My college buddy, Mike, is as modest as they come. While pursuing his lifelong dream of being a
finance analyst rockstar, he dedicates a large part of his time to helping others. Make sure to check out the amazing organizations MIke is helping (and his musical talents!) Send operationphilanthropy a message if you are interested in getting involved.
Name: Mike Patton
Live: Somerville, MA
Career: Tell me a bit about your career path. How did you end up where you are?
I went to college (with you!) for economics and finance, and had a sweet finance gig all lined up, when I reached the conclusion that I hated finance, and dreaded the thought of 9-5 corporate America in general. So I moved to Costa Rica, where amongst other things I co-founded a real estate development company that was committed to responsible development. So instead of haranguing locals into giving us their land for a fraction of its value, we'd pay a fair price the them, still have plenty of room to make a profit, and then spend some of that profit giving back to the community (i.e. the company installed new water pumps for the town, built an expansion for the local school, etc.). Then I retired from that to move back to the states play rock guitar (www.3partsdead.com, and www.TheStrangeAvenues.com), and help run the family business,www.LanguageCorps.com. That's pretty much what I'm still doing, although when a family friend participated in a LanguageCorps program, and was moved by the situation in Cambodia to start a non-profit (www.CambodianThreads.com), I leapt at getting involved with that. And just recently my father has founded the Fund for Disadvantaged Children, which I've been working with him closely on (and serving as Corporate Secretary for).
1. Are you philanthropic? Why?
I don't know, I don't really think so… Maybe? I keep getting involved with philanthropic organizations, and my bands seem to play a bunch of benefit shows and the like, but I don't know if that really counts. People like my father, and Jake Daniels (Cambodian Threads' founder) are philanthropic, I just figure I've had a pretty cool life, so I might as well spend some of my spare time trying to help make someone else's life a little easier.
2. What does philanthropy mean to you?
Haha, I was all set to resort to Google for this one, but really, I just think it means doing what you can, where you can, to make the world a little less shitty for someone or something.
3. What organization(s) do you donate time and/or money to?
I don't really have a specific "cause" – like I'm not all about saving the whales or anything… There's the two groups I work closely with, obviously. I also volunteered for a few years at the Aspergers Association of New England, which is a great cause. My bands have played benefits for children's cancer, veterans, animal shelters/humane societies, disaster relief, etc. Lately we've been donating to the One Fund Boston, after the marathon tragedy. I guess for the context of the sub-questions, I'll stick with the big 2 though.
a. What do you do? Haha, a little bit of everything. For Cambodian Threads, I've visited the schools we're giving back to, participated in overall/general strategy discussions, mailed scarves, administered photo shoots, managed a lot of the technology side of things, manned booths, etc. For FDC, I've been serving as Corporate Secretary (ensuring legal compliance) and participating in overall strategic planning and forecasting as we get up and rolling. That could definitely grow/evolve as FDC does.
b. Why do you support this (these) cause(s)? Because they're good causes, and I know the principals involved so it's easier for me to make a "big picture" impact. Cambodian Threads has a great sustainable model that's product driven, so it helps the local craftspeople while it generates the money that it uses to help the local schools and children. FDC is a more traditional donation-driven model, but it helps by working to build up the organizations and infrastructure that the countries and communities it works in need to be able to provide long-term support and solutions.
c. How did you find these opportunities? I was lucky enough to know the founders (obviously my father, and Jake was a childhood friend of my brother), and be asked to participate (due to my previous entrepreneurial experience).
d. Do you enjoy it? Of course! It's not like I'm getting paid, so I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't enjoy it and think it was worthwhile.
e. How would you improve your experience, if possible? I'd love to see both organizations grow, so the impact could be wider reaching.
4. If you had a million dollars to donate, what organization(s) would you give to? International or domestic? Why?
I'd probably split it between the two that I primarily work with, because I'd be better able to ensure that it's used efficiently, and because they're great causes that could really use the money to help grow and do more. Seriously, if you've got a million dollars lying around, check out www.CambodianThreads.com, and keep an eye out for the Fund for Disadvantaged Children (website coming), because they're awesome orgs run by great people.
5. Is there a philanthropist you admire?
I admire anyone who takes the time to give back, however they can, and not just for personal gain. Big guns like Buffett and Gates are awesome, they've given billions… but if you don't have billions and instead take the time to walk or run for cancer, or just contribute that extra few bucks to an animal shelter when you're paying for your groceries, that's pretty cool too. Way too many people don't do anything at all (understandable and forgivable, but doesn't inspire admiration), or spend as much time and effort (and money) making sure people know they're doing it - which while I'm still happy they're giving something, makes it less admirable.
6. What advice would you give to a young adult wanting to embark on a career in public or non-profit services?
Just go for it, do what you can, and don't limit yourself to trying to find a particular job with a specific organization. There are countless ways in countless fields that you can help countless causes, or if all else fails, just start your own.