The Middle Market recently put together a list of private equity firms that are getting involved and doing some impressing good in their communities. The list highlights some important trends, especially in individuals and companies wanting to be hands-on in giving.
1. The Carlyle Group
CEO of private equity firm the Carlyle Group LP (Nasdaq: CG), is one of the signers of The Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. So, it should come as no surprise that Carlyle has always encouraged philanthropic activities at the firm level. “We do a lot of charity. The founders and other people at the firm give hundreds of millions a year to charities of their choice,” says managing director Christopher Ullman, who helped establish the firm’s employee giving and volunteer program back in 2003.
Twice a year – in June and December – Carlyle ramps up its volunteer and cash donation efforts. “The firm vets a number of groups and encourages employees to volunteer and donate. People especially like to help people who are homeless as well as the Smithsonian,” says Ullman.
Firm-wide Carlyle also participates in Junior Achievement (JA), which is a kindergarten-12th grade program that fosters work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills though experiential learning. “We actively promote JA. It’s a great program. We take over a school for a day and teach an established curriculum on entrepreneurship and work place readiness. JA is very in sync with what we do for a living. We help people have a secure financial future whether it’s the employees at our portfolio companies or our pensioner investors that are counting on us in retirement,” says Ullman. “We help these kids learn how to create a secure financial future. It’s a humbling experience.”
Carlyle’s philanthropic initiatives are long-standing, but they’re more important than ever, due to the values of today’s work force. Millennials, defined as people born between 1981 and 1996 by the Pew Research Center, are “for sustainability, diversity, inclusion and giving back to the community,” says Ullman. “We are finding this more and more. Yes, we are here to make money, secure retirement for pensioners, but the firm wants to support people’s efforts to make the world a better place.”
2. Frontier Capital
The founders of Frontier Capital always recognized how fortunate they were and decided they wanted to give to the Charlotte, North Carolina, community in a formalized way. In 2016, they formed the Frontier Foundation, and after surveying the firm’s employees, the firm selected three non-profits to support: The Miracle League, Foundation Fighting Blindness and Charlotte Family Housing. The Foundation has committed $25,000 to each organization. In addition to the financial donations, the entire team gets involved with community service efforts. “The whole theme is around volunteerism and giving back. We recognized how fortunate we are to be where we are. We worked hard, but we have had advantages and opportunities that others have not been given. Giving back adds to a culture at our firm,” says Andrew Lindner, a founding partner of Frontier Capital. “The other great part is that sometimes with volunteerism, we gain more than the intended beneficiaries from the efforts. It’s a great feeling.”
In selecting the organizations to support, Frontier looks to “support charities that help the most vulnerable in society, support charities that help individuals who want to help themselves and have a permanent impact, and lastly, support those with physical and mental barriers.”
We noticed that a lot of our team members have a philanthropic bent and decided to follow their lead. We said, ‘let’s formalize something where we can support these great tendencies,’” says Lindner.
In an effort to show that support, Frontier management formed a board consisting of different members throughout the organization to determine the direction and the guidelines and which charities to lean into. The entire firm is really enjoying its work with The Miracle League, which is a baseball organization for kids who are mentally and physically challenged. The Foundation financially supports a handicapped accessible ballfield, and on various Saturdays Frontier employees take turns volunteering at the games. Employees are helping players hit, move around the bases; they are also pitching, fielding balls and building friendships. “For some this is the highlight of their week. It’s so rewarding seeing the pilot light in our young employees turn on. There’s more to life than work and material things, and our people understand that,” says Lindner.
Lindner noted there are also some unintended consequences of starting The Foundation. “The program has strengthened our culture and made us feel close to one another, because we are doing things collaboratively. It also attracts certain people to Frontier, people who care. And it gives businesses we may be partnering with a good idea of who we are. These are things we really hadn’t even thought about when we started this, but they have been great benefits.”