Your Life, Your Legacy: Not Just a Making Living, Making a Difference

Your Life, Your Legacy: Not Just a Making Living, Making a Difference

A Conversation with Lois Frankel

Dr. Lois P. Frankel, President of Corporate Coaching International, is a bestselling author, executive coach, and an internationally recognized expert in the field of leadership development for women. She has appeared on Larry King Live, The Tavis Smiley Show, The Today Show, CNBC, and PBS to discuss her New York Times bestselling books, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich, and Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It. Her other books include See Jane Lead and Stop Sabotaging Your Career. Lois’s work with women and girls has been recognized with the Woman of the Year Award from the Los Angeles Commission on the Status of Women, Maybelline New York’s Women Who Empower through Education award, and an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Phillips Graduate Institute.

Coming from a family rooted in the misfortunes of the Great Depression, Lois' goal growing up was to make money, save it, and share with her family. The concept of giving to a stranger was not part of their dynamic. However, when Lois was invited to a California Women’s Foundation event, her “eyes were opened to the field of philanthropy.” The event prompted her to think about what she could do: “How I can not only make a living, but also make a difference?”

Make no mistake: Lois has worked hard to achieve her level of acclaim. While working full-time at the oil company ARCO, she went back to school at night to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California. She used this knowledge to launch a successful consulting, coaching, and writing career. Her first foray into philanthropic work was providing pro bono consultation through the Women’s Foundation and then other nonprofits in the community. However, her new interest in philanthropy sparked new ideas. While completing an internship at the LA County Sherriff Department, she counseled a middle-school girl, and realized that this young woman had “limited role models; she had no idea of what she could become.”

Taking matters into her own hands, Lois proposed a mentoring program for middle-school girls to her manager at ARCO. This was the beginning of MOSTe — Motivating Our Students Through Experience, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit now in existence for 30 years.

Recently, Lois’s own challenge with breast cancer sparked an idea for a different nonprofit: BloomAgain. Lois knew she was fortunate: she had the resources she needed to help her beat the disease. However, she also knew there were many other working women who weren’t in the same position, women for whom even one missed day of work would be financially catastrophic. This was the spark that propelled Lois to “help low-income women through their medical challenges by providing financial assistance for living essentials like rent, food, and utilities.”

The catalyst that keeps Lois going and supports her philanthropic work is knowing that she “makes a difference in the lives of individuals.” She says the biggest challenge for her is fundraising, which she likens to “pushing a pea uphill with your nose.” Nevertheless, she says success comes when “people begin to see themselves as philanthropists.”

Lois’s philanthropic work has been rewarding: “I’ve seen the fruits of my labor make lives better — one person at a time.” She encourages others to find and share these similar experiences. “As more Baby Boomers retire, I’m hoping they will go back to the values of their youth when they worked to make society better in grassroots ways.” Although money is important, Lois recognizes that not everyone has the capacity to give at a particular moment. “We have to go beyond check-writing. Develop friends through ‘friend-raisers’ and identify other needs of the organization, like grantwriting or event planning, and provide those.” This is especially key for millennials, who may not yet have accumulated enough wealth to give money but who have significant other talents. For example, BloomAgain was able to tap the skills of a web-designer.

“People need to redefine philanthropy,” Lois believes. “It’s not about your name on a building or donating huge amounts of money. It’s about engaging people at a human level, showing up with your full self, and knowing at the end of the day you’ve made a difference in the life of someone you will most likely never meet.”