Eric Kessler’s family built and operated one of the country’s most attractive places to work for five generations. He grew up alongside machinists and office workers at Fel-Pro, an auto-parts manufacturer outside of Chicago, which for decades offered its employees enormously generous benefits — college scholarships for workers’ kids, day care, several weeks of vacation per year — and generally created an atmosphere in which employees were happy to go the extra mile for their customers.
After the family sold the company in 1998 for a reported $750 million, then 26-year-old Kessler had the opportunity to join his family’s philanthropic organization, the Family Alliance Foundation. “What I immediately learned is philanthropy isn’t easy,” he says. “There are lots of challenges to engaging multiple generations in philanthropy.” The family-centric management style and progressive outlook on business ownership at Fel-Pro had helped prepare Kessler, but it still wasn’t easy for the family to balance all the competing points of view in its foundation …
After more than a year of researching the direction philanthropy was heading and evaluating where he could have the most impact, Kessler founded Arabella Advisors in 2005. He identified two major needs that he could address through his venture: research and resources. After a client has spent time choosing philanthropic goals, Arabella provides research and guidance for achieving those objectives. It looks at the impact the philanthropy has had and what areas still need attention. It also provides support for foundations and philanthropists who have a goal but lack the staffing needed to realize the potential of their work. Today, with a staff of 160, several hundred clients and billions of dollars under advisement, Arabella is the largest philanthropy consulting company in the U.S.
Read the full article about Eric Kessler and Arabella Advisors by Soledad O’Brien at Worth magazine.
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