Approaching Philanthropy, Part 5: Creating Your Own Vision

Could you be an entrepreneur in the philanthropic world? There are some people who see a need in the world and build something from the ground up to address it. This is a mission that takes vision, energy and passion. It also doesn’t hurt to have financial resources. And, even with these things, it will require resilience. But the rewards can be profound.

A lot of times, a philanthropic founder is an ultra-high-net-worth person who creates their own foundation or an operating 501(c)(3). Why? Because they have the means to fund the solution and make it sustainable. Sustainability is an important goal of any organization. 

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a well-known example of this. They saw a need for medical care and advancement in less-developed parts of the world, and they put tremendous funding and focus where it was needed—while rallying many others to their cause.

But creating a nonprofit doesn’t necessarily mean you have to depend solely on your own wealth. You can be a creator by developing a volunteer team and then getting the community support and sponsorship that you need. You might even be able to leverage funding from alternative channels like a Giving Circle or a social media-based platform like GoFundMe.

A self-made nonprofit story

Here’s an example that we heard about recently. Someone with a passion for reading and literacy had traveled around the U.S., attending various book festivals over a period of years. One day, she decided that it would be nice if her hometown had a book festival of its own.

So what did she do? She reached out to friends who she thought would want to play a role in creating and developing a local nonprofit. She was able to bring together an army of people who committed to volunteering and making the festival happen.  

Today, she has a lot of work to do to keep her organization viable. She is in the process of recruiting board members who can assist with the stewardship, strategic planning and fundraising that’s required to sustain an all-volunteer local organization for the long term.

The task has never been easy, but seeing the success of her events is what keeps her going. Her love of reading is bringing people from all walks of life together and spreading something positive across the community. It’s something she truly values.

What would you like to create? The precise answer may be different for everyone, but the one common thread we’ve observed through working with our clients and being involved in various nonprofits is that there’s some emotional attachment, either to the mission or to the specific organization, that drives the commitment to create and serve. If you have a dream, you can make it happen.

Your philanthropic path will likely depend on many factors, including your life experiences, your family values and the needs of your community. It will be shaped by what gives you personal meaning, the amount of time you have available, your unique skillset, your past experiences and your financial resources. A Corient Wealth Advisor can help make sure that your wealth management strategy and estate plan work hand-in-glove with your desire to give.

Other topics in this series:


Lesley Draper, CFP, CTFA

Lesley Draper, CFP, CTFA

Partner, Wealth Advisor

Lesley Draper is a Partner and Wealth Advisor. She is responsible for managing client relationships, advising families and individuals on financial planning, tax planning and investment management. She received her BS from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. She is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor (CTFA). She is currently studying for Charitable Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP) designation. She is passionate about giving back and co-chairs RegentAtlantic's Neighborhood Nonprofits team and serves on multiple charitable boards, including P.G. Chambers School and Morristown Festival of Books. Prior to joining RegentAtlantic, Lesley was a Vice President at Citi Private Bank and subsequently spent 11 years at U.S. Trust Company of New York in the Financial Planning and Family Wealth departments. Lesley enjoys golfing, fly fishing and resides in Montclair, NJ with her partner Bob, two German Shepherds and four rescue cats.

James Sonneborn, CFP, CFA, MBA

James Sonneborn, CFP, CFA, MBA

Partner, Wealth Advisor

Jim has over 35 years of experience managing investment portfolios and providing financial advice to individuals, families and charitable organizations in the New York metropolitan region.

As a Wealth Advisor and Co-Chair of the Firm's Neighborhood Nonprofits Group, Jim works with a wide range of clients and has a particular specialty in philanthropic strategies. For donors, Jim works to construct strategies that align with the client's philanthropic goals. In the nonprofit sector, Jim focuses on helping organizations strengthen their financial position through endowment management and planned giving consulting. Jim currently serves on the boards of The Rippel Foundation and the Environmental Endowment of NJ.

Jim holds a BA in Business from Western Colorado University and an MBA in Finance from Drexel University, as well as the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER, Chartered Financial Analyst and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst certifications.


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