A lifelong summer resident is on a mission to link charities with donors around the world.
Hunter Ziesing is the first to admit that he can be a bit rough around the edges. “I’m kind of a brash personality,” the fifty-three-year-old says. “People think I’m this big Wall Street guy who only cares about money—but that’s not me.” Many others know Ziesing as a hyper-competitive cyclist who can be as abrasive as road burn. “I may come across that way on a bike,” he says, “but deep down, I’m a compassionate person who cares about people and believes in doing well by doing good.” Proof of his credo is in his track record. Since leaving his position as a high-powered money manager over a decade ago, this lifelong summer resident has channeled his intensity toward helping others, and now his work is drawing international attention.
Ziesing’s road from financier to philanthropist began in 2002 when he witnessed his father and five of his closest friends die suddenly of cancer and other illnesses. Their loss put his own lifestyle into sharp focus. “My career on Wall Street was great, but I wasn’t doing anything for anyone else,” he says. “I wanted to do something more purposeful.”
After leaving Wall Street, he rode in the PAN Mass Challenge as John Kerry’s riding partner and was deeply moved by the dedication and sacrifice shown by his fellow cyclists in the battle against cancer. The experience led him to get involved with the Livestrong Foundation (“before the fall of Lance”), and the next thing he knew, Ziesing had created his own PAN Mass-style nonprofit race series to raise money for Livestrong and other cancer centers around the country. His Echelon Gran Fondo race series became one of the most popular bike races in the country, drawing the likes of Tour de France winner Greg LeMond and raising over a million dollars for cancer centers and other causes. But that wasn’t enough.
In 2009, he switched gears once again by selling Echelon Gran Fondo and turning his attention to a different aspect of the nonprofit sector. “I discovered that there were tons of really great causes around the world that needed better ways to fundraise,” he says. Enter My Charity of Choice, an online fundraising platform Ziesing created to connect nonprofits with potential donors. My Charity of Choice enables groups, businesses, nonprofits, and individuals to create their own fundraising campaigns by providing them an online platform to promote their cause and process donations. On the flipside, potential donors can use the site as a nonprofit marketplace to shop for causes to give their money to.
As with most nonprofits, My Charity of Choice took some time gaining traction, but now the organization is racing onto the international stage. This November, through its partnership with the United Nations Foundation, My Charity of Choice is attempting to track donations and pledges for over ten thousand nonprofits on an annual global day of giving called #GivingTuesday. The first Giving Tuesday netted $30 million for 2,500 nonprofits in a single day. This year, there is talk of upwards of $100 million in donations and Ziesing thinks it can raise billions globally. My Charity of Choice lets nonprofits track their own fundraising for free and even allows donors to give hours, a novel idea.
Even with all this on his plate, Ziesing’s hunt for his next charitable venture is underway. On Nantucket, he is trying to help organize a bike race in September called the Cobblestone Crit to benefit local charities. Open to all ages, the race will begin at the Dreamland Theatre and do a series of circles through town. If the race gets into full gear, Ziesing says Tour de France winner Greg LeMond will be in attendance, along with two other pro-cyclists from the Garmin team. Time will tell if the town officials will allow the streets to be shut down for the race, but if anyone can break them, it’s Hunter Ziesing.