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2019 Philanthropy Report: Philanthropy Tank

2019 Philanthropy Report: Philanthropy Tank

The American College of Financial Services
April 21, 2020

A shark evolution in giving.

In The American College of Financial Services’ 2019 Philanthropy Report, we challenged ourselves and our readers to reimagine what it means to be a financial services professional in a changing field and tumultuous economic times. We’re proud to announce the Philanthropy Report is now available online! You can read the entire report here.  

Most people have heard of the hit reality series Shark Tank. Each week, entrepreneurs make business presentations to a panel of investors or "sharks," who decide whether to invest in their company. It is a compelling concept and gives big-dream pioneers the financial means to get their ideas off the ground. 

Now, imagine swapping kids in as the entrepreneurs and philanthropic efforts as their business pitches. That is just what two South Florida executives did on a mission to make a difference in society. Evan Deoul, CAP®, and Mike Kohner, CPA, CAP®, created Philanthropy Tank to help students forge creative solutions that address and improve social issues in their communities. The idea was sparked by their participation in a West Palm Beach Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® (CAP®) Study Group, where they met other humanitarians working to make the area one of the most charitable in the country. 

The program’s seeds were planted eight years ago through the efforts of one woman. Margaret May Damen, CLU®, CFP®, ChFC®, CAP®, has a deep passion for philanthropy, one that began in the 1970s with her work in music and the arts. She always wanted to promote the arts and the quality of life that communities get through the arts. “It is so much more than just learning an instrument or painting a picture,” said Damen. 

In the 2000s, she pivoted careers and became a financial advisor with a focus on women and financial literacy. Damen completed her CAP® designation from The American College of Financial Services in 2011 after meeting Program Director and Sallie B. and William B. Wallace Chair in Philanthropy Phil Cubeta, MSFS, CLU®, ChFC®, AEP®, CAP®, at a financial services conference. At the time, she was the only CAP® around Florida, and after a colleague, Lori Denison, CLU®, ChFC®, CAP®, expressed interest in the program, Damen decided to step up for the greater good.

Within two weeks, Damen, Denison and Richard Flah, CLU®, CAP®, tapped into their network and recruited 20 of the best professionals they knew to start the first Florida CAP® Study Group. “The participants were like a little cult,” said Damen. “People were jazzed to be participating in this kind of a movement.”

Word caught on about what she and other local professionals were doing to promote philanthropy, and her efforts morphed into something so much bigger. “It was the right time and the synergy was there,” said Damen. “Most industry professionals go for the facts, but what I have learned is we need to identify the feelings and values behind giving. The CAP® program teaches you to ask your clients things like, ‘What keeps you up at night?’ and ‘What do you see in the world that you want to help change?’” Since the West Palm Beach Study Group's inception in 2012, over 75 people have completed their CAP® designation through The American College. 

Deoul and Kohner, Philanthropy Tank co-founders, were in one of the original study groups. The idea for Philanthropy Tank was sparked during their participation and collaboration with fellow CAP® program graduates, and they continued the work they began during the CAP® curriculum. 

Philanthropy Tank is a non-profit organization that provides an opportunity for youth to secure mentoring and funding for breakthrough community betterment projects. The program challenges, empowers, and equips them to develop and execute sustainable initiatives and solutions to these problems. Philanthropic backers self-fund student initiatives, investing in their community projects. Through one-to-one mentoring, the investors help them execute initiatives while increasing their ability to make meaningful change. Additional programs and workshops are held throughout the year to train, coach, and develop skill sets that will enable the students to cultivate and implement their ideas and plans. 

At the fourth annual live pitch event in March 2019, seven local student teams were awarded a total of $101,000 in funding. Each team made three-minute presentations to four philanthropic investors, who played the role of “sharks,” for the opportunity to win up to $15,000 and mentoring from their “shark.” One of the winning teams was Mayan Girls, a group of Lake Worth Community High School students who created a service for the Guatemalan Mayan community to translate information such as current events, weather alerts, news topics, and community events to share via social media. 

The Philanthropy Tank program is in its fifth year and has awarded $400,000 in grants to teen-led programs that have impacted more than 200,000 lives. More than 500 local students have been involved in clubs supporting Philanthropy Tank’s programs and mission of empowering change. A recent live finals pitch was held on March 19, 2020 at The Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. For more event information, please visit philanthropytank.org. 

The Philanthropy Tank concept has been so successful that the team will expand efforts in the Baltimore market in Fall 2020, hoping they can utilize new ideas inspired by local students to impact another community. Nonprofits have a long track record of creating viable solutions to many of the issues facing our nation. It is the hope of everyone with Philanthropy Tank to show today’s youth that their efforts can turn into long-term, credible, and rewarding career paths. 

“It is important to empower the next generation of change leaders,” Deoul said. “And the efforts of Philanthropy Tank fuel these students to make big changes with their ideas on how to positively impact their communities.”