Monday, March 16, 2009
March 6 — Philanthropist and diversity advocate Edie Fraser
“A magical bumble bee” is what Success in the City’s founder Cynthia de Lorenzi called Edie Frasier, a philanthropist, businesswoman, and diversity advocate, who spoke to a room filled with professional women business owners at a recent CEO Chick Chat.
As the president, founder and CEO of Diversity Best Practices, Business Women’s Network and Best Practices in Corporate Communications — all part of the Public Affairs Group, an iVillage Company — Edie supports more than 170 organizations, corporate and government members. Most recently, she co-authored Do You Giving While You Are Living, with well-known TV and radio reporter Robyn Spizman. “This is not only a book, it's a mission,” Edie told the SITC crowd. “My forecast is that with the support of corporate and non-profit leaders, outstanding philanthropists, dedicated volunteers, celebrities, ambassadors for change, and innovative activists working to better humanity, Do You Giving While You Are Living will become a movement.”
The goal of the book, which hit the Business Week bestseller list weeks after it was published in November 2008, is to encourage people to seek out a personal approach to their own giving — and truly understand why it is important to give now. That process is one Edie began decades ago after watching her entrepreneurial parents who helped build the retail franchise Casual Corner in Atlanta, GA. “I knew it was important to be a leader, and took that commitment seriously when I became the president of my high school class, the president of my youth organization, and the president of my school,” Edie said. “In fact, I took it so seriously my parents took me to see a psychiatrist. He talked to me about moderation, but I knew I was here to accomplish something.”
Edie studied political science at Duke University where, for the first time, she encountered prejudice. “I am Jewish and when I got to college I wanted to be in a ‘popular’ sorority and not a Jewish one,” she admitted. “The one I liked had a charter saying it could not admit Jews. It hit me hard, but taught me an important lesson that I’d use in the years to come.”
She went on to volunteer for the Peace Corps, befriended Walter Cronkite (who told her to only do things she can give 100%, and ultimately launched several companies and organizations including a successful PR agency that she sold in 2007. That year, Edie was named as one of the Top 50 Pioneers in Diversity by Profiles in Diversity Journal and — along with Oprah Winfrey, Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — was named one of America's Top Diversity Advocates by DiversityBusiness.com She is a founding member of the Committee of 200 and is in The Enterprising Women Hall of Fame.
“The one thing I have learned in my life is that you have to keep changing,” she concluded. “Get into things where you can be unique and then go for it. Walk the walk, and as Gandhi said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’”
By Hope Katz Gibbs, founder, Inkandescent Public Relations and Success in the City's Director of Public Relations