Follow your heart: Discount some of the advice you receive from others, and always listen to your heart. While practical advice is important, it is also imperative to respect your intuition and trust your heart.
For someone who wants to set aside money to establish a Philanthropic Foundation or Fund, what does it take to make sure your resources are being impactful and truly effective? In this interview series, called “How To Create Philanthropy That Leaves a Lasting Legacy” we are visiting with founders of Philanthropic Foundations, Charitable Organizations, and Non Profit Organizations, to talk about the steps they took to create sustainable success.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joseph Deitch.
Joseph Deitch is the founder of the Elevate Prize Foundation, an organization created to identify, empower, and celebrate social heroes around the world whose ideas and endeavors elevate the human experience. In doing so, and in sharing their stories, the Elevate Prize seeks to raise consciousness around the world and inspire a chain reaction of problem solving, goodness and giving back.
Mr. Deitch is the chairman of Commonwealth Financial Network, which he founded in 1979. Today, with over 200B dollars in assets under management, Commonwealth serves the needs of 2,000 financial advisors across the United States. He is also chairman of Southworth Development, a golf and resort real estate company with award-winning properties in the United States, Scotland and The Bahamas.
In 2011, Mr. Deitch helped to form Commonwealth Cares to maximize the impact of Commonwealth Financial Network’s charitable efforts. Since its inception in 2010, Commonwealth Cares has supported more than 360 different organizations that relieve human suffering, promote social and economic growth, and protect our planet’s resources.
In 2012, he founded the Deitch Leadership Institute at the Boston Latin School, the oldest public school in the United States. The institute provides leadership training and focuses on the individual growth of students as well as on community improvement.
Mr. Deitch also serves on the board of Sanku: Project Healthy Children, an organization working to eradicate malnutrition in Africa. In 2019, Sanku received the Zayed Sustainability Prize, was named to Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, and was one of eight organizations named in Give Well’s “Standout Charities.” Time also named the organization’s proprietary Sanku Dolsifier machine as one of the Top Inventions of 2019.
He is a Tony Award-winning Broadway producer of The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess and the author of the #1 Amazon bestseller Elevate: An Essential Guide to Life.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about a ‘top of mind’ topic. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until my early 30s that I discovered, through the power of therapy, how inherently biased, blocked and blinded I was. Part of being human is that we assume our perceptions of the world are accurate. In reality, they are merely interpretations that get filtered through our senses, experiences, fears, desires and programming. Once I understood this, I realized that when I disagreed with others, there was an excellent chance I was wrong … or at least partially wrong. This created the logical imperative to not only want and need to listen, but also to understand why someone could have a different point of view. Aside from providing me with much more intel, it made working with me decidedly more enjoyable. As a result, people shared more, and more openly.
Last year, someone suggested a refinement that was transformational. In addition to honing my listening skills, she suggested adopting an attitude of curiosity. More specifically, to engage in every conversation with the mindset of a journalist. This made it much easier for me to put my own issues and beliefs aside; plus, one’s curiosity tends to be more compassionate.
You are a successful leader. Which three-character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? We would love to hear a few stories or examples.
One of the most important character traits I possess is having a great work ethic. My mother and father instilled in me the importance of working hard — and smart — and I have them to thank for my success.
Another character trait that has been instrumental to my work is also, strangely enough, one of my biggest weaknesses: an enduring belief in myself. It has always kept me going, albeit sometimes too long or wrong. One of the wonderful things about The Elevate Prize Foundation is that, together withmy team, I get to focus our energy and resources in our belief of others and all the good that they do.
Lastly, what I consider to be my greatest gift is an endless curiosity and fascination with pretty much all and everything. Whether it’s a curiosity with people, issues, markets, trends, business, or nature and art in every manifestation, this inner urge has kept me wanting to learn every day. It also leads to appreciation and endless delight. I don’t know when or where I acquired this trait, but it’s been my greatest asset.
What’s the most interesting discovery you’ve made since you started leading your organization?
I’ve discovered that few enterprises really strive for excellence. This is strange to me since success in business usually depends on providing a great service. As a result, just by being polite, caring and honest, we can rise above others while simultaneously delighting customers and partners. If you operate your business centered on these values, you will attract the best, most extraordinary people who will work together. It is through this teamwork and camaraderie that businesses don’t just excel — they soar.
Can you please tell our readers more about how you or your organization intends to make a significant social impact?
The Elevate Prize Foundation is a global non-profit that empowers social entrepreneurs and activists by providing them with the funding and resources needed to amplify their visibility so others can be inspired to follow in their footsteps. Our mission is to help build an ecosystem that enables everyday people to find, follow and celebrate leaders who inspire them to do good. By creating the world’s first fanbase for social good and “Making Good Famous,” we believe we can motivate more people from all walks of life to do good and create positive change.
Through The Elevate Prize, we recognize 10 social entrepreneurs each year for their impact and leadership, providing them with 5 million dollars in funding and tailored resources to help expand and amplify their work. We partner with these winners for two years, granting each a minimum of 300,000 dollars in unrestricted funding, as well as leadership development services, mentorship and capacity-building opportunities to help build recognition and scale their impact.
We truly get as much as we give. By that I mean that this work feeds our souls. Giving back is the best investment we can ever make.
What makes you feel passionate about this cause more than any other?
