Letter from the Founder

I created the GPD Charitable Trust in December 2010 to make a difference. Our motto is “Change the Arc of History…..Just a Little,” recognizing both the hope and the reality of charitable endeavors. My intent is to honor those who helped create the wealth from which the Trust was derived by investing in programs and organizations that improve the world.

I remember eagerly accepting the Gates-Buffett challenge to dedicate more than half of my net-worth to charitable causes. It was an easy and natural decision given my upbringing, my values and my career—all of which shaped my service ethos and philosophical commitment to philanthropy.

I was raised in an average middle-class household in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania yet found myself intrigued by military service and international work. This led me to the United States Military Academy at West Point, then to the Army and the business career that inspired the GPD Charitable Trust.

Growing up I observed my father’s dedication to service as he worked tirelessly in our local community organizations and later committed to becoming a “leader of character to serve the nation” at West Point. My experiences as a young man seeking to fulfill my potential, as a military officer serving abroad, then as a business leader and entrepreneur working globally, formed the world view and perspective that are closely reflected in our approach to giving:

    1. The commitment to making the world a safer and freer place, which I learned and practiced through my service to the nation as a military officer and as a civilian.
    2. A belief that well-timed interventions and mentorship in the late-teen/early adult years are critical to developing leaders of character who can fully self-actualize, which I learned from the mentors and leaders that made a difference in my life.

    3. A belief that civic organizations and programs that support youth development are the backbone of a strong community.  Whether it was scouting, church or sports, I attribute much of my success to the people who committed their time to serving the community.

    4. A belief that organizations and individuals are more effective and impactful when they work collaboratively, though it can be difficult.     

Our major grants at leading academic institutions like West Point, the University of Denver and Northwestern University are designed to encourage thought leadership that is broad and long-range in scope. With this funding we hope to influence the graduates who will lead our nation, the scholars who lead in their fields of study, and the broader communities these institutions touch.

At West Point, we seek to build a Center that will help the US Army better engage local communities in the countries where our soldiers operate so we can be more effective in achieving our military objectives and avoid past mistakes. At Northwestern and the University of Denver, we seek to engage students, faculty and the general public on current issues related to the Middle East with the understanding that dynamics in the region are complex but can and will eventually support democratic governance. Our goals are ambitious, which is why we have committed to partnering with these organizations and their leadership for the long term.

Our commitment to democracy promotion does not end with larger institutions but builds on and from them. Our support to Syria Direct, Development Transformations, and Partners for Democratic Change further leverages our reach and mission. We seek to foster collaborative networks and partnerships that enhance our ability to tackle challenging issues. Given our size, we are uniquely positioned as a grant-making organization to create these networks and build the foundation for sustainable success.

Our commitment to late-teen/early adult interventions is driven by the belief that with good mentors and some patience, young people can become leaders in their communities. Our major grants in this area are to Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH) and to the YMCA of Pittsburgh where we have funded youth development programs and fostered a collaboration between the two organizations.

We established our “Stardust” fund for smaller grants to organizations and initiatives aligned with our goals that make an impact on their communities in innovative ways. These grants include Spearhead Rugby, The Rabine Family Foundation, Illinois Joining Forces and many others listed in this report. Our hope is that by making these small grants we can inspire social entrepreneurial practices in charitable giving.

GPD maintains two funding sources. The first is the US-based Charitable Trust, which funds our work with large academic institutions as well as other short and long-term domestic projects of varying size and scope. The second is the Bermuda-based Charitable Trust which supports organizations outside the United States. The US Charitable Trust is designed to have a fifteen to twenty year horizon while the Bermuda Charitable Trust is geared toward longer-term funding for select organizations and projects.

Our portfolio now includes approximately ten grantees with multi-year commitments. We envision eventually providing significant endowment support to a small number of these organizations in alignment with the US Charitable Trust’s scheduled sunset.

I am confident that as individual funders seeking to make an impact on the world we are not alone in our efforts. Individuals can and do make a difference, and to those given much, much is expected. More and more individuals have chosen the path of philanthropy and it is my hope that this report inspires others to invest in some of the organizations highlighted here, or, alternatively, to create their own charitable giving plan.

Thanks,

John's-Sig

John DeBlasio
Founder, GPD Charitable Trust