Philanthropy

Philanthropy has always loomed large in my life. Toward the end of 1998 I started Hedge Funds Care/Help For Children (www.hfc.org). At the time my goal was to simply see if I had it in me to pull together a party of people I’d met at conferences and meetings in my industry, to raise money for the prevention and treatment of child abuse. It turned out to be a really great party, and today HFC is a global movement with chapters in twelve cities and six countries. As of this writing more than $46 million has been donated globally to programs dedicated to saving children from the trauma of abuse. So it has been a rewarding and wonderful Journey that I will be writing more about.

Rob Davis Philanthropy

Rob Davis, founder and Chairman Emeritus of Help For Children, receiving the City & State Reports Award for Outstanding Achievement in Promoting Philanthropy in the Financial Community.

Hedge Funds Care/ Help For Children raises $2million to help save children from the trauma of abuse

Please take the time to view the new Hedge Funds Care promotional video and share with your friends!

Before entering the financial services industry, Rob Davis worked as a teacher in an elementary school, where some of his students, he found out, had been victims of abuse. Davis, who as a child had been subjected to abuse himself, ultimately got involved in their cases to ensure that the perpetrators were brought to justice. One of the reasons that child abuse persists, Rob came to realize, is that many people treat it as a family matter. Parents of victimized children rarely advocate for the prevention and treatment in the same manner that the parents of children with a particular disability or illness often do. As a consequence, the issue doesn’t garner enough public attention, let alone funding.

Many years later, raising a family of his own, Davis made a decision to become a better role model for his children. “I wasn’t doing anything but writing a check here or there,” he recalled.

Davis, a managing director at McAlinden Research Partners, realized that the best way for him to help others was to open his Rolodex of clients, colleagues and friends within the financial services industry. He decided to organize a fundraiser. The event, which was held in February 1999, attracted more than 400 people and raised $450,000 for abused children.

Even better, many in attendance seemed just as thrilled by the success as Davis himself was. “When are we going to do this next year?” they asked.

That charity born out of that event, Hedge Funds Care/Help for Children (HFC), has grown over the years into an international organization with affiliates in Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, and Asia, and a handful of American cities. Each HFC chapter has established a relationship with the leading school of social work in its city or region to assist in selecting worthwhile grantees. In New York, grants have been awarded to the New York Center for Children, where police bring children who have been sexually abused for forensic interviews with social workers and psychologists. Another local organization, The Child Abuse Prevention Program, sends puppeteers to elementary schools, where they use storytelling to teach third graders which kinds of contact are acceptable and which should be reported. HFC has also sponsored therapy for some 8,000 children, filling a gap left by government programs that cap the amount of treatment they can provide.

“When kids have been actually hurt and can’t get therapy,” Davis said, “that kills you.”

HFC has also supported preventative programs that provide training to thousands of attorneys, teachers, parents, and children. Between all its chapters and affiliates, the foundation has granted over $44 million to organizations committed to protecting vulnerable children, funds mostly raised through parties, dinners and networking for members of financial services industry.

“HFC has worked because the industry comes together for events that combine business networking with the great cause of saving children from the trauma of abuse,” Davis said. “I’m a believer that participation should absolutely have a positive impact on people’s personal as well as professional lives.”

Enjoy reading this email about how HFC got started, sent from Rob to his good friend Emily, who has been involved with HFC from the very beginning:

Here’s how it went. I started working on it, and came to visit you with Eric Roper in October 1998. The question was whether I needed to go thru all the 501C3 stuff to have the party I was planning, or could find a host organization to front me (which was Eric’s suggestion), since I had no idea at the time if I would be successful. Also, I was just thinking about a one-time event and had no thought that it would turn into something larger. Eric knew you from being on the board of the Henry Street Settlement House, and thought you might have some suggestions.

He was right! You were wonderful to offer set up a separate account for us, so people could make their checks out to UNH, and your staff would keep track of everything. It stayed that way for 3-4 years, until Doris came along and pulled all the legal things together to be official.

You Eric and I then went to Columbia to meet with the Dean, Ron Feldman. In that mtg we also met Kathryn Conroy, who agreed to work with us in selecting who received grants, and evaluating how they did with our money. The relationships with UNH and Columbia turned out to be extremely helpful in my fund raising effort, as they gave my instant infrastructure credibility, and a story about how everything would be handled in a top draw, professional manner. Kathryn was our Columbia consultant for the first ten years (during which period, Doris Schwartz was the ED from years 3-10). When Doris left, Kathryn retired from Columbia and became ED in ’08.

You may recall, that first party at the Pierre was quite a success, and right after, everyone started clamoring for another the next near. Before long people started popping up in other cities to start branches there. At first we followed the same model of working with local charities to handle the money, but it began to get way too complicated keeping track of everything…enter Doris.

