Dreams are always at the heart of stories. The story about how Turkish Philanthropy Funds came to be is no different. In 2006, Haldun Tashman, a Turkish businessman from the Black Sea city of Bolu, shared his dream of giving back to Turkey with four friends: Ozlenen Kalav, Mustafa Abadan, Erinch Ozada and Haluk Soykan. Though Haldun had come to the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship and successfully run a plastics company in Arizona, he didn’t forget about the country he left behind. It was a country that still struggled in many areas, especially in education, gender equality and economic development. “It was hard to ignore,” says Haldun who committed to improving those areas. Ozlenen, Mustafa, Erinch and Haluk agreed. “We all led privileged lives and love Turkey,” says Ozlenen who had rose to senior positions at Citibank. “It was important to us to make a difference, especially because we could.”
The difference these four TPF founders would make, however, went beyond simply pooling their money and donating it to causes in Turkey. “We saw an opportunity to create a community of philanthropists,” says Haldun, “and create a movement where generations from now could have a meaningful connection to Turkey.” This is how community and meaning became the heart of TPF’s work.
It is work that is focused on educating individuals about the challenges that Turks still face today- and empowering them to take action to solve it, in their own way. More than just being a platform for donations, Haldun, Ozlenen, Mustafa, Erinch and Haluk created TPF to be a community where each individual would engage with the causes and understand the impact that his or her contributions made. “In charity you give because your heart is big and you want to help, but in social investment you want to see your money working.” TPF’s founders wanted to see that money working today. More than anything, TPF’s founders realized that philanthropy isn’t an after thought or something to do later in life. “It is about building and supporting a community right now through talents and skills, not just money,” says Haldun. “The future cannot be guaranteed any other way.”
The guarantee that Haldun, Ozlenen, Mustafa, Erinch and Haluk gave was trust. This, more than anything else, has been the driving force for Turkish Philanthropy Funds. It is the trust that the organizations TPF identifies to partner with have the resources and capabilities to implement projects and have meaningful impact. It is the trust that all donations made through TPF go directly to projects. It is the trust that TPF is a transparent organization where individuals can collaborate and communicate. It is the trust that together a community of philanthropists can make a difference.
“I strongly believe that many of the young people from Turkey who are now living in the U.S. are destined for success,” says Haldun. “I see more and more well educated and very smart men and women who are rising stars. I believe in the power of people coming together to create change. When these young successful Turkish-Americans want to turn their personal success into significance, TPF will be a vehicle for them to use with ease.” TPF is the living embodiment of that dream that Haldun, Ozlenen, Mustafa, Erinch and Haluk hope to extend to future generations.