Watch the Interview
How to Give $1 Million Per Year to Charity
with Mike Skrypnek
Mike Skrypnek is a business coach, international speaker and seven time bestselling author. Mike helps impact-minded, mid-career entrepreneur business owners who know they could do more, but aren’t serving enough of their ideal clients to succeed and achieve the way they know they can. They know if only they could realize this growth, they could have the big impact they always desired while building a great business and enjoying a great life.
Divining the true desire for impact within business leaders’ intentions is key to understanding the path to giving. When you uncover passion to make a difference, it is possible to align those values with a Big Impact Goal that connects a business purpose with action. It is a bold step to choose giving in business over scarcity mindset and hoarding impulses. Mike will share his journey to find his own way to giving in the financial services industry, while learning from the successful business lkeaders he guided to realize their impact.
More about Mike Skrypnek at https://www.mikeskrypnek.com
Read the Interview
Hugh Ballou: Welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange. For over seven years, we have been interviewing people to learn good business skills to apply to the charitable organizations that we lead. Sometimes we have stories of people who have been in the trenches. Sometimes they are business professionals. Sometimes people have done multiple things. Today is a very interesting topic that probably grabs your attention. The title is, “How to Give $1 Million Per Year to Charity.” My guest today is Mike Skrypnek. Mike, welcome. Tell people a little bit about you please.
Mike Skrypnek: Hugh, thanks for having me. I was really looking forward to this all week. I know it is only Tuesday. My name is Mike Skrypnek. I am a Canadian. I live smack dab between Vancouver and Whistler, one of the nicest cities on the planet and one of the best ski resorts on the planet. I am blessed to be in this corridor.
That said, I am a business coach, and I consider myself more of a catalyst who provides that spark when a mid-career impact-minded entrepreneur needs it. We take care of a lot of things that get business going, help people grow in the right direction and move ahead in a way they never thought possible. It all starts with that impact mindset, which became an extraordinarily important part of my business, my previous career, which I retired from a few years ago, which is the financial services industry. I was an advisor in Calgary, Alberta, Canada for 22 years. In that business, I hit a little bit of a sticking point and shifted my thinking into philanthropy, which I’m sure you’ll dig around about, and helped work on that $1 million a year goal. By the way, I have written seven books.
Hugh: I have a list of them here. Before we go to the books, you have a passion, I can tell by the way you speak, for doing this. You have shifted careers and are doing something you really love. Talk about why you’re doing this.
Mike: The spark or catalyst or coaching guide, it’s being there at the right time with the right people when it matters the most and making the difference. Fortunately for me, I had this 22-year career in financial services so analyzing businesses, running my own enterprise, I had a lot of good perspective to understand how exactly to do it. There was this personal part of working with people.
The last decade of my financial services career, I worked with baby boomers trying to help them with their assets, predominantly for the premise of giving back, philanthropy. In order to do philanthropy, you have to reposition all of your estate assets, and we did a lot of planning to pass money to the next generation. So often what I would hear from these baby boomers is, “I’ve never heard that before. I wish someone had taught me 20 years ago.” I was happy to help them discover things they didn’t know, but what was more important was they would go on to say, “And here are the other things I would have done.” I had this incredible experience day after day for a decade listening to people share what they would have done, after their successful careers, better and differently 20 years earlier. That’s a thing.
I had some philanthropic goals that I achieved. Where is the multiplier? For me, it was helping others with that information who are impact-minded and running their businesses, entrepreneurs and mid-career business owners 20 years younger. I decided to turn my attention to coaching and be that spark and catalyst to help people get that realization they could do more today, not 20 years later.
Hugh: Start where you are.
Mike: Yes. But it does take a little bit. There is a lot. You could do it all the way along, but a little water under the bridge helps in perspective and prioritizing. When we’re young, starting a family and trying to keep everything afloat, it’s a different ball game.
Hugh: Let me go right to the kill here. You have a book, one of many, called Grow Your Business, Get More Freedom, Give Back: Entrepreneur Secrets to Grow, Get, Give Life. Tell me about that.
