Thomas Kane, Chicago Executive Discusses the Path to Meaningful Work

Thomas Kane is a Private Wealth Manager and Managing Director at Merrill Private Wealth Management in Chicago where he advises ultra high net-worth clients. Outside of his career responsibilities, Thomas is regarded in the community for his philanthropic efforts both in Chicago and abroad.  We recently spoke with Thomas to gain his insight on how entrepreneurs can become more involved with charity.

What social causes are you most passionate about?

Thomas Kane:   I am the President of Friends of the IDF Central Region and it is the cause I am most passionate about.  The organization focuses on “looking out for those who protect us” in the Middle East.  Specifically, we provide financial support for former combat/front line soldiers in need.  I am also involved in the Jewish Federation of Chicago as a significant financial supporter and also the Co-leader of a mission called “Rosh Gadol” where we focus on bringing philanthropic minded young business leaders from Chicago to Israel every few years to spend time with local leaders.

Many entrepreneurs are successful at managing their business finances and want to find ways to pay it forward.  How important is it for entrepreneurs to commit some time and effort on giving back to social causes?

Thomas Kane: I think modern entrepreneurs want to leave a legacy and they realize that after the numbers are crunched and their business is off the ground and becomes successful, they still crave more.  Millennial entrepreneurs want to be hands-on and involved.  Besides the obvious reasons that giving back has on a community, they see charitable giving as a way to build their reputation.  Supporting social causes is an investment in the company’s future. 

Should more nonprofits be courting entrepreneurs as donors?

Thomas Kane:  I think so.  Entrepreneurs’ approach to philanthropy reflects the hands-on approach they have used in building their businesses; they place more emphasis on being personally involved in giving, deciding how funds are distributed, and the ability to demonstrate leadership through their volunteering.  They also show far more interest than the traditional employee in donating professional services, helping with fundraising, and serving on a committee or board.

How can companies include philanthropy in their culture?

Thomas Kane: First, they should find a cause that employees care about. Choosing one focus for an entire corporation to champion can be demotivating.  Instead, give your people time off to volunteer or serve a nonprofit of their choice during working hours. Giving them the freedom to choose increases their engagement level and loyalty to the company.

While a lot of companies believe in doing team-building activities, many miss the opportunity to include a philanthropic component. Activities that have a service element will achieve higher goals than going away on a weekend retreat.  Activities could include everything from serving the homeless a hot meal to volunteering at the local animal shelter to organizing a company sponsored sporting event.

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