As the tides continue to turn toward corporate social responsibility, we are seeing what I affectionately term “conscious capitalists” popping up, using their high profile influence, social capital — and revenue — to drive change on a grand scale. Black Card Circle, an elite social network of prominent business professionals comprised of what Founder, Lotay Yang, calls “CIA’s: Connectors, Influencers, and Alphas,” is committed to using their access, connections and wealth to benefit charitable organizations worldwide.
What’s unqiue about this social network, launching officially 09/09/09, is that all members are validated and verified to ensure trusted transactions and trusted interactions between professionals seeking to collaborate in a “safer, secure, legitimate environment,” according to Lotay. So, rather than engaging in unverified social ecosystems such as Facebook and MySpace, Black Card Circle screens each member carefully, and ensures that they are committed to the core values BCC seeks to uphold. The result is a values-driven community that can advance ventures and programs in a significant way.
Passionate about making a difference, Lotay created the Black Card Circle Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that allows the collective of conscious capitalists he’s assembled to contribute substantially to the betterment of humanity by raising awareness for, and providing grants, to non-profit organizations that serve one of the following core areas: Education, Environment, Healthcare, Global Development, and Poverty Relief. The profits generated from Black Card Circle seed the BCCF, facilitating an ongoing stream of funds to keep philanthropic endeavors thriving. And at the core of the foundation beats a heart of gold by a man who truly wants to save the world.
1. How do you define for-profit philanthropy?
I would take the words “for profit” out of the equation. Profit and money is just a means to an end. And for me, that end is saving the world. So, I’d define it as the act of being selfless over selfish, using your means to give unconditionally. Far too many give “in order to”… in order to elevate their position, in order to increase sales, in order to get something back for themselves. That is not giving in my opinion. That is still a self-focused act. It’s a transaction or a way of bartering to get what you want. Giving should be about the beneficiary, and while I’m far from perfect, I try to be a man of honor who cares and loves. I draw inspiration from Christ and people like Martin Luther King and Gandhi; those who exemplifed selflessness in words and actions. They inspired a quote I remind myself of often:
“Give. Give till you can’t give anymore… then give some more.”
My true passion is the Black Card Circle Foundation which was born from a deep commitment to giving back after I lost my father at 21. When he died, I thought to myself that, not only did I just lose a father who had instilled in me the values of unconditional love, but that the world lost an amazing man, too. On that day, I made a promise to honor him through everything I do, and the BCCF is the outward extension of that, which pays homage to the gifts he gave me that I want to share with others — and the world. It’s the embodiment of who I am, and my core values and beliefs; not a corporate strategy.
To get back to the definition, money makes the world go round but money was man made. It was a means of exchanging services. Through our approach to what you call “for-profit philanthropy,” we facilitate a re-allocation of capital to exchange wealth to charitably inclined, selfless individuals, and bonafide organizations.
2. Please describe your philanthropic business plan and your current charitable activities.
The Foundation is a bit like Robin Hood, not in that we’re stealing from the rich to give to the poor, but in that we’re asking those who are rich in means (as defined by society) to use their wealth, influence and social capital to help those in need. We basically attract capital to help drive awareness and donations for important causes.
Ultimately, what we’re doing is making it sexy and fashionable to give. By having high profile events with beautiful people and luxury brands such as the Ritz Carlton and Tiffanys, we create a red carpet extravaganza where people can get dressed up, and meet and interact with cool people. And all that money and attention is raising awareness and contributions for charities around the world.
Our cornerstone event is the Black Tie Charity Event, which takes place twice a year, and generates incredible amounts of funds and attention for the charities we support. And to ensure that the donations are reaching bonafide associations, we vet every charitable organization, and do comprehensive due diligence using a variety of tools to ensure that our members can feel comfortable giving their money to a trusted entity.
In addition to the bi-annual gala event, we also have scaled down events called “IMs, Intimate Mixers,” where people can gather to connect with influential people and leaders in a more business casual setting.
As far as the foundation itself, we are a 100% volunteer organization with minimal overhead. This structure was by design in that we run the operations very lean so that the maximum proceeds benefit the charities.
“Our mission is to empower the voiceless in society by promoting self-reliance and sustainability. We don’t hand out fish; we teach people how to fish.”
3. How do you communicate the impact of these efforts to your customers?
We will be communicating the awareness impact of our efforts in the Philanthropy section of BlackCardCircle.com v2.0 website (launching shortly). I believe that measuring awareness for these charitable organizations is the most important barometer because it’s awareness that brings money, and volunteers, and provides the exposure needed to truly make a difference. We spotlight these causes in high profile ways to create that critical level of mass awareness. By supporting Black Card Circle, you bring these charities to the forefront and in doing so, help us help others.
4. Why do you think it’s important for companies to adopt philanthropy as part of their revenue model?
Simply put: We’re all in this together.
5. What would you say is the most critical element in successfully implementing philanthropic endeavors?
Giving just for the joy of giving. Making a sustainable difference comes from the heart.
Name: Lotay Yang
Company: Black Card Circle and Black Card Circle Foundation
Website: www.BlackCardCircle.com and www.causes.com/blackcardcirclefoundation