Sheila Driscoll is the Managing Director at The Billionaire Foundation where she helps coordinate foundation research work and initiates new introductions between existing foundations and our research team.
Question: Can you share a little about your background?
Sheila: So if it's related to the world of philanthropy I grew up with wonderful parents who believed in giving. My mother would you was a registered nurse and so she always gave to the community and always thought of keeping in mind the less fortunate. She made a career of that, we were raised by being thoughtful and considerate of others so as I grew up I saw the value in giving. It gave me great pleasure not only in a financial term but also in a spiritual term as well. I always made it a history part of my life to give back to others just as my mother did and just as my father did so I got into the world of philanthropy I would say in college I did my postgraduate work in Argentina and I was blessed to be a ambassadorial scholar from Rotary. With that I saw the less fortunate and how could I make a difference so I originally was a teacher of the handicapped and had a career in teaching the deaf and so as I got back to the United States I asked myself what more could I do so I became a Rotarian and community service which is a tenant of Driscoll strawberries and of my great-grandfather and with that I went on international missions and so for a week and a half ten days rather than lying on a beach in some beautiful tropical island I decided to give up my time and talent and with that that was the ability to be able to speak fluent Spanish so I was also trained as an interpreter Spanish English my forte was medical and judicial so I would go on medical mission and with the Rotary clubs that went all over the world I was able to do the missions for the cleft palates and hairlip operations so I translate it for the medical teams I went to Chile and worked on the burned children's clinic and also again translated so then I began to see just the value of what gifts were truly given and how if we use those with intent and purpose how it can better the lives of others so I continued in that realm and philanthropy then became a very integral part of my life I always felt it at a deep level.
Question: When you first started out graduating from college and in going on these missions you know what did you find in the relationships not only with those you serve but also those who were serving alongside you?
Sheila: That's an excellent Question: first and foremost when you become part of a team like that you have to look at throw your egos out and put the synergy in if you can keep a mindset that we're here to serve and not be served now your teamwork and your philanthropy becomes important so when I arrived for example to Guatemala I had the ability to speak Spanish so there was my gift but rather than being a peacock strutting around in the wards I literally became a servant of those that were in front of me and that meant twelve hours of working and sometimes not eating but it was to comfort those that needed comfort terrified mother was never seen a white woman to put her baby in my arms and this baby to a nurse with just the prayer and the faith that something was going to happen was gratification enough and at the end of the day I think and at the end of the meetings and the team trips it was the gratitude we received it was the people that were grateful for us showing up taking care of them throwing our egos out and putting the synergy in and making them important where they've never been important in anyone's lives they were marginalized they were outcasts and for one week and a half they were valued they were loved and they were given our love.
Question: How did the billionaire foundation come about?
Sheila: I was asked to years ago to speak in Florida and we created the billionaire foundation with my partner Richard C Wilson so Richard said Sheila I would love for you to come and speak at my family office summit and speak about philanthropy this something that just doesn't get discussed anymore and I said I would love to so theme of my speech at this conference was moving from success to significance and many people billionaires included often come to what they call the halftime mark a period in their life where they've had their boats trains and planes and now they want to do something more but what is that so I spoke to the group about I'm treasure and talent what we call the three T's and how either one two or three of those are all vehicles they can use to give back to their community and to the billionaire foundation so with these billionaires in mind the purpose of the foundation is to reduce redundancy what does that mean it means let's say you come to me and say Sheila I want to start another foundation on cancer research and then I said well my dear why don't you come to the foundation talk to the other seven families who have done it see what they've done in the space see if you can't share the infrastructure straight planning add to their ideas and ultimately come up with a blueprint and this blueprint will be housed at the billionaire Foundation as part of your legacy so if for some reason your family falls apart or you know there's a catastrophe whatever and you can't continue to do your work then the blueprint is there for others to follow and it will be there for generations to access so rather than quite possibly your good work falling apart because the family or the generation or the children are no longer interested in pursuing it there's others that can pick up where you left off and let your legacy continue for generations if not for hundreds of years.
Question: Are there groups that collaborate in the foundation?
Sheila: Yes so actually currently we have a hundred billionaires in our foundation and we vet them very carefully so if anyone approaches me and I am within that circle yeah say well did you start a foundation and if you are starting a foundation or thinking about starting a foundation and let me put you in touch with the families that do so we do have meetings we come together and then we share this and now we're moving in Richard and I my business partner are looking at reorganizing that how can we create events that are a little more specialized a little more tailored to helping the billionaires work together because as you well know they often don't need to they can work quite independently and we found that partnerships that are collaborative get the work done and this what we want to emphasize I always look at it by viewing it as a Andale candle that lights another candle doesn't loose its flame so this what they need to encompass and to embrace that by working together you're losing nothing you still maintain your family's name you still maintain the work you've done but now you're serving a higher good because you're working with families who are in your space and doing the same now you can reach more and do more.
Question: I'm sure that people have come to you pitch to you until you know they're blue in the face, what are the common no no's of a person trying to come to you for money?
