“We are facing a once-in-a-lifetime event that impacts everyone. This is the time for people, companies and organizations to come together for the greater good … and for Wharton alumni to Take the Call to help fellow alumni impacted by COVID-19.” So began the letter sent out last month to 25,000 fellow alumni in the New York City metropolitan area from Kenny Beck, WG’87, Chairman of the Wharton Club of New York and Co-Founder and CEO of CEO Connection.
Several of us can recall sitting in WCNY Board meetings 15 years ago when suggestions arose that the Club should donate money to one cause or another. As Club President at the time, Kenny would say, “This is the Wharton Club of New York. If we did have a surplus of funds, and we don’t (he would pause for effect, looking around the table), then we should be helping Wharton alumni. What we need to do is to save our money for the day that alumni need our help.” It seems that day has come.
What is the WCNY COVID-19 Alumni Work Relief Program?
It directly assists WCNY alumni who have lost their jobs or income as a direct result of the pandemic and need help. This program is designed to give a lifeline to alumni in need and to also create networking opportunities for alumni looking for jobs.
WCNY is committing $200,000 of Club funds to pioneer this first of a kind alumni initiative. See details at www.whartonny.com. The program is being implemented in three phases.
WCNY will engage and pay WCNY alumni as independent contractors. They will complete small discrete projects that help build the WCNY infrastructure. The first project will be to build out this program.
WCNY will solicit donations to augment the money committed. WCNY will work with Wharton alumni companies to offer discrete projects. WCNY will connect alumni to the alumni companies and, where necessary, fund the alumni who are working on the project.
WCNY will work with non-Wharton-alumni companies to offer projects and will connect alumni to those non-Wharton-alumni companies.
Why is WCNY doing this?
Look, there are alumni who are struggling.
In this circumstance, I’m not convinced that people who are expecting to go back to their jobs are going to have jobs waiting for them!
Our mission is to help alumni. This is a once-in-a-lifetime situation. If we are not going to help them now, then when will we help them? In this situation, some alumni need help, not a resume-writing seminar. We do great events and put on great programs, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime crisis, and we have to Take the Call.
We do not undertake this project lightly. We know that some will need our help, and we know that the Club is in a position to help them.
What hurdles do you foresee, and how are you addressing them?
Any time you do something new, people will present a lot of reasons not to try it. This is going to be an ongoing, rather than a one-off program, so we are building up our capabilities to meet obstacles. To every hurdle, I keep returning to the theme, “We don’t have all the answers yet, but we have Wharton alumni who can figure it out. If WCNY is not going to help now, when will we?”
This is an innovative enterprise for an alumni club. What gives you confidence that this can work?
Wharton alumni can do anything. Second, this embraces the principle that we have espoused all these years — enlightened self-interest — which is when you help others, you also wind up helping yourself. In this case, it will help the Club. The simple question for us is not what other people can do, but what can we do to change the world? And in our case, the Club’s amazing Board and Executive Team Members, and Program Task Force are already taking initiative.
Thoughts from the Work Relief Program Task Force:
The Task Force that will create, guide and implement the program includes Udi Chattopadhyay, WG’01; Noelle Marder, WG’96; Kofi Kankam, WG’04; Pam Perskie, W’97; and Allen Levinson, W’77, WG’78.
Udi Chattopadhyay, WG’01, VP of University Relations.
“The Wharton community is diverse, with diverse needs. For instance, there are international alumni in the process of becoming citizens or permanent residents, and that process is typically tied to their employment. Losing a job brings not only a financial burden, but also the stress of the impact on their legal status. This is particularly true when international travel is restricted, potentially leaving many in limbo. The WCNY Work Relief Program aspires to be sensitive to and support a whole range of needs faced by our alumni, including, directly or indirectly, these types of needs facing a large contingent of Wharton alumni because of the current situation.”
Kofi Kankam, WG’04, WCNY Board Member
“The WCNY Work Relief Program provides support for members of our community who have been displaced by the financial fallout associated with COVID-19. Our community needs to support each other during these trying times and face these challenges together. It has been an honor to be a member of the team executing this important initiative.”
Pam Perskie, W’97, WCNY Board Member
“There is a need right now to help people who are struggling. We have networks, funds and expertise to offer. We view it as our responsibility to assist our fellow alums during these difficult times. “I’m grateful to be able to work with a task force that was able to quickly identify opportunities to help alumni and mobilize resources to make this happen. Fellow Board Members have supported our efforts every step of the way.”
“Our plan is to provide what is needed immediately and evolve as required. During these times when there is so much uncertainty and sorrow, we are offering some hope and support.”