Sunday, July 27, 2008

JWN: Philanthropy


By: Joseph W. Norman

“If you have learned anything from me through all of this, do something with it to make a difference - to make things better." - Melissa Marie Sengbusch (1981-2000)

Previously I’ve reflected on the well known tenant that the secret of living is giving. Well, this week I was blessed enough to be able to make a symbolic step towards putting that fact into action in my life. I officially joined my first non-profit board; Melissa’s Living Legacy Teen Cancer Foundation. This organization was founded by Lauren Spiker (VIP Profile) after her daughter Melissa’s death. It was created to fulfill the promise she made to Melissa in Melissa's final days. (Read Melissa's Story!)

I met Lauren at the beginning of this year through my friend and entrepreneurial mentor, David Mammano, Founder of Next Step Publishing (VIP Profile). Lauren and I connected over lunch and started to bounce ideas around about how I could help her organization. After many more meetings and much thought I made my formal commitment to Lauren by joining the board.

It’s always crucial to understand the, “Why?” of what you do. Thus, I would like to share the personal reasons why I joined Melissa’s Living Legacy Foundation. My decision was made in part because of my relationship with Lauren. Although I have not known her long, her passion for the organization’s purpose is unprecedented. Passionate people doing something they truly care about are unstoppable!

The next, and most important reason for me, is that the foundation’s mission correlates with one of my personal philosophies; “Consistently improve the quality of life for myself and those around me.” The primary purpose of Melissa’s Living Legacy Foundation is to positively impact the quality of life for adolescents with cancer. Statistically, over 50% of adolescents diagnosed with cancer die so helping them preserve and improve their lives as well as define their legacy is imperative. The Foundation facilitates this in some truly remarkable ways. (Check out the Foundation's website!)

So, what does this have to do with you? Make a commitment to yourself today to give a little bit more than you already do. Design that into your life. If you don’t have much money, give a little more time. If you don’t have time but you’ve got money, donate some of your resources. Quite simply, just do it! Find a great organization that supports a cause your passionate about and tap into your inner philanthropist!

A few people I know have done this in some unique ways. For example, my friend Justin Madden of The Jefferies Group recently competed in the Ironman Triathlon at Lake Placid. Leading up to the event he dedicated his race and rose funds for a colleague’s organization, The Kevin Armstrong MD Memorial Sports Foundation.

In addition, my brother Chris raised money for and competed in the EIF Revlon Run/Walk for Women in New York City while my oldest brother Jack organized an event at his work, L3 Communications, where people paid per paintball to shoot at him, a moving target. He did this to raise money for his manager’s wife, Ursula, who is battling cancer. These are just a few examples of things you can do!

Get creative! There are so many ways to give you just need to open your mind to the possibility. I guarantee the fulfillment you will feel from the work you do will be worth every penny and second you give!

Joseph W. Norman, resides in Macedon, NY, and is Chief Enthusiasm Officer of Notable and Newsworthy and Editor of The VIP Profiles. He is currently a full time real estate investor whose personal philosophy is to make a consistent positive influence on the people and communities he associates with on a daily basis!

He can be reached at or 607.743.8569.