Ask Dr. Gramma Karen: Philanthropic Grandparents Can Make a Difference

Dear Readers,

The exact number of grandparents involved in philanthropic activities is not known, but it is an undisputed fact that multitudes of grandparents are performing charitable acts in numerous ways, e.g., volunteering, making donations, starting their own organizations.

Grandparents become involved with charitable organizations for a variety of reasons, for example, they want to:

  • Use their post-retirement in meaningful ways.
  • Help instill certain values in their grandchildren.
  • Express their compassion for the less fortunate in concrete ways.
  • Honor the memory of a loved one.

It is with a focus on the last two bullet points that I share with you the reasons why grandparent-friends of mine have established their own philanthropic foundations.

Hannah Laufer-Rottman, Founder and Executive Director of Palms for Life

As a former 30-year employee of the United Nations World Food Programme, Hannah Laufer-Rottman traveled extensively in developing countries and has firsthand experience with impoverished communities and families. Her voice cracks ever so slightly as she explains, “I know what it means for poor people to live a life with no hope for the future, and I know with complete certainty that we can make a difference by joining hands and working together.”

Hannah translated her idea of joining hands by founding, in 2006, Palms for Life, whose mission is “. . . to reach out to underprivileged people in Africa, Asia, Latin America . . . and raise awareness about hunger and poverty in the United States. We [Palms for Life] focus on food security, water access, and education, especially for girls.”

In addition to wanting to help poor people with their basic sustenance needs, Hannah was motivated to start Palms for Life because “I wanted to establish a family legacy and be an inspiration for my daughters and my grandchildren. I want them to be active global citizens.” Hannah’s wish for family involvement is realized: her daughter, Maayan Laufer, is the Director of Programs, and her other daughter, Naama Laufer, is an Advisor.

When asked how grandparents with time and motivation might support Palms for Life, Hannah described four possibilities. First, there is the the Join 1000 project in which a monthly contribution of any amount connects the donors into a community in which they work together to help Palms for Life decide which projects should be undertaken. A related activity is to be an ambassador for Join 1000 and help bring in new members.

Second, grandparents can recommend a special project they would like to work on. For example, a grandparent who enjoys writing or storytelling might create online stories with pictures, photos, and content provided by Palms for Life, to be shared with their grandchildren and other children, depicting the daily challenges children and families in developing countries face. It can be a transforming experience for well-provided-for children to learn that somewhere in the world is a child who would like nothing more than to have her own bar of soap.

Third, grandparents can become fiscal sponsors, meaning their personal funds are channeled through Palms for Life to support a project of interest to them that is aligned with Palms for Life’s general mission. An added benefit is that a fiscal sponsor realizes tax benefits.

Finally, purchasing and wearing a Palms for Life T-shirt that says “We’re all connected” reinforces a core message around which everyone can rally.

Hannah welcomes calls and e-mails to talk about her organization’s work and to answer any questions. She can be contacted through her Web site.

Andrea and Herb Ouida, Founders of The Todd Ouida Children’s Foundation

Andrea and Herb Ouida are dear friends of mine, as well as family members by marriage. They explain how they came to establish their charitable organization: “The Todd Ouida Children’s Foundation was born out of the September 11 tragedy. Our son Todd was 25 years old on that terrible day when the North Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.

“At Todd’s memorial service his childhood therapist spoke of how Todd had worked with him for a year and a half before Todd was able to return to school after missing two and a half years of school (his 4th to 6th grades), due to panic attacks. At the conclusion of the service people offered to donate in Todd’s memory. We were in a state of pain and had no idea of any foundation.

“However, when our daughter’s mother-in-law suggested we help children who suffer as Todd did as a child, we knew our life’s work would be to fulfill that idea. Primarily, we wanted to create a lasting legacy for Todd so that he would always be remembered. While we could not bear that he was gone, we also could not bear that he would be forgotten.

“Todd’s Foundation has donated more than a million dollars to social service agencies which provide mental health services to children to prevent and treat anxiety disorders and depression.

“We have also created an annual, endowed lecture and research grant to the University of Michigan, which is Todd’s alma mater. Every year, for the past 12 years, we have attended the lecture and witnessed the granting of a research award to an ‘Ouida Scholar.’”

Two years ago Andrea and Herb partnered with the Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health at Montclair State University and several New Jersey agencies to sponsor the Annual Todd Ouida Children’s Foundation Conference. The conference brings together parents, educators, social workers, therapists, and members of all the helping services to focus on issues pertaining to the mental health of children and their families.

Another project Andrea and Herb sponsor through their foundation is “Zippy’s Friends”, a school-based program in which children are taught to identify and talk about their feelings, deal with loneliness and rejection, cope with bullying, resolve conflicts,  and deal with change and loss.

When asked how their foundation may have changed over the years, Andrea and Herb said: “Because of the nature of our foundation, at times it is emotionally difficult to continue with it, but we are now at a point that the actual work we are doing has become more important to us than simply creating a legacy for Todd. One of the unexpected and most rewarding aspects of our work has been meeting so many amazing people, especially those working on the front lines of children’s mental health.”

“All of what we have done and continue to do has become a source of healing.”

Andrea and Herb are happy to share their experiences with interested readers. They can be contacted through their Web site.

Lauren Katzowitz Shenfield, Principal and Senior Advisor, Philanthropy Advisors

My friend, Lauren Katzowitz Shenfield, principal and senior advisor of Philanthropy Advisors, LLC, is an expert offering customized information, advice, and services to clients in all aspects of their giving, including, family, private, and corporate philanthropy. She invites readers who currently have a fund or foundation and are reassessing its mission and strategies, or those who are thinking about starting one, to contact her for a consultation. Lauren can be contacted through her Web site.

An article that may be of interest, by the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, is posted on Lauren’s Web site: “Generosity Spanning Generations: Creating a Tradition of Family Giving”.

Another helpful brochure, “Engage the Next Generation in Giving,” comprises practical tips, activities, and resources for parents and grandparents who want to make giving a natural and ongoing part of family living.

September 11, 2001

We shall never forget
We shall keep this day,
We shall keep the events and the tears
In our minds, our memory and our hearts
and take them with us as we carry on.

The 9/11 Memorial Website

Ask Dr. Gramma Karen is published every other Tuesday.

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