Microsoft Employees Want to Make Giving a Habit

WP_20180321_11_56_08_Pro (1) From left to right: Serdar Soysal, Osman Ertugay, Bulent Elmaci, Alp Onalan, and Ece Kamar

Amid the polished halls and chrome filled rooms at Microsoft, Alp Onalan, Serdar Soysal, Bulent Elmaci, Osman Ertugay and Ece Kamar managed to conger the odors and tastes of their native Turkey. The search for the meaning of building a community around philanthropy started for them when an earthquake struck Turkey in 1999. Together, five friends, who immigrated to the United States and work for Microsoft in Seattle, talked about how they could help their home country, which had just suffered a devastating earthquake. Seeing the casualties, they were eager to make a contribution, however, there was not a platform like TPF back then to channel the funds raised to help recovery and relief efforts in Turkey. “The images of rubble – buildings decimated, people on streets, sounds of crying – devastated me,” said Alp. “Being 6,000 miles away we felt helpless. We wanted to at least send money. But there was no reliable or safe way to do so,” continued Alp.

Years later when introduced to TPF, Alp was very intrigued and inspired. “After my experience in 1999 I was glad to see a transparent and reliable organization that worked professionally,” says Alp. “Witnessing the community TPF was able to build around philanthropy inspired me. I see the founders of TPF as my heroes – these heroes have been allowing me to make the change I want to see in Turkey,” continues Alp.

Alp not only supported causes close to his heart through TPF to ensure his philanthropy is being used effectively but also rolled up his sleeves and became an ambassador of TPF in Seattle. He wanted his colleagues at Microsoft, Google and Amazon to get involved and be part of this incredible community of people who have not forgotten the issues their homeland faces. With this idea in mind, Alp shared his vision with a group of his friends at Microsoft. Serdar, Bulent, Osman and Ece happily joined in. And, Seattle Giving Circle was formed. “Seeing all the impactful organizations TPF is supporting, I wanted to get involved and join the TPF community,” says Serdar. Bulent adds, “I was impressed with the professional staff, organization’s sustainability, and potential for growth.” Ece continues, ”Turkish Philanthropy Funds has eliminated that bridge between donors and organizations in Turkey and because of it, we now feel closer to the causes we believe in and will continue our support through Seattle Giving Circle.”

“In the beginning, we did not have a specific purpose other than getting together,” Serdar notes. After multiple brainstorming sessions and discussions on what could be done, the groups’ ideas gradually turned into how they can create a community around philanthropy that makes giving a habit. They acknowledged that the Turkish American community living in Seattle supported many charities but their giving was limited to one-time donations. They knew they needed to do something different. “More than asking people for donations, we wanted to create awareness, increase people’s involvement and get them excited about what we were trying to do,” says Bulent.

Seattle Circle has grown into something more than Alp, Bulent, Serdar, Osman and Ece had imagined. Employees from Microsoft, Amazon, and Google joined the circle. Since they are passionate about education, their funds go towards improving education in Turkey. In its first year, the Circle raised more than $30,000. In its second year, they have already passed last year’s numbers. “It’s not just making a donation and saying I donated but it is the feeling of belonging to a community and doing something beneficial for your community that makes giving so addictive, “says Alp. They all emphasized the joy of sharing this very personal connection to their homeland with others in the community. “I feel inspired and also very lucky” notes Ece since “with the community, we have created in Seattle, we can now support projects in Turkey and create the community we all dream about.”

The motto of the Circle is “Make giving a habit.” “Even though what we are doing is little,” they say, “if everyone gives a little and makes it a habit, the impact can be enormous.”

Sustainable Livelihoods


When all children have access to clean water, when all mothers, regardless of where they live, can provide the basic needs of their children, thus giving them the opportunity to go to school, attend college, and build a better life, we will see a reduction in poverty.

That’s what Ibrahim Betil, founding CEO and President of Sen-De-Gel Dernegi, believes. And that focus on creating equal opportunity for all, be it in income, education, or access to clean water, is what’s propelled him forward for the past fifteen years.

