Tiger 21 started as a forum for high-net-worth investors to network with peers around asset preservation and wealth management issues and to learn about investment opportunities. Although these things continue to be the organization’s main focus, its members have broadened their focus to include discussions of family matters and inheritance issues. Increasingly, they are sharing ideas about philanthropy.

Today, Tiger 21 comprises 140 members who collectively manage some $10 billion in investable assets. To join a group, a prospective member must have a minimum of $10 million in investable assets and pay an annual membership fee of $30,000. A vetting process excludes anyone whose main goal in joining is to promote an investment idea, a Tiger 21 spokesperson said in a telephone interview with AdvisorOne. The client’s confidentiality is said to be assured. (The Tiger 21 spokesperson requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the company’s relationships with clients.)  

At present, Tiger 21 has half a dozen groups in New York, where it is headquartered, and others in San Francisco, Los Angeles; San Diego; Palm Beach, Fla.; Miami; and Dallas. On Tuesday, the organization announced that Thane Stenner and Richard Deacon will spearhead its recent expansion into Canada, with groups starting in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.

Each group has 10 to 12 members, many entrepreneurs who built successful enterprises. Members are expected to attend full-day meetings once a month 11 times a year. These meetings have a structured agenda. Each one starts with The World Update during which each member is given a few minutes to bring up any issue on his or her mind, including investment ideas, and to seek feedback. During the Issues and Opportunities session, members consider global matters that may affect their outlook and investment decisions. Later, World-Class Experts talk on various topics; usually one is an investment professional.

Finally, during Portfolio Defense, each member takes a turn once a year to disclose his or her investment portfolio and discuss its rationale. Fellow members then offer their critiques. According to a fact sheet, “the Portfolio Defense is the main differentiator from other peer-to-peer learning groups and is often a determining factor when someone is contemplating membership at Tiger 21.”

In recent years, the Tiger 21 spokesperson said, some members have begun to use the same discipline and structure they apply to managing personal assets in their charitable giving: writing giving plans and networking with peers to uncover opportunities for philanthropy.

This seems a natural segue from members’ putting their heads together around managing personal wealth. According to the spokesperson, Tiger 21 surveyed its members about their charitable giving a couple of years ago. One question had to do with how they decided which charities to support. The majority reported that they gave money to an organization or funding idea to which they had been introduced by a peer.

Peer-to-peer learning about philanthropy is already taking place in various Tiger 21 groups. The spokesperson cited the example of a West Coast group member who became excited about Room to Read, a nonprofit organization that promotes literacy in developing countries, after reading a book written by the group’s founder John Wood. The member suggested that Wood be invited to make a presentation to the group’s monthly meeting, at which Tiger 21 founder Michael Sonnenfeldt was in attendance. Sonnenfeldt and the member were so impressed by Wood’s work that they decided to fund a Room-to-Read school in Laos. Moreover, several members each set an individual goal to provide matching funds for 100 such schools, either through Room-to-Read or another NGO, over time.

Similarly, the spokesperson said, just as someone looking for a good advisor to talk about the ins and out of investing in gold, one member put out a note on Tiger 21’s confidential intranet seeking input on his plan to establish a foundation to fund charities that meet certain specific criteria. He was connected to another member who already has a foundation. The latter is now talking with this member about what he needs to do to set up his foundation.

The sharing of ideas among members even extends to asking one another which organization they plan to support with year-end checks, according to the spokesperson.