Creating social change through philanthropy

“What’s the role for business and philanthropy in making the world a better place?”

That’s the question that’s driven Evan Hochberg, MMHS’96, for more than two decades, as he’s led corporate social responsibility, social innovation efforts and philanthropy at large global companies and organizations.

Today, he’s president of Crown Family Philanthropies, a Chicago-based family foundation. The family built its wealth starting in the 1920s by creating the Material Service Corporation, and has given both locally and globally for more than 70 years.

“The family are real civic leaders in Chicago, creating opportunities for Chicagoans to live better lives through education, housing and environmental efforts,” says Hochberg. “In addition, the family supports social impact efforts nationally and health in sub-Saharan Africa, and has a deep commitment to the Jewish community and to Israel.”

The Crown family is descended from Eastern European Jewish immigrants and is one of the largest funders of Jewish causes. (The family has supported Brandeis since the school’s founding, including establishing the Irving and Rose Crown School of Graduate Studies and the Crown Center for Middle East Studies.)

For Hochberg, who is also Jewish, it’s been a unique opportunity to think about his faith, community and social impact through the work of the foundation.

“We’re trying to figure out challenging questions: What does it mean to be Jewish in 2020? How does the Jewish community survive and thrive in the face of anti-Semitism and other threats? How might a commitment to universal social issues be approached through a lens of Jewish values?” Hochberg says.

Stepping into the family foundation role two years ago was a change for Hochberg, who previously worked at the intersection of the business and nonprofit sectors. He ran Community Wealth Partners, a social innovation consulting firm, in the late 1990s, then moved to Deloitte, where he led community involvement and corporate social responsibility efforts. Most recently, he served as chief strategy officer for United Way Worldwide.

Hochberg began his career working on the ground for nonprofits focused on education, youth and disabilities after graduating with a philosophy degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“It was really meaningful work to me, and I wanted a career in social impact, but I knew I didn’t have the fortitude to work on the front lines all my life,” he says.

That’s when he found Heller.

“The Heller School was an essential part of my career journey. It helped me understand how you could make the world a better place by focusing on the intersection of strategy, management and policy,” he says. “What I enjoyed the most was getting a hard business education in an environment where the professors, case studies and students were all focused on social impact. There was a whole ecosystem for people like me.”

He’s excited that there are so many more paths today for students to pursue a career that enables them to “flex both the head and heart” — and he urges students to consider philanthropy as well.

“Philanthropy really needs talented, committed, businessminded social impact people,” he says. “I hope people can see philanthropy as a platform for living out the social change they want to see in the world.”

Cover of Heller Magazine Summer 2020, Celebrating Heller at 60

This story is from the summer 2020 issue of Heller Magazine