Mike: This was a labor of love. I published it almost exactly a year ago. I headed out into 2020 with this brand-new book. At the time, it was my fifth book. I have since published two more books. 2020 was pretty prolific in regards to that. This was the culmination of all the great advice I needed to have success in my business, to enjoy the life I wanted, to have a great business, to have a fulfilling life, and ultimately to realize a pretty big impact. I put them all in there. When I set out with my $1 million goal, I didn’t know how to do what I was doing, I didn’t know who to ask, so I had to learn from coaches and mentors. I read voraciously. I learned from the people who did it all before, and I just did everything. I was the most coachable person I could get. I wasn’t the egotistical person with my arms folded saying, “Just show me.” I was like, “Tell me what to do,” and I’ll do it. I went like crazy for six years doing that, invested $200,000 in that experience with coaches and mentors and learning. The result was it worked. Imagine that. You do really smart things that people tell you, other smart people who have been there before, and it works. That’s going to be helpful information to anybody. I pushed it all into my book. It really is the mantra I live by: growing your business and your impact, getting more freedom, making sure you give back along the way.
Hugh: When can you start giving back?
Mike: Right away. Entrepreneurs are pretty bad. They’re my market. They’re my peeps, if you will. But they are pretty bad at pushing out their impact because they perceive something they’ll do and they’ve made it. Many people who have an impact mindset give anyway. They give in small ways, annual gifts, local charities, whatever organizations they support. It’s usually in incremental bits. They go, “I’ll wait for the real philanthropy, the hospital wing with my name on it, when I retire, when I sell my business, when I have that liquidity event.” I’m here to say that’s the backwards way to do it. That’s what I learned from the baby boomers who I counseled. That was backwards.
The moment I said, “I want to give $1 million to charity every year,” I realized of course I didn’t know what I was doing, and I didn’t have the money to do it. But it changed everything. It changed the conversation. It changed how I connected with clients, the relationships I had, the values conversations. When I made giving a priority first, the rest took care of itself.
Hugh: Are you familiar with the writing of Napoleon Hill?
Mike: Of course. Mastermind all the time.
Hugh: Yes. I was thinking you’d be surprised how many people I ask that and they don’t know, especially in the nonprofit or church world. They think it’s all about greed when it’s if you think about the law of attraction, the law of cause and effect, and the law of reciprocity. There is a certain reciprocity to that mindset, is there?
Mike: People misconstrue this. When giving is attached, they think the altruism is purely a non-reciprocal relationship. Think about reciprocity at a deeper level. I like to think of energy at an atomic level, quantum physics. If you create space, things fill the space. Think about your bathtub with water. The moment there is space, water comes into that space. When you create space, and that is through giving of servitude or tangible giving, once you’ve done that, you’ve opened up that energy to allow things to come back in. Without requesting reciprocity, it’s natural. Sometimes it’s not a direct line. Reciprocity comes in mysterious ways. Your gift today may result in something somewhere else that wasn’t connected directly to what you’ve done.
Hugh: It may go to someone else and not you.
Mike: Absolutely. On the reciprocity side, if you’re getting, you tend not to be as joyous, thankful, and gracious as the feeling that you get when you give. It’s actually scientifically proven that the giver receives a far bigger benefit than the receiver. That’s for a lot of reasons. Most often, the receiver doesn’t know where the gift came from directly.
Hugh: You’re talking about the right spirit in giving. There are people who pollute the law of reciprocity. What’s in it for me? If I make this pledge to a religious TV station, what do I get as a prize? We have polluted that. The simple form is the most powerful form. You give because you want to give. You give proportionally wherever you are in your life. I remember the story Jesus told in the New Testament about the widow giving her two mice. It was a much greater gift than the wealthy person giving a lot more money. It was a gift from the heart that meant something.
Mike: It’s interesting you mention that. The quid pro quo relationship is something that I have great disdain for. I spent a lot of time giving this guy a lot of accolades because I thought he really understood it, but behind closed doors, it was put your clients at risk, make sure you invest at this much, and then I’ll give something. I thought that was the most distasteful experience. The supposed generosity of this man was always met with a connection to do something for me first. That just destroys the spirit, and more than the spirit, but the benefit that you will ultimately receive through giving.
Giving, you mentioned, it’s not the size that matters, it really is about time. I call it money, influence, and time. I know there are other ways to describe it. But those three mechanisms, when I wrote my first book on philanthropy back in 2009, when I published it in ’11, that was one of the key elements. We don’t all have certain abilities or desires or should be giving money necessarily or time or influence. We all have to understand what it is we bring to the table to give us the greatest leverage and to give in the way that has the biggest impact.
