James “Jim” Dondero is Co-founder and President of Highland Capital Management, a Dallas-based alternative investment firm. Jim brings the same proactive, high-conviction approach that he uses as an investor to his charitable giving activities. While Highland is a global firm, Jim proudly focuses the bulk of his charitable giving locally.
Highland has been involved in philanthropic initiatives since its founding; however, the firm has taken a more strategic approach in recent years to better reflect the current scale of its charitable giving. With that goal, Highland set out to identify an established philanthropic partner with the ability to add structure to its rapidly growing charitable giving program.
According to Jim, “We were looking for a partner to help manage our annual philanthropic budget that had grown to more than $3 million.”
This search led to Mary Jalonick, President and CEO of The Dallas Foundation, and her team of philanthropic and donor service experts.
Jim described why Highland was drawn to the organization: “We selected The Dallas Foundation because of their strong network in North Texas and their proven track record of achievement in the nonprofit community.”
Together, Mary and Jim built a charitable giving framework designed to facilitate aspirational, bold and effective giving. Ultimately, they formed Highland Dallas Foundation Inc., a supporting organization of The Dallas Foundation, to support the framework and help realize Jim’s philanthropic vision.
Jim has been a longtime supporter of initiatives related to veterans, education and healthcare in the Dallas community. Working in collaboration with The Dallas Foundation, Jim has expanded his philanthropic engagement to a number of civic organizations including The Dallas Zoo, The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and The Perot Museum of Nature and Science.
“Jim’s business acumen aligns beautifully with his philanthropic strategy to employ multi-year grants as part of his giving. While rare in today’s philanthropic environment, these types of grants are incredibly important to nonprofit organizations since they provide a sustainable source of funding for the long term,” said Mary Jalonick.
Recently, Jim worked with The Dallas Foundation to hire Linda Owen, former president and CEO of the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation, as a charitable giving manager. In her role at The Dallas Foundation, Linda focuses exclusively on Highland’s activities, connecting Jim’s vision with nonprofit partners who improve the quality of life in North Texas. “Linda’s experience, guidance and relationships in the community allows us to make an even greater impact in Dallas,” said Jim.
Since Linda joined, Highland has established new partnerships with local organizations like The Family Place. Jim issued a $1 million challenge grant to help The Family Place complete a capital campaign for a new shelter facility near key medical resources. Additionally, Linda has helped advance Jim’s commitment to being an engaged philanthropic partner, finding creative ways for Jim and Highland to give that go beyond writing a check. For example, Highland used benefits of its Dallas Zoo sponsorship to host a Mother’s Day event at the zoo for The Family Place’s emergency shelter residents. This exemplifies the attitude Jim has as a philanthropist—finding every opportunity to ensure his contributions make the greatest impact.