UNThinking Philanthropy – Wahl Family’s Guide to Joyful Giving

Erik and Tasha Wahl pose for a photo with their three sons.
Erik and Tasha Wahl pose for a photo with their three sons.

Erik and Tasha Wahl (above) pose for a photo with their three sons.

Erik and Tasha Wahl have always believed in raising a family that would leave the world a better place.

Erik is a renowned artist, successful author and motivational speaker who champions creativity in the workplace and applying unconventional approaches to problem-solving. Tasha is the executive director of The Wahl Group and oversees the “Butterfly Effect,” a movement that drops artwork in public locations around the world to spark charitable giving.

After 20 years of marriage, the couple’s full attention is dedicated to growing their business, giving back, and parenting their three teenage sons – one’s a sophomore at Franklin University in Switzerland, another is a senior at Serra High School, and the third is a sophomore at Serra High School.

I caught up with Erik and Tasha to ask about their approach to philanthropy.

Interview with Erik and Tasha Wahl

Keely Bamberg: How do your personal experiences in overcoming adversity (featured in Erik’s book, UNThink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius) affect your ideas about giving back?

Erik: One of the things that we have to accept about adversity is that it can lead to pain and suffering. Pain and suffering are very real, but I’ve always tried to transform that into something positive. Both joy and pain are contagious—which one will you choose to pass along? Through giving, we soften our hearts and receive joy, and study after study shows that giving has numerous health, social and psychological benefits not only for the recipient, but also for the giver.

KB: How do you nurture and encourage your children to engage with their community?

Tasha: We encourage the boys to figure out what makes them come alive. Philanthropy for the sake of philanthropy and hours logged for college applications does nothing for their long term growth. I learned over time that unless your heart is called to be engaged, the engagement will only be temporary.

Once we stopped pushing our children to “give back,” and instead encouraged them to explore their own path, they found a personal rhythm in working with the less fortunate and building a better community. Today, each has their own passion, from building houses to growing a nonprofit that serves the homeless, called Burrito Boyz.

KB: What is your favorite grant (so far!) from Butterfly Effect?

Tasha: One of my favorite parts of Butterfly Effect is that there are so many amazing organizations I’ve been exposed to that I never knew existed. Butterfly drops make me come alive because I get to learn about other people’s passions and hear about the connections their hearts make.

My favorite butterfly drop so far was earlier in 2015. Amid a hectic day of travel, I nearly ran out of time to drop the butterflies I had with me. In a rush, I placed just one on a nearby sculpture, took a picture and tweeted it. Shortly after, I received a message from a woman whose mother recently passed away. In her final moments, the mother said that whenever her daughter saw a purple butterfly, she would know she’s still with her. This was the first purple butterfly she had seen since her passing. This was a powerful  moment to remind me of the profound impact we can all have on complete strangers’ lives.

KB: What’s up next for the Wahl Foundation, your donor-advised fund at The San Diego Foundation?

Tasha: We are very excited to announce the UNthink my school grant program. In cooperation with the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the Wahl Foundation launched a grant program called “UNthink My School” that will award a total of $40,000 to schools that champion themes of innovation and creativity. We hope all of the area’s eligible schools will apply, because we know that this grant can make a long-lasting difference for a school and its community.

We are also partnering with the American Cancer Society (ACS) to drop 5,000 butterflies at each Relay For Life in 2016. This will help raise awareness for ACS, as well as give the relay teams the opportunity to use art as a personal way to bring positive change to the world.

Joyful Giving

The Wahls are an inspirational couple who live out their values, both professionally and personally, to maximize positive impact on community.

For more information on how you can join the Wahl family and other philanthropists making a difference in the community, speak to our Charitable Giving team.

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About Keely Bamberg

Keely BambergAs Director of Donor Relations, Keely and her team support generous families, couples and corporations with their grantmaking to thousands of inspirational and impactful organizations. She helps donors develop their philanthropic plans to address issues that matter most, and also guides long-term charitable giving strategies for those who wish to leave a lasting legacy for their community.

Read more posts by Keely