Global Givers: Burcu Mirza

TPF is very proud of our board member, Burcu Mirza, who was profiled at Bolder Giving’s Global Givers Initiative.


Like virtue, philanthropy is a habit. Reflecting back on my own life, I can now see that my own habit stemmed from the positive influence of outstanding philanthropists around me. Therefore, the story of “my giving” is also their story. I was privileged to meet outstanding teachers of philanthropy in my childhood. Later, I was fortunate to cross paths with leaders of philanthropy who led by example. And for the last five years, I am honored to serve some of the most innovative philanthropic institutions. Throughout, my own giving has been in various forms: gifts of money, time, intellect and life. Now I hope that my story here can provide the gift of inspiration to the readers.

My parents, Emel and Ibrahim Betni were my first teachers. The unconditional love they instilled in me still inspires me to give today. They cared and asked me to care for people from all walks of life and for friends and strangers alike. Among many other caring acts, I have vivid memories of my parents donating supplies to many state-owned orphanages throughout Istanbul during my childhood.

I experienced and benefitted from the life-transforming power of American-style philanthropy as a high school student at Robert College of Istanbul. I was the recipient of a scholarship started in the name of a student who had tragically died in a car crash. It was an eye-opening experience because when people die in Turkey, their community just mourns. However, the power of philanthropy can enable their name to live on and benefit others. I credit this personal revelation to the Thomas Family who started this scholarship and exposed me to the joy of giving at a very early age. When I turned 18, I moved to the U.S. to study at Mount Holyoke College where the importance of public service and giving back was emphasized at every opportunity. The motto of its founder has been guiding my life ever since: “Do what nobody else will do and go where nobody else will go.”

Fourteen years after my high school graduation in 2008, I found out about the expiration of the scholarship fund from which I had benefited at high school. I instantly knew that I had to save it. With an initial pledge from my husband, Agha I. Mirza, I started the campaign to endow the same scholarship by raising US$100,000 and exceeded the goal within a year. Robert College’s head of Alumni Relations, Leyla Aktay, connected me to different alumni and taught me the real value of both making and sustaining connections. A few years ago, when our very close family friend passed away suddenly, Agha and I did not think twice to encourage and help his sister, with whom I had attended Mount Holyoke College, to start the Khan Memorial Scholarship Fund in her brother’s name at our Alma Mater. Empowering women through education was an ardent wish of our dear friend Naved Khan, so this endowed scholarship enables a deserving young woman from Asia to attend Mount Holyoke College.

More than a decade ago, Agha and I got involved with Developments in Literacy, which strives to educate underprivileged students, especially girls, by operating student-centered schools and offering high-quality professional development across Pakistan. I am grateful to DIL’s President of NY chapter Shaila Zamir for showing me how to create an army of volunteers and the true value of fundraising at a grand scale.

That’s how it all started for me – making one gift at a time, experiencing the joy of impact, and then it becomes habit. The one you can’t live without. But that was not enough.

“Give me the place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole word.” This quote by the Ancient Greek philosopher Archimedes provided my “eureka!” moment for that next step. Modern institutions give us both the place to stand and the lever for meaningful, lasting and effective impact. Successful non-profit organizations amplify the philanthropists’ individual efforts. I found my lever in MIT Public Service Center and Turkish Philanthropy Funds. Their drive for systematic change, culture of accountability and measure of impact have not only transformed their respective sphere of influences, but also strengthened my individual philanthropic work.

You could imagine that a very exciting world of ideas opened up to Agha and me when we started serving on the Leadership Council of MIT’s Public Service Center (PSC) in 2007 and 2009 respectively. Among its several service initiatives, PSC runs IDEAS Global Challenge, an annual invention and entrepreneurship competition for innovative service projects that positively impact underserved communities. After getting involved with PSC, I soon realized they had never funded a project in Turkey. My high school, Robert College, had the facilities to accommodate MIT’s needs and thus a project with a rather lengthy name was born: remediation of carbon monoxide poisoning from faulty and poorly installed furnaces. This collaborative project was especially exciting to all those involved because it strived to address the root of the problem rather than just treat symptoms.

