Increasingly consumers prefer to buy from companies that give back to society, and some consumers are willing to pay more for items if they know that a portion of the cost supports charity, Bakst said. This attitude is especially prevalent among consumers who are younger than 40. Companies are eager to develop the long-term loyalty of this group.
"Companies are getting super excited about this," Bakst told the students. "Companies are saying, 'This sounds really interesting.' The nonprofits are saying, 'We don't know who to talk to.' What we are trying to do is bridge the gap."
Bakst was invited to the school by Zawadi by Youth
, a student-run group at Riverdale that makes microfinance loans to small businesses around the world. It is one of the few high school student organizations in the country with 501-(c)(3) status.
Started in 2008, Zawadi by Youth raises money and distributes loans ranging between $25 and $300 to entrepreneurs in 40 countries. This year, the group is focusing on social entrepreneurship, and how individuals can become change agents for society.
Bakst is a a good example, said Josh Rothstein, a student who interned for Bakst last summer. "Everything he does in his life is to help others," Rothstein said.
Bakst, who played baseball for Riverdale, graduated from New York University. In his senior year of college, he was diagnosed with cancer. He underwent 33 rounds of treatment, and five months later ran in the New York City Marathon. His was one of the stories featured in a book about the marathon, A Race Like No Other, by Liz Robbins of The New York Times.
Also in attendance today was his brother, Richard, '99, a radiation oncologist at Mount Sinai Hospital, his mother Ellen, and some of his Riverdale high school teachers and coaches.