After working in the banking industry for many years and trying his hand in politics, Betil decided that the only way to make an impactful and long-term change in society is through philanthropy. With this determination, he founded the Volunteers in Education Foundation (TEGV) and had also been actively involved with the establishment of Community Volunteers Foundation (TOG) and many other NGOs in Turkey. Seeing how effective use of resources can create a lasting impact for future generations, Betil turned to other countries when he met two Gambians who came to visit TOG in the hopes of future collaboration. Traveling to The Gambia made him realize he “had two choices – doing nothing and going back to Turkey or doing something.” He chose the latter and established Sen De Gel Dernegi in 2012 in Istanbul.

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Sen de Gel fights poverty in the least developed countries. Since inception, they helped 360,000 people in Gambia and Senegal get access to clean water, started an animal husbandry project, built solar panels and provided rice mills and water wells. These long-term projects are designed to create and maintain a sustainable society where the basic needs are fulfilled.

With a recent donation from a US donor through TPF, the organization built two wells in two different villages serving 950 people.  During the opening ceremony “villagers were ecstatic,” Betil notes.  One of the villages’ chief expressed thanks on behalf of all villagers, “We need two things to have a happy and healthy livelihood- first is air, we need it to breathe. Second, water, we need it for our bodies to be nourished and sanitation.  And you gave it to us, we are forever thankful. ” Betil shared his interaction with one of the women who had twins, “a woman who had two babies in her hand approached me and said, ‘Today is the happiest day of my life. Now, I will be able to see my twins grow up thanks to this well you have built in my village. Before I walked a long distance to reach water. Now, my twins are yours.” In the other village, another woman approached him and said, “I almost walked close to 10km to get to the water with two small buckets in my hand, now all I need is to come to this well. Thank you, we owe you our livelihood.”


Donors increasingly see themselves as part of the local community, part of a national landscape, and part of a global landscape. They care about what’s going on down the street, across the country, and around the world. They want their community foundation to respond to the entirety of their philanthropic interests, not just one slice. At Turkish Philanthropy Funds, we are happy to be helping donors make a difference locally and globally. As our community grows, our reach grows as well.  We are delighted that we get a chance to tackle more challenges and reach more… with the support of our community…

We’re a place where the entirety of the community can meet. You can meet to help people and to receive help. We’re all givers and we’re all recipients of the work we do.

Support Sen De Gel Dernegi in fighting poverty!




TPF’s Annual Giving Society

Turkish Philanthropy Funds’ ability to inspire others to create change is due in large part to the generous support of our Annual Giving Society members, who believe in our mission. Working to create a world that will be just, loving and sustainable generations to come can be accomplished.

TPF helps make that possible and we would like to invite you to join us and help make TPF possible.

Each year, hundreds of gifts come together and go to work immediately to deliver extraordinary opportunities for many in Turkey. It’s these contributions that make it possible to empower a little boy in Turkey to grow up and change his community; that help provide a Turkish woman with an opportunity to build a life that changes her family’s fortunes for generations; that make certain girls and young women, in rural part of Turkey, close their eyes and see that no dream is beyond their grasp.

There is no easier way to give to so many areas, to touch the lives of so many people and in so many different ways.


  • TPF Rose: $25,000 – $49,000
  • TPF Tulip: $10,000 – $24,999
  • TPF Lily: $5,000 – $9,999
  • TPF Jasmine: $1,000 – $4,999
  • TPF Hydrangea: <$1,000

Support TPF’s Efforts in 2018


Five Stories to Inspire You for 2018

We work with people every day who are doing amazing things and changing the world for the better and they don’t always make the headlines.

So at the end of the year, we’d like to share a few snippets from some our favorite stories of amazing people transforming their communities, driving impact, and restoring hope where it is needed most. We hope they remind you that we are all empowered to create positive change in our communities near and far.

  1. Gifting Education to Children in Siirt

At TPF we believe that education can create a path to equality. One donor who was guided with this ran against the wind for 7 hours and 47 minutes in -58F° weather in the North Pole Marathon to give the opportunity of education to kids in Siirt.

