Pro Bono Service, Silent and Powerful

May 22nd, 2009

Categories: Charity, Gratitude, Music, Outside Counsel, Service

Apart from students, what do Publicolor, Midori & Friends, a college scholarship program and The City University of New York [CUNY] graduate school all have in common? They benefit from the counsel of four advisors who act like a silent board of directors. They share their connections, business acumen and counsel just as any marketing agency does, advising startups and charities that couldn’t otherwise pay for this level of service in a million years. The cost of doing business with them? $0.

These are silent partners in many ways. They’ve asked me not to name them or the company they formed. However, they hope that other retired people around the country might similarly share their experience to help others, as they have thrived doing for a dozen years.


This foursome has been friends for half a century. Two were partners in an advertising agency for 30 years, one wrote sitcoms and knows his way around television and the last one was a direct marketing guru turned real estate tycoon. They rent an office in midtown Manhattan and enjoy each other’s company so much that they lunch together almost daily. Their wives are also best friends, but they warn that the unusual personal aspect of their relationship, while precious to them, is not necessary for their angel model to work anywhere else in the country.

“We’re masters of stealth marketing,” said one of these compassionate mystery men, referring to their specialty also known as undercover or buzz marketing. “We give advice but we never write or execute a plan. After a two-hour meeting, it might take six months for our clients to implement a solution. Objectives range from building an effective board of directors or raising money to identifying the person with the power and/or connections to clear an unexpected logjam in an organization crucial to a charity.”

They distinguish themselves in another way: All their clients do good works. Through Publicolor, Ruth Shuman, her staff and volunteers add color to the drab, peeling walls of inner city schools. The violinist Midori shares the gift of music with underserved New York public school children and 200 talented children have gone to college thanks to a generous foundation the quartet has counseled. In addition, a city-run graduate system with a board of distinguished scholars initiated a successful and critical endowment program. The simple solution was staring them in the face: offer to name a building after a keystone donor.

In addition, each of the partners continues to support their own special projects related to alma maters, houses of worship and the like.

Do you know of people who generously share their wisdom like this? Might you form such a group or recommend to parents or grandparents that they share the legacy of their experience to benefit and serve others?   


3 Responses to “Pro Bono Service, Silent and Powerful”

  1. Barbara Jacksier Said:

    Buzz marketing. How about a post on buzzing for good works. I’m affiliated with an organization (pro bono) that raises money for scholarships for music majors (a group often overlooked by grant boards). I could always use ideas on how to be more effective.

  2. Simon Carr Said:

    In a world where there is a tendancy to raise money for good causes by naming the names of donors, (or even theater seats in the cases of Carnegie Hall and the Fischer Center at Bard), it is refreshing indeed to hear of men who serve anonymously, and serve by giving of their time and experience, not just of their treasure. I’ll bet these men never even discussed how much of a tax deduction they could take when they started out to do what they are doing.

    I wish there were more people around like them!


  3. Jeanne Byington Said:

    That’s just it, Simon. There may be–and if they are like this foursome, we may never know!

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