Even Oprah. For example, I looked at Oprah, Bono, Branson, Bill Gates in my first book. One of my biggest findings for me was Oprah understood her role of influence over money. She had given massive amounts and directed massive amounts of capital. But what she really understood was the influence she had. Her biggest gift in my opinion was the gift of literacy in a new way to millions of people who otherwise would have never picked up a book. She understood her medium was advocacy and influence, not money. That was just a byproduct.
Hugh: You threw around this big p word: philanthropy. Talk about what that big p word means. We have a skewed definition of philanthropy.
Mike: General society, yeah. Philanthropy is about giving back to humanity. It’s for the love of humankind is what it means. Philo, which is love or attraction to, and anthropy, which is humans. Us humans, a love and impact for humankind is really the essence of it. A lot of people somehow believe a philanthropist is something that is not them. That is for the ultra-rich or uber-wealthy or hierarchical or multi-generational giving. But it’s not. It’s for everyone. Everyone has the ability to give philanthropically and participate in that.
The other thing from a financial services side is we are all philanthropists because we are all taxpayers. Whether you like it or not, as capitalist as you think our society is, they’re not. If we pay taxes, we are giving philanthropically to the government, which then in turn reassigns the capital to the needs of the population. It might be in health, security, transportation, infrastructure. But it’s there to help create the safety net or security we need as humans.
Hugh: You advised wealthy people on how to grow their money for how long?
Mike: I did that for 22 years. The shift for me was there I was in traffic in Calgary in September, and it was snowing. I hated my life and my job at that time. In my brand-new Audi that I just thought, I can do this. I really hated what I was doing because right there and then in 2008, the sky was falling as the biggest financial crisis in history was happening. I was listening to myself on the radio as I was driving home, stuck in traffic. I was talking about how Lehman Brothers was going under. I thought, Boy, I’m not doing the right thing every day. It’s not working for me. It was that moment I realized I have to do what I do on weekends and evenings, which is be a pillar of the community, hang out with my family, give back and volunteer. I was living Wall Street Gordon Gekko life. I made that commitment then. Shortly thereafter, I wrote on my white board in the office, “Give back $1 million a year in charity.” That is when everything changed for me and my business.
This led me exclusively to work, present, and try to attract affluent or really millionaire next-door baby boomers, people who are millionaires but don’t feel rich and weren’t making the impact they thought, and would really love to do more. I spent the next six years pressing hard to build a business. In that six years, we managed to reach $12.5 million. It was double what I had anticipated. I figured out how to run a business that can support it in the hoarding industry, and here I was trying to give every day.
Hugh: In the hoarding industry. Mike, every now and then, we have a blip in the internet, and we lose a word or two. You built a business to do what?
Mike: I built a business to help support people, millionaire next door donors, affluent baby boomers to give back in a way they thought they wanted to, but ultimately we did a lot of estate planning and financial modeling for them.
Hugh: We have wiggled the carrot out this year. We will continue the suspense here. We’ll get to that, I promise.
Mike: It’s all good.
Hugh: For grow, you talk about building a mountain of credibility. Tell me more about this.
Mike: We are going to continue to tease. When I decided to put that big goal on my white board, remember, this was the end of the financial crisis. I am a financial advisor, and I wanted to serve charities, affluent donors, and the millionaire next door. None of them trusted my peer group. It dawned on me there was no way I was ever going to serve the people I wanted to serve with the altruism I wanted to extend if they didn’t bring me into the room for the conversation. That’s when I learned I needed to build a mountain of credibility.
It started with white papers. Then it ended up being a book. I was on the radio. Developing a process to position yourself so you have ubiquity every time your ideal client or the people you hope to serve turns around, they see something about you, and to build the essence, the bricks in the foundation of credibility, which means adding all the things that scale you up to the top, which would ultimately be a book. Books position you as the author at the top of that mountain. It includes interviews, TV, published articles, testimonials, referrals. You combine all that with speaking opportunities, being a thought leader. When those are all in place, I went from a five-minute, “Sorry, we’re not interested” to an hour-long meeting with the people I needed to serve. In addition to that, they brought me along to the other side of the table with them. It was no longer adversarial or in a client relationship. We were partners. I was their trusted advisor in seeing it through.
Hugh: You advise entrepreneurs. Do you see nonprofit leaders as entrepreneurs?