Ahmet H Uysal started with a goal to raise 86,000TL to provide workshops to 750 children in Siirt through TPF’s partner TEGV and ended up raising 188,000TL, significantly more than his initial goal and doubled the amount of children he will impact to 1,500.

Ahmet wrote letters and messages and even produced a short video about his fundraiser along with his daughters, Ada and Anka. In six weeks, his fundraiser had mobilized 144 people. What an unbelievable journey!

Ahmet’s commitment and drive are an inspiration to all of us at TPF: “Giving the gift of education is about empowering children in solving problems, and it felt fantastic to be in the forefront to enable this for my friends and family and have an impact together.”

  1. Our Growing Community of Philanthropists

TPF is all about community. The story of how we were established is very inspiring as it shows how our community comes together to make a difference in their homeland. Behind all of these stories lie the name: The Tashman Family.

We are proud that it is not only Nihal and Haldun Tashman who laid the groundwork for TPF to offer a platform for doing impactful philanthropy but also their daughter, Aylin Tashman Kim is one of the early supporters to make TPF a sustainable organization.

  1. Creating a Legacy for a Loved One

Karaosmanoglu family after they lost Attila Karaosmanoglu turned their sorrow into a way of making his legacy live forever by establishing a memorial fund named after him at TPF. Both Sukriye and Attila were exceptional people. Şükriye worked her way from a small village in Turkey to an ivy-league school with a merit-based scholarship and was the first woman from Muğla to study at Columbia University. Atilla, a former Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, became one of the highest ranking officers in World Bank. Later on Sukriye and their son, Ozgur Karaosmanoglu transformed this memorial fund into a Donor Advised Fund and started providing scholarships to his alma mater, Karşıyaka High School and the Faculty of Political Science at Ankara University annually. These scholarships are given to female students. What a wonderful way to continue a loved one’s legacy by providing access to girls in great need.

  1. Empowering Young Women of Turkey through Economics

We see time and time again that grit and perseverance lead path to success – and this proved true again with Ipek, a scholarship recipient of the Sena Eken Schieber Economics Award currently studying at Duke University. The Sena Eken Schieber Economics Award grants scholarships to women from Turkey, who are admitted to graduate programs for a Masters or PhD degree in Economics. The award is named after an incredibly inspiring Turkish women, Sena who believed that finances should not stand between a talented woman and her education. She had a long and distinguished career as an economist at the International Monetary Fund and served as an Advisor to the Governor of the Central Bank of Turkey. She has been described as a role model for others, a pioneer for women, and a credit to her country. We couldn’t be more proud leading the way to inspire many young women with Sena’s story.

  1. Elevating Journalism in Turkey

A big proud moment for TPF team this year was launching a journalism fellowship program along with Harvard University’s Neiman Foundation, a program that provides unprecedented opportunities for Journalists from Turkey like never before.

The fellowship honors the memory of journalist, filmmaker and news executive Robert L. Long. Over many years, Long worked with journalists covering international news and was concerned with the issues facing journalism in a rapidly changing world. He committed his life to challenging and inspiring his colleagues to expand their intellectual curiosity and maintain the high standards and integrity of their profession.

Joan Rebecca Siregar-Long, Long’s widow, who established the program to support Turkish Nieman Fellows noted that “It was his love of the people, the culture, the food and ‘meze’ style dinners that attracted him to Turkey” and it was journalism that brought him back. To honor Robert’s life-long ambition of empowering journalists, the fellowship will support fellows who are citizens of Turkey in two semesters of study at Harvard University


We believe that what unites us is greater than what divides us. You can feel it in stories like these.

2018 is going to be another amazing year for TPF changemakers. We have many things to look forward to: Continuing to support TPF Stars in college; Assisting donors with their personal philanthropy, our 2nd Entrepreneurship & Innovation Summit, and much, much more.

But for now, let’s take time to reflect on the year behind us, connect with our loved ones, and recharge our batteries. Because next year, we have a lot of good to do.

Warmest Regards,

Team TPF