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Philanthropy Advisors Newsletter | Q1 2019

Kindness & Compassion: Lady Gaga’s Foundation

We were honored to convene a roundtable discussion at MGM Resorts corporate office, where a dynamic group of leaders gathered to discuss teenage suicide prevention in Nevada. Lady Gaga’s Born This Way foundation’s Executive Director, Maya Enista Smith shared a story that underscores the importance of kindness and compassion with our philanthropy.

Maya told the story about Kevin Hines, a young man from San Francisco who had a plan to end his life. In route to end his life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, he declared that if just one person would smile at him or acknowledge him on his commute to the bridge, he wouldn’t jump.

Sadly, as he traveled to the bridge, not one person made eye contact with him until he was leaning on the bridge’s ledge, where a young woman approached him. He thought finally, someone cares; however, she approached him only to request that he take her photo in front of the bridge. He snapped the photo, turned around, and jumped. Kevin Hines fell over 200 feet in four seconds. He fell feet-first into the Bay crushing his spinal vertebrae and fracturing an ankle. Miraculously, he survived and lives today as a mental wellness advocate and suicide prevention speaker.


Beloved philanthropist Dr. Gard Jameson speaks repeatedly about compassion and kindness and how the simple act of smiling at someone has a profound effect. He recently led the effort to designate Las Vegas as a Compassionate City and frequently shares the story about the neural messaging that a smile triggers in elevating the mood of the person smiling and the intended recipient of the smile. 


These examples are relevant in philanthropy. Let us share a smile to those we encounter and also demonstrate compassion and kindness as we work with charitable organizations and non-profits in our community.  The work they do is significant and requires substantial commitment and strength. They deserve countless smiles and recognition for the heavy lifting they do each and every day.

Warm Reguards,

Julie Murray
CEO & Principal

8th Annual Philanthropy Leaders Summit: Truly Transformational!

Moonridge Group’s 8th annual Philanthropy Leaders Summit (PLS) Las Vegas, was held on February 8, 2019, and exceeded all expectations. Over 400 funders and special guests packed the Las Vegas City Council Chambers who were welcomed by Mayor Carolyn Goodman. This year’s theme: Transformational Philanthropy 2.0 included three distinct panels featuring Millennials In Action, Generational Giving, and Lessons Learned. The Millennials in Action panel included RJ Khalaf, Lead Palestine, and Liberty Perez, Straight From the Streets, who shared their view of philanthropy. “Giving, whether it be time or money must be a sacrifice.  Without that it’s the easy way out” said RJ Khalaf when asked about his giving philosophy. Liberty added that philanthropy for her is a “grassroots” effort born out of helping her grandmother who was in hospice where she now volunteers her time. The Generational Giving panel of Dr. Warren Volker and his son Alex recounted their call to duty when responding to the unspeakable devastation in Puerto Rico ravaged by Hurricane Maria.

Alex Volker, a pilot, flew a team of medical providers to the Provence which included his father Dr. Warren Volker. They spoke about the power of human resiliency in spite of unimaginable conditions and Alex detailed that he became part of his dad’s medical team while wearing pilot wings. He and his co-pilot wore large backpacks full of medical supplies and hiked alongside the medical team providing care to people trapped by the storm’s devastation. “When you act on the voice in your head to give and connect, you are reborn when you help others,” said Dr. Warren Volker when asked what inspired him to act. Dr. Keith Boman shared the lessons learned while leading the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and spoke about the heavy lift involved with granting large scale gifts especially one as substantial as the endowment that produced The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. He states grant-making must be “run like a business” to monitor the integrity of the process and to honor the intent of the donor.   In addition, remarks were provided by NCGC leaders Shelley Gitomer and Rebecca Darling, as well as the always infectious and high-energy Jeremy Arguero who shared highlights from this year’s Corporate Philanthropy Report. Mr. Nick Bailey from Salesforce was the keynote who spoke about how technology can engage and inspire others to give.  The Philanthropy Cloud application developed by Salesforce motivates employees to volunteer their time, skills, and funds based on their ability to track their giving in real time.  Additionally, being able to create a giving profile that supports making connections with others an easy process also increases employee engagement. The goal to transform and inspire attendees on a deeper level far exceeded expectations. This year’s Summit, under the direction of Moonridge Group’s Heather Libonati, was truly magical, uplifting, and simply unforgettable.

