This post was co-written by celebrity philanthropist Heather Robinson.
What motivates someone to give? What sparks the voice within to declare "I want to change the world?" Two simple questions that provide a glimpse of the scope and depth of one's philanthropic perspective. Questions that the dynamic Denise Ilitch knows very well.
|Photo Courtesy of Denise Ilitch|
For Ilitch, a businessperson, lawyer, and member of the Board of Regents of the University of Michigan, making a difference is her life's work. When she was a little girl, she dreamed of improving communities through constant connectivity and long-term-investment. As an adult, this has become a dream fulfilled in more ways than one: providing vision and voice to global causes, celebrating the good through targeted giving.
"I would like to contribute on a national level for our country. I am driven by the need to give," she noted in a wide-ranging interview with us. "It comes naturally, feels so good and it was how I was raised. It's in my DNA. Giving cannot be faked." She continues:
When I champion a cause, I look for how much of the proceeds directly affect those in need. Everyone wants to make a difference and it is critical that it helps those directly in need. I would suggest reaching out to everyone. Don't assume you know someone or their ideals. Invest in the next generation.
We found her to be authentic -- and humble. She could have mentioned that she is owner and publisher of Ambassador Magazine, and given us details of Ilitch Holdings, her family's firm that manages the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, and Little Caesars, among other entities. Her professional accomplishments, impressive by measure, played a backseat to her vision of generosity.
Philanthropy is much more than a word evoking service. To the legions of female philanthropists and the organizations that covet their support, it is something to also believe in. When Maya Angelou wrote that "giving liberates the soul of the giver," she was right. One can see that Denise Ilitch is the living embodiment of this vision -- a vision animated daily by unselfish architects of 21st century charity.
So don't be surprised to hear more about Ilitch in the coming years. Her reputation stretches well beyond the city limits of her beloved Detroit, allowing her work, at all levels, to have the desired and long-lasting impact. Indeed, a star is on the rise.