Hurricanes Katrina and Rita changed the direction of Larry Agee's life. While Katrina brought some 30,000 displaced people to his hometown of Lake Charles, La., Rita devastated the city a month later, damaging 75% of the structures, recalls Mr. Agee, a financial adviser with True North Asset Management.
His military and adviser backgrounds kicked in as he helped in the disaster response.
“As financial advisers, we see problems and we fix them. We don't sit around and watch,” he said.
The experience had a powerful impact on his psyche. He felt a calling to do more and began volunteering overseas in disaster zones such as South Sudan and Pakistan.
“I contacted my major clients about my increasing deployments — they all supported me,” Mr. Agee said.
In 2010, he co-founded Disaster Aid USA to respond to disasters domestically and internationally. The organization aims to provide a more nimble response than what is usual for disaster relief organizations.
“Often, disaster relief is either uncoordinated or over-coordinated (analysis paralysis),” he said. “It's a fine line. Our small teams can jump in and quickly do a comprehensive assessment and then coordinate with other agencies to get the necessary help.”
He finds the work exhilarating.
“Serving others in challenging environments is what motivates me,” Mr. Agee said.
Bob Condon, president and chief executive of the Foundation Investment Group in Berkeley, Calif., is dedicated to bringing sustainable health care to the people of Myanmar.
“If we don't help these people, they're going to die,” he said. “This is my way to give back to the planet.”
Over the past 23 years, Mr. Condon has served as the administrative and fundraising backbone of Community Partners International, an organization that supports community-based public health and clinical care in conflict-affected zones of Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma.
As a result of his team's longtime efforts, some 500,000 people in the region now receive medical care.
Mr. Condon refers to CPI's innovative development philosophy as “venture philanthropy,” likening small, promising projects (such as local clinics) to entrepreneurial startups. The organization combines this approach with a unique focus on gathering and publishing public health data.
CPI finds reputable local partners, gives them seed money and coaches them.
“Our American doctors train local health workers in two significant ways — how to solve medical problems such as malaria, and how to document and publish their findings. In turn, this results-based public health approach attracts large philanthropies such as the MacArthur Foundation.” Mr. Condon said.
“It's all about leveraging,” he said. “If you team up with the right partners, you can create something even larger.”
Jessica Jones, a financial adviser with Edward Jones in The Woodlands, Texas, expresses her deep faith through her extraordinary charitable giving.
For the past nine years, Ms. Jones and her husband, Michael, have donated full college funding to 250 students in Guatemala — to the tune of $880,000.
She has even created a $5 million charitable trust to be funded upon her death to continue giving.
“I'm overjoyed to give,” she said.
In 2005, Ms. Jones visited the impoverished country with her church group and was blown away by the work being done for homeless children by the Build Your House on the Rock Ministries.
The orphanage has cared for more than 4,000 children since 1989. According to the United Nations, Guatemala has more than 380,000 orphans.
Since then, she has visited Guatemala once or twice a year. The children have become like family to her.
Living out her faith through giving imbues her practice.
“It's awesome to share the joy of giving with my clients. My hope is to inspire even one person to give to a cause they are passionate about.”
The Joneses' lives are built around giving.
“We have been very intentional to live below our means in order to do this,” Ms. Jones said. “Don't wait till you die — do it now.”