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Businessmen God Nisanov and Zarakh Iliev Building Unique Museum in Azerbaijan

In Krasnaya Sloboda, God Nisanov and Zarakh Iliev Are Financing the World’s First Museum Dedicated to the History and Culture of Mountain Jews

The first museum in the world dedicated to the history and culture of Mountain Jews will soon open in Krasnaya Sloboda (Quba District, Republic of Azerbaijan). The visionaries and sponsors of the project are Moscow businessmen God Nisanov and Zarakh Iliev and the STMEGI charitable foundation. The businessmen themselves are immigrants from Azerbaijan and natives of Krasnaya Sloboda, where members of the Mountain Jewish community have lived since ancient times.

Jerusalem of the Caucasus

The traditions of the Mountain Jews date back many centuries. Up to 1926, the settlement was even called Jewish Sloboda, but over time, the people inhabiting this area assimilated quite a bit. The Mountain Jews live like typical Caucasian people but differ from them in their religious rites and traditional crafts, particularly their beautifully weaved carpets. Some historians argue that Mountain Jews were the ones who taught Azerbaijanis the art of weaving in ancient times, which they themselves had adopted from Persians.

Synagogue, Bukhara

The museum, initiated by Nisanov and Iliev (whose Kievskaya Ploschad group of companies is one of the largest real-estate developers in Russia), will preserve for future generations the traditions and unique language still spoken there. The inhabitants of Krasnaya Sloboda, despite being fluent in both Azerbaijani and Russian, talk to each other in Juhuri. Juhuri is very closely related to Farsi and has borrowed certain features from Semitic and Turkic languages. The descendants of the powerful Persian Jews who were conquered by the Assyrians in the seventh century BCE had spoken this language before settling in highland villages in the Caucasus Mountains. Fatali Khan, the ruler of the Quba Khanate, allowed Jews to live in the area located 168 kilometers from Baku on the banks of the Qudiyalçay River.

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the “Jerusalem of the Caucasus,” as the village was sometimes called, had a population of 15,000 people. However, in the beginning of the chaotic 1990s, most of the Mountain Jews were forced to leave their place of birth and move to Russia, Israel, Canada, and elsewhere. Krasnaya Sloboda now has 3,500 residents at most, and many are simply registered there in the village while they live in other cities and return in the summer or for important religious holidays.

Keepers of Tradition

Everyone from Krasnaya Sloboda, even those who have permanently moved to other countries, deeply respects their religion, traditions, and culture and tries to contribute to the preservation of their place of birth. Nisanov has restored and modernized the Gubinsky cannery. It now employs more than 200 residents of the Mountain Jewish community. Together with his colleague and long-time friend Zarakh Iliev, the businessman not only financially supports his fellow countrymen who remained in Azerbaijan, but he has also restored a synagogue destroyed during the Soviet era and opened a Talmud college as well as a center for studying Torah. There will now be a museum dedicated to the history of this unique people.


The sponsors chose an old synagogue for the location, called Karhogskaya, which had been shut down in the Soviet era. This rather tall building was restored according to the original blueprints and using the same materials with which it was built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The building’s original arched windows and dome were also restored, but two new floors were added inside the building to house the numerous exhibits. On the ground floor of the former synagogue, there is a conference hall, a library, and exhibits from the museum’s storerooms.

God Nisanov and Zarakh Iliev

God Nisanov and Zarakh Iliev – via Vestnik Kavkaza.

Now, with the support of the STMEGI Foundation (the largest organization uniting Mountain Jews), exhibits for the museum are being collected not only throughout the Caucasus, but also around the world. People have donated clothes, jewelry, ritual and religious items, manuscripts, books, and antiques.

One of the crown jewels of the museum exhibit will be a 19th-century tallit with red tassels. This modification of the prayer vestments made it possible to use them, for example, as a wedding canopy (chuppah). Horse-drawn carriages from the 19th century will also be on display in addition to utensils, household items, national clothes, unique documents, ketubah ritual marriage contracts and other artifacts showing how Mountain Jews lived.

Pride in Their Roots

Much attention is being focused on dictionaries and books in Juhuri. It is believed that the museum will house the world’s largest library of publications in this ancient language. Nisanov and Iliev are certain that this will help ensure that the language, spoken by no more than 100,000 people around the world, will not become extinct, and that it will encourage linguists to continue researching it.