The Late Eric M. Hilton’s Dream of Healthcare Collaboration Lives

It was the dream of the late Eric M. Hilton for Nevadans to have access to quality healthcare. Before his passing, he told long-time friend Julie Murray “we’ve got one more need to fulfill in our community, Julie” and from that conversation, the Nevada Medical Center (NMC), a non-profit organization, was born. NMC is a collaborative healthcare leader that convenes others to facilitate substantive conversations and corresponding actions to solve our State’s most pressing healthcare needs. It was Mr. Hilton’s dream to see Nevada Medical Center recognize and reward healthcare collaboration and he would be honored to know his dream became reality. At the October release of NMC’s 2nd Data Portal and Healthcare Report Card, the inaugural Eric M. Hilton Healthcare Collaboration Prize was announced. Applicants were expected to demonstrate a collaborative partnership that made a significant impact on an existing healthcare need making sure to highlight how metrics and data were used to measure anticipated outcomes. Moreover, applicants had to convey how the program or service embodied preventive measures and wellness. Over 20 entries were received before the December 31 deadline and were initially pared down to 10 finalists. From the top 10, a screening committee consisting of Diana Bennett, Myra Greenspun, Captain John Pelletier, Dr. Gard Jameson, and Julie Murray had the very difficult job of selecting the top two prize winners. The winners were announced at Moonridge Group’s 8th annual Philanthropy Leaders Summit in February, and although the original prizes were determined to be a $5,000 grand prize winner and a $2,500 2nd place winner, two generous donors agreed to double each prize! The $10K grand prize recipient was Ms. Terri Janison for her work at the Grant A Gift Autism Foundation where their unique partnership with the UNLV School of Medicine provides diagnosis, treatment plans, follow-up care, and support services for children and their families who struggle with broad spectrum disorders. The $5K 2nd place prize was awarded to Dr. Marcia Ditmyer and the UNLV School of Dental Medicine whose partnership with UNLV School of Public Health and others provides outreach to over 70,000 patients all of whom have limited access to comprehensive dental care and screening. Congratulations to both recipients, Mr. Hilton would be proud!

One Night for One Drop 7th Annual Event Inspired by Human Transformation

On Friday, March 8, the seventh annual One Night for One Drop event at the “O” Theatre, presented by MGM Resorts International and COLGATE, drew a star-studded crowd in support of the one-night-only soirée benefiting the One Drop Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing access to safe water and sanitation around the globe. Imagined by Cirque du Soleil, One Night for One Drop mesmerized the sold-out audience with an emotional performance that took the spectators on an empathetic journey, drawing inspiration from human connection, friendship, beauty, nature, love, and loss, in an aquatic ambiance.
The performance was co-written and directed by André Kasten and Leah Moyer, performed by Cirque du Soleil artists who volunteered their time, as well as celebrated performers including Keone and Mari from “World of Dance” and Las Vegas headliner Blue Man Group, presented alongside Academy Award-winner & world-renowned score composer Hans Zimmer and featured intricate choreography created by Alexander Ekman and Andrew Winghart.



After the performance, guests partied into the evening in a tent over the Bellagio pool where the theme was “liquid gold”. There were intimate performances by Boyz II Men, Third Eye Blind, and Sugar Ray. 


The Moonridge team is honored to synchronize the myriad of planning sessions, communications, donor relations, and detail management to produce a grand-scale event that raises funds to improve the lives of families and communities in the developing world as well as assist with local Las Vegas causes. 


For the first time ever, this special charity performance was televised on CBS as an entertainment special! Over $6 million dollars was raised through the generous support of those locally and globally bringing the total to over $40 million dollars since 2013 – a significant and transformative humanitarian investment – one that Moonridge Group is honored to be a part of.

Jameson Fellows Welcomes 6th Cohort!

Moonridge Group is proud to have worked alongside beloved philanthropist Dr. Gard Jameson for the past six years to facilitate and support his dream of building a more connected and vibrant community.  Throughout his work as a community leader, UNLV professor, humanitarian, and philanthropist, Gard recognized that Southern Nevada has a thriving non-profit sector; however, all too often, connecting for the greater good proved challenging. Under Gard’s leadership, a collaborative effort was formed to build the connective tissue among non-profit, educational, law enforcement, and governmental leaders and the Jameson Fellowship was born. Jameson Fellows learn to recognize their value to their community, their strengths as leaders, and how best to support one another. Through their experiences in the Jameson Fellowship, members learn about the power of collective impact and strengthen their understanding of teamwork, unity, trust, and collaboration. In January 2019, the sixth Jameson Fellows cohort was onboarded during a two-day Leadership Lab held at The Center bringing the total of Jameson Fellows to over 150!    Since 2013, the Moonridge Group team has and continues to be honored to help realize Gard’s dream to build and nurture a culture of trust and compassion. As his vision to build circles of trust progresses and the addition of new Fellows grows each year, there exists the substantive reality that solutions to our community’s toughest issues can be addressed - one Fellow at a time. 

