The Tuesday following the United States’ Thanksgiving holiday has been designated #GivingTuesday. What started as a single day when U.S. consumers were reminded of the importance of giving money to charitable causes, has grown into a year-round global movement to support charities or businesses deemed important by each individual.
This year-round giving is a philosophy to which YPO member Russ Rosenzweig subscribes. The CEO of the Round Table Group, an expert witness search and referral firm, which he founded with friends while in undergraduate school at the Chicago area’s Northwestern University, believes in the practice of tithing.
In many world religions, going by different names, tithing refers to giving 10% of earnings to your place of worship. It has evolved, however, to mean regularly supporting causes one believes in.
“I try to practice tithing in my daily walk – not for religious reasons,” Rosenzweig explains. As an entrepreneur, he says, there are seasons of prosperity and times when money isn’t flowing. By creating a fund intended for charitable giving, he says, giving becomes easy. Here is how a USD1,000 donation he made in 2020 became USD500,000 in a matter of months.
Tired of the ‘bad news’ headlines
Disturbed by world events in 2020, including the high-profile police killings of Black men in the U.S., Rosenzweig sent a USD1,000 check to a randomly chosen church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA, hoping the church could do some good for the people of the city who were recovering from its own tragic story.
“This was a town I knew, having lived in Chicago for so long and having visited Kenosha often,” he says. “I couldn’t just passively watch the news. I wanted to change the headlines.”
He struck a friendship with Pastor Patrick Roberts of the First Baptist Church of Kenosha, where he had sent the check, and Rosenzweig was moved to do more for the people of Kenosha, but he didn’t know what was needed.
Living in San Francisco where his wife attends law school, Rosenzweig says he regularly saw that city’s homeless. He thought maybe by helping Kenosha’s displaced population, he could change the headlines. His new pastor friend introduced him to another Kenosha church that ministers to the area’s homeless, and together they came up with the idea for a COVID-19 vaccination drive.
Making connections, making a difference
The church was expecting 150-200 people to come for their vaccines, and Rosenzweig started to wonder about the stimulus checks the government was issuing. “At that point, I knew people getting up to USD3,600 after three rounds of stimulus, and I’d see people occasionally giving a dollar to the homeless,” he says. “I wondered what USD3,600 could do to help.”
He called his new pastor friend again and ended up partnering with the accounting department at Carthage College, a small private university in Kenosha. Together, they assembled a group of volunteer accounting students who helped Kenosha’s homeless access stimulus funds set aside for those who do not file tax returns or have a permanent address.
“It actually worked,” Rosenzweig exclaims. “By just getting to know some pastors and making a call to the head of the school’s accounting department, we were able to get about USD500,000 into the hands of people who really could use it.”
Philanthropy is built in his businesses’ DNA
Rosenzweig is hoping to replicate the success in Kenosha in other communities. Back in 1997 at Northwestern University, he and his company’s co-founders built a database of college professors who were experts in their fields and a database of litigators, then matched the professors with the need for courtroom experts. Not only did they create The Round Table Group; they created an entirely new industry. Using the same concept, Rosenzweig plans to create a database of pastors in the U.S. in hopes to find 10 million more homeless people to vaccinate and to connect with government assistance.
“The real gem of this story is that my colleagues and I are spending our free time now day-dreaming about how we can manifest millions of dollars for good causes,” he says. “It amazes me how easy it was to get jabs (vaccinations) and checks for homeless people for not really much money or time.”
Rosenzweig has built giving back into his corporate culture. The firm partners with lawyers who use their services for pro bono cases by providing their services and the experts for their cases. He is also using commerce and entrepreneurship to reduce global conflicts and founded the World Ventures Group to work toward achieving peace in the Middle East.
“These are philanthropic wins,” he says. “It goes beyond writing a check and is really motivating.”
Make giving easy
The original USD1,000 check Rosenzweig sent to the Kenosha church came from an account designated for charitable contributions that he contributes to regularly.
“At any given point there’s money in this account, gaining interest,” he explains. “It’s then easy to make donations to any 501c3 organization, and psychologically, there’s no pain when I find a cause I want to support.”
Sometimes those causes are simply making a donation to a community he’s visited and really enjoyed. “I’m like a tortoise, leaving a reward wherever I go,” he says. “It’s just a practice I’ve developed.”
He adds that it is not just money that people can offer others. “Money, time or expertise – we should be doing one of those regularly,” he says of his fellow YPO members, CEOs and entrepreneurs. “Giving 10% right off the top, even moving appreciated securities to avoid capital gains, is one way to go. “But to offer our expertise, that might be a little more novel,” he adds. “If every YPOer spent 30 minutes on the beach or in the mountains thinking of how to make a difference beyond time and money – we could move mountains.”