Goldman Givers: Seven Things To Know About Donors from Goldman Sachs

Recently, we offered an overview of things to know about donors who hail from the finance world. We've profiled more than 100 of these donors, now, and are discovering new ones all the time. After many years of boom times on Wall Street (and a few notable busts!), it's not surprising that so much surplus wealth has accumulated in the hands of finance winners. And it's good to see a corresponding rise in philanthropy. Moreso even than tech, finance is producing the largest number of new major donors these days. And we've been identifying the common threads and themes among these donors.

Related: A Rising Force in Giving: Nine Things to Know About Donors From Finance

In recent months, we've stumbled upon quite a few funders who made their fortunes by rising to the top of a particular firm synonymous with Wall Street for nearly 150 yearsGoldman Sachs. To be fair, the firm is associated with other things depending on who you ask—especially if you've been "Feeling the Bern" this election season. Regardless of how you feel about Goldman, though, understanding this particular subset of Wall Street donors might be useful for fundraisers. For instance, while New York anti-poverty giant the Robin Hood Foundation is a favorite of Wall Streeters, it appears to be more highly favored by private equity and hedge funders, rather than Goldman folks. And that's only one nuance we uncovered.

Some of this cast of characters has long been on our radar. We've written about people like environmentalist Larry Linden, David Viniar and Steven G. Einhorn. Linden and Viniar were among Goldman Sachs' 221-member, pre-1999 IPO partnership who controlled around 60 percent of the outstanding shares, according to the New York Times. When Goldman went public in May 1999, these partners banked many millions a pop. For instance, Richard Friedman, current head of the merchant banking division at Goldman, owned a 0.90 percent stake worth about $148.5 million, according to Business Insider. Current GS chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein also held the same stake. In case you were wondering, Blankfein's recent philanthropy via his foundation has been rather modest, but we did write recently about a major gift to LaGuardia Community College with which Blankfein was involved.

I spoke with the wife of a former GS partner who told me that those invited into the partnership were immediately encouraged to set up a foundation. This explains the many charitable vehicles associated with Goldman Sachs that we uncovered in our research. Most of these vehicles don't have a web presence and often do not accept unsolicited proposals. One of the few actual websites related to these charities is the conservation-focused Kingfisher Foundation, associated with Tim Dattels and his wife Kristine, who's executive director. We've compiled other information about donors from this pre-IPO partnership class. These broad strokes should lend a better sense of who these folks are, how they operate, and how to get to them:

They've Gone On To a Variety of Fields

It goes without saying that the Goldman clan is highly influential. People like Blankfein are still holding strong at Goldman. Others have moved to other prestigious financial firms or started their own. Several moved into the public sector, like former Goldman CEO Hank Paulson. Knowing these trajectories is important because, in addition to other commitments, they can sometimes play a role in philanthropy.

Consider former Goldman vice chair Robert Kaplan, who returned to his alma mater last decade to become senior associate dean and professor of management practice at Harvard Business School. At Harvard, Kaplan was involved in mentoring student ventures like Prize4Life, whose mission is to accelerate treatments for ALS. These days, Kaplan engages in similar work as co-chair of the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation (DRK), which mentors and funds high-impact startup nonprofits. Kaplan, by the way, also recently became president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Greg Zehner definitely found another calling post-Goldman, and the former managing director of emerging debt market trading later earned a masters from Yale Divinity School and was an associate pastor. Zehner and his wife Jacki (more on her in a moment) established a family foundation that gives a fair amount of support to religious organizations, mostly in Utah where they live.

More Women Than You Might Expect

Prior to our recent GS deep dive, there were exactly zero women on our individual Wall Street donors list. Now we have: Connie Duckworth, Ann Kaplan, Suzanne Nora Johnson, Leslie Sillcox,  Anne McNulty and  Jacki Zehner. Each of these women climbed the ladder in a male-dominated industry. On, Zehner described a particularly charged moment when she closed a big deal while dealing with a fellow trader's skepticism. With the wealth they've earned, and an important perspective, these women have worked for gender equity in their philanthropy.

