments about it.  

And the most elegant, simple, believable approach is random assignment. You take a group of people that are eligible. You flip a coin essentially in a lottery-like process. Everybody who gets a “Heads” ends up in a program.  Everybody who gets a “Tails” does not. You follow both groups over time, and the only thing that could explain any difference you find is that one group participated in the program.

Sallie Krawcheck of Ellevest and the Gender Investing Gap

Data shows that women investors actually have a better track record than men. So, why aren’t more women investing, and why aren’t they investing more?  In this segment, Sallie Krawcheck of Ellevest discusses the gender investing gap.



The following is the full transcript of the conversation between Sallie Krawcheck, Founder and CEO of Ellevest and Denver Frederick, host of The Business of Giving on AM970 The Answer in New York City. This interview has been edited for clarity.

Denver: We have all read and heard about the gender pay gap that still exists in America in 2016–with full-time female workers making only 79 cents for every dollar earned by a man. But how many of us are aware of the gender investing gap and the severe financial consequences that can accrue for women who are investing less than their male counterparts?   Not many of us! And that is why it is such a pleasure to have with us this evening the founder and CEO of Ellevest, Sallie Krawcheck. She will explain why that gap exists and what she is doing to address it. Good evening, Sallie.  And welcome to The Business of Giving.

Sallie: Hi, Denver. It’s great to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Denver: Let’s start with this gender investing gap. Data shows that women investors actually have a better track record than men. So, why aren’t more women investing, and why aren’t they investing more?

Sallie: Well, women tend to have a better track record in investing– when they invest– than men do, because they tend to take a longer-term perspective. They tend to trade less. They tend to shift in and out of stocks or mutual funds less often. Here are some other facts:  Women, girls and young ladies tend to be as good or better at math than boys, but you didn’t think that either…

Denver: I’ve seen the studies. It’s amazing!

Sallie: It is really interesting. I would say one of the reasons that women don’t invest to the same extent that men do, is because we still think of it in some ways as a male pursuit. We still have some of the 1957 Ozzie and Harriet — that this is the man’s way. Some of it is –Math — we’ve been told as women and girls that it is hard stuff. But some of it, Denver, comes from the industry itself–Wall Street and the investing industry. Think about it for a second. Turn on CNBC. Turn on Bloomberg. I love those channels. They are talking about beating the market, outperforming the market, picking the winner. Your adrenaline starts to go when the market opens in the morning. It’s like sports programming. So let’s think for a second–war analogies, sports analogies, sports programming. One more: the symbol of the industry is a–?

Denver: Bull…

Sallie: Bull…

Denver: Yeah! [laughter]

Sallie: The industry financial advisers, on average about 85% male, tends to be a more mature financial adviser — so I think in their 50s, really. For so many companies, in their 60s. In fact, there is one company that was telling me they had more financial advisers over the age of 80 than under the age of 30.

Denver: Wow.

Sallie: So it’s an older gentleman’s pursuit, and not too surprisingly, the client base tends to reflect the complexion of the advisers. So it’s guys doing business with guys.

Denver: Now that’s all very fascinating. I don’t think people fully appreciate the profound impact that language can have on our psyche…

Sallie: And symbols, right?

Denver: And symbols. You’re absolutely right! Do Wall Street brokers treat their female clients differently than their male clients?

Sallie: Great question! I’ve spent a lot of time on this. I’ve had the privilege of running Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. I was the CEO of Smith Barney, so I’ve been in this industry for years and years, and there are so many great advisers out there. And there are so many that do a terrific job for women. Not enough though. So typically, when you ask a financial adviser sitting with a couple:  Do you treat the man and woman differently? They say, “No!” (more…)