The organizers of the museum are incredibly proud of another exhibit—the so-called “slashed book,” which is a copy of the Torah with a curious story. According to legend, this sacred text saved the lives of the residents of Jewish Sloboda. The story goes that long ago, a Muslim military leader tried to stab and kill a local rabbi, but his blade got stuck in the Torah instead. This deeply religious military man was horrified by what he had done and in order to avoid the wrath of the Almighty, he then left the Mountain Jews alone and allowed them to live as neighbors with the Muslims.

Krasnaya Sloboda, Quba, November 2012

The original Torah carrying the mark of the blade, purchased for a very large amount, is now stored in a private collection, and the museum holds an exact copy. However, at the grand opening of the museum, visitors will be able to see the original. Nisanov and Iliev promise that the ceremony will be held very soon, and the museum’s administration has been preparing guides to greet the throngs of visitors.

Mountain Jews, scattered throughout the world today by the winds of fate, are looking forward to the day when they can come to Krasnaya Sloboda and see the museum’s exclusive exhibits with their own eyes. In turn, local residents and philanthropists believe that the appearance of a one-of-a kind large-scale exhibit in Krasnaya Sloboda will further strengthen their sense of pride in their roots and will forever ensure the connection between the different generations and eras.

Krasnaya Sloboda

Five Tips for How to Find the Right Charity to Support

How to Pick the Right Charity

Supporting a charity can be a rewarding way to give back. But before you start making donations, it is important to choose a charity that is in line with your objectives. There are so many different charitable organizations around these days, and some are not entirely honest about how donations are used. Sadly, there are also a lot of scams out there. While it’s not always easy to make an informed decision, these guidelines may prove helpful.

1. Choose Your Cause

Some of us feel passionate about a specific cause, like preserving the environment, helping underprivileged children, or funding research about a disease that has affected someone we love. If you don’t already have a cause that is close to your heart, start by investigating the options out there, such as the fields of medicine, education, art and culture, military veterans, and the environment. Eventually, something should resonate and you’ll realize what’s right for you.

2. Do Your Homework

Many causes have several specialized charities dedicated to them. Once you have chosen a cause that you believe in, start researching charities that support it. Unfortunately, some of the charities out there may not be legitimate. Once you have a short list of charities you are considering, do a search of each charity’s name. If any red flags come up, it may be best to avoid that particular organization. You can also use sites like GuideStar, CharityWatch, or Charity Navigator to help research the charities before committing to donations.

3. Check with the Charity Personally

The only way you will know for certain that the charity’s work is in line with your objectives is by checking in personally. Visit them, ask for a tour, call, or email them and ask important questions like:

  • Exactly how are donations used?
  • How is the effectiveness of your work evaluated?
  • What progress are you making towards your goals?
  • How is this measured?
  • What is your privacy policy?

4. Decide What to Give

Although it is probably the most common method of support, donating money is not the only option when it comes to supporting a charity. Time is valuable, too.

5. Give

  • Money – If you decide to donate money, consider setting up a regular donation you can afford. Remember that donations are often tax deductible. Make sure you check your bank account to make sure that you are only charged what you have agreed to donate and keep a record of all donations.
  • Time – Many charities need volunteers as much as they need donations. Let them know what you do for a living and what other skills you have. It can be extremely rewarding to donate your time, especially if you can provide a service at which you are particularly skilled.
  • Blood or hair – Donating blood requires just a few minutes of your time and can really help save a life. Human hair wigs can be costly so donating hair can help to drastically improve the life of somebody suffering from cancer and undergoing chemotherapy.

Philanthropy Startups: Pitfalls and Progress

Newly minted millionaires and billionaires looking to start foundations need to be aware of the many challenges that they will face when setting up a non-profit organization or foundation. According to Giving USA, philanthropic giving from foundations increased by 6% in 2017, and corporate giving by 8%. New foundations often headed and founded by startup founders and entrepreneurs need to make sure that they don’t become mired in the process of setting up a foundation and focus instead on making sure that funds reach the organizations where they can do the most good.

Keeping It Simple – The Process of Philanthropy

Far too often, new foundations make things more complex than they should be. Complicated systems do little to ensure adequate stewardship and instead become increasingly chaotic and marred by the process instead of looking for ways to decrease the path to effective donations. Instead, newly founded organizations need to look for systems and processes that benefit the organization instead of doing things the way they have always been done. The role of a foundation board is to lead, not to manage the process. With a clear vision and succinct goals, a foundation’s board should be able to drive the vision of the foundation forward and not get stuck in managing the functions of the foundation.

