Portfolios With Purpose: Wall Street’s Charity Contest

A little friendly competition can be a good way to inspire people to give; that’s what Stacey Asher was banking on when she came up with the idea for Portfolios with Purpose, a stock-picking contest where each player chooses a charity to play for.

The concept was tested in 2012, and raised $25,000 for charity. In 2013, it was officially launched with three entry levels—a $100 Novice level and $1,000 Professional level open to the public, and a $10,000 Master level, which is invitation only. There were 416 players, and they raised nearly $200,000 for charity. This year, there are 642 entrants and a total prize pool of approximately $260,000. And since several Wall St. philanthropists have chipped in to cover the overhead, the entirety of contest entry fees go to charity, less the credit card processing.

The contest runs for most of the year, with players picking five stocks at the beginning of the year, and waiting to see who has the highest returns at the year’s end. For the first time this year, they’re allowing up to five trades during the course of the competition, though trades will cost you, and the fees will be added to the prize pool. 

The organizations that players choose to play for really run the gamut. The Wounded Warrior Project is the most popular charity, with 44 of this year’s participants playing for the organization. St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital is also among the most represented charities, and many people choose major organizations like Teach for America or the American Cancer Society, but there are plenty of people playing for smaller community organizations too.

For the Novice and Professional Class, there’s an incentive beyond just winning money for their favorite charity, too—the winners get a private lunch with the Master Class player of their choice, and Portfolios with Purpose holds several networking events for that are open to all participants. The private lunch is no small prize considering the Master Class is chock full of top-tier Wall St. execs, including Leon Cooperman, David Einhorn, Steve Kuhn, James Dinan and Joel Greenblatt.

Portfolios with Purpose is a unique idea that other organizations could learn from, and has the potential to raise a lot more money for charity in the future. Unfortunately, the contest entry period is already over for this year, so those looking to participate will have to wait until 2015. There are plenty of people who haven't declared who they're playing for yet though, so adding your charity as an option couldn't hurt.

What Charities Need to Know:

With 366 charitable partners currently registered, Portfolios with Purpose is open to most organizations that are interested in being on the list of charities that participants can choose to play for, so it can be a great way for a smaller charity to encourage its donor base, and get them to participate in something that could have big returns, while knowing their money will go to a good cause no matter what. Organizations that are not eligible include:

  • Organizations that do not have a 501(c)(3) exemption, except for public schools
  • Community trusts or similar organizations, including Charitable Remainder Trusts, Donor Advised Funds, Family Foundations, or charitable organizations classified as private foundations or trusts.
  • Fraternal and labor organizations, lobbying groups, partisan political organizations, candidates, or organizations supporting specific legislation
  • Anti-business organizations or organizations that discriminate on the basis of age, race, sex, disability, religion, ethnic or national origin, or sexual orientation.
  • Religious programs or organizations, except when the activities being sponsored are non-sectarian.

And then of course there’s the standard legal disclaimer that Portfolios with Purpose retains the authority to reject or accept any charity at its sole discretion. But for the most part, it seems that getting included is pretty simple and straightforward. Individuals interested in playing for a particular charity that is not currently a partner, and charities looking to partner with Portfolios with Purpose should contact Tom Cinquino, Head of Charity Relations at tom@PortfoliosWithPurpose.org.