November 23, 2021

Donor spotlight: Supporters share what they love about BRAC

Meet four of our passionate donors, and learn why they choose to support BRAC.

Girls gather for a BRAC youth empowerment club
By Elisabeth Shaller


When it comes to deciding where to put your dollar in the charitable world, the decision can be a difficult one. There are many factors at play: the causes you want to focus on, the scale and effectiveness of the program, the overall reputation of the organization, and more. Meet four BRAC donors — Marcella Cheung, Rafiq Shah, and Leslie White and Bart Burstein — and learn why they choose to support BRAC.

Take action: Make a donation today.

Marcella Cheung. Marcella is a Senior Account Director at LinkedIn since 2010, and previously worked as a management consultant with the Alexander Group and as an analyst with the Centre for Asia Private Equity Research, based in Hong Kong. Marcella visited South Asia as an adolescent and was forever impacted by the resiliency she saw in its people.

Rafiq Shah. Rafiq is an entrepreneur who moved to the United States as a young man from Southern Bangladesh. Through his tenacity and creativity, he has come to own multiple grocery stories and properties and seeks to support those from his home country whose opportunities have been more limited than his own.

Leslie White and Bart Burstein. Bart is a Silicon Valley executive with two decades of experience in strategic development and business operations for technology companies, with six startups under his belt. Leslie has experience working in development and marketing in Silicon Valley, as well as experience as a reading specialist. Leslie and Bart have been unrestricted donors to BRAC since 2013, and were able to spend a week in Dhaka visiting various BRAC programs and enterprises in 2018.

What are the reasons that Marcella, Rafiq, Leslie, and Bart chose BRAC?


Comprehensive programming across many areas

Bart first visited Bangladesh in 2009, and was immediately impressed by the number of programs that BRAC was operating. In 2018, Bart and Leslie returned as a couple with BRAC. “We visited a lending circle, a school, a community center, and ended the day at a conference center…Despite my initial apprehension, the visit stuck with me – especially how one organization could have all these programs under its roof, as well as successful social enterprises and companies. The multiple images: empowering women entrepreneurs, schooling children left behind by the state system, staffing an active social services network – all explained what a difference BRAC made and makes to Bangladesh society.”

Rafiq was also drawn to BRAC because of its comprehensive programming, which was something he was looking for in a charitable organization. He was impressed that the programs not only focused on the economic aspects of uplifting people from poverty, but also the other aspects involved — education, health, skills building, entrepreneurship, economic literacy, and more. “I fell in love with BRAC when I realized how a single organization provides so many jobs and helps so many people in need. I consider money to be a tool and like to believe I have a kind heart. These two became perfect partners; as an adult they have enabled me to do what I grew up seeing in my father’s generosity towards people in need around him. I would like to see no more economic suffering in my motherland, Bangladesh.”

Girls gather for a BRAC youth empowerment club


An evidence-based approach that delivers results

Marcella was intrigued by BRAC upon recognizing that BRAC’s approach to its work was more similar to the way that many tech organizations operate, a model that many non-profit organizations lack. “The approach of BRAC’s Founder, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, was data-based, innovative…The fact that over 70% of operating costs for BRAC in Bangladesh come from its own operations is incredible, and at least I’m not aware of any other organizations with that level of self-sufficiency within the results that BRAC has obtained.”

The evidence-based approach is not only a reason that donors choose BRAC to donate to — it also serves as a model when figuring out where to put your money towards. According to Bart, BRAC’s evidence-based approach was helpful for understanding what international development work can and should look like. “We’ve learned a great deal by understanding BRAC’s evidence-based approach and seeing the program building that BRAC does and using pattern matching to seek similar approaches in smaller organizations.” Leslie agreed with this sentiment, adding that BRAC’s model has been very helpful when it comes to evaluating the work of other organizations and programs she has been connected to throughout the world.


Feeling aligned with BRAC’s values

Living in various places around the world, Marcella was drawn to BRAC due to its focus on women’s lives and job opportunities and has committed to supporting BRAC in her estate plans. “BRAC’s work fulfills an important part of my personal vision, and as much as my contribution can help continue that work for as long as possible the better.”

BRAC provides people with the tools, opportunities, and resources to lift themselves out of poverty and reach their potential. Focused on a holistic approach, BRAC runs programs in education, health care, youth empowerment, agriculture, financial inclusion, humanitarian response, social enterprises, and more.

Join our community of donors who are powering people to rise above poverty. Make your gift today.


Elisabeth Shaller is Communications Intern at BRAC USA.