Real estate scion. Philanthropist. Movie producer. These are just some of the ways to describe Sam Slater, who, when not managing part of his family’s real estate portfolio, serves as the executive director of The Slater Foundation. We chatted about his philanthropic work, social media, and what brought him to Chicago last summer.
Tell me about your family’s foundation.
I serve as the executive director for our family’s foundation. The decisions about who we support are made by me with the help of family. The Slater Foundation supports approximately 20 organizations per year at varying levels of financial support. In terms of the organizations, we support ones nationally and also locally, like The Lenny Zakim Fund (where I also sit on the board), The Home For Little Wanderers, and the MSPCA. We also support Jewish groups and institutions, including annual support of Combined Jewish Philanthropies and Technion Israel Institute of Technology.
My own expertise also includes young professional events. I get people to come out. I find that in order to bring people out, it helps for them to have fun. Our Halloween event with The Ellie Fund (which supports fighting breast cancer and supporting families) was sold out this year. In March we had over 300 people show up at the Lenny Zakim Fund Young Leaders Third Annual Casino Night at The Four Seasons; we raised over $160,000. This past Thanksgiving, I joined Boston City Councillor Tito Jackson and the Boston Maccabi Rugby Club to assist in giving out 500 turkeys to local families at the Roxbury Boys and Girls Club.
You recently were appointed by Governor Patrick to serve on the Massachusetts Cultural Council. What does the Council do, and what do you hope to bring to it?
The Council – which is an honor to serve on – works throughout the state to support arts, humanities and interpretive sciences. We support the local cultural councils of cities and towns; artists can find funding, or it can be a large organization like the New England Aquarium, or the Museum of Fine Arts, that we support. So it can be a major institution in a large city like Boston, or something small in the Berkshires that not everyone knows about. I hope to bring to the Council the same sort of thing I do through the Slater Foundation: I bring people out, raise awareness, and engage people.
How has social media changed the platform of philanthropy?
Well, I’ve realized that anyone can use Twitter and Facebook, but it’s most important for charitable fundraising efforts to be creative and engaging. For example, during Hurricane Sandy, it occurred to me that people were already on Twitter and actively using it. So, using Twitter, we ended up raising $12,500 for the Red Cross. Another social media-driven fundraising venture is with former Patriots player Joe Andruzzi. Local energy provider National Grid donated $700 to the Joe Andruzzi Foundation’s Patient Touchdown Program for every one of Tom Brady’s touchdown passes this season. National Grid also matched public donations, dollar for dollar, up to $75,000, during the campaign. This is all social-media driven and something The Slater Foundation has supported.
Did I read somewhere that you’ve also found the time to produce movies?
Yes! Somehow I do have the time to produce movies. Paul Bernon and I started a film production company, Burn Later Productions, and produced three films over the summer alone – one documentary and two feature films. The film Drinking Buddies was filmed in Chicago with Anna Kendrick, Olivia Wilde, Ron Livingston, and Jake Johnson. It was a lot of fun to do. Fingers crossed; we’re hoping to have an exciting premiere year. Our goal is to make six to eight films per year. We had a film last year at Sundance and a film at the Tribeca Film Festival, Teacher of The Year, which Funny Or Die picked up and was No. 1 on the site for several days.
Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!
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