Rockefeller firm opens shop

By Todd Cohen

You don’t have to be a Rockefeller to get philanthropic advice from the Rockefeller family’s professional advisers.

To handle growing demand by wealthy donors for philanthropic advice, the family has spun off the philanthropic arm of the firm that provides it with financial services.

Targeting clients who contribute at least $150,000 a year to charity, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors will develop and manage giving programs for individuals and families.

The new nonprofit will offer “a level of insight and information that’s hard to get in places that don’t have an exclusive focus on philanthropy,” says Melissa Berman, its president and CEO.

Berman, former senior vice president for research and program development at The Conference Board in New York, joined Rockefeller Financial Services a year ago to create a business plan for the new philanthropic venture.

It has been launched with 100 clients, many of them served by Rockefeller Financial Services. Half are Rockefellers and half are outside the family.

With a staff of 16 people, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors manages $45 million to $50 million through its donor-advised fund and oversees $50 million a year in giving to 28 countries from its donor-advised fund and other charitable funds and trusts, Berman says.

Services range from creating and managing philanthropic programs to assessing their impact.

In particular, the group develops, administers and evaluates complex international philanthropic ventures and innovative giving programs, and connects donors with other philanthropists and experts throughout the world, Berman says.

The rapid growth in the number of wealthy donors, she says, is driving a “democratization” of philanthropy.

“There no longer is a narrow circle of people who know one another and learn from one another,” she says.

Yet despite an increase in wealthy people, she says, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors estimates 5 percent of individual donors and family foundations that might benefit from getting philanthropic expertise actually have tapped it.

“They perhaps did not come from families where that was part of the tradition,” she says.

And donors increasingly want their philanthropy to be more effective, focusing their attention on outcomes, performance, strategy and change, she says.

The new Rockefeller venture aims to give wealthy donors access to philanthropy veterans and to the global network of donors and experts who have worked with the Rockefeller family, Berman says.

By joining forces with other funders, she says, donors can share what they know and avoid duplicating efforts to identify, develop and support effective programs.

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors itself is involved in collaborative initiatives to promote and develop new philanthropy.

They include plans to create a new research institute on global philanthropy, and the launch by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum of the Global Exchange for Social Investment, an effort to better connect philanthropists and social-investment resources with innovative and effective projects throughout the world.

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers also is launching two new funds – one to support nonprofits led by Afghani women, and the other to support innovative Caribbean nonprofits.

Leave a Response

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.