Change the World? Why Not?

Rodney W. Nichols, past President and CEO Emeritus of the NY Academy of Sciences, is Senior Advisor to the Alliance For Global Good.

The Alliance For Global Good (AFGG) is a new, ambitious, small, and growing philanthropic organization. Leonard Kaplan, the founder, frequently prods people with a disarming question: “ What kind of a world do you want for your children and grandchildren?”

Leonard knows, and we all know, that innovation will be needed to solve the world’s problems. Innovative changes must not only serve our social and economic purposes, but also demonstrate capacity for moving to higher scale and being sustainable.

The next question is: how can modest grant giving accelerate such desired change? Furthermore, since resources are tight, and stretched even tighter these days, can broadening the “global good” be done from the bottom up? After all, the big social puzzles – in health and education, for example — have been around for a long time. Many global social warriors have broken their spears trying to crack them. So new ideas must be nourished.

That’s why the AFGG opened its Innovation Fund two years ago. Conceived by Dr. Susan Raymond, Executive Vise President at Changing Our World in New York, the Fund creates an entirely new opportunity for non-profit organizations. The challenge is to earn revenues.. The premise is that small grants of capital, tied into a clear business plan and with a social mission at the core, can produce wonders. This means framing fresh ways to serve the mission

This outlook will spread, David Brand, President of AFGG, and our team believe. In turn, it will transform the philanthropic landscape and strengthen the non-profit community. So far, eight brave groups have taken up this challenge, and received grants from the Innovation Fund. In effect, these groups are following an old injunction: “Stop waiting for the world to change. Change it and the world will follow.”

Only a little time has passed; so it’s too soon to evaluate this experiment. But it’s working well. Fusing traditional directions with new incentives in the civil society seems to be the right formula.

Rodney W. Nichols

March 2014 Rev 3/28/14



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Leonard Kaplan’s creation of the Alliance for Global Good was the expression of his passionate philanthropy.  It’s also the logical outgrowth of all that came before it.  Together with his wife and philanthropic partner Tobee, and through a family foundation later renamed TOLEO, they gave unselfishly of resources and time to improve their community and the world for more than twenty-five years.

Tobee & Leonard Kaplan

Tobee & Leonard Kaplan

The Alliance’s focus on five areas of giving—health, education, environment, poverty, and world relations—is mirrored in Leonard’s past.  He has made major gifts to Duke University Medical Center and the Duke Comprehensive Cancer and Heart Centers, to the Lineberger Cancer Center at UNC Chapel Hill, to the Cardiac Rehabilitation program at Moses Cone Hospital, and had a leadership position at the Greensboro Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.  In 2004, Leonard and Tobee built the new building for the Women’s Resource Center in Greensboro. He created scholarships for residents of Guilford County to attend North Carolina colleges and universities, and was a founding donor of Elon University Law School.  Critically, in partnership with the Kellogg Foundation, Leonard helped create the Center for Organizational Leadership, a philanthropic studies program (which was one of first nationally to educate non-profit executives).

“Everyone wants to leave something to their grandchildren.”

“The money won’t matter if the world they live in is so far gone,” Kaplan says. “The opportunity now is to take some of what might become their inheritance, and use it soon to make the world a better place.”

Addressing poverty, Leonard made possible the building of two houses for Habitat for Humanity, and by providing food for hungry people both close to home in Greensboro, and as far abroad as the former Soviet Union.   The Kaplans were staunch supporters of Trickle Up, which provides grant financing to women in the developing world who want to start their own microenterprise.

Leonard gave not only of his wealth, but also of his time and expertise, taking on leadership positions in many organizations and campaigns such as the Greater Greensboro United Way DeToqueville Society, and as a Core Member of ACTION Greensboro, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education, revitalization of downtown Greensboro, and leveraging economic development.

Active in their community of faith, the Kaplans built a new building for the Greensboro Jewish Federation, and for the Hillel youth organization at U.N.C., Chapel Hill.  He served on the board of the Jewish Foundation of Greensboro, and on that of the national Hillel organization, and was a founder of Camp Ramah Darom.

Viewing giving as a responsibility of affluence, Leonard led by example, and encouraged others to do the same.  He created Wealth & Giving, an educational program designed to inspire the largest wealth holders in this country to be more generous.  The Alliance continues that work by promoting and providing donors with opportunities for effective and efficient giving.

Read more about the Five Guiding Principles.