Lean Operations: Use Your Resources

There is much criticism levelled at charitable organizations that utilize a large portion of donations towards the running of the non-profit. This, of course, is unacceptable, but so too is the idea that foundations can run with no investment in employees, training, technology and development. Trying to do good with no support to be able to expand and actually ‘do good’ is one of the reasons that new foundations flounder.

Keep Learning – Keep Growing

One of the biggest mistakes made by foundations, especially boards of directors, is the inability or capacity to continue learning about the areas in which they operate. Often, once the foundation vision is set, the board does little to enhance their knowledge within key areas. Continual learning is key to growing robust and effective non-profit organizations. The board of a foundation often wields a great amount of power over communities that it serves. This can make for a strained power dynamic at times. Foundation leaders need to ‘keep it real’, examine their own decisions and ensure that they are doing work that serves a greater good.

Learn from the Community

Along with institutional learning, a new foundation must take counsel from the communities and areas in which they work. This is especially important when dealing with at-risk communities and working in regions of the world that are not immediately culturally like one’s own. Something as simple as ongoing feedback from both the ‘boots on the ground’ employees and the end-recipient of a foundation’s donation.

Every new foundation or non-profit will go through a learning curve before they become successful and more importantly, relevant. With forethought and humility as well as a constant reminder of why foundations are crucial in the world these problems can be resolved.

‘Next-Gen’ Donors – How the Profile of Donors is Shifting

The current group of new donors comes from the Generation X and Millennials who are introducing disruptive new technology and strategies for philanthropy in the same way that they have introduced the new technology and companies that have made them trillions. Around $60 trillion to be precise.

The Profile of a ‘Next Gen’ Donor

Always looking for new ways to improve old systems and for innovative solutions to systemic issues, the profile of a ‘next-gen’ donor is much the same. The new power-donors are the CEOs of some of the most disruptive and innovative companies on the planet and they are using their massive monetary value to transform and innovate philanthropy by tackling some of the largest and longest-standing social challenges facing the world.
Not content to just give locally, though that is still a significant trend when it comes to donations in education in the US, the current crop of philanthropists are showing that they want to focus on evidence-based programs while introducing new experimental foundations and projects that are driven by metrics and results. This change in the profile of donors could signal the next-gen trend in the impact of large-scale giving.
The profile of a ‘next-gen’ donor is also markedly different from other traditional types of philanthropists in that they are extremely hands-on and involved in shaping the foundations and programs to which they donate. Some pundits are hailing this the ‘Impact Revolution’ in philanthropy and it will shape the profile of donors and donations for future generations. Though the profile of issue areas has not shifted for the ‘next-gen’ donors (education and basic needs still top the list across all generations) the way that donations are given is completely different. The emerging trend of charities pursuing profitability has had several detractors and critics, but it is part and parcel of the way that ‘next-gen’ donors are able to align their charitable giving with their personal values.

The Golden Age of Giving – Who is Changing the World of Philanthropy?

One of the most impactful ‘next-gen’ philanthropists are Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan <> with the development of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, not as a traditionally styled foundation, but as a charitable LLC. This simple innovation allows them to invest in businesses that are socially active as well as political ventures in addition to being able to make donations to traditional charitable programs and projects. Alexander Soros, while following in his father’s footsteps on the board of the Open Society Foundations, has made sure that his own philanthropy is focused on seeing the direct impact of investments in social programs on a large scale. Lukas Walton, Dustin Moskovitz, Huiyan Yang and Nathan Blecharczyk from AirBnB are just a few of the ‘next-gen’ donors that are changing the way that philanthropy operates, and their efforts will shape the course of philanthropy for future generations.
They’re determined to make an impact and address issues on a global scale and see that change in their own lifetimes.

What is ‘Evidence-Based’ Philanthropy?

Evidence-based philanthropy means that donations are made to programs and projects based on the evidence of their effectiveness. It is commonly used by large scale donors to evaluate where their funds will be beat utilized, and by policymakers and politicians to evaluate what type of programs should be implemented on both national and state level. What evidence really matters? This is a question that is hard to answer.