Mike: I see it as a very similar mindset in the hope for innovation. I talk about this in a couple of my books on philanthropy. As much as an entrepreneur mindset might want to come in and affect big change, and this is going to be structurally different in how we run our charity, there are very unique things about charity in the way they have to manage capital that ultimately changes some of the innovation and creativity that could come with an entrepreneur. They are stewards. An entrepreneur is not a steward of capital; in a business, they are there to reinvest that capital and take that chance and make that growth happen. Charity has to steward that capital for some sustained period of time because the rainy days in a business may crush the business, and an entrepreneur can restart. The beneficiaries of charity are far more desperate for the capital or whatever the resources the charity provides.
Yes, innovative mindset. Absolutely the same. There is a great cross-over. But the risk is different. And charity is one of the few places where you push capital in, and it may sit. It may be parked in a while for an endowment or until the use is required. There is this parking of capital that happens in addition to it flowing through to the beneficiaries that is unique to charity. I love mindsets of entrepreneurism, but it’s difficult because the same risk profile cannot be held.
Hugh: I would like to suggest there is a hybrid in there.
Mike: I agree.
Hugh: We’re too limited. We have inherited this scarcity thinking with the word “nonprofit,” which is a lie. It’s a tax classification. The IRS doesn’t use it. It’s tax-exempt. But it’s not a philosophy. You could bring some excitement to the world of social entrepreneurs, where we are doing something for the benefit of humankind. I think we’re too risk-averse. There is a middle ground. We don’t invest our funds. I’m preaching to the choir here. Your endowment fund, you don’t have a high risk portfolio. You want to protect the core purpose of the investment, but you also want to create enough interest so you can spend that interest on something meaningful. There is a stretching of this entrepreneur thing into thinking a little more creatively, especially today. Like the parable of the talents, the person who hoarded it lost everything. We give it to the person who took a chance. I’m thinking some of your wisdom could inspire some nonprofit leaders to think in a more adventurous way. We are at the cutting edge of creating a new paradigm for charities. Everything we knew is off the table.
Mike: Absolutely. Across the board. I waded into controversy quite a bit. In my first book on philanthropy, which was written 12-13 years ago, I said that bad charities should fail. A charity is a bad charity when it becomes a charity unto itself. Nonprofits have charitable causes. When they’re poorly run, they become the charity. There is no way that’s going to be effective at creating a social impact in the way that you’d hope. That’s the hardest thing. If you’re feeding a soup line, and you say, “We’re not going to fund you anymore because you’re terrible at this,” that’s a hard decision because you’re maybe putting 1,500 people or whatever out in the cold without food that night. The good thing about that is other charities, no different than business, fill the void immediately. It’s not some latent thing. It doesn’t take years. It’s the same as the capitalist model where businesses go out of business, and other better businesses fill the gap. That’s a perfectly fine thing. We have to embrace that you cannot turn your charitable cause into a charity itself. That’s one of the biggest challenges.
I was commissioned to write a paper for a national health organization. I suggested that their endowment was a dumb thing. I didn’t say, “Your endowment is dumb,” but I suggested what is the purpose and the point of hoarding capital when the investment or research is a foot away from the goal line for a cure, a treatment? If you could save lives in a month, and you’re this far away, and you choose not to fund it or break the trust agreements of your endowment, then you’re responsible for whatever happens. What I said is you need to create a hybrid model of how endowments work.
It’s perfectly allowable within Canada’s rules to completely have a hybrid model where if you have an opportunity to solve, cure, or make that final difference, you could fund it. It happened in the ‘80s and early ‘90s with AIDS. The AIDS organizations all went around. One trust said, “This is stupid. We have everybody working on the same cures and treatments, and we are all in silos. We are operating in this kind of endowment model. Heck with it. We’re going to go to the courts and bust our trust agreements.” They all did and collectively came together and quickly came up with some solutions and treatments for that awful illness. I’m a little bit controversial.
Hugh: I don’t think so. I think you’re preaching the right sermon here. Are you familiar with the author or speaker Dan Pallotta?
Mike: As I wrote that, Pallotta had subsequently given his TED Talk all about letting the bad ones fail. I’m in agreement with a lot of what he says.
Hugh: He is pretty passionate about his perspective. I was thinking about the TED Talk, “The way we think about charity is dead wrong.” I don’t know if you know that one.