Since 2012, I have also been serving on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of Turkish Philanthropy Funds (TPF), an organization very close to my heart. Founded by five successful Turkish-Americans eight years ago and led by Haldun Tashman & Özlenen Kalav, TPF strives to increase giving, maximize its impact in Turkey, and make it easier for the Turkish diaspora to give back in a transparent and accountable way. Our aim at TPF is to take philanthropy beyond the “feel good” and into significant and measurable impact. TPF supported over 40 NGOs through US$13 million in grants in 59 Turkish cities so far. Over 2000 donors are joined by trusted voices in the Turkish media such as Jülide Ateş, Mithat Bereket as well as intellectual and athletic leaders, Ambassador Üner Kirdar and Nasuh Mahruki to change lives by alleviating poverty, furthering education, empowering women and increasing disaster-preparedness using TPF’s expertise and platform. As a result, TPF enables the whole Turkish community to participate and benefit from the collective power and coordination of important strategic and sustainable projects.

Finally, one of the most significant gifts I have ever given is the gift of life itself. In 2011, when my friend’s son was diagnosed with leukemia, I took an active role in organizing education and outreach drives with the help of Delete Blood Cancer, a non-profit organization, to increase the volunteers in the bone marrow registry. In 2013, I donated bone marrow after matching another leukemia patient and now I am thrilled to get acquainted with this patient who has his health back. The gift of life rarely comes up in the philanthropic sphere but to me it is one of the most significant acts of philanthropy.

Philanthropy leads to self-fulfillment. I am a living testimony to that. It also helps you spread the most important humanistic values to your children, family, friends and community and reshape the world for better. It is the thread that connects people in far continents. Hence philanthropy is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

I thank you for reading my story and I hope you will accept my gift of inspiration.



Your Dreams. Your Stories.

GunayAksoy’s story is truly inspirational. Read on to learn how she reaches out across continents to make a difference.


“…You are a 12 year old girl. You have heard you can’t do many things because “you are a girl.” You try to follow this guidance, but it doesn’t make sense to you. Given that you have very good grades, your teachers suggest that you would benefit from a summer English Education program in the U.S. Your family and relatives havealready decided that it’s not safe or a good idea for a girl this young to go on this summer program so your brother attends it instead. You are faced with your first real case of gender inequality and this changes your outlook on everything going forward.I am that girl! All my life, I have worked very hard.  had  very successful academic life followed by a thriving career in finance. Late last year, I had an epiphany. I unerstood that I was trying to prove to society that as a woman I was just as capable. Then, my new journey started. Educ∞ English Education Program came out of this awakening. I want to share my message that we are all equal with different strengths and weaknesses, but we are all human. Unlike anything else I have done, I find endless energy and strength everyday to keep going.

Turkish Philanthropy Funds enabled me to turn my dream of bringing 5 young women in college with economic difficulties from Turkey to NY for a month of English education. TPF made this program possible by sharing their platform and services and made a tremendous impact on the direction of this cause. I am thankful to all the members of this organization for their support. We are working closely with Cagdas Yasami Destekleme Dernegi (CYDD) and they are assisting with selecting the candidates and planning in Turkey. The program will expand these girls’ horizons and help them believe that they can dream big and not be stopped due to their gender, background, and economic status. If you also believe in addressing gender equality in education, please join me in my efforts!…”

Gunay’s story is our community’s story and it can be your story, too. If you have an idea that you’ve been sitting on, come and join forces with TPF, and let us help you turn your dreams into reality.

This International Women’s Day #MakeItHappen


Sayfa Resmi

Be a Part of Creating an Equal World.

This year to celebrate International Women’s Day, Turkish Philanthropy Funds would like to take a moment to recognize the women and men who have been a part of our work and who are leaning in for equality.

We get closer to an equal world with the work of TPF partners such as Çağdaş Yaşamı Destekleme Derneği, KAGIDER, Anne Çocuk Eğitim Vakfı, and Hisar Anadolu Destek Derneği that make sure women and girls are given opportunities. We also get closer to an equal world with each man who stands up to challenge cultural biases weaved in our communities; each father who believes in his daughters and encourages them to learn and thrive; and each man who joins our discussion of gender equality.

Turkish Philanthropy Funds echoes what TPF Gender Equality Ambassador, Jülide Ateş notes, “For balance in every aspect of our lives, we need female representation. We need female leadership. But, we also need men making it happen for women.”