Observation Philanthropy?

Evidence literally means, ‘observation’, so the success of an evidence-based program could be observed by the people who implement a program at a grass root level. It could also be the observed results of randomized controlled studies that either verify or negate the success and therefore the chance of funding for programs. There are three types of evidence that can be assessed when deciding about which programs are effective:

  1.  Field Experience: This is the ‘hands-on’, practical knowledge and experience of program leaders and the people who are involved in the implementation of programs. They have the most evidence of ‘how’ to implement programs to ensure the highest levels of success.
  2. Research/Scientific Evidence: This type of evidence includes the results of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) as well as data analysis and statistics to provide evidence to show cause and effect.
  3. Informed Opinion: This is usually the opinion of stakeholders and policymakers who can provide context for scientific evidence and field experience.Each evidentiary area needs to be taken in context.

For example, an RCT may definitively prove that using a bed net helps in the prevention of malaria, but it may be the caseworker ‘on-the-ground’ that is able to show that people are using the provided bed nets for fishing nets. In this case, the evidence needs to be evaluated carefully before making any decision about the success or failure or a program. All the information and observations gathered must be examined in context and simultaneously when reporting on the relative benefits or not.

Evidence Based Philanthropy Finding Reliable Data – Bloomberg Philanthropies

Many philanthropists will only donate to evidence-based programs, but many are now taking policymakers and governmental organizations to task about their lack of initiative in understanding what works and what doesn’t. Mike Bloomberg was particularly scathing of the lack of understanding by politicians of what is happening on-the-ground. In the Blomberg Philanthropies annual report, he noted than many policymakers and politicians are bogged down by a mass of data and refuse to recognize reliable data through the quagmire. Bloomberg also announced a $42 million investment in the ‘What Works Cities’ program which is the USA’s most extensive effort yet to enhance and build on city data to help evaluate and define challenges and opportunities in key areas such as homelessness, health and educations.

This work builds on the 2017 Bloomberg Philanthropies launch of the $200 million Bloomberg American Cities Initiative which gives city councils and mayors the tools to better evaluate programs based on holistic reliable data. In 2017, Bloomberg Philanthropies invested over $702 million in 480 cities in over 120 countries around the world.

Who Gives More – The USA or The UK?

Philanthropy in the United States tends to operate within different parameters than philanthropy in Europe and the United Kingdom specifically. Key trends in philanthropy in 2018 show that there are some key similarities that affect charitable giving on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Value of Giving – Social Welfare

Charitable giving in the UK accounts for just 1% of the GDP compared to 5.5% of the GDP of the United States. In monetary terms, charitable giving from individuals in the UK is valued at around £15 billion compared to £145 billion in the USA. Other countries in Europe like Germany, come in at around £11 billion annually. One of the reasons for this is the role of European governments in actively providing social welfare programs in the UK and Europe. There are fewer tax incentives to encourage large donors and philanthropic giving in Europe and the UK whereas private philanthropy plays a far more prominent role in the USA. There are just 162,000 active charitable groups in the UK compared to nearly 1,5 million tax-exempt organizations and charities in the US. Nearly 10% of the total workforce in the UK is employed by non-profits which is in stark comparison to the UK with only 2,6% of the workforce employed by charities.

Philanthropy in the USA – It’s a ‘Thing’

One of the reasons for increased philanthropy in the United States is the institutionalized aspect. In the US, many wealthy individuals consider it a civic responsibility to give to charity and over 10% of the country’s wealthiest individuals account for over half of all individual donations. In the UK, this figure is reduced to around one-fifth. This is slowly changing in the UK and Europe as more and more wealthy individuals increase their annual giving. Current trends suggest that individuals of comparable wealth in both the US and the UK give comparable amounts.
Household donations though fall far short in the UK with only around 2% of households earning over $200, 000 annually giving to charity, compared to nearly 8% in the United States.

Philanthropic Causes in the US vs the UK

One of the reasons that the UK seemingly lags behind the US in philanthropic donations is due to the large amounts of money that are donated to religious organization in the United States. Over 35% of all charitable giving in the US is to religious programs and causes. The figure is only around 17% in the United Kingdom. Education is the next highest in the US at 13% whereas in the UK the second highest is medial research and hospitals at 15%. In the US it has been found that the total amount of donations increases as tax rates increase due to the tax-relief benefits applied to the ‘cost’ of giving. The UK does not have a sophisticated charitable deduction system in place, which may account for lowered donations by wealthy individuals.
The USA has a unique system in place for donations, and the promotion of philanthropy, Europe and the UK are starting to follow suit with big-name and celebrity donors encouraging more people to give to charity each year.

