With Wealth Comes Responsibility

Shari Arison helps out on Good Deeds Day 2012; photo courtesy.
Shari Arison helps out on Good Deeds Day 2012; photo courtesy.

By Shlomit de Vries

My familiarity with the term Philanthropy can be traced back to my distant past, accompanying me since my early childhood, based on the values on which I was raised – love for mankind. Hence it was but a natural process for me to join The Ted Arison Family Foundation some 17 years ago, during its initial years of operation in Israel, led by Ms. Shari Arison – the second generation in the family’s philanthropic legacy.

The Ted Arison Family Foundation began its activities in Israel in the early 1990s, after the family returned to Israel. The Foundation’s grants target diverse fields, from education, health, disabilities, children and youth and populations in distress, all the way to culture, art, and sport – all underpinned by a deep sense of community.

At the time, philanthropy was characterized by independent operations that were non-collaborative and lacking in strategic structure. She regarded giving from a business standpoint, and based it on a clear set of criteria, objectives, and goals. This shaped the Arison family’s legacy of giving into an effective and functional foundation that is managed according to business models.

Since it was established in Miami in 1986, this sense of responsibility has anchored the Foundation’s operations, and guided me as its CEO in our philanthropic activity and strategy-building, headed by the Arison family’s third generation – Jason Arison, who was named Chairman of the Foundation in 2009.

Shari Arison, who was raised in the United States, was well versed in the American culture of giving and philanthropy, and she brought with her a new culture of giving, stemming from her understanding that with wealth comes responsibility and an inner edict of giving back to the community. This responsibility is a moral value and a moral obligation.

This responsibility, and the inner edict at the Foundation’s core, directed Ms. Arison to define the vision for our activities:

  • Our calling – To transform the Jewish world and thereby set an example for all humanity.
  • Our mission – To invest in upgrading the quality of life and transforming the human environment.
  • Our vision – Taking responsibility to set an example for a better human environment through basic human values.

This worldview steers the Foundation in all its social endeavors – to listen and be attentive to the voices of the recipients whom we wish and aspire to help.

Some key milestones in this field relate to the effects of the 2008 financial crisis on the third sector, which experienced a rise in demand for social services alongside reduced funding from government, philanthropy, and independent revenue.

Significant changes in the Israeli culture of giving and charity indicate a correlation between the rise in demand for funding, and the trend of reduced Diaspora funding resulting from the pre-inclination that contributions primarily arrive from foreign philanthropists. Within the local philanthropic circles, this has brought a heightened awareness and acknowledgement regarding the growing needs of Israeli society – and has required reorganization and rethinking, in order to provide suitable responses to the new situation and the entire framework of entities representing the varied voices of recipients.

The new philanthropy that’s emerged is strategic, shaped by openness and discussion, characterized by mission-oriented rationalism. It strives to be effective and impactful, entrepreneurial and leveraging, and ultimately expects its investments to yield returns. It values and recognizes the social organizations’ commitment to act and their professional expertise in handling their target populations.

These traits have led to an orientation espousing joint collaborations and partnership-building, marking a momentous transformation within Israeli society, demonstrating the shift from emotion-based philanthropy to rational-based philanthropy. It is goal-oriented and its objectives amount to more than just the monetary contribution being made to Israeli society – it now seeks to impact Israeli society and create social change.

In general, philanthropy does not see itself a substitute for state institutions. Instead, it seeks to complement and initiate, to support society in places where it’s difficult for governmental bureaucracy to hold the reins, and this expresses the added-value to be gained by its involvement.

At the foundation, investments and grant management are measured by three aspects that together forge its core essence of giving, while implementing Doing Good in the community, society, and country.

  • Foundation’s strategy – Giving – Collaborations – Leadership, long-term giving via prominent organizations to create impact.
  • Business aspect – Feasibility of a project and its effect, scope, feat, objectives, social return, sustainability, budget and organization’s ability to undertake the project, entrepreneurship / innovation and leadership.
  • Human aspect – Quality and values-based, empathy, embracing and containment, equality, attentiveness, tolerance, integration and, in effect – love of mankind.

As the Foundation’s CEO, who has been privileged to accompany the Arison family with a deep sense of respect for many long years of philanthropic activities, I carry the professional responsibility of realizing the vision and positioning it as a noteworthy and meaningful entity in Israeli society. I work to attain this in the philanthropic landscape through joint partnerships and by focusing its fields of operations, populations, and long-term investments.

Above all else, I would like to especially emphasize and truly express how fortunate I am to be part of this blessed activity, which aspires to be beneficial, promoting and impactful for the good of Israeli society.

Shlomit de Vries is CEO of the Ted Arison Family Foundation, which promotes essential social change through strategic philanthropy across a range of sectors. Among her other responsibilities, she chairs the Israel Foundations Forum and serves on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Funders Network.

This post is part of a series in partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation designed to introduce you to philanthropy from an Israeli perspective.