On a recent edition of the Financial Sense Newshour’s Lifetime Planning program, Chris Preitauer spoke with businesswoman and entrepreneur Mitzi Perdue. Perdue discussed her philanthropic passion for fighting human trafficking and explained how she’s organizing a multi-million-dollar celebrity auction to raise money and awareness.
The Value of Philanthropy
Two of the most important people in Perdue’s life, her father and husband, both believed in the power of philanthropy. At a young age, her father taught her the greatest pleasure his wealth ever gave him was in giving it away. Her late husband, Frank Purdue, believed in finding and supporting a cause bigger than yourself. Both left her with deep appreciation for the value of philanthropy.
Research shows that philanthropy is a critical component in an organization’s longevity. This is a fact that Perdue has championed for decades, thanks to the positive impact she’s seen philanthropy make in her own life and in her family businesses. So, when Perdue heard a lecture given by Paul Hutchinson detailing the horrors of human trafficking, she wanted to do something about it.
In this lecture she learned of “the absolute utter evilness” of human trafficking. “It's so expansive because there's so much profit in it,” Perdue said. “If you think of the three largest sources of income for organized crime, they are drugs, illegal weapons and trafficking… There are people now, experts, who say that it's the largest source of income from organized crime. So combating this, it seems to me, not only helps the girls, and occasionally boys, who are victims, but it also helps put a dent in organized crime to the extent that it can be stopped.”
The discussion touched Perdue deeply and she thought “at my age and with the resources I have, I want to spend the rest of my life trying to do something about that.” Perdue knew she wanted to help and it didn’t take her long to figure out how, and she now dedicates the better part of 18 hours day to fighting for this cause.
Perdue’s Call to Action
The United Nations recognizes 3,000 different anti-trafficking organizations. The problem for Perdue was that she wanted to find a way to help that wouldn’t neglect her other charitable giving.
In studying human trafficking, Perdue learned that there is already a wealth of knowledge about how black markets operate. Harvard’s Business School estimates that roughly $50 billion goes through banks throughout the world for human trafficking each year.
The approach toward combating trafficking that most drew her attention was an effort to bring artificial intelligence algorithms and all anti-trafficking techniques together to work toward eliminating trafficking in a single country. While Perdue supports the efforts of all anti-trafficking organizations, she felt making progress toward this goal was important. She intends to create a unifying approach to the problem.
“What if we used every bit of knowledge that we have to attack the problem in one country?” Perdue questioned. “We have a lot of very serious academic research studying what's working and what doesn't work. And in the end, we'll have a prototype of how it was eliminated in one country and then we can move on to use best practices throughout the world.”
Fighting Trafficking With Charity
The United Nations’ goal is to eliminate human trafficking by 2030, Perdue stated, and projects like the one she discussed are costly. Perdue began to think creatively about how she could best provide support for these organizations. She didn’t have unallocated cash to offer that wasn’t already going toward existing charity and she knew she didn’t want to pull her donations from any of these organizations. She did realize, though, that she had possessions that could be sold, and the proceeds donated.
Perdue inherited a chest from the 16th century that had belonged to the prominent and historically famous Medici family and it occurred to her that she could put this chest up for auction to support anti-trafficking efforts. She then thought that others with valuable items and property might be willing to do the same. And it turns out, she was right.
She has since set out to organize a celebrity auction with donated items valued over $1 million dollars each. She plans to work with either Sotheby's or Christie's, and each house has already agreed to forgo its usual commission allowing the proceeds to be donated in full. Eventually, Perdue would like to establish an auction through an online site for smaller donations that can build on the success of the big-ticket auction she’s planning.
“I'm looking for volunteers,” Perdue said. “I’d love people to sign up for my blog at WinThisFight.org. … I want you to feel that you're part of something bigger, that what you do is absolutely meaningful because it's going to save people from misery and lead them into freedom and eventually joy. And you can help make that happen.”