Could Cryptocurrency and Fintech Be Big Donors in 2018?

The rise (and fall, and rise again, and fall again!) of cryptocurrencies has been making the news since late in 2017, but with more and more fintech companies making headlines and significant profits, could we be seeing the rise of the cryptocurrency philanthropists in 2018?
Could crypto-donors be the next big thing in philanthropy?

Crypto Startup Ripple Donates $29 Million

Ripple, the company behind the XRP digital asset recently donated $29 million of its proprietary currency to funding programs for public schools. In a statement, Ripple noted that this was the largest cryptocurrency donation to a single charity. The charity, is a platform where educators can list classroom projects and programs that require funding. Ripple was able to fulfill thousands of individual educator requests via the non-profit organization and the donation will be utilized to purchase classroom equipment and materials for over 28,000 teachers in 50 states.

The request to Ripple was sent by Charles Best, founder and CEO of who noted, “To my own shock, they said yes. It was mind-blowing that it would be the largest donation of cryptocurrency.”

This may have been the first crypto-donation on this scale, but it certainly won’t be the last from Ripple, which noted that this donation was part of an effort to formalize a broader social outreach program.

Pineapple Fund – Bitcoin Philanthropy

While Ripple may be the largest donor to a single charity, back in December 2017, an anonymous donor started a non-profit organization called the Pineapple Fund. Since December, the fund has given away over 5,000 bitcoin (BTC) which equates to around $86 million. To date, $55 million has been disbursed to over 60 non-profits and charities like The Water Project, charity:water, ACLU, Sens Research Foundation and Hearts & Homes for Refugees.

Non-Profits Start Accepting Cryptocurrency

There are a lot of charities that have not considered the value of accepting donations in digital currencies, but the ones that do have seen a significant increase in giving over the last year. Fidelity Charitable started accepting crypto-donations in 2015 and though it started off slowly, in 2017 alone, the charity received over $69 million in cryptocurrency from 169 donors. The growth in crypto-donations via bitcoin and ether, has been over 140% faster than any other type of donation to the organization. United Way, which is one of the world’s largest privately held charitable organizations, started accepting bitcoin to its Innovation Fund which helps mobilize resources in technology projects.

Fintech Companies – Helping Non-Profits Save Money

Fintech, the technology that helps consumers pay for goods, manage investments and receive loans, is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and making sure that non-profits are able to take advantage of donations via digital assets has been spearheaded by fintech companies like Coinbase and BitGive. Coinbase waives all fees for 501(c) non-profit organizations that accept philanthropic donations using bitcoin on the Coinbase merchant services platform. It’s an important step taken by one of the world’s largest fintech companies that can save a charitable organization a lot of money. Overhead costs on transaction fees are often crippling for smaller non-profits.
Despite the fluctuation (often not that different to regular currencies), digital currencies are here to stay. The rise of cryptocurrency companies and the explosion of the fintech industry means only good things for philanthropy in 2018.

Spotlight on China: The Philanthropy Dynasty

Philanthropic donations in China are rising with the numbers of newly minted millionaire and billionaire entrepreneurs. Since 2010 philanthropic donations from the top 100 philanthropists in China more than tripled to around $5 billion. With 609 billionaires, China now has more than the 552 billionaires found in the United States. The number of registered non-profit and charitable foundations grew by 430% between 2006 and 2016, and this has had a knock-on effect in the increase in Chinese-American foundations and donations, with an increase of 418% between 2000 and 2014.
Not that charitable giving is a new phenomenon in China, it stretches back for thousands of years, but after 1949 when many NGOs and private charitable organizations were shut down, it stagnated. Reforms and the rise of the Chinese entrepreneurs has seen a sharp increase in philanthropic donations. The 2016 Charity Law also helped to legitimize philanthropic activities in China as well as make the entire sector more transparent, raise the profile of giving and expand civil society. The new law seeks to make it easier for individuals and corporations to establish non-profit organizations as well as easing the ways that non-profits can raise funds and hire staff for foundations. The law also encourages charitable giving by providing added tax incentives for charitable donations.

