When Dave Richmond first saw Aileen, she was just 12 years old, sitting on a trough at a pig slaughterhouse, next to an open sewer, in the Philippines. Gazing at the bedraggled child, Richmond could only think sadly to himself that the girl “had absolutely no future.”
But Aileen’s story doesn’t end there, fortunately. Fast forward eight years, and today, she very much has a future, an extremely bright one. She’s a college graduate who recently began an internship in the U.S. at the Baltimore Country Club. How she journeyed from an unschooled preteen to college graduate is due largely to the charitable endeavors of the Lingap Center, an orphanage in Toledo City, Cebu, Philippines that Richmond, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, president and founder of Richmond Brothers, Inc., a RIA based in Jackson, Mich., helps run along with its founder, John Drake.
“Helps run” may be a bit of an understatement, in fact. Richmond is no long-distance, write-a-check-and-be-done-with-it donor. He travels to the center two to three times a year, staying 10 days at a time, at his own expense, doing everything from meeting with city officials and donors, convening with the center’s 26 staff members to ensure the orphanage is being run properly, and making connections with area companies who sometimes take their children on as interns or, hopefully, employees someday. (In fact, Aileen interned at the local Marriott hotel before her more recent internship.)
An upcoming trip is scheduled to begin on November 9. During his stay, he plans to meet with banks in Manila part of the time to discuss currency hedging. Money for the center is raised in U.S. dollars, but then converted into local currency to pay the bills. Since there can be wild fluctuations between the value of the U.S. dollar against the Philippine peso, Richmond hopes to find a way to smooth out that volatility.
But it’s not all high-level executive duties like that. He and the founder take time to sit down with the children, discussing their school work and grades, just like any parent would. “The trips are incredibly busy,” Richmond says. “We do everything from raising the money to cleaning the bathrooms and everything in-between.”
So Richmond really gets to know the children housed at the center, and stories like Aileen are becoming more commonplace. He relates the tale of a young girl who, along with her sister, were found wandering in search of their mother, who had abandoned them, by the police. They were then taken to the center, and that young girl recently won a contest to study agriculture in the Netherlands for six months. (“She thought she was going to freeze to death,” in that cold-weather country, laughs Richmond.)
Then there’s the time Richmond and another visitor went into a poverty-ravaged home. There, they saw what they supposed was a six-month-old baby. The visitor with Richmond, who happened to be doctor, went over the child, listened to her chest and immediately knew the child was in grave danger, near death, in fact. As they wrangled with the child’s mother and local authorities over getting them medical help, the men heard the cry of another baby, the twin of the child they first noticed. Eventually, they were permitted to take the children to a nearby hospital where they received life-saving treatment and were then placed in the center.
Later, they learned the twins were actually two years old, but because of malnutrition they looked more like infants. Today, they are “chubby little toddlers” who run freely around the center, Richmond says.
How it all began
Richmond’s association with the Lingap Center began in 2003 when Drake, a human resources executive with a Fortune 500 company working in the Philippines, was about to leave the country. Before he departed, a local official asked him to visit the city’s orphanage, which at the time was housed in an abandoned pig slaughterhouse. Haunted by the image of children living in such squalid conditions, he vowed to build a proper place for those youngsters and enlisted the help of his friend, Richmond. Today, the center cares for 92 children (it has room to house up to 100), making sure they have place to stay either temporarily or permanently, and access to schooling.
But Richmond’s charitable resolve started much earlier than his work at the Lingap Center. Indeed, it began when he founded his financial services firm back in 1990, when he was just 18. From its first year of operation, Richmond vowed that a percentage of revenue would be earmarked for charity. His rationale was that would be a better use of those dollars than spending money on advertising.
“We said, if we do the job for clients, than we are going to turn 200 or 300 of the best salespeople in the world loose and they can do the selling for us,” Richmond explains.
That percentage, of course, has grown ever since to where today it stands at 5 percent corporately. His personal contribution, the percentage of his salary and bonuses — “everything I make” — reaches 15 percent.
The underpinning of his and his company’s charitable efforts is the Richmond Brothers Foundation, which is the separate philanthropic arm of the firm. The Lingap Center is, as one might expect, a big part of the foundation’s focus, but it also works much closer to home, supporting a local golf tournament that donates money to the American Cancer Society. Richmond also sponsors a Little League team, and sits on the board of Siena Heights University in Adrian, Mich.
Perhaps Richmond’s most enduring local endeavor is the five scholarships the foundation endows annually for students to attend a nearby community college, Jackson College. All told, about 100 students have benefited from those scholarships, which are named after his mother, a brother not in the business as well as teachers who inspired him.
