Written as part of Bodler Giving's Global Givers initiative by a regional partner.
A life’s meaning comes from the difference one has made.Thirty five years ago I told my prospective wife about my dreams of engaging in charitable activities if my financial and spiritual conditions allowed, because of a promise I made to god when I was little. She promised to support me along the way. Years later as my professional career was moving along successfully, my wife and daughters questioned my decision to include charitable giving in my will and inspired me to instead start giving while I was still alive. This is how I got started on this great journey – I’ve never looked back nor regretted my decision.
Over thirty years, I helped grow my plastics and medical device business over 200 times, reaching 12 manufacturing locations in 3 continents. Success in my business career has offered me the chance to fulfill the promise I made when I was young. I believe in giving while living because I can apply my experiences, skills and connections to social issues and experience the joy of having an impact. As Deepak Chopra says: “The more you give, the more you will receive. You will keep the abundance of the universe circulating in your life.” By investing my time, collaborating with other individuals and organizations, and strategically giving my financial resources through donor advised funds to take full advantage of the tax benefits in the US, I support people and organizations in achieving their goals and in the process transforming lives.
We taught our kids to be responsible, considerate, have compassion for others, work to support themselves, and not depend on inheritance. Through our charitable work we not only set an example for our daughters and other young people but also get a chance to meet like-minded, successful individuals and families. This is an invaluable reward for us. It would not have been possible to reach out to these people and build lasting friendships otherwise.
After finishing college in Istanbul, I moved to the United States to attend Columbia University where I received my MBA in 1968. In 2002, life came full circle when we started a scholarship fund at Columbia Business School for students of Turkish origin. So far, we’ve funded 22 students. Every one has become a part of the part of my family. They are smart young people with great potential. We express our expectations of them in the beginning by saying, “when the time comes, we want you to give back to the society that you live in.”
I’m thrilled that some of them have already started to give through Turkish Philanthropy Funds, a public charity I co-founded with 15 friends in 2007 to provide people in the US with tools for donating to foundations and associations in Turkey. I continue to servie as Chairman of the Board for the New York based Turkish Philanthropy Funds today, as it continues to grow because of its strong performance, transparency, tax advantages and great reputation, Another initiative that I spent countless hours on and helped establish with a $1.4 million endowment is the Bolu Community Foundation. It’s a collaborative initiative of 21 business leaders from the city of Bolu, first one of its kind. We are cooperating with the Third Sector Foundation of Turkey (TUSEV) to promote and implement the community foundation model in other cities and towns in Turkey.
When making a decision on which causes to support, we try to take into consideration both our passion and current needs of the society at large. For example, when they opened the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix where we’ve been living for a long time, it upset my wife and me to see that the Turkish section was very weak. We worked with individuals and organizations from Turkey to enrich the Turkish exhibit in the museum. On opening night, our Turkish section had the largest exhibition in terms of both the range of instruments on display and physical area it covered. Again, we achieved this by giving countless hours of our time plus making a significant financial donation. A need, which we had never paid attention to before motivated us to take action.
Throughout my philanthropic journey, I saw the efficiency and importance of investing in people. I can say that the 30,000 dollars, which the U.S. government provided me with through the Fulbright scholarship in 1966-67 for my graduate studies, has been given back to the American and Turkish societies a thousand times. The appreciation for financial aid that I received and responsibility to give back to society encourage me to invest in social causes and organizations that have great potential to make a difference in our communities. And I want to achieve this mission while I live.