The Profile of a Chinese Philanthropist

Many of China’s top philanthropists focus on a single issue and donate heavily to programs in that sphere rather than spreading their donations across several areas. The most common area for large donations in China is education. Billionaires Zhao Weiguo, Zhao Jing and Pang Shengdong have all made significant donations to educational programs. The profile of donations is slightly different to the west with much of the philanthropy in China coming from individuals as opposed to families and family foundations, as much of the wealth is first generation, but this profile is slowly evolving with over one quarter of China’s wealthiest individuals having established foundations that donate to a myriad of causes and programs.

Largest Philanthropists

Who are the biggest philanthropists in China and where are they placing their donations? In 2015, Chairman of Oceanwide Holdings, Lu Zhiqiang, donated $115 million to Fudan University. Charitable giving extends further than mainland China itself to Hong Kong and to an increase in the rise of Chinese-American donations. Hong Kong-based entrepreneurs Ronnie and Gerald Chan Chi-chung donated $350 million to Harvard University, and Li Ka-shing, made a $130 million to Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology.
Some of China’s most prolific philanthropists include:

  • Hong Qi, Pesident of China Minsheng Banking – $55 million yuan
  • Tang Lixin, Founder and CEO of Shinesun Group – 345 million yuan
  • Wang Jianlin, Chairman of Dalian Wanda Group, China’s largest real estate developer – 328.97 million yuan
  • Pony Ma Huateng, Founder, and CEO of one of China’s largest Internet companies – 326.34 million yuan
  • Xing Fuping, Chairman of Livon Group – 310 million yuan

The increase in Chinese philanthropy and the rise of the new dynasty of Chinese philanthropists is showing no signs of slowing. In the next few years, more foundations will be set up and more initiatives and programs will be able to benefit from increased donations from Chinese philanthropists.

The ‘Industrial’ Revolution in Philanthropy – Think Local

More than a key trend, the increase in regional philanthropy over the last twelve months is an indicator that leaders of traditional manufacturing industries are starting to make a serious philanthropic impact by giving back through giving into the regions in which they operate. The age of technology dawned in the late 1980’s with the rapid expansion of tech and fintech empires in major coastal cities like New York, Chicago, Boston, Seattle and the Bay Area, including Palo Alto, which meant that philanthropy tended to be concentrated in those areas as well. If you wanted to get funding for your non-profit organization, you had to make a bi-coastal pitch to be considered. It also meant that smaller, community-based organizations were getting lost in the billionaires’ race to fund global projects.
Not any more…

9 Wisconsin Billionaires on Forbes List

It’s not just important to note that in 2018 there were nine billionaires from Wisconsin on the Forbes List, but that there were eleven from Colorado and Arizona, and many more besides. One just needs look through the latest billionaire’s list from Forbes to see that many of the billionaires, and the largest philanthropists, were from more traditional industries including manufacturing, automotive, energy and real estate, and that many of the biggest ‘givers’ were not based along the northeast corridor or in west coast tech cities. We’re not just talking billionaires either, multi-millionaires are found in almost every city in the USA. The extent of the geographic disbursement of big donors is evident in the number of regional universities and colleges that received large donations in 2017. Ohio State and Indiana University were among the top fund raisers in 2017.

Community Giving Trends in 2018

If you represent a community organization and you’re looking for the best way to raise money and increase donations in 2018, then you need to start at home. Start in your community, your city and then your state. The more information that you can give to potentials large donors about the community impact that your organization will make, the better chance you’ll have of securing a larger donation.

How to Approach Local Philanthropists

Make a list of philanthropists and philanthropic organizations in your state and start applying to grant programs and foundations. You may find that there is even less administration than usual if you’re staying in-state.
A community approach to fundraising and philanthropy is, by its nature, very specific and targeted. For the most part, it will include creating and building relationships between your donors, your organization and the people or programs that you support. This sort of personal approach can be an important part of the donation process. You won’t be one of a mass group of global non-profits vying for a small piece of an impersonal pie, you’ll be one of just a handful of organizations doing good work in the local community, a known and trusted community. Even if you are applying to a national foundation, be sure to check and see if they have any local programs that you can apply to first.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your local billionaire industrialist. If your organization can demonstrate that it will help the community in your town or your state, you have more than a fair chance at getting some significant donations in 2018. More and more philanthropists are stepping forward to become involved in programs on a local level.

