A dynamic entrepreneur and a committed philanthropist, River Cohen has enjoyed a diverse and award-winning career in which his talent for innovative entrepreneurship has only been exceeded by his passion for philanthropic giving. Mr. Cohen’s longtime devotion to philanthropic efforts is clearly manifest in River Cohen Giving, a non-profit organization for which Mr. Cohen serves as Chief Executive Officer.
Founded in 1995, River Cohen Giving has served as the vehicle through which Mr. Cohen is able to promote and support a host of critical causes that benefit from a wide range of philanthropic efforts designed to, in the words of Mr. Cohen, “plant seeds of loving kindness.”
Mr. Cohen, a longtime Bay Area resident originally raised farther north in Mendocino, California, is a graduate of Arizona State University, one of the most prominent research universities in the world. While attending ASU, Mr. Cohen majored in Business Administration and Management, and it was during this time that he began to lay the foundation for the long and immensely successful entrepreneurial career that would soon follow. Since securing his degree from ASU, Mr. Cohen has repeatedly demonstrated a unique entrepreneurial acumen as well as a rare penchant for industry-changing innovation.
Although his remarkable, award-winning exploits as an accounting software industry pioneer are perhaps the most well known of his endless array of professional achievements, Mr. Cohen is most proud of what he has been able to accomplish as the CEO of River Cohen Giving. Throughout Mr. Cohen’s more than 20-year career, the brilliant entrepreneur and philanthropist has repeatedly noted that the efforts of River Cohen Giving will ultimately have the greatest overall impact on society.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
When I founded River Cohen Giving, it was my belief that this organization would make it possible to pursue a set of goals intended to benefit all of society.
How do you make money?
We engage in a wide range of activities relating to our charitable efforts, all of which help support our continued commitment to the achievement of our philanthropic goals.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
Knowing that our path to profitability would likely take some time, I developed a strategy that would help us withstand the two-year window in which I predicted — accurately, I might add — our eventual profitability.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
I had some doubt about certain aspects of our endeavors, but there was never a point in which I thought the organization would not succeed in the way I originally envisioned.
How did you get your first customer?
I was involved with quite a few socially conscious efforts long before I ever entered into any kind of entrepreneurial or philanthropic venture. Therefore, I knew how to reach the people who would be most likely to support River Cohen Giving during its infancy.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Ongoing projects aimed at yielding a substantial societal benefit — especially the ones that represent an obviously pressing need — have always achieved the best results.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
Although I would love to be fully immersed in support of a single philanthropic effort, I do have to strike a balance in which my time is divided more or less equally among a number of worthy causes.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
At no point in my career have I ever made a critical decision without considering the full breadth of its impact on not only myself, but also on everyone involved — however remote that involvement may be.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
The desk in my office contains a file drawer with folders upon folders of the hand-written thank-you notes we have received over the years. I am grateful for each and every one. Each note represents a particularly satisfying moment in my professional career.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
There are so many opportunities available to us, but we are most excited about the possibility of helping causes in need of greater support.
What business books have inspired you?
“The Essential Drucker,” by Peter F. Drucker.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
I try to help my team members understand my particular perspective by sharing the books and articles that have influenced my thinking in one way or another. Each month I have a small publishing company put together a nicely bound selection of articles and excerpts that are focused on leadership, business acumen, personal development, and/or philanthropic philosophies and processes.
Are there any specific causes you believe are in need of greater support?
Absolutely. Although this is hardly a comprehensive list, I believe that each of the following causes are in need of substantial attention and support: civil rights, economic empowerment, arts and culture, animal welfare, health, human rights, and the environment, just to name a few.