Why One Woman Has Made Impact Philanthropy A Career And Why It Matters

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"In my view, improving the lives of others is the purpose for which we were born," Ms. Arsht shared. "In our family, it was understood that philanthropy, which is to care for others, was the basis of the reason to exist. Philanthropy defines who we are as human beings. Your purpose is to improve the lives of others and leave the earth a better place than when we started."

Adrienne Arsht is the daughter of the Honorable Roxana Cannon Arsht, the first female judge in Delaware, and Samuel Arsht, a prominent Wilmington attorney. Upon graduation from Villanova Law School, Arsht was the 11th woman admitted to the Delaware bar – her mother having been the 5th. She was married to the late Myer Feldman (d.2007), former counsel to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Today, Ms. Arsht is a business leader and impact philanthropist. She has taken a leading role in promoting artistic, business, and civic growth. Some examples of her generosity is the $30 million contribution she gave to Miami's Performing Arts Center in 2008. In her honor, the Center was renamed the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. In 2012, her contribution of $10 million to Lincoln Center was recognized with the Adrienne Arsht Stage's dedication in Alice Tully Hall. In Washington, in 2016, Ms. Arsht spearheaded the Adrienne Arsht Center for Resilience at The Atlantic Council, which was renamed in 2019, the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center with the $30 million Rockefeller Foundation gift that she matched. She also founded the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council in 2013 to focus on South America's role in the trans-Atlantic community.

Given the current climate of racial and social inequality, Ms. Arsht feels impact philanthropy is a real way to make an immediate difference, especially if other institutions and companies follow her lead.

Identifying Issues That Need Attention

The Giving Joy - Toy Drive-Thru benefitted the Children's National Hospital and Toys for Tots.

Adrienne Arsht and The Giving Joy - Toy Drive-Thru benefitted

Adrienne Arsht

"While there are so many great causes and important issues to get involved in, as an impact philanthropist, I try to focus on issues that may not have a solution yet or may need more attention," Ms. Arsht said.

One recent example is with COVID-19 devastating industries and communities worldwide; Ms. Arsht wanted to make sure local kids in need knew they were valued and hadn't been forgotten. She launched a contactless, outdoor toy drive-through at her home in D.C. The Giving Joy - Toy Drive-Thru benefitted the Children's National Hospital and Toys for Tots. "I had a steady flow of gift-givers who drove thru my driveway! They handed the toys to the Marines within the safety of their cars," she said. "This was so meaningful that I hope to do it again next year and make it a new annual tradition. Especially during crises, it's important to identify where there is a need and find new ways to make an impact."

When asked how she ensures that she's continuously learning about potential new causes to give her attention and time to, Ms. Arsht answered, "Reading, reading, reading. I read nonstop, anything and everything, from newspapers, magazines, books, blogs, news sites – and even the back of a cereal box! If I get in an elevator, I always have a book or newspaper on me if I get stuck and have something to read."

Her most recent project is working towards The Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center's goal of reaching one billion people with resilience solutions to climate change, migration, and human security challenges by 2030. "We focus our efforts on people, communities, governments, and institutions to help them better prepare for, navigate and recover for the multiple shocks and stressors people all over the world face every day," Ms. Arsht said. "Together, we must act to ensure a secure and more prosperous world. While not all problems can be solved, the promise of progress rests in our willingness to address challenges head-on."

Encouraging Others To Pursue Impact Philanthropy

Ms. Arsht is a business leader and impact philanthropist

Adrienne Arsht is a business leader and impact philanthropist

Adrienne Arsht

"The purpose of impact philanthropy is to improve the lives of those who may not have the same access and resources and to create a more level playing field," Ms. Arsht explained. "It's essential for companies and organizations to pursue impact philanthropy because it will help advance the future of generations to come.'

Most recently, Ms. Arsht donated $5 million to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City to fund the Museum's first ever-paid internship program, which now will be named the Adrienne Arsht Interns. With Ms. Arsht's gift, The Met is now the single largest art museum in the country to offer 100 percent paid internships to nearly 120 undergraduate and graduate interns each year.

"Such opportunities can impact the rest of their lives," she said. "My late father, Samuel Arsht, was a top student at law school. He tutored kids for bar mitzvahs to pay for tuition. However, when he was offered the prestigious opportunity to join the Law Review, he was forced to turn it down – simply because he could not afford to take an unpaid position. It's important to provide the same opportunities and enable greater inclusivity and access for all."

When it comes to encouraging others, many of whom may not have the resources to extend their philanthropic efforts, Ms. Arsht feels anyone can find a way to give.

"There's a quote by the late Jackie Robinson that has always stuck with me," she disclosed. "It is, 'Life owes me nothing. Baseball owes me nothing. But I cannot as an individual, rejoice in the good things I have been permitted to work for and learn while the humblest of my brothers is down in a deep hole hollering for help and not being heard.'”

Ms. Arsht suggests we can all find causes that draw us in and that we are passionate about – no matter who you are or where you come from. Even if it's not a financial donation, you can always participate. Donate your resources and your time. Help collect toys for kids in need or help deliver meals, which can all impact. "I think this year shows the importance that making an impact must include diversity, gender, and racial equality."

She recommends reading and researching local organizations whose missions may draw you in, so you can volunteer and learn about new perspectives. "Hear as many other voices, and you'll know when you're being spoken to," Ms. Arsht recommends. "The smallest acts can have the biggest impact. Walk a mile in someone else's moccasins, and when you do, you'll know what to do."

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