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April 14, 2010 / nick geisinger

“Philanthropist to Philanthropist” – featuring George Vradenburg

By Katy Moore, Director of Member Services, Washington Grantmakers

At last week’s “Philanthropist to Philanthropist” luncheon – the first of three that Washington Grantmakers will host this year – top philanthropists from around the region came together to learn from one of their colleagues. In an interview-styled session, George Vradenburg (bio) discussed with moderator Patty Alper (bio) how he has structured his giving to make a lasting impact on issues most important to him.


Vradenburg

In 2001, Mr. Vradenburg left a very successful career in media – including senior executive positions at AOL, CBS and Fox – to pursue his passion for serving the public. Determined to make a difference, he and his wife, Trish, founded the Vradenburg Foundation.

Through the foundation, the Vradenburgs give about $1.2 million in grants each year  – well above the IRS-required 5%.   More importantly, George gives his endless energy and passion to the causes he supports. Most notably, he currently serves as Chairman of the Board of The Phillips Collection, co-chairs (with Trish) the National Alzheimer’s Gala and Alzheimer’s Action PAC, and is deeply committed to DC public education reform.

When asked how he describes himself, he jokes that Trish calls him a “philactivist,” but that he prefers a simpler description: restless. And restless he is! Listening to the dizzying variety and multitude of efforts with which he is involved, one wonders when he sleeps.

Throughout the interview, one theme rang true. From Alzheimers to “regionalism,” from The Phillips to education reform, Mr. Vradenburg’s strategy is bringing the “right” people to the table. And, by the “right” people, he means those who are willing to work together to effect systemic change in underperforming social or economic sectors. As he put it, “unless you have unlimited resources, you have to involve others in your work in order to move the needle.”

When asked how he knows when he’s making a difference, he bucks the idea of traditional metrics and says, “Either it works or it doesn’t.”

Washington Grantmakers’ “Philanthropist to Philanthropist” luncheons are exclusively for family philanthropists in the DC region. These invitation-only events are limited to 25 participants and provide a rare opportunity for philanthropists to openly share their giving challenges, successes and failures, and learn from their peers. Upcoming speakers include Jack Davies (June 8) and Katherine Bradley (September 14). For more information contact Katy Moore at moore@washingtongrantmakers.org.

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