Make Good On Personal And Professional Altruism

January 6, 2012   //   News

Want to feel good? Do good. Tips from some altruistic givers and shakers:

Grab the ball. How is a fundraising pingpong tournament born? “Incessant trash talking about who was better than whom,” said former National Basketball Association executive Peter Farnsworth. “We couldn’t let it go.” Three years ago, his group of friends put their paddles where their mouths were and organized a charitable tournament. The idea had bounce. “We pulled together 400 people and made $85,000 the first year,” Farnsworth told IBD. In its third year, TopSpin hoped its December events in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles tallied $1 million for youth education organizations.

Build some excitement. Billed as a charitable competition and an industry networking event, TopSpin draws big names from sports, entertainment and media sectors, plus those who want to rub shoulders with luminaries. “It’s a bit of a real-life LinkedIn,” Farnsworth said.

Push it further. Farnsworth left the NBA in 2010 to launch his marketing firm, Foxrock Partners, while expanding TopSpin. “I wanted to do more,” he said. “People are enthused and rally around this idea of coming together as a community.”

Get directly involved. Bob Knott, president of SWC Technology Partners, characterized his information technology consulting firm‘s approach to charitable giving like this: “It was kind of random — a mosaic of efforts.” In 2011 he found a hands-on outlet for his altruistic impulses — a Chicago charter school. Now his firm is revamping the school’s tech infrastructure and coaching its robotics club.

Share top talents. Knott’s overall objective is to get at-risk kids interested in math and science.
“It’s something we believe in,” he said. “We can’t find enough computer engineers.” His immediate aim — besides helping kids win a robotics competition — is to teach them usable skills.

Keep advancing. Wanda Urbanska’s new book, “Builders of Hope,” tells how an organization of the same name saves construction materials from tear-down houses and builds new homes. She says examining every possible pitfall would have killed the effort before it got off the ground. Instead, the organization’s leaders forged ahead and solved problems as they arose. “I think cynicism is a real enemy of simplicity,” she said. “We can be too calculating.”

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