Born in Westchester County, by her 20s, Liz Elting had lived and worked in five countries and studied four languages. The linguaphile turned this passion into a business, co-launching language and business solutions giant TransPerfect from her dorm room at NYU, where she earned an MBA after attending Trinity College for undergrad. Today, TransPerfect is valued at over $1 billion and Elting has been on Forbes’ America’s Richest Self-Made Women list. It’s unclear how much she’s currently worth, but in 2019, her net worth was listed as $350 million.
Elting is one of a number of wealthy women business leaders I’ve profiled here who have become active in philanthropy, including Goldman Sachs alums Connie Duckworth and Jacki Zehner; Duckworth focuses on empowering Afghan women, and Zehner co-founded Women Moving Millions. Unsurprisingly, women’s equity and empowerment is often a key focus for these donors, and this holds true for Elting, as well.
In 2018, on the heels of selling half of her company, she launched the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, which works to advance the economic, social and political equality of women and marginalized people. One of the first organizations Elting became involved with was the American Heart Association. “I first got involved with AHA about eight years ago, while I was still running my company. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women and men in the United States, so AHA made sense. And now, in these last two years, I’ve really ramped up my focus,” she told me.
Elting’s ongoing commitment to the organization is a good example of the way a donor’s giving often escalates over time. She now champions Go Red For Women, a long-running movement within AHA that provides a platform for women to come together, raise awareness, fund lifesaving research, advocate for change, and improve the lives of all women everywhere. Elting is also keen on AHA because it has helped her find other nonprofits to support over the years.
Hunger Relief in a Critical Moment
For instance, Elting found out about Brooklyn-based The Campaign Against Hunger (TCAH), which works to end hunger and build health throughout New York City. Early on, driven by her experiences with AHA, Elting funded a blood pressure kiosk at TCAH. And today, the nonprofit is one of the foundation’s key partners. “All of my support goes directly to providing food for underserved populations,” she says.
Elting recently launched the Halo Fund, a multimillion-dollar initiative to provide comprehensive relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic—including funding for research, frontline healthcare workers, public health resources, and direct support to the country’s most vulnerable and underserved communities. Considering that she lives in New York, a major epicenter of the pandemic, it makes sense that Elting would be driven to act. She says that philanthropy is uniquely positioned to serve as an ally.
“Government, corporations and celebrities, to some extent, will be funding these health initiatives. But philanthropists are likely to fund these social impact issues. The pandemic put these issues in the spotlight again, and philanthropy can help with them,” she says.
What’s more, Elting also notes that women and marginalized communities are being uniquely hit by the effects of the virus, not to mention the economic fallout. Her initial work through the fund focuses on providing food and medical support for families and individuals in need. One organization she backs is called Do Good Auto Coalition (DGAC), a nonprofit alliance of automotive dealerships volunteering to deliver supplies.
DGAC was spearheaded by Diana Lee, CEO of Constellation Agency, with whom Elting has been working for several years. “I think Diana is fabulous, and I just thought her idea was brilliant… she was finding that her clients weren’t busy selling cars during the start of this pandemic. So rather than laying them off, these employees would continue getting paid, and deliver food for people in need,” Elting says.
Empowering Female Entrepreneurs
“In business, I encountered some discrimination both outside and inside my company. There just are not enough women in senior levels of business,” Elting says, addressing another centerpiece of her giving—gender equity. Much of this work has taken place in education and entrepreneurship.
Consider her support of GLAM, or Girls Learning Advanced Math, which was launched by Stanford-bound high school student Tessa Wayne to help young girls develop confidence and a lasting passion for math. So far, GLAM operates in schools in New York City, but its math-maven founder eventually sees the organization going national.
Elting also supports her alma maters Trinity College and NYU Stern. At NYU, she works with Endless Frontier Labs, a nine-month program focused on maximizing the potential of massively scalable science and technology startups. Elting supports female entrepreneurs in the program’s Deep Tech and Life Sciences tracks, giving $100,000 through each annually. And at Trinity College, she supports four MBA scholarships annually.
Elting has committed to supporting these two efforts for a decade, at which point she will have helped 20 female entrepreneurs and 40 MBA students. She speaks and mentors entrepreneurs at Columbia Business School, as well.
Elting is also involved with International Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia Foundation, which is dedicated to curing a form of blood cancer. She appreciates that the organization is lean and focused entirely on research. And while Waldenstrom’s is rare—Elting’s father was diagnosed with the disease—she says that the work the foundation is doing has an impact on other forms of lymphoma and leukemia, as well. “Now, the prognosis for people with Waldenstrom’s is 18 years, and my father is still going well in his 80s,” she says.
Another area of philanthropy Elting cites is her work with Everytown for Gun Safety, the nonprofit backed by Michael Bloomberg. Again, the commitment illustrates her preferred philanthropic focus areas—she notes that women and marginalized populations are big victims of gun violence, including in domestic settings. Finally, Elting mentions the American Heart Association’s Social Impact Fund, through which she’ll start to support a few dozen more organizations, likely with an eye toward her established interest areas.
“I just want to help change the world and make it a better place. We all deserve to be treated as equals, with food and a home, to live full, long, healthy lives,” she says.