Sheila: That's a perfect question so I'd say initially and I would preface your question with this first the biggest mistake people make when they pitch someone of a high net worth individual or a billionaire family is that one size fits all and it doesn't the high net worth community or crowd had their own desires have their own needs and people overlook that so here are my three top secret that I will give you for the no no's number one and this the most common is asking for money too soon this a big mistake people make number one if we're going to fund your project here are the three things that you need to take into consideration first what is it that we want and how do we work number two when you come to us you better know your business plan and you better have all your numbers straight I cannot tell you the times and I have yet to date be given a good business plan with solid numbers but don't do this and then the third is when it comes to the discussion of investment you better be on point again you better know your numbers this huge the second but no no people make is pitching us a hobby business so what does that mean if you come to me and say oh I've got a great idea well there's a difference between a great idea and a great business investment so what you need to come to me and show me is this a large market high net worth individuals will always invest in large markets or businesses that are big or at least have the potential to be big and you need to show us that because they want to look at market penetration growth is this scalable and if you come in and you can't show us that then you're done before you're you begin and the other point is that if you come and you say well you know this going to create a cash flow for me and this something that I really enjoy now you just pitched us a hobby business and so with that we're going to say well thank you very much but truly we're not interested and the next component to all of this don't pitch us an idea that doesn't have evidence and planning I can't tell you the mistake people make in doing that so come in and let us know that you have evidence you have planning you have marketing strategies to get this business off the ground because these seas and high net worth individuals are looking at recovery in their investment in a three to five year period we can't wait 20 years so you need to let us know that you've looked at this also your management team take a look at the people that you're presenting and here's the key things that I look at when I look at your management team I'm looking at three components I'm looking at ability do these people have the experience to provide the work that they say they can do and do they have the evidence of the work they've done that's very important to me ability do they have the commitment to the company to the idea are they going to do the work and their capabilities do they have what it takes to get the job done and here's one of I think the secret sauce ingredients that I also look for tell me what you don't know come in to me and say I have a stellar team however we're short in planning operation sales expertise management and now you just told me that you know what you don't know now you have my attention because that means your pitch isn't perfect and you're letting me know that you're asking me for advice and now you've got my attention now I know you're somebody I want to work with so the those are my top three no nos of what you don't do.
Question: What does an individual need to pitch the high net worth individual successful we talked about what you don't do what do they need to do?
Sheila: So I'm going to kind of encapsulate kind of my ten rules very quickly number one know the lay of the land know that we don't have all the time in the world we're very committed we can't say yes to everything so even though you may think that your project is outstanding and great if it doesn't have what I had stated before a big market potential or penetration chances are it's going to go to the bottom of the list okay number two respect our time if you're given an opportunity to pitch us show up on the dot and not before so if you arrive 30 minutes early and you're cooling your jets in our lobby or in our reception area I'm going to look at that is that you're sloppy and I'm going to see it as that you're not successful so announced our gatekeepers and we all have them right on the dot so for today if I was to arrive at 10 o'clock 10 o'clock I announce myself once you're shown in know and if you're given 10 minutes you have 600 seconds so at the end of 600 seconds you have better be doing one of two things either walking out or answering Question:s and if you're answering questions at that point in time then what you need to do is to remind us that your 10 minutes is up thank us and that you're happy to entertain more Question:s providing you can have additional time 3 have an interest a vested interest in your product show us what why this important to you 4 I would say don't use your pitch deck use your product and your idea to show us what you're all about five would be highlight your team your team is very important remember we invest in people first in ideas second six would be look at it from our perspective what's the perspective of the high net worth individual what are we looking at to get out of your idea why do we want to invest and what you're presenting to us today I think that's very and that's something that often people miss get on our side of the desk the next would be take notes this something people do not do they don't take notes I don't want to repeat myself I don't want to say dates times if you don't have the ability to take notes and that's a big a big strike against you so really take notes ask for advice and not money if you come and pitch me and say you know rather than asking for the money as I previously said I need help in this area what would you advise Mr. Iskele on the project that I have what I have before you this and that now you have my interest because I'm vested in you if you ask me for advice you're going to get it and now if you want me to add capital to that well I'm even more inclined to give it to you very important I would say then the next step for me is make sure your business plan has a tax investment strategy for me this a step that's often missed why is your idea less of a gamble mitigate my risk but also take a look at what are the tax incentives that you could offer me all of us look at that there's not one high net worth individual that doesn't we want to know what will be the benefits often a piece that's left out and never discussed and I think the last is the whole purpose of your initial pitch is to get a second meeting with us so if you do the first nine chances are 10 will be a success.
Question: So moving on, I'd love the content I love the direction because I'm dealing with a real expert who's seen the knocks of life and the successes and failures and Sheila if I can encapsulate what I'm hearing and when I'm feeling it’s so important to have good relationships it's never about the money it's about causes relationships would you agree with that?
Sheila: You're brilliant yes and I would relationship building is king here and this again often what people fail to realize when they come and approach people for money or even in philanthropy you want to build those relationships you want to have those sustainable donors because we as high net-worth individuals we invest first in the person and in the idea second and you're going to be working with us you're going to have a relationship with us back and forth as we develop as we grow as you're meeting your milestones as you're checking in with us either in a philanthropy realm with your strategic plan or back with us with your business plan developing the steps and relationship building is key this really where all success and just you can't work apart from that you had to work collaboratively and I have seen it over the years the times that we've worked independently of each other it's just a lot more work but if you can bring brilliant people in and your team and this why I am office eyes I look at your team I look at your talent can they deliver and they work well with our team can we work collaboratively together to serve the higher good to reach these goals because if we can't then we're done before we begin.
Question: What do you want to be remembered for?
Sheila: I would say I'd want to be remembered for thinking of others never putting myself first but always putting myself in a position of service and I think that’s the secret because that aligns with my purpose that aligns with Who I am and when we serve we're doing what I feel is God's work and the greater good and that's what I want to be remembered for. And I'll just end on a find it a final note and take a page out of my great-grandfather's book it's creating joy and that's what Driscoll's strawberries does we create joy and if people can do that in life and you're millionaires you're billionaire.
Edited for Concision and clarity