Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Charlie Bresler of The Life You Can Save Is Helping To Change Our World
Your friends won’t always financially support your cause. As a co-founder of a non-profit, this has been a personal challenge that I’ve had to overcome throughout the years.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charlie Bresler.
Charlie Bresler is the Co-Founder of the Life You Can Save, a non-profit that makes “smart giving simple” by curating a group of nonprofits that save or improve the most lives per dollar. After earning a PhD in Social and Clinical Psychology from Clark University, Charlie became Director of Behavioral Medicine for The California School of Professional Psychology, Fresno (CSPP-F), where he was a full-time professor and founder of a teaching clinic for treating anxiety and stress disorders. He was recruited to The Men’s Wearhouse where he became head of human resources, stores, and marketing and ultimately President. He stepped down in order to fulfill his long-standing desire to work directly on social and economic issues.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was President of The Men’s Wearhouse (MW) and had just turned 59 I realized that I much preferred doing something socially impactful than continuing at MW and likely becoming the next CEO. So I resigned from my job. When I read Peter Singer’s The Life You Can Save, my path became clear and I funded the development of the organization and volunteered to be the Executive Director.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
The first time I met Peter Singer was when he was giving his now famous Ted Talk, I noticed how incredibly nervous I was meeting the most famous philosopher in the world. We had just started working together and his work and ideas had made a very big impact on my life. As Peter and I got through the day, and now nine years later, I have become completely comfortable working with Peter and consider him a good friend and wonderful colleague.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The “funniest” mistake I made when first starting at The Life You Can Save, was thinking that it would be easy to raise millions of dollars to help spread Peter Singer’s message about global poverty and effective giving. In retrospect, I was silly for thinking that. When I was working at the Men’s Wearhouse I had a marketing budget of tens of millions of dollars. While I didn’t think I would have the same amount to grow The Life You Can Save, I did think it would be relatively easy to secure 10–20 million dollars for marketing, and I was wrong– it has proven to be very challenging.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
The Life You Can Save, led by Peter Singer and the rest of our team has raised about 40 million dollars to help people living in extreme poverty. We are saving lives, reducing unnecessary suffering and empowering individuals to build better lives for themselves and their families.
There are many worthy causes to support, and many organizations out there doing great work. But all that choice can make it hard to choose where to donate to do the most good — and the evidence is that most people don’t do much research before giving. The Life You Can Save does this work for you by recommending high-impact charities, so you can have confidence that your donations are making a real difference.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
One of our recommended high-impact charities is the Fred Hollows Foundation. There was a 5-year-old girl named Night who was born blind. She dreamed of being a teacher but couldn’t go to school because she couldn’t see, and her parents couldn’t afford the cataract surgery. Funding given by the Fred Hollows Foundation restored this young girl’s eyesight, which changed the trajectory of her entire life. This is just one of many stories but it has stuck with me.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- In order to help people living in the Southern Hemisphere (and everywhere), we must immediately address manmade climate change. Donating to high-impact charities that are helping to combat the issue is one of the best ways to get started.
- Politicians must support governments that favor the vast majority of people living in countries in the developing world rather than politicians who favor multinational corporations and industries that extract natural resources.
- It’s important for people to give better. People who donate to non-profits can do so far more effectively and recognize that the dollar goes the furthest in Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa where extreme poverty is the greatest.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is not necessarily doing things correctly, but rather knowing the right things to do. Good leaders walk the talk and don’t expect others to do things they wouldn’t do themselves. Leaders must not only know what’s right to do, but must convince and inspire others to action. Good leaders are good listeners.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. People aren’t necessarily generous.
2. People are generally insensitive to large-scale suffering. Only 6% of giving goes to those living in extreme poverty. They support single victims close to home rather than large numbers who can be saved easily and relatively inexpensively.
3. Hire world-class staff. You must raise the money to do this.
4. I wish social media was more powerful as a tool to raise money for non-profits.
5. Your friends won’t always financially support your cause. As a co-founder of a non-profit, this has been a personal challenge that I’ve had to overcome throughout the years.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Convince people we need radical and immediate approaches to stop man-made climate change.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” –
The Life You Can Save is in the business of showing people that doing a little can actually save a life — sometimes it is surprisingly hard for people to believe this.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would like to have lunch with Roger Federer. He has had great success globally and has done a tremendous amount of good with his influence. I would love the opportunity to share with him how effective giving can transform even more lives around the world.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/charliebresler/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thelifeyoucansave/
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Charlie Bresler of The Life You Can Save Is Helping To Change Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.