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Family Offices Making Impact Investments for Social Good


By Christian Braemer

Cofounder & CEO, Benefunder


The ultra wealthy tend to get a bad wrap in the press, but what if I told you that many of them use their riches to help make this world a better place for all of us?


I saw this trend firsthand last week, having had the pleasure of attending a Cavendish Forum as a guest speaker, thanks to Greg McKee, CEO of CONNECT. The forum was a gathering for family offices and foundations to expose them to social impact investments and philanthropic opportunities.  


Aside from the event itself being pretty spectacular -- hosted at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, UC San Diego, and The Scripps Research Institute -- it struck me to see the level of engagement and participation of the uber wealthy, who are actively looking for ways to have a greater impact.


I thought about how difficult it is to get an audience as an entrepreneur with this caliber of people, as they are constantly pulled in so many different directions, and yet here they all were, in one room! In one of the sessions, I saw three of San Diego's top philanthropists all sitting within a few rows from me, not to mention representatives from some of the largest public and private foundations like Pew, Helmsley Charitable Trust, Michael J. Fox Foundation, and many others.


They were all in attendance to see presentations from social entrepreneurs, who promised to bring both positive impact and sustainability as a result of their success. Speakers ranged from CEO's to chancellors, billionaires, venture capitalists, researchers, and even an astronaut -- in areas spanning the life sciences, healthcare/mobile health, education and nanotechnology. One of the most memorable talks was given by Hollywood movie producer-turned-social- entrepreneur, Peter Samuelson, who co-founded First Star, a group placing at-risk foster youth on college campuses, taking what would normally be a 3% admission rate to a four-year university to 51%!


This was a clear message that the 0.1% are actively looking to make the world a better place and they are utilizing their business acumen and entrepreneurship to effect positive social change. 


This all of course aligns very closely with Benefunder's mission and vision, which is to reduce our nation's innovation deficit and solve our most pressing social issues by providing access, efficiency, and engagement to the world's top innovators. Benefunder helps individuals, foundations, and family offices increase their impact by introducing a wide range of funding opportunities and  a portfolio-based approach to philanthropy.   


We connect top researchers with high net worth families who want a greater impact and a more personal relationship with their giving.




To learn more about our Charitable Innovation Fund, please contact Tom Paparatto at


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Welcome to the Benefunder Impact Report, a bimonthly newsletter created to inform and inspire. Our mission is to help create a new marketplace for planned giving, while fueling innovation. 












Benefunder was recently spotlighted in a

ThinkAdvisor article, New DAF Enables Donors to Fund Individual Researchers. According to the article, high-net-worth American philanthropists increasingly want their charitable dollars to make a difference they can see and measure, and it behooves wealth managers to find ways to help their clients achieve their goals. Read more of the article here.  

Visit our News page for up-to-date information.




As we honor those we have lost this Memorial Day weekend, we at Benefunder are also

helping to support researchers who are working to reduce the risks our soldiers face.   

One researcher, Reuben Kraft at Penn State University, works daily with military vets to understand and treat soldiers who have sustained injuries due to extreme environments. One primary focus of his research portfolio is traumatic brain injury.   

Through high performance computing, Kraft is able to virtually understand injuries, which allows scientists to study these injuries on the smallest scale possible, leading to breakthroughs in preventative care, treatments, mitigate risks, and a richer understanding of the neuroanatomy behind extreme environments. Read more about his amazing research  here.



By Carmen Bianchi


So often family businesses are at a loss as to how to incorporate philanthropy into their company or better yet, into the family business itself.  When I take family businesses on retreats to work on their governance structure and communication I ask them whether they have ever thought of giving back to the same community that has been instrumental in creating their personal wealth.


Some say they have by creating a family foundation, while others give generically to the American Heart Association or Susan B. Komen Walk for the Cure, or other such entities. This is then an opportunity for me, as their facilitator, to introduce how high net worth families can make more of an impact with their giving. Here are some probing questions advisors can ask their high network clients about philanthropy:

  • As a family, what are some past gifts that made you feel proud?

  • How do gift opportunities come to your attention? Do you have a vision of your giving and what it can achieve?

  • How are giving decisions made? Would you consider developing a mission statement as part of your family business planning process?

  • How do you wish to include family members in giving?

These questions will help advisors start a meaningful philanthropy conversation, and in turn enhance their relationship with their clients while providing high impact giving strategies.


Carmen Bianchi, a Benefunder board member, is founder and president of Carmen Bianchi Family Business Associates. Carmen, who has been a family business consultant since 1991, is also the founder and former director of San Diego State University's EMC Business Forum.


As Director of Outreach for Benefunder, River works diligently to share Benefunder's mission of funding important basic and applied research with wealth advisors, foundation leaders, donors and wealth connectors through personal meetings, lunch and learns, client appreciation events, and conferences throughout California.   River, whose father was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2013, has a passion for connecting philanthropists with top researchers who are making an impact on society.  

While his father is now cancer free, funding for prostate cancer research is still a top priority for River. He would also like to see a cure for bipolar disorder, which his mother suffers from.

Before joining Benefunder in 2014, he worked in web security while pursuing his MBA. River, who also studied communications and economics at UC Santa Barbara, spent 14 years in the financial services field, working for Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley.


The father of three gets his kicks as a certified yoga instructor and by shooting hoops.



During the next Benefunder Lab Tour, slated for May 27, wealth advisors will witness cutting-edge innovation happening now while learning how their clients' philanthropy can have a significant impact when funding individual researchers.


The Lab Tour will run from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at UC San Diego's top-ranked Division of Biological Sciences, and will feature researchers who are working on understanding dementia; vaccines that provide long-lasting protection from infection; and how global environmental changes are altering the availability of basic resources plants need for growth.


These highly impactful Lab Tours are designed to introduce how Benefunder can help advisors grow their practice with our "plug and play" philanthropic solution. Benefunder has the largest active researcher portal in the United States, with more than 600 top innovators from the life sciences,  technology, environment and education, and the arts and humanities.


Space for Benefunder's exclusive Lab Tours are limited. To be invited to the May 27 Lab Tour, or to a future tour, please contact River Brown at