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U. of C.: Call us, maybe?

September 26th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Fun Stuff, Marketing, Offbeat News

The University of Chicago might not have made it onto the list of the nation’s “Top 20 Party Schools,” but the folks on the stately South Side campus want prospective students to know that they’re as hip to the latest jams as No. 4-ranked University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

This summer the university jumped on the “Call Me Maybe” bandwagon, sending out letters that use portions of the lyrics of the popular Carly Rae Jepsen song to those who inquire about admissions.

“We’re thrilled to hear that you’ve shown an interest in the University of Chicago,” the letter begins. Then it takes on a familiar tone. “I know that we just met you — and this is crazy — but here are our numbers:”

Viral videos of people lip-syncing the song are popping up everywhere. The U.S. Olympic swimming team made a video mouthing the words. So did the diving team. College sports teams and their mascots have gotten in on the action, as have former Secretary of State Colin Powell and a group of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Lest anyone think that the U. of C. is stepping outside its comfort zone to prove it’s not as stodgy as some might think, a university spokesman said, “That kind of wit is in the culture of this place.”

The letter makes it clear that while this might be a school with Nobel Prize winners currently on its faculty, it’s also known for some pretty fun stuff, like the annual scavenger hunt and its annual essay prompts devoted entirely to the fourth day of the week — Wednesday.

The letter ends with the popular question: ”So call us, maybe?”

College Dean John Boyer has said such expressions of wit reflect the university’s core values: “a disdain for dogma and conventionality, a compulsion to play with ideas and a high admiration for the arts of self-expression.”

The phones just might be ringing off the hook now.

Dahleen Glanton, Chicago Tribune reporter

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College Students Have Less Empathy Then in the Past

June 15th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted in News and Updates, Offbeat News

Today’s college students are not as empathetic as college students of the 1980s and ’90s, a University of Michigan study shows.

The study, presented in Boston at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science, analyzes data on empathy among almost 14,000 college students over the last 30 years.

“We found the biggest drop in empathy after the year 2000,” said Sara Konrath, a researcher at the U-M Institute for Social Research. “College kids today are about 40 percent lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago, as measured by standard tests of this personality trait.”

Konrath conducted the meta-analysis, combining the results of 72 different studies of American college students conducted between 1979 and 2009, with U-M graduate student Edward O’Brien and undergraduate student Courtney Hsing.

Compared to college students of the late 1970s, the study found, college students today are less likely to agree with statements such as “I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective” and “I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me.”

In a related but separate analysis, Konrath found that nationally representative samples of Americans see changes in other people’s kindness and helpfulness over a similar time period.

“Many people see the current group of college students—sometimes called ‘Generation Me’—as one of the most self-centered, narcissistic, competitive, confident and individualistic in recent history,” said Konrath, who is also affiliated with the University of Rochester Department of Psychiatry.

“It’s not surprising that this growing emphasis on the self is accompanied by a corresponding devaluation of others,” O’Brien said.

Why is empathy declining among young adults?

Konrath and O’Brien suggest there could be several reasons, which they hope to explore in future research.

“The increase in exposure to media during this time period could be one factor,” Konrath said. “Compared to 30 years ago, the average American now is exposed to three times as much nonwork-related information. In terms of media content, this generation of college students grew up with video games, and a growing body of research, including work done by my colleagues at Michigan, is establishing that exposure to violent media numbs people to the pain of others.”

The recent rise of social media may also play a role in the drop in empathy, suggests O’Brien.

“The ease of having ‘friends’ online might make people more likely to just tune out when they don’t feel like responding to others’ problems, a behavior that could carry over offline,” he said.

Add in the hypercompetitive atmosphere and inflated expectations of success, borne of celebrity “reality shows,” and you have a social environment that works against slowing down and listening to someone who needs a bit of sympathy, he says.

“College students today may be so busy worrying about themselves and their own issues that they don’t have time to spend empathizing with others, or at least perceive such time to be limited,” O’Brien said.

The American Association of University Women provided support for the analysis.

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Facebook Fuelling Divorce, Research Claims

January 14th, 2010 | 2 Comments | Posted in Offbeat News

Facebook is being cited in almost one in five of online divorce petitions, lawyers have claimed.

Facebook is being cited in almost one in five of online divorce petitions, lawyers have claimed.

Facebook is being cited in almost one in five of online divorce petitions, lawyers have claimed.

The social networking site, which connects old friends and allows users to make new ones online, is being blamed for an increasing number of marital breakdowns.

Divorce lawyers claim the explosion in the popularity of websites such as Facebook and Bebo is tempting to people to cheat on their partners.

Suspicious spouses have also used the websites to find evidence of flirting and even affairs which have led to divorce.

One law firm, which specialises in divorce, claimed almost one in five petitions they processed cited Facebook.

Mark Keenan, Managing Director of Divorce-Online said: “I had heard from my staff that there were a lot of people saying they had found out things about their partners on Facebook and I decided to see how prevalent it was I was really surprised to see 20 per cent of all the petitions containing references to Facebook.

“The most common reason seemed to be people having inappropriate sexual chats with people they were not supposed to.”

Flirty emails and messages found on Facebook pages are increasingly being cited as evidence of unreasonable behaviour.

Computer firms have even cashed in by developing software allowing suspicious spouses to electronically spy on someone’s online activities.

One 35-year-old woman even discovered her husband was divorcing her via Facebook.

Conference organiser Emma Brady was distraught to read that her marriage was over when he updated his status on the site to read: “Neil Brady has ended his marriage to Emma Brady.”

Last year a 28-year-old woman ended her marriage after discovering her husband had been having a virtual affair with someone in cyberspace he had never met.

Amy Taylor 28, split from David Pollard after discovering he was sleeping with an escort in the game Second Life, a virtual world where people reinvent themselves.

Around 14 million Britons are believed to regularly use social networking sites to communicate with old friends or make new ones.

The popularity of the Friends Reunited website several years ago was also blamed for a surge in divorces as bored husbands and wives used it to contact old flames and first loves.

The UK’s divorce rate has fallen in recent years, but two in five marriages are still failing according the latest statistics.

Mr Keenan believes that the general divorce rate will rocket in 2010 with the recession taking the blame.

By: Telegraph Media Group
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Watching Over the Family Fortune

January 13th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Offbeat News

FAMILY HOUR MAY NEVER BE THE SAME for thousands of wealthy clans. In the wake of last year’s financial crisis, more and more are signing up as customers of “multifamily offices” — exclusive outfits that promise unbiased advice on investments and legacy planning.

The nation’s 140 multifamily offices, which each serve anywhere from a handful to several hundred families, have been picking up clients from banks, brokerage houses and investment units originally set up for single families. By one count, the average multifamily office increased its client roster by 9% last year.

“It’s a concept that people are starting to understand, and there’s going to be even more awareness and demand,” says Maria Elena Lagomasino, CEO of GenSpring Family Offices, which caters to some 725 tribes.

Multifamily offices aim to be your family’s top-level financial guide, overseeing investments both with them and elsewhere, tending to taxes, paying bills and making sure junior understands his duties as a trustee.

In effect, the firms are replicating the services of traditional single-family offices for a broader audience. While it can take a net worth of $1 billion to justify the costs of a single-family office, multifamily offices typically target folks with $30 million and up.

Some of the firms even offer the perks of a traditional family office. At GenSpring, clients are invited to meet at an elegant, 19th-century townhouse just off New York’s Fifth Avenue. As you and your kin gather around a conference table, you can almost forget that scores of other families are getting the same red-carpet treatment.

TO SIZE UP THE FIELD, Barron’s asked the Family Wealth Alliance, an industry research and consulting firm, to rank the top players. New York’s Bessemer Trust leads the pack in assets under advisement, with $52 billion, while the little-known Geller Family Office Services serves the biggest ac- counts — $278 million on average. The listings appear below and Bessemer is profiled on here.

In general, multifamily offices fared well during the turmoil of the past year. Assets under advisement fell by just 9.2% in 2008 at a sampling of multifamily offices, according to a survey by the Family Wealth Alliance. By contrast, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 34%.

Another telling number: Client attrition was less than 3%. If only the giant banks and brokerages could say the same.

Home office

Maria Elena Lagomasino of GenSpring, at its New York offices. Photo by Matthew Furan

“The multifamily-office model is growing, and attracting wealthy families,” says Austin Shapard, president of Rockefeller & Co. That firm, once the domain of John D. Rockefeller, is now the No. 3 multifamily office in assets under advisement.

The industry does have its skeptics. They argue that multifamily offices aren’t much different from hundreds of other wealth-management concerns that also serve families — from independent money managers to financial conglomerates.

Leaders of multifamily offices insist otherwise. They say their industry is focused more tightly than other providers on the complex, multigenerational needs of moneyed clans. In addition, they claim to be free of the pressures to “sell” any particular financial products, often a complaint about brokerages and banks.

“Families are looking for a firm that has an alignment of interests with them, that they can trust,” says Jamie McLaughlin, chief executive of New York-based Geller Family Office Services.

The industry’s other big selling point is the cost advantage over offices set up for single families. Hammered by market losses last year, many of those concerns have been forced to open their doors to other families, or to close the office entirely and use the services of a multifamily office. (See Penta, Sept. 28, 2009.)


The situation is akin to what happened to single-family offices in 1974, when the Phipps family, which owns Bessemer Trust, opened its doors to other families in order to help control costs. Rockefeller & Co. did the same thing a few years later, and in 1989, Hap Perry founded Asset Management Advisors, which later became GenSpring. It is now owned by Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks.

When it comes to picking the right family office, wealthy families have a variety of business models to choose from.

The majority of multifamily offices charge according to assets under advisement, according to the Family Wealth Alliance. Fees are often around 1% of assets annually, and decline based on the volume of assets. That would cover investing and certain other services.

Some, like Rockefeller & Co., allow some pricing flexibility, cutting fees for families that want only specific services, such as investment advice.

Others follow a completely different pricing model. Vogel Consulting, for example, a smaller regional concern in Wisconsin, charges by the hour, like law firms. The typical client might pay $180 an hour.

“Our objective is to be absolutely as independent as we can be,” says Rhona Vogel, founder of the firm. “You don’t have to have a long-term agreement, and people can pick and choose the services they need.”

AT HARRIS MYCFO in Chicago, you pay an annual retainer of $200,000 on average for a basket of noninvestment services; a fee based on assets covers investing. “Though we would like to sell you the whole chocolate bar,” says Joe Calabrese, president, “we’ll sell you the wrapper, too, if that’s all you want.”

In other words, picking the right multifamily office depends on the needs and priorities of the family, whether that’s trusteeship, investment planning, educating the next generation, cash management or tax planning.

Perhaps the most important thing is to make sure that the firm you select is truly unbiased. It should be compensated only by client fees, and its employees shouldn’t be rewarded for sales volume. Beyond that, any number of multifamily offices might fit the bill.

“It’s like deciding between a black Bentley and a red Ferrari,” says Tom Livergood, CEO of the Family Wealth Alliance. “They’re both great cars, but it’s a matter of taste.”

Families, start your engines.

Leaders: Give Thanks for Your People

January 13th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Marketing, Offbeat News

Mike Prokopeak

Between the travel tie-ups and the rush to begin the holiday shopping season, it’s easy to forget the Thanksgiving holiday is intended as a time to give thanks. That message is important for leaders to remember at all times, but especially now when many in the workforce continue to reel from the aftereffects of the Great Recession.

“It is more important now,” said management consultant Ken Blanchard, author of business best-sellers such as The One Minute Manager and the recently revised and updated Leading at a Higher Level. “We’ve lost the trust of our public; we’ve lost the trust of our people.”

Blanchard, who holds the position of chief spiritual officer for The Ken Blanchard Companies, a provider of workplace learning, employee productivity and leadership training, said restoring trust within the workforce begins with developing a leadership point of view.

“What are their beliefs about leading and motivating people, where did they come from, what can people expect of them and what do they expect of people?” Blanchard said. “It’s such a powerful thing, especially when they start to share it with their people.”

This personal leadership mission statement defines a leader’s values and, when used properly, guides his or her future behavior. “Based on that, what are your beliefs about motivating and leading people, then what are you going to do on a daily basis to recalibrate that you’re going to be that kind of leader?” Blanchard said.

But perhaps the most significant part of developing a leadership point of view is the personal and organizational change it can create.

“Leadership is a transformational journey starting with yourself,” Blanchard said. “A lot of times there will be a problem with an organization, and you’ve got a leader who has really never had a chance to look at themselves. Their ego drives their behavior. They think life is all about them.”

Pushing those kinds of leaders to probe and develop a point of view makes them realize the importance of the people around them.

“In quiet moments of reflection, they get that they are here to serve rather than be served,” Blanchard said. “But if they’ve never sat and thought about it, then they get caught up by lousy role models and the pressures of Wall Street and they start to think that leadership is all about them and their concerns.”

Blanchard pointed to fast food company Chick-fil-A as an organization that understands the importance of leadership point of view. The Atlanta-based company even developed a leadership model, SERVE, that is taught to managers of the company’s 1,400 restaurants. SERVE stands for:

  • See and shape the future.
  • Engage and develop people.
  • Reinvent continually, personally and structurally.
  • Value both people and results.
  • Embody the values.

That focus on a leadership point of view and the resulting servant model of leadership is good for Chick-fil-A’s business, Blanchard said. He reports that the company has less than 2 percent turnover, significantly less than similar businesses with a large hourly workforce.

“They’re not even open on Sunday and they kill everybody in the fast food industry in six days,” he said.

Blanchard said Chick-fil-A’s servant leadership model delivers business results and human satisfaction because it brings together the strategic vision — where the company is headed — and its operations — making sure the organization works for its people.

“Having a clear leadership point of view and sharing it with your people shows them that you respect them, you want to be clear with them,” Blanchard said. “They can hold you accountable for that. If you face them and respect them and share with them, then you’re going to have a chance to rebuild trust.”

CLOs can help leaders develop a leadership point of view and implement the models and behaviors that go along with it. The biggest problem, Blanchard said, is that learning leaders too often look for the next great idea.

“We’ve spent too much time looking for the next new management concept, and we don’t follow up [on] what we just taught our people,” he said. “How many diets does it take to lose weight? Only one you stick to. They need to find something that really makes sense, that is consistent with the leadership point of view of their top managers, and drive that through the organization.”

Despite the challenges, now is the time to work on implementing a leadership model and training people to carry it out.

“This is a time not to turn your back on training, but to prepare the people who are still going to be with you in the future to be the best that they can and to have the skills that they need,” Blanchard said.

That result would indeed be something to give thanks for.

Do you Know Anderson Charters?

January 13th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted in Offbeat News

ANDERSON CHARTERS-CD-1Anderson has worked in journalism and publishing since 1978. He was a reporter for The Financial Post from 1978 to 1981. In 1982, Anderson and his wife, Susan, moved to a Orillia, where they started and published the Orillia Sun.  They sold it the Orillia Sun in 1989 but other publishing ventures followed.   In 2001 Anderson purchased the Canadian Donor’s Guide, an annual directory of Canadian charities. He used his publishing experience in the non-profit field to launch, 18 months ago, CharityCan, a website modeled on GuideStar.

Please give us more background on CharityCan.

After acquiring the Canadian Donor’s Guide, I was searching around for ways to take advantage of the Internet. I came across GuideStar and began to wonder if something similar could be developed in Canada that would give users access to detailed information on Canadian charities. CharityCan was developed – – where subscribers can search, sort, rank, analyse and compare all 85,000 registered charities in Canada using information these charities have submitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (the Canadian IRS). We have secured access to Noza philanthropic gift information so that CharityCan will be an even more powerful research service.

How does the Canadian Donor’s Guide differ from CharityCan?

The Canadian Donor’s Guide is a traditional media publication similar to the Yellow Pages.  It is an advertiser-driven publication with listings and display ads taken by Canadian charities. We have also been very fortunate the last few years to have a the Bank of Nova Scotia as Guide sponsor . It is a niche publication providing information in the planned giving space to professional advisors and attorneys. The Internet has given us the opportunity to publish a Digital Edition.  Your readers can view the Digital Edition at

How does Canadian philanthropy differ from American philanthropy?

Canadian philanthropy differs very little from American philanthropy.  However, as Canada’s population is one-tenth the size of the United States, many new trends and ideas take root in the U.S. before crossing the border. As well, per capita giving by Americans exceeds that of Canadians, by about two to one. Canadians give more than Europeans – it’s just that the U.S. leads the world in philanthropy. Notions of self reliance are more firmly rooted in America than in Canada. Historically, Canadians have accepted a greater role for government in the economy than Americans.  This may be changing.  Also higher church attendance is the U.S. is a factor in per capita giving statistics.

 Brian Lacy

Priest Aims To Save Flock From Foreclosure

October 27th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted in Offbeat News

He prays for parishioners — and negotiates with lenders on their behalf

Rev. John Lasseigne, center, stands over members of his parish in Los Angeles on June 24. Lasseigne has been helping his parishioners fight foreclosure.

Rev. John Lasseigne, center, stands over members of his parish in Los Angeles on June 24. Lasseigne has been helping his parishioners fight foreclosure.

LOS ANGELES – A priest’s typical mission is saving souls, but the Rev. John Lasseigne has a more down-to-earth goal — saving homes.

That’s like trying to work a miracle in Lasseigne’s Roman Catholic parish of Pacoima, a blue-collar corner of the San Fernando Valley where bank sale signs sprout faster than weeds. One in nine homes is in default, making it one of the nation’s hardest hit towns in the foreclosure crisis.

“We’re talking thousands of foreclosures,” said the 44-year-old priest at Mary Immaculate Church. “I was stunned.”

Lasseigne has gone from praying for parishioners to lobbying politicians and negotiating with lenders on their behalf. His daily discourse is as likely to include talk of balloon payments and negative amortization as Hail Marys and The Lord’s Prayer. Meetings with banks rather than bishops fill his agenda.

Churches of many faiths have responded to the recession by offering credit counseling and job training alongside Sunday school and soup kitchens, and people of the cloth have a long tradition of social activism on many issues.

Graduated from law school

Still, delving into the fine print of mortgage finance may seem highly unusual for someone who will probably never have to worry about buying his own house. Lasseigne, however, is well qualified. Before entering the seminary, he graduated from law school and knew how to read contracts.

That knowledge, a passion for social justice and a priest’s role — in a parish so devout that two Masses are said daily and nine on Sunday, all but one in Spanish — have made him the foreclosure-fighting father.

“Works of justice are an integral part of the priesthood,” the lanky priest said. “We have to take stands in aiding the needy and denouncing the injustices of society. The financial entrapment that was part of this was unbelievable.”

Lasseigne arrived a year ago in Pacoima, a gritty Los Angeles community where 90 percent of the 60,000 residents are Latino. Several families squeeze into shoebox bungalows, gangs roam the streets, and roosters crow in backyards.

Lasseigne learned Spanish in San Antonio, Texas, where he joined the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate who work worldwide with the poor. He had debating joining the priesthood through college and law school.

He had heard only vaguely about the foreclosure crisis when a parish family asked him to pray for them because they were losing their home. Soon, the story was repeating itself: The dream of homeownership had led his flock, mostly Mexican and Central American immigrants with little money savvy and limited English skills, into murky subprime loans and overpriced real estate.

“These are hard working people from humble backgrounds. They weren’t used to dealing with officials. There was a language problem,” said Lasseigne, one of three priests at the 5,000-family church. “They had a very poor understanding of what they were getting into.”

Hundreds sign up for help

Hundreds of homeowners signed up for help after Lasseigne announced from the pulpit that he had united with nonprofit groups and three other area churches to hold financial workshops. One session packed 1,500 people into the San Fernando High School auditorium.

Lasseigne began working with some 100 families, forming a database with details of their cases, attending homeowners’ meetings and offering counsel. He listened to their dilemmas and sought to allay their fears when they thought they had lost everything.

“I never heard of a priest doing so much to help people,” said Juana Rodriguez, a single mother of four who almost lost her home. “He’s always out there in front of us, leading us. I don’t get frightened anymore.”

At the urging of a broker acquaintance, Rodriguez borrowed the downpayment and principal with adjustable interest for a $272,000 three-bedroom townhouse. Her initial excitement turned to dread when the interest shot up to 10.56 percent and the monthly payment rose from $1,300 to $1,990. Then she lost her job.

With help from the church workshops, she renegotiated her mortgage to a 30-year loan fixed at 5 percent — and landed a new job as a home health-care aide. Now she advises other homeowners.

For every rescued homeowner, however, numerous others were spiraling into distress. The pain of seeing families lose everything they had worked for spurred Lasseigne to find a solution.

Teaming up with One LA-Industrial Areas Foundation and Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, Lasseigne has lobbied congressmen, councilmen and corporate executives for laws, funds and loan reductions.

‘Adds moral weight to the campaign’

He makes sure he wears his clerical collar to meetings. “I don’t mean to strike divine guilt in their hearts, but it adds moral weight to the campaign,” he said. “I would like to think that they see standing behind me the thousands of homeowners at risk.”

Still, it’s an uphill battle to get banks to reduce homeowner’s loans, Lasseigne’s main goal. Under a plan developed by One LA, homeowners would receive a loan of $25,000 to $75,000 to be paid to the bank, which would reduce the loan principal in line with the home’s current worth, and slash interest to about 5 percent.

It’s designed to help people like stone worker Angel de la Torre, who owes far more on his three-bedroom house than it’s worth and is stuck paying 10 percent interest.

“If I understood, I would never have signed,” said the father of four. “My dream turned into a nightmare.”

He and One LA organizer Tom Holler were successful in lobbying City Hall to ante up $1 million in community redevelopment funds, but banks have been reluctant to reduce the principal.

Lasseigne remains faithful that banks will cede. He and Holler have also lobbied U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., for legislation outlawing predatory lending, and are starting to work in another ravaged area, South Los Angeles.

Homeowners are grateful that even if they can’t get immediate relief, someone is looking out for them.

Jose Hernandez is working with Lasseigne to get his parents out of a financial quagmire. Their purchase of a $488,000 townhouse has resulted in negative amortization — the loan balance is increasing because the monthly interest exceeds the principal payment.

Now, with the priest’s help, Hernandez is trying to get the loan modified. “He’s willing to help and a lot of people aren’t,” Hernandez said.

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