I love making money. However, I love giving it away even more.
Growing up this is something that I always fantasized about doing. I am not sure exactly when it started but I do remember having the feeling that if I ever had enough money and that I could actually give some away then that would probably feel pretty amazing.
I grew up in a household where there was never any left over to give but I watched my mother work tirelessly to donate what she could whenever she could. This had a huge impact on me and really motivated me and still does today.
Here is the story of how my love affair with philanthropy started and the one donation that changed the trajectory of my personal life, my business, and my children’s lives forever.
Boston is home to many famous schools, hospitals, and of course world championships in all major sports. This impacts every Bostonian’s life from birth on.
My daughters were both born and raised in Boston and from a very young age became very aware that education was a major part of their lives. Many children in Boston enroll in preschool at the age of 2 and although I am not sure if this is still the case today as my girls are both adults but in 2004 getting a spot in a preschool was like going to Mars!
Melina, my oldest, had applied and been waitlisted at our top choice. I was determined and knew it was the best place for her, so I did what every mom would do. I called them every day and reminded them that if there was ANY spot that opened up that we would absolutely take it on the spot.
I called every day for 90 days. I developed a funny banter with the nice person that would answer each day. I had just about given up when the day before school started, I received a call from the very same person I had been calling to say that a family had a last-minute move and that there was a spot for us! I cried. This was such a relief because we loved the school and this meant that we could stay in the city and we wouldn’t need to move. Yes, people in Boston make decisions about where they live based on school.
It was such a blessing and we couldn’t have been happier to be part of this young, new school started by a few families that saw a need to create a school. As our little school grew, we realized that there was a need in the city beyond just a nursery school so we decided to extend it and buy a building and create an elementary school.
There were many miracles in place to make this a reality. First, a real estate developer that stepped away from buying the building so we could buy it, to many tireless volunteers who worked to secure a loan and everything else that needed to happen.
Once we secured the purchase of the building, a development board was created led by two incredibly smart and successful businessmen so that we could raise money to pay for it. This was not the way any of us had made business decisions in the past, however, there was something so special about this opportunity and the community we were part of that we all came together and did what we could to make it work.
The families that were at the start of this community developed relationships with each other and this created a sweet and loving environment right in the heart of the city. It was so much more than a school. It was a second home not only for the children but for all the parents. So those are all the incredibly wonderful parts, but like everything in life, there are always two sides to every story.
The reality is we bought a building and opened a school but now we needed to pay for it! At the time I was not working. I had taken some time after the birth of my second daughter Thalia. You can imagine my surprise when I was asked to have coffee with one of the men who was co-chairing the capital campaign. I had no idea why he would want to meet with me. I had no experience fundraising and has never donated any money anywhere before – and most importantly I wasn’t working!
I was simply going to meet for coffee and hear more about the school’s plans for the new building we had just bought. At least that is what I thought was going to happen. When he started to talk and tell me about the plan and the future I was so moved I made a $25,000 pledge. Just like that. I had no idea where the money was going to come from but I knew that we needed to help.
I decided that it would probably be best to share this with my then husband in person and not call him while he was at work. I knew that once he heard the reason and saw how I felt that he would agree. I was right. I said “ I don’t know where we will get the extra $25,000 but I know this is something that we need to help with so let’s figure out a way.
He said yes and just like that a young single-income couple with two small children under three years old and a new mortgage decided to take a leap of faith. I am not even sure how it happened but that year was one of our most financially abundant years. Making the donation was something that was joyful, not stressful.
I was hooked. I LOVED the feeling of donating money to help others. From that point forward Philanthropy became my “WHY”.
I give away 10% of everything I make and I do it with a full heart. I set a philanthropic intention each year so I know how much revenue I need to generate. I work backwards from that number. Every decision I make in my business is always tied to this and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I will forever be grateful for that coffee meeting 20 years ago that awakened something inside of me that had shaped how I live my life and how I run my business. Philanthropy is my motivation and is part of how I live, what I teach, and who I am. It is the glue that holds everything together and the bridge that connects my personal life and my professional life.
This past week one of the organizations that is near and dear to my heart, Massachusetts General Hospital, hosted its annual Center Stage Gala to benefit The MGH Cancer Center. As a patient who continues to receive exceptional care and support from MGH, I am proud to support Mass General in its efforts to make sure that everyone has access to the same incredible care that receive.
It was incredibly successful and that continued into the next day when I had the privilege of hosting an exclusive shopping event at Veronica Beard to benefit MGH. The seamless integration between Philanthropy and my business makes decisions easy. I see the charitable organizations that I support just like I see my family and my clients. I treat them with the same love and respect and will continue to forever.