Mike: I’m not familiar with it, at least not by title.
Hugh: He also spoke about the myth of overhead.
Mike: Oh yeah. The 35% or 15% fundraising quantities, it takes money to make money. If you had a better social impact, and you were spending 50% of your money versus a terrible impact and somehow shoestringing along at 15%, I would take the 50% any day.
Hugh: It’s how you’re accounting for expenditures. In SynerVision, 100% of the money is overhead. I don’t take a salary; it goes right to the work we do for people. You could count it as 0 or 100. How do you classify it on your P&L?
Also, another one is we can’t take salaries. The last one is we can’t spend money on marketing. Those are the myths.
Back to what you were saying. There is a business model in here. That’s why you’re a great guest today: thinking from a business perspective, how do we upgrade our performance in the nonprofit space ? I had a guest a couple years ago who reformed my thinking. He said it’s not a for-profit business; it’s a for-purpose business. We don’t generate profits; we generate proceeds to go to the humanitarian efforts that we lead. It’s all in how we think about it. Really it’s coming up with how we have a chance to reinvent how we do things now. This curse is a blessing in how we have a chance to reset the bar. Why is that important to rethink how we lead?
Mike: Mindset is the key. Quite frankly, if you’re an entrepreneur in a corporation, and you have this mindset to make this a social impact effort, their social impact is probably going to be better than a typical charity or nonprofit. The mindset of charity tends to get to a point where it’s institutional. When you’re an institutional setting, it’s all about self-preservation and CYA. When you limit your future potential by worrying about your position or ranking or whether or not you’ll have a job for the next 10 years, and your sole decision is not to rock the boat, you won’t change anything. In corporations, you take that approach, and you get fired. You don’t get to stay on. Your upper management gets rid of you. That’s one of the biggest challenges. It’s so pervasive. It’s one of the most painful things to watch. Organizations where institutionalization, that not rocking the boat, status quo mentality seeps in so that people, especially in the middle management part of charity, they’re doing good every day, but really they are just protecting their jobs. That drives me nuts.
Hugh: We play the nonprofit card: “Oh, it’s a nonprofit.”
Mike: It’s a nonprofit, so we don’t have to work as hard as others.
Hugh: *Sponsored by EZCard*
We talked about grow. Now let’s talk about get. What are your freedom rules?
Mike: My freedom rules. What happened is as I was building this business with the idea of giving back, I got really busy. All of a sudden, I was speaking for five different charities four times a year. I was running an investment management business and helping people do their wealth and running a family. I am going to go insane. I am back up to working 60 hours a week, but this is something I love, but it will kill me. I created my freedom rules. Those are rules around hiring the right people, establishing the right processes, and bringing in the right systems. People give you freedom. The right people give you freedom. They remove you from some tasks you shouldn’t do, elevate your business, and add color to what you’re doing. People give you freedom. Processes gave me leverage because I was able to repeat things without reinventing them. Systems gave me scale. They will all set you free. That’s what I used to build my freedom rules around. Get more freedom is the second part.
Hugh: The last one is your give. Explain your big impact giving process. This is where we get to the $1 million, right?
Mike: Yes. It all starts with giving. It may be grow, get, give, but it maybe should be give, grow, get, give. It’s a bookend. The mindset to bring to the table for the conversation is what really kicks it all off. When I said I was going to give $1 million to charity, I didn’t have it, and I didn’t know how to do it. I wasn’t confused. I didn’t think I was going to materialize a million dollars I can give every year. What is it I bring to the table? In my book, I had written about the things you need to bring, which means you have to understand what you uniquely bring to the table. What I brought was this wealth of knowledge on the financial investment markets and the tools needed for planning to give. I also had the skills to communicate in a way that attracted people to a decision to a conversation about planned giving, in particular that others had trouble bridging the gap. I had this personal ability to communicate both on stage in speaking as well as through written word. I happen to have this great big toolkit. Let me go out and do this.
Over the course of the years, I would meet with people who said, “I really love the concept of giving. I love the concept of dying without paying taxes on my estate. Can you help me do this?” When we did a study of all the people I ever spoke with about this, their #1 concern was taxes. The second one was, will I have enough money? The third one was will I have enough to give to my kids? The last one was I don’t know if I have the right plan. Then charity hit at #5. All the charities I would tell that would say, “We’re sad to hear that,” but it was the truth. People were concerned they were paying too many taxes, didn’t have enough money, couldn’t give to their kids.
