Changing People’s Lives Through Entrepreneurial Philanthropy and Finance

Educating, empowering and helping people get what they need most in life is at the heart of successful philanthropy. It is no coincidence that fulfilling peoples’ needs is also the foundation of a successful business. Any venture, whether it is commercial or philanthropic, should aim at improving the lives of as many people as possible. Both should use technological tools to build scale. And both must be self-sustaining to be considered truly successful.

I am convinced that only by applying the values of an entrepreneur to philanthropy will you ever be able to meet the needs of the greatest number of people.

I understand human financial needs. I grew up in Beirut – the “Paris of the Middle East” – where people totally understand the value of money but where philanthropy and giving back to society is nowhere to be found.

No matter how much my father and uncle – both traders, entrepreneurs and financiers – gave to thousands of families back home, people took it for granted and never learned anything in the process…My lesson learned? Be generous but never depend on the generosity of others.

I set my mind to create one day an organization that would not only give but mostly educate, empower and most importantly serve as a model for successful financiers too…. Hence the creation of the Financial Policy Council Financial Policy Council

The mission of the Financial Policy Council Inc. (“FPC”) is to formulate and promote sound public policy based on the principles of free enterprise and wealth creation as envisioned by the ideals of the American Founding Fathers.

We are a public policy-oriented organization which seeks to educate and inform the public about economic and fiscal matters.

We view America as the land of opportunity where freedom and prosperity have flourished. Our goal is to ensure that America retains an economic and regulatory system conducive to economic growth and wealth creation, and is not derailed by poorly formulated and reactive economic, fiscal and tax policy. In addition, we strongly believe that America reclaim and retain its leading role in the global economic community.

We seek to achieve our mission in the following ways:

• We EDUCATE policy makers and the public to enable them to support and recognize sound financial public policy, with a clear understanding of the issues of concern to entrepreneurs, investors and the public.

• We INFORM entrepreneurs, investors and the public of the roles they can play to ensure that their opinions are heard by and persuade policy makers of the soundness of our public policy solutions.

• We EMPOWER entrepreneurs, investors and the public by creating a forum through which their voices can clearly be heard by and in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere.

• We BRIDGE the chasm between Washington, Wall Street and Main Street using sound, rational economic research and education.

So today, I am privileged to be able to do that but not simply by giving money away. That is a temporary fix. Rather, I am approaching philanthropy in a strategic and systematic way just as an entrepreneur approaches a new venture. This I strongly believe is the only way to make a self-sustaining difference in the world.

To be perfectly candid, my life experience as a business creator, and as philanthropist have taught me that there are at least three key elements for philanthropic success.

1. Build Scale

Technology allows you to replicate knowledge cheaply and reach many more people with it than you could in the physical world. With diagnostic software you can now diagnose patients in every town, village, or farm in the world. And you can do so objectively without the biases that even the best human physicians harbor….

Same goes for the education of finance. By building scale you can now have as many people in the world as knowledgeable – in due time – of finance and economics as every Wall Street expert out there. Our 2008 crisis happened mainly due to total ignorance of the system coupled with undue risk and excess. Wouldn’t want you to educate people at the “grass roots” level to start avoiding such financial shocks in the future and make our business leaders totally accountable of the process?

2. Make It Self-Sustaining

The problem now becomes, how do you get this valuable information into everyone’s hands where it can do the most good? You could enlist wealthy donors to buy some kind of “educational software” and distribute it widely. But then you are beholden to physical constraints again – and even worse, you are dependent on a lifeline of someone else’s money. Instead of giving away a $200 software, you could also allow people to rent them for $20 per month? That way everyone has an incentive to achieve the mission of getting the proper software to the greatest number of people. Instead of managing the whole program on your own, the program now takes on a life of its own.

3. Live an Entrepreneurial Life

By understanding and harnessing the forces that drive human behavior, you can create a self-sustaining philanthropic effort that reaches millions of people. It begins with an entrepreneurial attitude: take an idea and execute on that idea. If it doesn’t work, learn why and build on what you’ve learned. And be mission-oriented rather than goal-oriented. That way, if you do the best you can, you will always succeed. This is not simply an approach to philanthropy; it is an approach to life.

Philanthropists can learn important lessons from business entrepreneurs. They both spend their time solving problems. And to be successful they both must overcome physical challenges and create self-sustaining operations. And ultimately, they must allow people to take action for their own benefit.

Growing up in Beirut, Lebanon I knew all I needed to change the world was one good opportunity and I prepared myself for it. When that opportunity came I was ready. I couldn’t count on luck so I created my own.

Today, I’m sharing my passion for giving back with my children. I know they’ll approach the problems they want to solve in ways I never imagined and over time, research shows, if they are committed to philanthropy when they are young, they will make philanthropy a central part of their lives for years to come. That’s sustainable philanthropy. And we’re not alone. Because of the work of entrepreneurial philanthropists there are more new opportunities than ever opening up all over the world for the people who are prepared to grab them. Together, we are creating our own luck on a global scale.

Come join us in being a part of decisions that will shape the world’s future…It is high time.

Written by

Ziad Abdelnour is a political activist and is the Founder and President of the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon.