Giving on the Main Line

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Ice Time

Ever modest about his philanthropic pursuits, Flyers chairman Ed Snider has been quietly giving for decades. Now that the Gladwyne resident has finally put his name on something near and dear to his heart, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that hockey is involved.
By J.F. Pirro


Making Charity More Sociable

With help from a well-connected Main Line native, givezooks! looks to spark an online philanthropy revolution.
By Adam Polaski


Pay to Play
Feed the Muse makes it easy to support struggling artists.
By Dawn E. Warden

 

 

Ice Time

Ever modest about his philanthropic pursuits, Flyers chairman Ed Snider has been quietly giving for decades. Now that the Gladwyne resident has finally put his name on something near and dear to his heart, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that hockey is involved.
By J.F. Pirro


Ed Snider, with members of the youth hockey league that bears his name, at Penn Ice Rink in Philadelphia.Initially, it was a long-range goal—namely, looking for land to build facilities for the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, replete with ice (obviously), classrooms, video rooms and more. Then, last winter, another vision came into focus.

The revelation occurred one Saturday at the Scanlon Ice Rink in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. Overwhelmed by how effectively his foundation was uniting neighborhoods, Snider turned to ESYHF president Scott Tharp and questioned their priorities. Why build a new center when they could enhance the city’s neighborhood rinks instead?

“[Scanlon] is in such a perfect location, right in the neighborhood,” recalls Snider, Comcast-Spectacor’s high-profile chairman and a Gladwyne resident. “But [it was] so dilapidated, and needed such love and care. We could’ve spent money to build new, but we decided we’d rather spend it in places where we could do more good.”

Two days before the Flyers, the NHL team he founded in 1966, began the season with a win over the Carolina Hurricanes, Snider reflected on his philanthropic philosophy. That night, he attended a benefit for the Ambler-based National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, for which he’s a board member. His initial contribution made the organization viable. Snider’s ample gifts are staples at nearly every city hospital, but this charity holds a personal connection. “I had it for 50 years and didn’t know it,” says Snider of celiac disease, a digestive disorder linked to gluten in food.

Humble in his giving, Snider quietly supports some 70 causes annually. A true philanthropist, he’s never used his generosity to generate publicity. But no one example of Snider’s philanthropy is more of a source of pride than the ESYHF, a 2005 creation that offers inner-city youth the chance to learn to skate and play ice hockey.

“He is widely known for his entrepreneurial vision,” Tharp says. “More quietly, he is known as a philanthropist. It’s amazing how much he gives and how generous he is. When it comes to youth hockey, he hopes this will be his true legacy.”

Even Snider himself won’t disguise his intentions. “I do want this to be my legacy,” says the 1988 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, who will turn 77 in January. “I want to fund it in such a way—and establish it in such a way—that it’s something that will last forever. It’s the first time I ever put my name on anything.”

You could say that Snider is the Connie Mack of ice hockey. He says it’s a comparison no one else has ever made, but he’s not uncomfortable with it. Still, he does make one request: “Just use [Mack’s] full name—Cornelius McGillicuddy,” Snider says. “I just always thought he was great.”

If Snider can carry on with the Flyers into 2016, he’ll match Mack’s 50-year legacy with the Philadelphia Athletics. Snider says he grew up with a poster of the venerable manager and owner above his bed, even though he was a Washington Senators fan. “It was just a poster of him dressed in his classic shirt and tie, and an old suit,” Snider says.

But where Mack was a penny-pincher, Snider has a three-pronged philanthropic thrust. His primary interests are at-risk children, medical research and innovation, and Jewish faith interests like the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a California-based organization that combats anti-Semitism, bigotry and prejudice of all kinds.

By and large, Snider’s philanthropy continues to fly under the radar. “It’s a way of life—a lifestyle—for the man,” says Fred Shabel, Comcast-Spectacor’s vice chairman, who heads the Ed Snider Foundation and the Comcast-Spectacor Foundation. “A lot who have a lot don’t give back. Ed has a lot and does give back. He gets his nose out of joint when he finds out we’re not doing enough for at-risk kids, those who have the capabilities but not the wherewithal. I think it’s his own family background.”
 

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Ed Snider grew up around Washington, D.C., where his father, Sol, lived the life of a Russian immigrant made good. A grocer, he pushed Ed into college, though his son, already a young entrepreneur, started out by working full time in the stores—first in the one below their apartment, then eventually in Sol’s three supermarkets. Ed graduated with an accounting degree from the University of Maryland. His in-state tuition was $50 a semester at the time.

Snider first arrived in Philadelphia as a vice president and chief operating officer for the Eagles in 1964. During a three-year stay, he saw his first hockey game at New York City’s original Madison Square Garden. “It blew me away,” Snider says. “I thought it was just the most spectacular sport. I still do.”

When he brought a hockey team to Philadelphia, no one thought the sport would come this far south, down from Canada and the New England states. “It was a crazy time,” Snider recalls. “I was scared to death and worried [that it wouldn’t work], but I was young enough to do it.”

Snider was the driving force behind construction of the Spectrum and later the $210 million Wachovia Center. In 1974, he created Spectacor as a management company to oversee the Flyers and the Spectrum. For the next 20 years, it was a national force in sports and entertainment. Then, in 1996, he merged Spectacor with the Comcast Corporation to form Comcast-Spectacor, later partnering with the Philadelphia Phillies to form Comcast SportsNet.

Most recently, Comcast-Spectacor has developed Global Spectrum (an international facilities management company), Ovations Food Services (a national concessions company), New Era Tickets (a provider of innovative technological solutions for box office, event management and customer communications), and the Flyers Skate Zone, a series of regional rinks.

This fall, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced the likely closing of libraries and recreational centers, including inner-city rinks. Snider couldn’t—and wouldn’t—allow that to happen. In an inspirational save, an 11th-hour public/private deal was struck for ESYHF to operate and preserve what would turn out to be all five facilities.

Now, in addition to Scanlon Ice Rink and Laura Sims Skate House in West Philadelphia, ESYHF is responsible for Simons Ice Rink in North Philly, Rizzo Rink in South Philly and Tarken Ice Rink in Oxford Circle. The foundation provides equipment and coaching, plus life skills and support services like homework and tutoring help. A signed contract states that hockey is a privilege, just like school. Report cards are submitted each time they’re issued. “Since we’re committing to them, we want a commitment from them,” Tharp says.

Programming runs seven days a week at the five city rinks and six additional area locations. This past summer, ESYHF hosted 12 weeklong camps at Flyers Skate Zones, providing free transportation from the neighborhood rinks. The results have been remarkable.

“Since we started, 96 percent have matriculated from one grade to the next—this in neighborhoods and schools where barely 50 percent do,” Tharp says. “Attendance has improved because the kids see hockey as a reward. We’re helping kids get on track for good.”

ESYHF’s $1.2 million annual budget comes from fundraising efforts, donations and gifts from other foundations. Snider matches every incoming dollar with $2 of his own, so when the initial capital campaign realized $2 million, Snider added $4 million.

Snider’s interest in kids is a constant. He’s been instrumental at the Riverbend Environmental Education Center in Gladwyne and the Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education Center in Philadelphia, among others. Still, he firmly believes that ESYHF is the best thing he’s done for children. “If you can save one life, you have done something wonderful,” Snider says. “We have 2,500 kids involved.”

Tharp says it’s rare for a businessman with Snider’s acumen to have the vision to be successful in the social sector. “In business, money is an input and an output, and the amount of success is based on the bottom line,” he says. “In the social sector, money is important, but the output is so intangible. Ed’s vision extends beyond any bottom line.”

No, it’s far more personal than that. Mornings spent at neighborhood rinks remind Snider of his own rough childhood and the fistfights he once engaged in.

“But in these neighborhoods, if you get in a dispute, they use a gun and kill you. What could be more frightening than that?” poses Snider. “I feel for these kids. They’re doing something they’ve never done, and something they never thought they could do. We’re keeping them off the streets; we’re changing attitudes. There couldn’t be anything better—except winning the Stanley Cup.”

To learn more, visit esyhf.org.
 

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Making Charity More Sociable

With help from a well-connected Main Line native, givezooks! looks to spark an online philanthropy revolution.
By Adam Polaski


Main Line native Chris Giles, customer services manager at givezooks!MySpace introduced the concept of virtual social networking; eBay pioneered the online shopping marketplace; Craigslist transferred the classified pages from print to the Internet. Now, another company is poised to revolutionize the nonprofit sector. Givezooks! seeks to maximize the fundraising, advocacy and outreach efforts of nonprofit groups, offering a one-stop portal for all their needs. It’s one of the first real attempts to utilize the Web to benefit charities, which have traditionally struggled to take advantage of new technology.

Givezooks! is committed to the “social fundraising” concept of merging aspects of networking websites like Facebook with online philanthropy. It provides a platform for nonprofits to start campaigns, publicize their causes, accrue donations and organize communities of supporters. Individual users can track the progress of their favorite causes, donate directly—with 100 percent of the donation going toward the group—or even begin their own grassroots campaign, inviting friends and family to help them meet a fundraising goal.

The multitude of features available on givezooks!—including customized wish lists and ways for organizations to use the website as their platform for e-mail, advertising and donation management—reflects the company’s desire to maximize the potential of these groups. In essence, the product allows nonprofits to create a rich, dense micro-website so that, eventually, givezooks! can serve as an online catalog of local and national causes.

Givezooks! was born out of a mutual appreciation for the work of nonprofits and shared recognition of the struggles they face in reaching out to supporters. Founders Joe Fazio, Dave Parsin and husband-and-wife team Eric and Carol Schrader all have extensive software and marketing backgrounds. They also volunteer. “We wanted to leverage our tech background and marketing expertise into online philanthropy,” says Schrader, now the company’s CEO. “We saw that there was a need for that, and it was a different way of giving back. We’re hopefully improving the efficiency of the nonprofit sector as a whole.”

Based in Santa Barbara and Palo Alto, Calif., givezooks! is now targeting Philadelphia as another “hub” city. The company’s customer services manager, Main Line native Chris Giles, cites the more than 40,000 area organizations in the IRS database as evidence of the city’s dedication to charity. “It’s such a hotbed for young, energetic people doing grassroots kinds of things,” says Giles, who’s the son of Phillies chairman Bill Giles.

One recent givezooks! convert is the Philadelphia Committee to End Homelessness, which has been coordinating its inaugural fundraising campaign using the service. “Our ability to house homeless families depends greatly on the generosity of donors,” says PCEH’s Kathleen Lewis. “We’ve found that lots of people want to help but don’t know how to get started. Givezooks! gives them the opportunity to become involved and to choose their level of involvement.”

The jury’s still out on whether this online formula will actually catch on in our area, but here’s one promising statistic to ponder: Givezooks! reports that the average donation processed through its site is $458. Not a bad onetime haul for any nonprofit—big or small.

To learn more, visit givezooks.com.
 

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Pay to Play

Feed the Muse makes it easy to support struggling artists.
By Dawn E. Warden


(From left) Feed the Muse founders Tom Laskas and Jamie Lokoff, with MilkBoy Recording’s Tommy JoynerGone are the days when every musician’s dream was to score a hefty, long-term recording contract with a major record label. It’s no secret that, over the past decade, the once-mighty infrastructure of the music industry has weakened significantly, primarily due to dwindling CD sales and its inability to find any real financial footing online.

Meanwhile, down in the trenches, talented artists continue to struggle to make a living, most reluctant to ask for help. Many will admit that marketing and self-promotion aren’t their strong suits—and these days, postings on MySpace, Facebook and Twitter aren’t enough. Musicians need to build stable, long-lasting relationships with their audiences.

That’s where Feed the Muse comes in. Founded by Ardmore-based musicians/producers Jamie Lokoff and Tom Laskas, the website facilitates fundraising while uniting a variety of artists and supporters in one place. The process is simple: A musician (fine artists, writers and filmmakers are also welcome) signs up and creates a personalized page where fans and the curious can read all about said musician and make a contribution as small as a dollar. Artists receive their donations by check or electronically, minus a 7.5-percent service fee.

Working at MilkBoy Recording with producer Tommy Joyner, Lokoff and Laskas have found a niche producing bands on the verge. “But they lacked the various rungs of support necessary to get to that next level,” says Laskas.

Then, one day, Lokoff was going through his e-mails. “I got something about [Susan G. Komen] Race for the Cure,” he says. “It wasn’t the first fundraising e-mail I’d gotten, but it was the first time I started to relate the model to music.”

Websites similar to Feed the Muse do exist, though many function more like record labels. “They’re built around several in-house artists that outside investors or donors can contribute to,” says Dena Marchiony, executive director of the Philadelphia Songwriters Project. “Other sites act as a way for investors to get a return of their cash, so it’s not so much fan funding.”

Lokoff and Laskas weren’t aware of the fan-funding concept when they first started Feed the Muse. It was only after working on their new website that they discovered other models out there. Both would like to see Feed the Muse expand. “Tommy and Jamie have been focused on creating a community and supporting all types of artists,” says Marchiony. “But if their artists do well, they can do well. And I do think they have a desire to create a national presence for MilkBoy and all it stands for.”

Adds Lokoff, “The better our artists do, the better the Muse does. That’s a win-win for everyone.”

For fans, the benefits are numerous. Access to the artist increases exponentially as they gain insight into the creative process and enjoy cool perks like “private” concerts. They may even act as an album’s executive producer, previewing tracks prior to the final cut.

“We want to educate the fan about how they see the creation of art, so they begin to understand what the cost of creating art—a CD, touring, putting together a film—actually is,” says Laskas. “This will also shift the mindset of the public and help them better understand what it is they’re paying for.”

To learn more, visit feedthemuse.net.
 

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