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Giving Back: A Firm of Philanthropists

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The individual: Todd Morgan & Bel Air employees

The firm: Bel Air Investment Advisors

The cause: New Millennium Secondary School, Habitat for Humanity, City of Hope, and School on Wheels, among others

The Web site:

The motivation: Providing a flexible work environment that gives employees the opportunity to support personal charities

On December 12, 2008, as part of Bel Air Investment Advisors’ year-round philanthropic program, the Los Angeles-based firm donated both company time and money to help the New Millennium Secondary School (NMSS) in Carson, California, with a much needed “facelift.” Bel Air’s investment strategists and portfolio managers assembled furniture, painted student art display cases, classroom cabinets, and shelves, and helped to remodel the kitchen of Carson’s first charter school. “It’s an area of probably the greatest need for high schools and high school support,” notes Tyler Kelley, managing director and chief operating officer at Bel Air. “These charter schools are a mix of public and private funding, so the private funding and volunteering that helps with the things they can’t use public funding for is very helpful to them.”

Collectively, each holiday season, the firm’s employees participate in a charitable event as well as choose one or two organizations to receive monetary donations. For the 2008 season, NMSS was chosen to receive both–the firm’s hands-on assistance as well as a monetary donation. “Since the firm started, it has always had a really strong focus on community,” Kelly says. “This holiday program has been going on for three years now–the first year we gave to an organization called the International Medical Corp.”

That organization is a Los Angeles-based group as well as the leaders in their field, which is why Bel Air chose them. “They go to third world developing nations and help build sustainable healthcare programs, but they don’t just go out, fix the problem, and leave. They actually go and train the locals how to fix a problem,” Kelly says.

The firm has also given to City of Hope and School on Wheels, which helps tutor homeless children, during the holiday season. “Members of our firm went down there and helped by giving them some consulting advice on how to build an organization, and we actually introduced them to a few of the foundations that our firm manages money for,” Kelly recalls. As for City of hope, “a few partners in the firm sit on the board–that was the impetus for giving there.”

In fact, many of the charities supported by Bel Air year-round are done so because firm employees personally support these causes. “Every year, every employee in the firm is allowed a matching contribution up to $250 to the philanthropy of their choice,” Kelly says. Additionally, every year each employee is given one day off with full pay to perform community service work of their choice. “We’ve worked at food banks and built houses with Habitat for Humanity–there’s always something going on, whether or not it’s our official designee of that year.” Bel Air employees are not only generous monetarily, but many have leadership roles in these charities and organizations as well. “I think if you took a look at everyone in the firm, each does some sort of philanthropy. And at a partner level, there’s representation at all the prominent nonprofit boards in Los Angeles–everything from arts institutions to homeless organizations to hospitals.”

For instance, Todd Morgan, senior managing director and founding member at Bel Air, is chair or board member of several local institutions. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and is a member of its Investment and Resource Development committee. In 2001, Morgan completed his term as the chairman of the United Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles. “I’ve been actively involved with that organization for many years, particularly in helping Holocaust survivors take care of their lives,” Morgan says. Eight years ago, while still chairman of the board, Morgan found that there were over 3,500 Holocaust survivors in the Los Angeles community that were below the poverty level. “So, I set up the Morgan Aging with Dignity Fund, which pays for food, medicine, and transportation for poor victims, among other needs.” Morgan has also served in various roles of several charitable organizations including member of the Board of Directors of Big Brothers of Greater Los Angeles, member of the Board of Governors of New York Hospital, and vice chairman of the Coalition to Free Soviet Jews.

Morgan mentions that it’s not unusual for employees to be significantly involved in a charitable organization, and that some employees will even leave the office for a bit to do extensive volunteer work. He cites the example of a three-week-old employee that was able to pursue his week-long volunteer work in Central America as a board member of an organization that helps orphans there. “We don’t tell our employees they have to do this charitable giving,” notes Morgan. “These are just the kind of people we’ve attracted.”


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