Zehner has landed on our Most Powerful Women's list, largely for her work through Women Moving Millions, a growing network of wealthy women who’ve given around $500 million for projects and programs that benefit women and girls. Ann Kaplan, meanwhile, co-founded Circle Financial Group, a private wealth management organization with several GS colleagues. On the philanthropic front, Connie Duckworth's ARZU empowers Afghan women through rug weaving. And Anne McNulty, a strong supporter of leadership education, recently gave $5 million to establish the Anne Welsh McNulty Institute for Women’s Leadership at her alma mater Villanova. A common thread, here, is tackling gender equity through financial empowerment. Why? Well, as Duckworth puts it, "She who writes the check controls."

Many Are New York-Focused, But There Are Exceptions

Like many of the Wall Street donors that we profile, donors from Goldman also focus on the Big Apple in their giving. There are exceptions, however. One example is Robert J. O'Shea, who's laser-focused on New Jersey. T. Willem Mesdag spent time as head of the firm's L.A. offices and now supports some L.A.-area outfits. Robert Higgins focuses on Boston and Muneer Satter runs a robust operation that largely involves Chicago. Satter spent years racking up miles flying from his beloved Chicagoland to New York for Goldman. 

Many Haven't Waded Into Education Reform As Much As Other Finance Folks

While charters and education reform are a pet cause of many private equity and hedge funders, this isn't a big focus for the Goldman clan. Big city charter networks and advocacy groups aren't abundant on the tax records that we examined. This doesn't always hold true, though.

Muneer Satter and his wife Kristen Hertel are primary supporters of New Schools for Chicago, which opens and supports charter and district-run schools. They've also recently funded KIPP Ascend Charter School, Noble Network of Charter Schools, and Perspectives Charter Schools, among others, via their foundation.

Other donors strongly interested in education reform include former Goldman technologist Leslie Sillcox and her husband Mark. The mission of their family foundation is to "contribute to the steadily growing number of young people in New York City who overcome socioeconomic barriers to graduate from public high school—and then from college—prepared for meaningful employment and robust civic participation." Lee Vance, who's taken to thriller writing these days, is also worth mentioning—his wife Cynthia worked as a project leader for Newark Public Schools, as well as for the New York City Department of Education. One recent Vance Foundation grantee: NewSchools Venture Fund. Thomas J. Healey has focused on K-12 education and is keen on Catholic schools.

The Arts Are a Big Deal

People in the finance world often have major collections of art and also serve on prominent boards. This is also true for Goldman's givers. Often, the wives of these financiers play a large role. Consider Brooke Neidich, Dan Neidich's wife, who inherited her father's jewelry business. Brooke is a vice chair of the board of Lincoln Center Theater, and a trustee of the Whitney Museum of Art, a board she co-chaired for seven years.

Peter and Jill Kraus have been featured on ArtNews' Top 200 art collectors list, and have donated some of their collection to museums. Thomas Tuft's wife Diane is a mixed-media artist who influences some of the couple's arts philanthropy. Thomas Tuft is vice chairman of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Finally, I should mention that the Goldman clan isn't just interested in museums and the performing arts, but also film and media. Jacki Zehner, for instance, is involved with Impact Partners, which provides funding and guidance to films that highlight pressing social issues. She's said that she "considers filmmaking as a philanthropic strategy unto itself," which, if you've been a stalwart reader of Inside Philanthropy, you've probably heard before.

Related: Let's Talk About This Wealthy Couple's "Filmanthropic" Mission

Don't Forget About Policy

Like donors from the finance world overall, GS givers that we profiled have a range of interests. For now, I'll tackle one other area: policy. Former Goldman vice chair Suzanne Nora Johnson and her producer husband David are one example. David plays a strong role, here, as vice chair of the board of trustees of the Brookings Institution.

Other funders working the policy angle include Eric Dobkin and his wife Barbara (who's a strong proponent of gender equity, too), T. Willem Mesdag, and major Republican donor Muneer Satter, a backer of right-leaning organizations like the American Enterprise Institute. Hank Paulson has funded his own think tank, the Paulson Institute, based at the University of Chicago, which works on sustainability issues in the U.S. and China.

Expect More Funding Ahead

These are the Goldman philanthropists we've come across so far. But there are surely others, flying below the radar, as well as new donors who'll emerge in coming years. (We keep wondering when Jon Corzine will emerge as a major donor, now that he's finished with politics and finance.)

A large chunk of the Goldman givers we profiled are in their 50s and early 60s. Many are still heavily involved in business and have balanced their philanthropy with a number of other commitments. In the coming years, though, these folks may be prime for more significant philanthropy. For now, networking is key for getting the attention of these low-profile givers.