We solved those problems. In doing so, we turned what people would normally be giving $1,000 or $2,000, which is a decent annual gift. If you are giving a couple thousand dollars to a charity you’re committed to every year, that’s amazing. But through the planning process, we could uncover ways people could give a quarter million, half a million dollars to charity, preserve their estate, pay no taxes, pass on their wealth to their family, and commit to this legacy that would be with them for their kids and their kids’ kids and their kids’ kids’ kids. I always said plan your legacy so that it can be realized through your grandchildren’s eyes.
Hugh: That’s amazing. My brain is catching up.
Mike: I’m mindful of time. I am trying to squeeze this in a short period, so forgive my pace.
Hugh: Absolutely. It’s the big message that you’re giving. It occurs to me that a lot of us have a strong relationship to money, more so in the nonprofit leadership sector. How is our relationship with money negative? How does that hurt us?
Mike: The constant is you never feel like you have enough. That’s a fear. My fear of if I never have enough money, it’s not a fear that you don’t know you’ll ever earn it. You’re afraid of what that means. It’s primal. First of all, it’s food, shelter, clothing, protection of family. It gets to a different level when that scarcity sensation is I don’t know if I want to do the things I want to do in life. My life will have less meaning because I have less capital, less ability to do it. When we view capital or finance or cash as the means, as an enabler, the potential limitation of that makes us nervous. Our first instinct is self-preservation. If you can expand that and say you can have an exponentially better financial picture or results or income than you thought, if you strategically execute certain things, then we allow ourselves to open up our minds to see what we could envision as an ideal future or ideal current.
I always found that one of the biggest difficulties with entrepreneurs is when you ask people to see their ideal future, it’s often in the context of your current financial and geographic circumstances. People have a very difficult time getting outside of their box to see their ultimate potential. You mean that’s all you really wanted to do in your life? That’s what it meant to you? They go, “No, no, I want to do this.” Why isn’t that in your ideal future? “I’m looking around at what we got and where we live.” You don’t have to live where you live. That’s not a requirement. That’s not mandatory. Financially, you may not have what you have today. You’ll probably be richer. Most people are wealthier down the road than they were to begin with, especially after you get rid of the kids. Once the kids are off at school, you suddenly become more wealthy. It’s the disposable income.
But that said, to have them expand their thinking suddenly- What is amazing is they suddenly turn to what they can give back. When people expand and see their ideal futures, it’s no longer about the scarcity mindset that confines most people to limit their giving. When they begin to see as big an opening as possible down the road, they actually innately begin to think about how they can help others. It’s a pretty amazing process that happens.
Hugh: Some of that relationship with money prevents them from having adequate conversations with those people who could be supporters with their time, talent, and money. I think on the entrepreneur side, our relationship with money, like you said, I can’t do that. I don’t have enough money. I am limited. On the entrepreneur side, they could possibly give. When you say to someone, “You should give a million dollars a year to charity,” and they say, “I can’t do that.”
Mike: I don’t know how to do that. What if? Do you have 10,000 subscribers to your business? Yes, I do. Have you ever thought about giving $100 in the next two years to charity? How do you do that? How do you redirect that capital to charitable cause or something that had a benefit to society in a different way? When you begin to focus on those things, it’s a simple problem. How do we attract 10,000 people to make a commitment of $100? How do we do that? My world is all about how we start small and have a massive impact. I work with less people whenever possible. Our goal is ultimately to have that big, cosmic ripple effect. The right ideas with the right people at the right time can have a huge impact.
I would say how to make two people give half a million dollars and start there. What do we need to do to make that happen? Can we run a business? Is that part of our business anyway? It can work either way. You can have a charity or charitable entity that ultimately is so successful that there is buckets of money coming in. it happens once a while with the right charity with the right timing. Or you can have a business lead with a social impact motive that becomes wildly successful. Either way, the motive is the same. It goes back to what we were talking about earlier: the mindset has to be about making that big impact.
Hugh: If you’re not ready to give a million dollars a year, go to MikeSkrypnek.com, or it will give you the pathway to make sure it happens.
Mike: I don’t have a dog in the circus here. I am not a financial advisor any longer. I retired from that. I am reformed in that way. I certainly have perspective as a coach, as an owner, as a catalyst of change that helps people see what their big future is going to be about.