Here’s to women and men working together, because an equal world benefits all of us.

Support TPF’s work in gender equality in Turkey.



Ambassador Üner Kırdar, TPF’s new Goodwill Ambassador


Dear Friends and Supporters of TPF,

I am reaching out on behalf of Turkish Philanthropy Funds, to ask you to join me in celebrating TPF’s 8th birthday. I recently joined the team as a Goodwill Ambassador to advocate for TPF’s projects supporting human development, in hopes that you’ll, in turn, join me.
              First, let me describe human development in my own words. It is the process which enables people to reach their highest possible potential for the betterment of themselves as well as the development of the society in which they live. Without the support of their family, society and government, this process cannot occur.
              Years of research has proven that money alone will not allow for a country to grow. Rather, the number one obstacle for a nation’s development was the insufficient attention given to the people themselves, human development. Unfortunately, this is the case for Turkey. We’ve spent enormous efforts on financial investment and have become world’s 17th largest economy. However, in terms of human development, we fare much worse as 86th in the world.
              Therefore, I must emphasize that people should always be at the center of development. Without adequate human development, economic growth, social progress and advancement in knowledge, our world will never find a balanced harmony.
           In Turkey, TPF has always put people first. They are the leading foundation connecting global resources necessary to undertake and realize such urgent important tasks and reforms. TPF supports education for children with Autism, art therapy for disaster survivors, treatment for leukemia patients, green farming and much more. Please join me in supporting TPF in its efforts to strengthen social and economic development.

Turkish Philanthropy Funds is at the heart of it all, so let’s celebrate its birthday by supporting its mission. I stand with TPF for social and economic development. Will you join me?

Make a tax-deductible donation today.

Üner Kırdar

Dr. Üner Kirdar, is a retired Turkish diplomat and UN’s senior civil servant. He is the author, editor and/or contributor of more than sixteen books on global issues and human development. He has been called “…one of the early and main conceptual leaders of  Human Development theory.” Since mid-1980 he has advocated and worked for the concept’s world-wide adoption, as well as how international co-operation can help better human condition.

Ali Nasuh Mahruki joins TPF as Goodwill Ambassador!

Dear Friends and Supporters of Turkish Philanthropy Funds,

As the Goodwill Ambassador for TPF’s disaster relief cause, I would like to join Mithat Bereket, Jülide Ateş and Dr. Üner Kirdar in celebrating TPF’s 8th birthday during this month of February.In 1994, I set out with some of my fellow mountaineers on the journey of our lifetime, the establishment of AKUT (Arama Kurtarma Derneği). The stakes were high, because when it comes to saving someone’s life, there is no room for mistakes. However, through all the struggles and risks we faced, there were two things that kept us moving forward, the beauty of volunteering and philanthropy, two core values that represent TPF as well. When we imagined all of the obstacles and hardships, nothing could compare to the feeling when you save someone’s life. We tackled the challenges head on and formed the leading search and rescue organization in Turkey which has saved over 2,000 lives to date in Turkey and abroad.

We are a dedicated, passionate group of volunteers, working solely for one purpose: to save lives. AKUT is proud to be one of TPF’s 43 partner organizations. Funds raised for disaster relief through TPF benefit organizations like us as well as other trusted, vetted organizations.

TPF works tirelessly when it comes to disaster relief. Starting in Van during the 2011 earthquake, TPF was able to raise over $400,000 for the city of Van and it’s citizens. From this campaign, TPF granted AKUT $40,000 worth of search and rescue equipment. Additionally, this past year during the Soma mining disaster, TPF immediately joined arms to create a fund for the people of Soma, gathering over $140,000 for city’s rebuilding phase. TPF’s disaster campaigns grant 100% of all donations to the cause. 

As a mountaineer, I’ve climbed the highest mountains. I’ve trekked some of the most intense trails. But none of my climbs will ever be more difficult than being stuck under the rubble during a disaster, waiting to be rescued. We all must lend a hand to those in need.

Turkish Philanthropy Funds is at the heart of it all, so let’s celebrate its birthday by supporting its mission. I stand with TPF for disaster relief. Will you join me?

Make a tax-deductible donation today.

Ali Nasuh Mahruki
Chairman of the Board of AKUT