Monday, May 14, 2007

New avenue for philanthropists

New avenue for philanthropists
  May 13, 2007 Cincinnati Enquirer  


The art of giving money away is at the heart of a new nonprofit venture of the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati.

In an expansion of its charitable fund, the foundation has formed InterAct for Change. Penny Friedman, who had run a charitable consulting company called BeneFactors for the last decade, sold that business to Interact and will run it as chief operating officer. It will be funded by a five-year, $1 million grant from the Health Foundation Fund.

The goal: Create more "venture capital philanthropy" that encourages engaged donors and more efficient nonprofit groups.

"Believe me, this is where the world's going," Friedman said. "People indicate to us, 'We want to be more engaged. We want our giving to matter.' I think there's a real sea change in that.'"

InterAct for Change would be another program to help baby boomers reaching their retirement years and younger people who want to plan their philanthropy in advance.

Estimates of annual charitable giving in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky have topped $1.75 billion.

Health Foundation officials said the programs wouldn't compete directly with the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, which collected gifts of $30.8 million last year and granted $36.7 million for community projects.

Potential clients would include individual donors and smaller family foundations.

Mary and Peter Levin of East Walnut Hills formed their family foundation 18 months ago and have funded it with $2.3 million.

They hope to create a legacy through their giving that their children and grandchildren can run. Individually, they have contributed to causes including the local affiliate of Project Grad, which helps increase academic achievement of students from low-income backgrounds, and a collaborative of local nonprofit groups called Community Shares.

"Philanthropy's harder than running a business," said Levin, chairman and chief executive officer of Greystone Investment Management in Norwood. "It's hard to find effective uses for your money ... We don't want to just write checks anymore. We like to kind of go where it's not popular and where people don't have natural constituencies. That way we can make a difference."

InterAct programs will include consulting, administrative services to private foundations, giving collaboratives where donors can combine resources, and access to existing programs already supported by the Health Foundation Fund.

It also is talking with Social Venture Partners International, a Seattle-based group that pools donors and uses those funds to target specific nonprofit needs.

"We're like venture capitalists, but the return is to the community and the individual, not in money," said Garen Wisner, a former Accenture consultant who is incoming chairman of the InterAct for Change board.

The Health Foundation, funded in 1997 with about $250 million after the sale of Choice Care health insurer, is an operating nonprofit and can't receive donations or give tax deductions for contributions. So it created the Health Foundation Fund, which now holds assets of about $2 million.

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