Here are 5 private equity firms that go beyond the bottom line to give back to their communities.
By Danielle Fugazy
1. THE CARLYLE GROUP
David Rubenstein, co-founder and 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.
Urban farming: Carlyle team members work with DC Greens
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.”
Playing ball: Frontier Capital folks pitch in at the Miracle League
“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.”
3. HURON CAPITAL
Huron Capital launched Footprints in 2015. Since the firm’s inception in 1999, Huron has sought to make a difference in the lives of the people in the Detroit community, where the firm is headquartered. The firm supports charitable causes and non-profit organizations through volunteering, serving as mentors and leaders, and providing financial resources. While the firm encourages and supports employees through a gift matching program, the firm also chooses charities to support on a firm-wide basis.
Every year, the firm supports Crossroads of Michigan. David Vermiglio, vice president of finance with Huron, is the board’s treasurer. Crossroads offers an array of services in Detroit, including a soup kitchen, social services, employment office, parenting programs and summer lunch programs. “We pick a couple of days every summer, buy the food and we cook it for about 100 kids and their families. There are some difficult neighborhoods in Detroit, where children may not have access to meals when they are not in school. This year we cooked served and brought crafts to do with the kids, and we helped with babysitting,” says Dawn Coraci an executive assistant with Huron “It amazing what we can do together.”
Going the distance: Huron Capital partner Matthew Hare runs for World Vision
Huron has an application process for employees to request donations to charities of choice. At the beginning of the year, the firm replenishes its financial pot and reviews the requests. Because the firm is headquartered in Detroit, it supports only Detroit-based charities. “We want to leave our footprint in this community where we live and work while being as helpful as possible,” says Gretchen Perkins, a partner at Huron. “It’s also well documented that younger employees embrace having ‘purpose’ in the context of their work life. The charitable activities we do as a group, the ability for each employee to influence where Huron’s donations go, and the ability to perform community service during work hours, or receive matching funds for an employee’s personal non-profit passion, all contribute to a portion of an employee’s sense of purpose and contributing to the greater good at Huron Capital.”
4. THE RIVERSIDE CO.
Giving back to the community been a hallmark of Riverside since the firm’s inception more than 30 years ago, but in 2016, the firm formally launched a Global Volunteer Program. Beyond the obvious reasons to give back, it just feels good to do good, explains Graham Hearns, chief of staff. “It helps the recipients, the communities and the charities we support, but it’s also proven to improve the moods and health of people participating. Charitable people are often among the biggest beneficiaries of their own acts of charity,” says Hearns. “The Riverside Global Volunteer Program makes everyone better.”
Hearns says being charitable also helps attract top talent, as employees are very interested in giving back. It also stretches many people in ways where their regular roles do not take them. “Employees also benefit from the chance to develop different skills beyond those tied to their traditional roles and jobs,” he says. “For example, it’s wonderful to see an administrative team member research and vet charities, then lead the effort to build teams at Riverside to help those charities.”
The Riverside Co. folks help out at animal shelters and other organizations
The firm selects specific charities to support based on employee recommendations while taking environmental, social and government (ESG) issues into account. For these select charities, Riverside pledges support and also plans employee outings and helps execute on events, while giving employees time off to volunteer so they can participate. The global effort helps deepen connections within teams and across the firm. “We have a program called One Riverside, where we share resources and best practices for deals,” says Hearns. “The Global Volunteer Program helps strengthen that shared sense of purpose.”
Riverside’s Global Talent Management Team works with each of Riverside’s 16 offices to select the charities the firm will support and determine how they will support them. This past year, the Cleveland office recently supported the Greater Cleveland Food Bank; the London office volunteered at Divine Rescue, a group that supports the homeless and vulnerable with meals and clothes; the Munich office helped clean a local park; and the Melbourne office worked at St. Kilda Mums, preparing baby goods for expecting families in need. “There are families and causes in need literally in our own backyard in the shadows of our buildings. We try to support some of the most vulnerable people in our community,” says Hearns.
The commitment to giving back is part of Riverside’s commitment to ESG and values, says Hearns. “Supporting our communities is consistent with our business principles and a clear part of our effort to leave great references in our wake.”
5. STAR MOUNTAIN CAPITAL
Brett Hickey founded Star Mountain’s Charitable Foundation, which focuses on improving lives through economic development, including job creation, health and wellness and cancer research. Notable missions include helping veterans and women with high-quality career opportunities across the country, including within Star Mountain’s portfolio which in aggregate represents over 200 companies.
Cancer research is a cause near and dear to Hickey’s heart. Having lost his mother to breast cancer when he was six years old, Hickey has made raising money to fight the disease a mission. In October, the firm supports the Terry Fox Run for Cancer Research, which is an annual run held in New York’s Central Park that supports cancer research at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The proceeds from the event have totaled more than $2.9 million dollars since it was launched in 1994.
Racing for cures: Star Mountain employees support the Cycle for Survival
“These kinds of events do so much. We raise money for a good cause. It also gets the team thinking about being healthier as they gear up to run and is great for culture. Star Mountain covers all out-of-pocket expenses for our employees, and we are generally the No. 1 fundraiser for the run and we host a party to thank our team and donors afterward,” says Hickey. His team has raised approximately $150,000 for the Terry Fox Run over the years with 100 percent of proceeds going directly to cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. Star Mountain’s team is also very active with Cycle for Survival in a similar fashion.
Hickey also recognizes being charitable is important to younger generations of workers. “Today’s younger generations look less at life like, ‘Here’s my work life, and here’s my home life.’ They are blended today, and people spend more time working than anything else. These people are very mindful about how they put food on the table and what they stand for. They want to do it in a way that matches who they are outside of work,” says Hickey. “They want to be proud of where they work."