You read about them all the time. The deep pocket philanthropists who spend their fortunes helping other people. Philanthropists come from all social and economic backgrounds. But they all have several characteristics in common. They are empathetic toward people who are struggling, and they have a greater awareness of what’s going on around them. Philanthropists are farsighted, and they advocate for political change. Plus, they are business-minded as well as issue-driven.
Philanthropists want to see their money and their resources used in an organized way. They want to see the effects of self-sustaining change, so they usually support causes that make a difference in the community. They use various tools to achieve social and economic change. Not everyone who has a seven-figure bank account is a philanthropist. Cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angles, and Dallas have several philanthropists, but the name that keeps popping up in the Dallas area when people talk about these wealthy Robin Hood’s is Jim Dondero.
Mark Okada and Jim Dondero founded Highland Capital Management in 1993. Highland Capital is a successful alternative credit manager with more than $17 billion in assets under management. The firm has offices in Singapore, Seoul, Sao Paulo, and New York, but the main headquarters is in Dallas. Most Dallas-ites know about Highland Capital even though they don’t invest or work in the investment industry. The Highland Capital Dallas Foundation supports several non-profits in the city. The Family Place, a home for domestic violence victims, is one of the causes Jim and his team at Highland Capital support. Jim likes to say his foundation supports people and organizations that make a unique difference in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The list of organizations that Jim Dondero and Highland Capital Management support keeps growing. This year Jim and Highland Capital team joined forces with the Southern Methodist University’s Bush Center. And the result of that union is The Engage Series of Lectures at the Bush Center. Highland Capital Management is the sponsor, and the outstanding initial response to this series of lectures shows how dedicated Jim and his executive team are when it comes to bringing more awareness into the city.
But it’s not just the Family Place and the Bush Center that benefit from Jim’s philanthropy. The Dallas Zoo, the Ross Perot Science Museum, the Dallas Symphony, and the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport benefit from Highland Capital’s goodwill and financial resources. For example, Highland Capital helped build the Highland Hippo Hut at the Dallas Zoo. And Highland Capital’s $2 million endowment to Southern Methodist University created a Highland Tower Scholars Program that helps undergraduates who want to work in international business or politics. Those students get to study abroad, and they have access to global leaders and public policymaking.
It’s hard to mention Jim Dondero and Highland Capital without mentioning Education is Freedom (EIF). EIF is an organization that helps at-risk kids get a college degree. And when the annual job fair rolls around every year, Highland Capital supports the Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program.
The list of non-profits that Jim supports is pretty diversified. Highland Capital is a hugely successful alternative credit asset manager, and the company wants to pay their success forward by supporting the Dallas community. Jim is a business and investment role model, but he doesn’t like to take credit for his charitable or investment accomplishments. Jim is the kind of philanthropist that gives his money away, but he also likes to get his hands dirty, so others can live a more productive life. In other words, Jim is “All In” when it comes to paying his success forward.