INSPIRING GIVING – FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION
Zeynep Oğuz Bilimer’s journey in philanthropy began at an early age as she grew up in a family dedicated to giving back. For her family, philanthropy and serving the community have been at the forefront for generations. Zeynep reflected on her family’s generosity, especially in the community she grew up. “I grew up in a city where the central mosque carries the name of my great-grandfather and schools named after my parents. After my grandmother passed away, we met so many people whom she had silently supported financially for years.”
Talk around giving back had always been the staple of dinner conversations when Zeynep was growing up. Both of her parents are individual recipients of the Turkish Grand National Assembly’s Outstanding Service Award (TBMM Üstün Hizmet Ödülü). They built schools, provided countless scholarships, and supported many civic and cultural projects. After they retired, philanthropy became their sole purpose. “Their philosophy has always been to keep one-third of what they made, pay one-third in taxes, and give back the remaining one-third throughout my life; I’ve seen how spiritually fulfilling giving back has been for my parents,” notes Zeynep. Her parents are the quintessential model for giving; their lives of generosity will continue to impact those they care about long beyond their lifetimes. And, that is also what matters the most to Zeynep and her husband, Evren.
“It’s been the greatest gift,” says Zeynep. “I feel like what my parents taught us was an opportunity – an opportunity to make a difference and to explore within ourselves something they had already figured out: lifting the people around you is what matters most. They knew that giving back could bring good to others, but also us as we practiced generosity together.”
Today, Zeynep and Evren use their giving to help create a stronger community and a healthier society. Their preference is to support projects that may be otherwise unpopular or controversial for widespread support and programs that help people become self-sufficient. With this lens, Bilimers believe they better understand what the current needs are beyond their interests. They note: “This is a great way to broaden our perception of the needs in our communities.”
Zeynep and her husband, Evren, have embedded giving back in their lifestyles. Early in her career, when Zeynep did not have the financial means to give, she designed branding for non-profit organizations and helped them with their communication needs pro bono. Evren became a regular supporter of Action Against Hunger early in his career, an organization later for which Zeynep also became a big advocate. Their support to cure child malnutrition resonated even more as they became parents in hopes of helping lower and eventually end child deaths due to malnutrition in the world. Now, as young parents, they constantly look for ways to inspire their two children philanthropically and get them excited about how they can contribute to society. “We have an obligation to give back where we live, where we come from, and to invest in our communities. We want our children to grow up learning about our family’s culture of giving and see themselves as part of the community narrative,” notes Zeynep.
The couple’s two children are nature lovers and worry about climate change, so their giving involves organizations fighting it. Zeynep and Evren are aware that there are many worthy causes, so focusing and knowing what’s most important to them as a family and aligning that with the giving they do have been significant to their family.
Bilimers appreciate the many opportunities to learn and engage when you partner with TPF, whether it’s information about effective non-profits in Turkey, support in vetting these non-profits, or the variety of issue-focused events TPF hosts. There’s something for everyone. For Bilimers, TPF allows their family to be a part of something their ancestors would’ve deeply appreciated. And, as the daughter of prominent philanthropists, Zeynep feels that this is her way to honor her family’s selfless acts and support of their immediate communities. And, as a bonus, Zeynep notes, “giving back in return gives you a sense of purpose, and you are happier and healthier as a result.”