Hugh: Are you a philanthropist?
Mike: Absolutely. I have a love for humankind, and wherever I can make my impact, I do. I use my talents in the best way possible.
Hugh: Have you always been able to give? Have you always dedicated yourself to that? I saw somewhere you have given over $12.5 million to charity. Tell us about yourself. When did you start? How were you able to give a massive amount?
Mike: I was a part of that. I was not all $12.5. I helped guide that capital. That is what my business is. I created a business that the sole focus was to do $1 million a year of charitable giving. That business helped other people who said, “I give, too.” I helped them give $200,000. In that effort, over a period of six or seven years, we were able to redirect $12.5 million.
For me in my life, I grew up in a pretty- Canada, we don’t have guns. I grew up in a place that would otherwise be filled with a lot of shootings. It wasn’t socioeconomically sound. We had drug dealers and thieves in our neighborhood. I always had this innate desire to give back. I knew that the people around me didn’t have the life I was lucky to have. They didn’t have the love, the security, or the education, even though they were my neighbors. I always wanted to give back in some way. I always felt inclined to do what I could. I didn’t understand until I was almost 40. I was 38 when I had the realization I could do something tangible and meaningful every year if I just commit to doing that. I had never given it that kind of thought.
Most people don’t plan their giving or philanthropy more than it takes the time to investigate and do the research to buy a TV. It always amazes me. You want to make a difference and be philanthropic, but you make a five-minute decision to give $20 away to a charity that asked for it today. Then you will spend two weeks researching the next TV or computer screen you buy. I think you probably realign what’s important and make a bigger plan and be more strategic about it. When I was doing that, it all flowed.
The funny thing is, Hugh, now, different than in the financial services industry, where if you make a claim, you have to back it up. You have to have the numbers. My firm would say, “Oh, you helped so-and-so give X amount of dollars.” I go, “No, I have all the commitments. Those numbers are rock solid.” Now I am in this world of entrepreneurism and business owners. I don’t know tangibly how the impacts extend through all the people I have influenced thus far and will continue to. I don’t know if they have passed on or if they have helped volunteer to coach soccer or the local choir or whatever. I don’t have those tangible numbers in the way I used to have. It’s more difficult, but I know there is a multiplier that is exponentially bigger than what I have done in the past.
Hugh: I spot a Bob Hopkins out there.
Mike: Happy to have him.
Hugh: Bob is in Dallas, Texas. He is the author of the book Philanthropy Misunderstood. It’s a small part of his brilliance and gifts to humankind. Bob, do you have a comment or question for our guest today?
Bob Hopkins: Yeah, I’m excited about this topic obviously. I’m excited about you, Mike. Very seldom do I hear anybody talk about philanthropy in the way you do, which is the way I do as well. Hugh would definitely tell you that my book is similar to yours. Mine is not about money. It’s about the other things that make life worthy.
You know what? Hugh probably doesn’t know this, but he is a giver of $1 million a year.
Hugh: Yep. We can talk more about that.
Bob: The information and inspiration you give to people who go out there and make a difference in this world is worth way more than $1 million a year. I am doing another book called Philanthropy Understood. Hugh will be in this one with his wife because they have done so much over the years, and he does so much right now. I hate to tell you this, but I don’t think he gets a lot of money, but he gets a lot of everything else. His soul is enriched, and it is full.
We’re going through a bad time. I’m down. I don’t have the spark. The spark you hear is fake. I’ve been watching TV. Hugh says he does not, but I can’t stay away from it. I got a call from someone on Facebook today who said he wanted to be my friend. I didn’t know him. Didn’t see him. Didn’t know why. We all get people who want to be our friend son Facebook if you’re on there. I asked him who he was and what attracted him to me. He said he’d read and heard about me. I said that’s not a good reason for me to accept him. I asked him to tell me about himself. He said, “I’m a surgeon in Syria. My wife has just left me. I don’t have any money. I lost my house. I just need a friend. I thought you could be one.” I said, “I don’t have time to be a friend.” After talking to you, Mike, I am going to call him back and tell him I’m going to be his friend. You know what? That’s the $1 million you’re talking about. It came to me, and I usually don’t say no. I just don’t have time. But you know what? I do. I do have time. I need him to fill me up with the love I know I’m capable of. I’m feeling a little loveless right now. Things come to you. Your book is about that.
