River Hills natives ‘wright’ing their own charitable legacy through fund

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If you didn’t know it, you would swear that Andy and his brother, Charlie Wright Jr., were experienced philanthropists. They are adamant about doing their homework on nonprofits they wish to support and are eager to visit nonprofits to learn exactly how their gift can make a difference. They talk with the confidence and experience of two who have been doing this for years.

But it has barely been two. In fact, sometimes the two find it a bit surreal it has only been that long. At a time when most of their peers are focused on building careers, the two men, ages 23 and 25, respectively, have a dual focus – building a charitable legacy.

“My brother and I really love Milwaukee and Wisconsin and we felt we could really do a lot to give back,” Andy said. “I really admire what you all do here. To be a part of that is really special.”

The River Hills natives attended the University School of Milwaukee – Andy through middle school and Charlie through high school. Charlie, a 2008 Boston College graduate, works at Rheocast Company, a division of The Fall River Group that produces brass and aluminum die castings. Andy graduated from Cornell University in 2011 and owns his own company, Auburn Hill Capital.

The brothers have talked about philanthropy for years, Charlie said, and both are interested in the environment after having been exposed to the outdoors at a young age, thanks to time spent at their grandmother’s farm in Cedarburg. Their donor advised fund, the Wright Brothers Fund, was started with an investment from their father and focuses on the environment and environmental education.

“If my brother and I can help give other people an outdoor experience similar to ours, hopefully we can get more people to protect the environment like what we are trying to do,” Andy said.

“The access and the network you have here is phenomenal,” Charlie said. “I hate to say it this way, but you guys do all the legwork. It makes it so easy for us.”

The brothers considered starting a private foundation, but with research and guidance from their attorney, they discovered there was a lot more work involved compared to starting a Foundation fund. Though unfamiliar to the brothers, the Foundation is no stranger to the family. Their great uncle, the late James O. Wright, served on the Foundation Board for 14 years and created his own fund.

“The access and the network you have here is phenomenal,” Charlie said. “I hate to say it this way, but you guys do all the legwork. It makes it so easy for us.”

The brothers particularly like the behind-the-scenes access to nonprofits. Marybeth Budisch, their philanthropic adviser, has found organizations they might be interested in and set up site visits. They’ve visited the Urban Ecology Center, its Riverside Park site and its branch under construction in the Menomonee Valley, and Hunger Task Force’s 150-acre Franklin farm.

“I like that we get to see where we are putting our money,” Andy said. “I get the sense I’m doing something good for the community on those visits.”

The brothers recognize they have a ways to go toward the impact they hope to have on the community and the environment. But they plan to add to their fund annually so they can maximize the results of their donations.

“I know the amount we give now helps, but I think the more we can give, the more impact it can have,” Charlie said.

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