I retired as Chairman after the tenth year, the year we changed ED’s (seemed like the natural time to do it so people would get the idea that different people could step in and keep it going) as I didn’t want it to end with me. To wit, the Chairman role has passed hands twice since, and is now held by Dean Backer, a terrific guy from Goldman. I am now an Emeritus J, still very involved in the background, and thinking that I should get the story written and on video.

That’s the story. Since you were so crucial to the formation (never could have started without you), I’m delighted that we could work out meeting with you. Caroline is a close friend who worked with me when it all started and has been to every event since. Jay, the video guy is also a good friend and talented videographer.

Warm wishes,

Rob

I’m happy to say that since inception we have actually donated more than $42million, through more than 1000 grants to organizations with a laser focus on preventing child abuse and providing treatment to those who have been victimized.. The organizations that we fund are subjected to a rigorous process. They must first respond to the HFC Request For Proposal that is posted each year on the HFC website. All proposals are first vetted by the local academic advisor, who in most cases is a Professor of Social Work at the leading University in that city. More about that later. Their first job in this process is to screen out the proposals that clearly are not “on mission”. In our case, that means without a clear and laser focus on the prevention and treatment of child abuse. 

The proposals that make it through, are then further evaluated by members of the local “Grant Selection Committee.” comprised of individuals from the local business community. Their mission is to decide which existing programs should be re-funded, and which are the most compelling new ones to add. The crucial component of course, is how much money we have available from fund raising activities. It is a bruising and  difficult process due to the fact that there are virtually always, more deserving programs seeking funding than we have the capacity to include. Having said that, in 2015 HFC funded more than 100 programs throughout our network of branches. 

Back to our academic consultants. When I started HFC in the Fall of 1998, one of the first things I did was to meet with the Dean of the Columbia University School of Social Work. I asked the Dean if they would be our guide in choosing the programs we funded, if that is, I was able to raise any money, which at that moment was far from a foregone conclusion. I’d like to say that the idea of going to Columbia was an original idea, but truthfully, that is not the case. Actually, what happened is that I had been telling a friend about my plans to raise money and donate it to programs focused on child abuse, when he stopped my in my tracks! 

“Seriously,who would trust you with their money when you have zero experience in that process, and you know how skittish people are these days about some of the crap that goes on! 

I was definitely taken aback by his vehemence on the subject, but thankfully, in his next breath… 

He said, “Hey, why don’t you see the people at Columbia. Its the top rated graduate school of social work in the U.S. They have to know all the programs out there, because they place their students with them for internships as part of their studies. So they have to know which ones are the best and worst. They can’t place their students in clunkers or they’ll lose their highly coveted rating.”

“Ummm” I droned, “Any chance that you anyone there? How can I get in front of the Dean to even ask?”

“Leave it to me” he said. My wife’s best friend works for the Dean.”

The meeting had barely started when the Dean interrupted and said there was someone that he wanted to bring in to join us. A few minutes later, in walked DR. Kathryn Conroy, the Assistant Dean in charge of “Field Placement” and the person most directly responsible for that internship, placement process described before. 

After about ten minutes later, as I was describing my vision of raising funds and donating funds, but hoping that Columbia would help in the granting process and also devise a way to analyze results, she literally pounded her hand on conference room table and declared, “I want to do this! “

The dean, a wonderful guy named Ron Goldman, added, 

“Wow, what a great idea. Ya know, not one other charity has ever asked us to participate in something like this, even though we probably know the social service community in this city better than anyone! At the very least, as well as anyone! Now let’s see” he went on. “The business community would like to bring badly needed funding to a dramatically underserved population, and they’d like Columbia to assist them in providing the most effective possible home for whatever funds they are able to raise.” He gazed up and feigned heavy thought for about 10 seconds before proclaiming, “Done! Ok Kathryn, the ball is in your court. Rob, with Kathryn in your corner you got better than you bargained for by coming here today. Now go and raise some bucks.”

www.newyorkcenterforchildren.org – Child abuse prevention and clinical treatment for children who have suffered sexual & physical abuse.

www.em-powering.org – Providing educational opportunities for children in Uganda

www.childcenterny.org – Family strengthening support for high risk parents & children

www.nyfoundling.org  – click on Program & Services – click on Child Abuse Prevention Program – Puppet shows for elementary school students that provide tools to prevent child abuse and deal with current abusive situations.

 www.sunriseassociation.org – Giving support to children suffering from cancer through summer camp and in-hospital recreational activities.

www.sus.org – Services for the Underserved.

Rob Presenting Baseball's Joe Torre With "The 2014 Chairman's Award" for Joe's Philanthropic Efforts to Help Children