By the way, there is a book called Give to Live by Doug Lawson. Have you heard of him or that book?
Mike: I have. I don’t have it and haven’t read it, but I haven’t heard of it.
Bob: I will send you a copy because I have multiple.
Bob: He is in a nursing home, and his associate gave me multiple books to give away. It changed my life. It started out in 1992, and he wrote it in 2003. I will send it to you. I just want to thank you for being and writing and thinking and feeling and living the way I perceive philanthropy to be.
Mike: You’re welcome. Thank you for the kind words.
Hugh: That means a lot coming from Bob. He knows it and he’s been around. Mike is joining the advisory council for SynerVision because we need a brain like his. Bob is one of our advisors. Bob is stepping up. We are going to do an issue of our magazine next year on philanthropy. I imagine you could be a connector for it. Thank you for weighing in as you always do, Bob.
Mike, philanthropy is more than money. Talk about that.
Mike: If you ask any group of people, “What is happiness to you?” most people will not rank money in the top 10. They might have some material interests at some point. But I think that’s a little more the essence of it. The happiness we derive from being who we are, being human, being part of humankind, being part of society, being culturally important. We all have this desire to feel needed and to be important. When we consider when those needs are met, our joy and happiness rises. When you consider that the love of humankind really is the essence of philanthropy, if our happiness is risen, if we allow that to rise, we can willingly and generously participate in that love. At the core of it, that’s what it means to me. It’s about happiness. It’s about allowing that to rise so we can give. When we give, we are giving not just tangible assets but also in many intangible ways, but paramount importance to us ahead of the capital.
Hugh: When Napoleon Hill lists the attributes of wealth in Think and Grow Rich, money is #13 out of 13 because he said it was the least important. People think it’s all about the money when it’s really not. It’s about providing value for people. There are a lot of things we do that aren’t about money. Money is probably- I have never been an expert in money. I don’t know how to attract it, but I can spend it. It’s probably the result of providing value. You mentioned a lot of books. Who influenced you the most in your formative years and beyond?
Mike: I had some pretty great coaches. I look at family and focus as my words of the year. It’s about creating family within my business to help people really looking for that connection. When I think of the most influential people, I would say it has been my wife, Sheri, and my mother who would probably rank at the top of the list. Where my mother left off in her being a great human being, being the most unconditional giver, we talked about a saint. That woman is a saint in a way that is the most underserving for herself and giving.
Where Sheri came in is to take all that my mom helped create, and my parents both, but my mother in particular, and how the world began to shape me and my lofty ambitions and bring the humanity needed. I am a pretty driven person. I am personally very empathetic, but I am busy. I move forward. When I am thinking about moving forward, she is the one who reminds me that so-and-so has a birthday tomorrow. It’s important to them, and you need to pay attention to that. Slow down and be patient with what’s going on.
As an influence, I would say the 26 years I have spent with my wife, Sheri, she’s probably the most influential person. I know you look for all kinds of other things, like books. When it comes down to it, she makes me a better human. I am not an easy person. I have not always been easy. I am the bumpy road, and she is the clear, smooth asphalt. She keeps it even for me.
Hugh: This hour has gone by in a flash. You’re an honest man. Giving attribution to where it belongs. Thank you for that heartfelt attribution to your wife, the influencer.
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Mike, what do you want to leave people with today?
Mike: A bigger picture. Your impact is interstellar. What does that mean? It means that you can affect people and places and things in a way that you never thought possible. It can be happening right now. When you do that with intention, that person, place, or thing can impact others. Your impact then becomes exponential. When I work with 100 entrepreneurs over the next decade, and we help them create businesses worth $1 billion, they will give back 10% of that to charity. I know there is a multiplier to that. I challenge people to seek me out if they are an entrepreneur, become part of that 100, and we will make those differences. Think about that multiplier to charity. That’s 10x easy. The beauty is that when you consider that impact, it’s the lessons you teach your kids that pass on from generation to generation. The best philanthropists I ever met are the people who said, “It was always that way in our house.” Make it that way always so your kids can pass that on. Know that you can always have that exponential impact. Join me. Become part of this cosmic ripple effect I’m bringing on.
Hugh: MikeSkrypnek.com. Thank you for giving us such useful information today.
Mike: Thank you for having me, Hugh.