Much like his work in the Philippines, Richmond’s intent in awarding those scholarships is to help young people who may come from less advantageous backgrounds. “A lot of kids that come from the worst circumstances, if they are smart enough, may be able to get a free scholarship to a big school anyway,” Richmond explains. “But if they are not and they are struggling, they are the ones at highest risk for not getting a degree and therefore having a reduced earning potential. We wanted to do first-generation scholarships at the community college so that way, they could break that cycle of poverty and they could be the first in their family to graduate.”
Though worlds apart, the orphanage in the Philippines and scholarships to a local community college have one theme in common: educating children so they can build a better life. Why so much emphasis on education? “The easy answer is, children are the future,” Richmond says. Giving children the chance to succeed is one step in helping the next generation thrive, but Richmond makes its clear it’s up to them to take advantage of that opportunity, and “the best way to do it is through education.”
Giving at the office
This isn’t a one-man charity show, Richmond emphasizes. His 12 employees get into the act in various ways as well. For one, he allows them paid time off to participate in community outreach, like blood drives.
Though dress-down days are commonplace these days in many workplaces, Richmond’s office puts a different spin on it: Employees can wear casual clothes any day of their choosingif they donate to a charity each month. He estimates these dress-down days raise about $4,000 annually for a charity of the staff’s choosing; last year, it supported a local food bank that gave food-filled backpacks to children in need.
“I’m trying to pass that down more to the entity instead of just me,” Richmond says.
Philanthropic income planning
He’s also passing down his charitable bent to some of his clients through what he terms philanthropic financial planning. Some clients, he finds, may have money they might never need during their lifetime and perhaps want to steer a portion of it to a charity. But how do they do that?
Many people may give in a “misguided” way or in a way that doesn’t affect its intended purpose, Richmond finds. He uses the example of giving money to street beggars. “Giving the kid money out of your car window, probably that money doesn’t even go to that kid,” he says. “They are probably told to go beg, and have to give the money to a handler or they’ll get beaten that day. So if I just hand money out the window, that doesn’t necessarily help. It may help them to live today, but it doesn’t teach them to fish, if you know what I mean. Whereas if we go in and set up a program and say, what is the problem with street beggars, what are their issues, and really understand what those issues are and then come up with a system to deal with those issues, I think that’s a more rewarding way for the donor and the entities they interact with.”
Therefore, much of the design of those philanthropic blueprints revolves around finding out how and to what extent the client wants to relate to their selected charity. Do they simply want to write a check? Be an anonymous donor? Or do they want to give based on some pre-determined criteria the organization must meet? Do the goals of the charity match up with the objectives of the client?
It’s the client’s decision, but either way, Richmond works to “quarterback” the process by consulting with a client’s CPA and attorney to ensure the client’s intentions are met.
Of the 400-some clients he services, Richmond reckons that about 10 percent to 15 percent have undertaken a philanthropic financial plan. Many began when they were in the 50s, and not yet retired. Now, in their 70s and 80s, they can see the plan coming to fruition. It’s also targeted a significant amount of dollars for charities.
“We’ve calculated in the 16 years we’ve done this, we probably have in the tens of millions of dollars that are set to go to charity over the next 10 years that wouldn’t have gone there originally,” Richmond says.
Have all these community and charitable activities helped Richmond build his business? He quickly deflects the question, saying he has never quantified it or even thought about it as a way to grow revenues. His client appreciation events are just that — a way to thank clients for their business and not typically a venue to raise money for a charity.
If there is one piece of advice he would give to advisors, it’s that they should focus on the non-financial aspects of their clients’ lives to demonstrate a level of service not normally associated with a financial advisor. In his practice, he encourages his clients to write down, in a book, their life story, detailing what’s important to them, how they view of the role of money in their lives, something can be passed down to their children and grandchildren. “The ancillary benefit of it is when you deliver that kind of value to a client they are going to keep the money with you, do their insurance purchases with you, everything, because why would they want to do business with anyone else?”
As far as his philanthropic ventures are concerned, Richmond says he does it simply because he likes doing it and gets rewarded in ways that go way beyond the bottom line. “When I give back to something, I’m the one who ends up winning,” Richmond says. “Honestly, I feel guilty. Going to the orphanage, you can say, what an incredible sacrifice that is. I actually win by doing that. I get more out of being with those kids and seeing their circumstances and their persistence. I’m a better human being because of it.
“The reason I would do it if I were another advisor, I would say, it’s going to make your life a better life, you’re going to be more rewarded, more fulfilled.”