Improving Things Beyond “Back To Normal”

Improving things beyond "back to normal"

At the shores of trouble, International Rescue Committee sets up for lasting improvement.

Fast to respond, deliberate when leaving, comprehensive in scope and respected for its execution, the International Rescue Committee is one of the most significant humanitarian aid and relief organizations working today.

With under $800 million a year in revenues, International Rescue Committee maintains a globe-spanning operation that not only gets to the sites of disasters – natural and man-made – often before they strike, but also is committed to leaving places better than when they arrived. For millions around the world, the organization recently wrote, a return to normal after a disaster is not good enough. It has operated in 15 countries for more than 15 years, providing development guidance and aid, and is actively working in 25 others.

Raymond James Charitable donors have made major contributions to the organization, impressed with its life-saving and life-affirming work, its non-negotiable pledge to improve the lives of women and girls wherever it goes, and its lean operation. Nearly 90 cents of every dollar is spent on programs while keeping rapid response resources at the ready.

“We were horrified by the plight of so many people around the world who are caught in natural or man-made disaster – and it’s always the civilians who suffer most,” said Joann Wood. “My goal is to help get funding to where it is needed most, as efficiently as possible. I’m impressed with [International Rescue Committee’s] ability to partner with local resources and provide timely, practical, critical aid on the ground.

“They can rapidly deploy to disaster zones and they know what resources are there and how to transport essentials where they are needed – whether its doctors, medicine, tents or clean water.”

International Rescue Committee has been on the front lines while consistently improving the effectiveness of its interventions with rigorous research. Among its recent victories has been the development of a process for illiterate workers to effectively treat malnutrition, the creation of a center where machine-learning algorithms provide insight into solving some of the most persistent humanitarian crises in our era, and a partnership with Sesame Street to provide early childhood education to one million Syrian refugee children.

As part of its work serving vulnerable people, it has also helped to resettle thousands of refugees in the United States and in Europe, paying keen attention to barriers that could hinder refugees’ success as they rebuild their lives. In 2019, it helped resettle 7,626 refugees in the United States.

“The IRC doesn’t just go halfway,” said Hilary Joel, a Washington, D.C.-area executive coach who focuses on nonprofits. She is a major contributor to the organization. “Job skills, navigating local resources, getting their kids enrolled in schools. It’s not just a furnished apartment. IRC says: ‘Here’s how you can lead your own life.’ Programs that help people help themselves, and that level the playing field where it’s just so un-level, are my favorite investments.”

Joel was turned on to the organization by her father, who had served on the board. “When he chooses an organization to support with time and talent, when he puts skin in the game, it’s a good sign for me,” she said.

Family connections and multigenerational giving are common among his clientele, who tend to be globally aware and engaged, said Ozgur Karaosmanoglu, managing director of The Global Wealth Management Group in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Through his financial advisor practice, he helps many families efficiently and strategically plan and execute their philanthropic endeavors.

His clients, many of whom are first-generation immigrants, are charitable and passionate, he said, and look for ways to create a meaningful benefit. For many, a donor advised fund through Raymond James Charitable has helped them avoid the complications and startup costs of a private foundation. And the way the fund is structured allows for a high degree of family involvement.

“It’s a great way to get the next generation to be charitably inclined,” Karaosmanoglu said. In fact, Hilary Joel and her husband are in the process of setting up a donor advised fund with Raymond James Charitable for the next generation. Hilary says the ease and flexibility are key.

Another benefit is that Raymond James Charitable allows contributors to remain anonymous if they so choose. Daniel Ryan, director of the Philippi Ryan Group at Alex. Brown Inc. in Boston, believes this is a key feature. “Many of our clients have philanthropic inclinations but wish to forego direct contact with the fundraising party. Using a donor advised fund allows some greater piece of mind by potentially avoiding intrusions.”

It also gives some of his clients, who are fully involved in their families and growing their businesses, an efficient medium to provide meaningful contributions over time. “The flexibility that it offers in terms of making donations is useful. It allows clients to satisfy their charitable intent while also maximizing the benefit from a tax perspective. This can be a great tool during liquidity events, allowing a client to realize the immediate tax benefit while having the ability to spread their gifts over time.”

With the issues that have emerged in recent years and especially surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Wood said she intends to double her annual contributions to International Rescue Committee and a number of other humanitarian organizations.

At the front lines of trauma

International Rescue Committee, working in 40 nations and 20 U.S. cities, reaches countless individuals in some of the world’s most desperate places. Among its work in 2019, the group provided:

1,474,900 children with schooling and education opportunities

1,756,800 people with clean water infrastructure

2,630,100 people with direct hygiene information while improving toilet facilities for 661,500 people

151,700 mothers with help to deliver their newborns with the assistance of skilled health personnel

165,700 women and children with safe spaces while reaching 78,400 individuals through their violence protection program

40+ countries with COVID-19 support and healthcare services

“I see it as a moral obligation,” she said. “I am fortunate to be in a position where I can give to others, particularly in these times. We’re living in a challenging period, but it is also an opportunity to take action, and I think those who can, should.”

And Joel’s experience as a coach working alongside nonprofit leaders and organizations, she said, has given her a greater appreciation for the work nonprofits do with limited resources.

“I feel incredibly fortunate in so many dimensions: in privilege, in safety, health and access to resources,” she said. “I’ve been able to make the most of opportunities because of that. Raising others up is such an obvious responsibility. It’s a no-brainer to me.”

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