Moonridge Group’s Greater Good Council (GGC) and Nevada Corporate Giving Council (NCGC) met during the week of March 18th for their quarter one events where attendees had the opportunity to connect and be inspired by impressive guest speakers. The GGC event on Wednesday, March 20 at the Las Vegas Country Club featured spotlight speaker Kathi Thomas-Gibson, Director of Community Services for the city of Las Vegas and guest speaker Dr. Anne Weisman, Director of Wellness & Integrative Medicine for the UNLV School of Medicine. Ms. Thomas-Gibson provided an update on GGC’s Collective Impact Project. The Courtyard Homeless Resource Center was selected as the 2018 GGC Collective Impact grant recipient whose mission is to guide our homeless population towards a path of self-sufficiency. Since the inception of GGC’s Collective Impact Project, over $1.2 million has been raised and gifted in Southern Nevada.


Dr. Weisman spoke about how philanthropy impacts longevity and shared that a UC Berkley study found that elderly people who volunteered at two or more organizations were 44% less likely to die over a 5-year period than were their non-volunteer counterparts. Both Ms. Thomas-Gibson and Dr. Weisman are living examples of how a stronger, more connected community can be built when we help others and work together. 


On March 21 at Wynn Resorts, NCGC’s spotlight speaker was Maya Enista-Smith, Executive Director of The Born This Way Foundation, co-founded by Lady GaGa and her mother Cynthia Germanotta.  

This special organization supports the empowerment and well-being of young people by focusing on mental health. From research Born This Way Foundation conducted earlier this year in Las Vegas, Ms. Enista-Smith shared that young people care about their mental health, with nearly nine in ten citing it as an important priority. NCGC guest speakers included Cori MacFarland, CSR Leader for the World Wildlife Fund and Adriana Quince, Vice President and Store Manager for Macy’s who spoke about the power of leveraging the collective wisdom of employees through social engagement opportunities. Cori and Adriana shared the following impressive statistics:    

  • Corporate giving contributes more than $20 billion annually in the US (5% of giving)  

  • Workplace giving contributes $5 billion annually in the US and corporate matches contribute $2-3 billion    

  • It is estimated that $6-10 billion in matching gift funds go unclaimed annually    

  • 88% of millennials said they find their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues    

  • 89% of employees believe a sense of purpose drives employee engagement    

  • 70% express more company loyalty when they contribute to social and environmental issues


It continues to be our honor and privilege to facilitate and support the leadership of both of these amazing giving councils.

Giving Predictions for 2019 & 2020


Many working in the field of philanthropy touted 2018 as a transitional year based primarily on the anticipated impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that was passed in late 2017.  Additionally, the volatility of the stock market in the latter part of 2018 left many wondering how the charitable giving landscape would stack up in 2019 and 2020.  The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual outlook report predicted the following for giving:

Upcoming Events

What: A day of volunteerism to improve Downtown Las Vegas
When: Saturday, May 4, 2019
Where: Boys & Girls Club - 2801 Stewart Ave 89101
Time: 9:00am to 12:00pm

What: A proclamation event to declare May 9th as the official day of Philanthropy in Nevada and recognize influential members of the Greater Good Council and Nevada Corporate Giving Council
When: May 9, 2019
Where: Nevada State Legislature, Carson City, NV

Contact: Kristina Riggins at

What: A gathering of Jameson Fellows to come together to conduct Circles of Trust
When: June 14, 2019
Contact: Kristy Keller at

What: Moonridge Group will facilitate a Quarter 2 event with the Nevada Corporate Giving Council in Reno
When: June 5, 2019 — Reno
Contact: Heather Libonati at


What: A Community Service Trip to Autlan, Mexico providing medical care to children & their families

When: June 7-9, 2019
Contact: Kristina Riggins at

What: Moonridge Group will facilitate a Quarter 2 event with the Greater Good Council
When: June 19, 2019 
Contact: Heather Libonati at

What: Moonridge Group will facilitate a Quarter 2 event with the Nevada Corporate Giving Council
When: June 20, 2019 — Las Vegas
Contact: Heather Libonati at

What: Annual gathering of funders at the Nevada Museum of Art with the goal to inspire, connect, and inform attendees. Learn from inspirational speakers about best practices and trends in giving.
When: September 13, 2019
Contact: Heather Libonati at

Philanthropy Leaders Summit
Eric M. Hilton's Dream
One Night for One Drop
GGC & NCGC Q1 Events
Moonridge Group’s GGC & NCGC Quarter 1 Events Connect & Inspire!
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