It is as simple as this: it just resonates with me. I decided to go much more into philanthropy years ago after meeting Mother Teresa at her orphanage in India with some business friends. She complimented my colleagues and I on our successes and shared some powerful words of wisdom: “If you have money in the bank, don’t just leave it there doing nothing. Put it to good use. Do something with it.” This truly resonated with me. I’ve been the beneficiary of hard work, good fortune, and abundant inspiration. I knew then and there that it was my time to pay it forward.
In the years following that trip, I became a student of philanthropy, exploring how I could act on her advice while learning how to use my business skills to help elevate human consciousness on a global level. The concept of “entrepreneurial philanthropy” really resonated with me. I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life, and this term made me realize I can merge what I already know with philanthropy in order to amplify and scale good.
Since then, being able to work with our Elevate Prize winners — a group of amazing and inspirational social entrepreneurs and changemakers — has been a feast for the heart and soul. The people who choose to join our effort and work with The Elevate Prize Foundation are also inspirational to me. It’s extraordinary to see others working alongside each other to do good and make such an amazing difference.
Without naming names, could you share a story about an individual who benefitted from your initiatives?
One of our 2020 Elevate Prize winners was recently interviewed for an article with a top media outlet covering the philanthropy world. During the interview, this winner shared that she would, undoubtedly, not be where she is today without our support. While she was already successful before receiving The Elevate Prize, our work together helped scale and increase her organization’s visibility and ultimately lead one of the most impactful and inspirational campaigns of the year. Thanks to our resources, she and her organization were able to train more people, set up a rapid-response infrastructure, and provide funding and direct resources to bring her campaign to life.
As this winner so eloquently shared, “Foundations are often risk-averse and this is why there is an enormous economic stratification within who gets allocated money within the philanthropy world. The Elevate Prize helps bridge that gap by resourcing and funding social entrepreneurs who are already on the ground.”
We all want to help and to live a life of purpose. What are three actions anyone could take to help address the root cause of the problem you’re trying to solve?
Our mission at The Elevate Prize Foundation is to help build an ecosystem that enables everyday people to find, follow and celebrate leaders who inspire them to do good. By creating the world’s first fanbase for social good and “Making Good Famous,” we believe we can motivate more people from all walks of life to do good and create positive change. One simple action anyone could take to help our mission is to visit our website and follow us — and our winners — on social media. If you are inspired by the work we and our winners are doing, we encourage you to engage actively and share our platforms with friends on social media, celebrate our efforts and help make good work famous.
Another way to get involved is to be a part of our newest program, Elevate Giving, which offers anyone the opportunity to participate in philanthropy and collectively fund high-impact organizations. Through this program, individuals join a fast-paced pop-up giving circle experience with people from around the world who pool their money and collectively donate to a specific cause. The Elevate Prize Foundation matches contributions — up to 75K dollars. At its core, it is a program in which individuals align on values and create impact together. It is our way of democratizing philanthropy and making it more inclusive.
Finally, I would encourage people to look within and discover their own purpose and passion. It’s not for me to tell anyone what they should care about. But, if they can connect with their core beliefs and innermost desires, they will tap into a wellspring of energy and goodness. They will never regret it.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Create A Successful & Effective Nonprofit That Leaves A Lasting Legacy?” Please share a story or example for each.
- Do your research: Familiarize yourself with other mission-driven enterprises to learn what works and what doesn’t work. Speak with experts in philanthropy and with those who have started their own foundations and/or run them.
- Create a plan: Just as you have to learn how to crawl before you can walk, it’s critical to define a clear set of goals for your nonprofit, with explicit reasoning behind each one of them, before moving forward.
- It takes a village: Attract others to join. Make it a group effort. We can accomplish more together.
- Be open to evolving: Constantly measure, assess and refine as you advance along in your exploration toward greater innovation and inspiration. The journey will change constantly — embrace it and learn from it.
- Follow your heart: Discount some of the advice you receive from others, and always listen to your heart. While practical advice is important, it is also imperative to respect your intuition and trust your heart.
How has the pandemic changed your definition of success?
While the pandemic has definitely been one of the biggest challenges we have faced in recent history, it is not our only hurdle. Every challenge we face is an opportunity to learn, grow and get stronger. If anything, the pandemic has reinforced that we don’t drown from falling in the water, we drown from staying there.
How do you get inspired after an inevitable setback?
Setbacks are an almost constant fact of life. The more we attempt and the more we aspire to, the more times we’ll fall short of our goals. The solution is not to avoid growth and the inevitable disappointments that come with it, but to work on how we frame it. We don’t learn from our successes because, if we thought something would work and it did, where’s the lesson? We learn from our mistakes and setbacks, and therein lies the opportunity. If we see the supposed setback as a powerful lesson, we’re constantly awash in information and inspiration.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non-profit? He, she, or they might just see this, especially if we tag them.
Thank you. It’s a long list and we hope to eventually speak with them. But, if they’re listening, I’d start with Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Barack and Michelle Obama, Michael Bloomberg and Jack Dorsey. These leaders have been great inspirations to me and have used their platforms to do good and make much needed change in our world.
You’re doing important work. How can our readers follow your progress online?
Thank you! Everyone can follow our progress online at https://elevateprize.org/. We are also on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube.
Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.
And you with yours! Thank you for making this possible.