Disaster Outreach – Help When (And Where) It Is Needed Most

2017 has seen some of the world’s most devastating natural disasters. Disasters that have decimated several nations, disasters that have necessitated an urgent need for philanthropists and donors to step up immediately to provide life saving help to these areas and communities.

While the list of significant annual donors, goes up every year, these are for the most part, planned donations, decided on months in advance and structured very carefully by finance and management teams. While philanthropy is much needed, it is also a big and sometimes complex business.

What Happens When Donations Are Needed Right Now?

We know who is on the list of the biggest donors in the world, but it is often a surprise at the numbers of large donations that appear from the most unlikely sources after a natural disaster has occurred.

Hurricane Harvey – Houston Under Water

In the aftermath of one of the most devastating storms to make landfall in the USA, Hurricane Harvey wrought havoc across the Texas coastline, bringing the city of Houston to its knees. While donations poured in from around the world, there were a number of significant philanthropic donations that may not have made the headlines, made all the difference. With cleanup costs alone estimated at over $40 billion, the need is very real and very urgent.

Kieu Hoang – $5 Million to Hurricane Harvey Relief

Growing up impoverished in Vietnam and now a billionaire resident of California, Kieu Hoang immediately stepped up to become one of the largest single donors to the relief efforts in Texas. His donation was targeted to help the most vulnerable members of society, illegal immigrants, many of whom he said were too scared to find city shelters for fear of being deported. Hoang also flew to Houston and spent time in the worst hit areas of the city.

Michael Dell – $36 Million – Michael and Susan Dell Foundation 

With a target of $100 million via his foundation toward relief efforts, Michael Dell started off with a personal donation of $36 million to a specific fund ‘Rescue Texas’. The billionaire tech guru is ensuring that donations go directly to relief organizations on the ground and for ongoing efforts to rebuild the worst hit areas.

Corporate Donations to Hurricane Harvey

Corporate donors also came in strong in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey with PepsiCo leading the way with a $1 million donation to the American Red Cross. Walmart also donated $1 million as did Amazon. The Home Depot also donated $1 million to the Red Cross for immediate need but added a donation of products to its Texas stores to help with the rebuilding and repairs.

Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria– Caribbean Nightmare

One of the worst hurricanes ever observed in the Atlantic, Hurricane Irma laid waste to several islands in the Caribbean before wreaking its devastation on the parts of Florida. Relief efforts were hampered by the ability of worker to access the areas affected. On the island of Barbuda, 95% of all structures were destroyed. Hurricane Maria soon followed with a direct hit to Puerto Rico, still reeling after Irma’s devastation. Some of the biggest donations to relief efforts in this region include ones from corporations like Starbucks, Lowe’s and Walmart with a $10 million donation to hurricane relief in 2017.

Disney announced a $2,5 million donation to Irma recovery programs. However, with $105 million donated over 2017 specifically to hurricane affected areas, only $17 million went to relief efforts after Irma and Maria. Donor fatigue? Only time will tell.

Individual donations to help with rebuilding have been adding up, but the largest donors to relief efforts in Puerto Rico and other nations in the Caribbean have been Richard Branson of Virgin with donations to the Red Cross, and country star Travis Tritt with an undisclosed donation for Hurricane Irma relief work. Sports teams, Miami Dolphins and Florida Panthers each donated $1 million to Irma charities.

Mexico’s Deadly Earthquake

Mexico’s Richest Man – Carlos Slim Steps Up

After the devastating earthquake that hit Mexico in September 2017, Mexico’s richest man, Carlos Slim donated $110 million to relief efforts. Nearly 210,000 individual donors also provided funds to the effort bringing the total to $130 million. Slim, worth nearly $62 billion, said the funds were earmarked for rebuilding hospitals, schools and housing.

Mark Zuckerberg pledged $1 million to the Mexican Red Cross to help with immediate rescue and rebuilding programs. Apple donated $1 million to the cause, and actress Salma Hayek donated $100,000 to UNICEF to help with relief.

From the monsoon flooding in Bangladesh, to landslides in Columbia. From terrible flooding in Sierra Leone to storm ravaged islands in the Atlantic – help is needed everywhere, and generous philanthropists are making sure that donations and fund raising for natural disasters remains high.