Romanian United Fund
Location: Cook County
Year Founded: 2019
Industry Group Specific: Nonprofit Community Services
A whirlwind two-decade career in the high-stakes world of finance was the unlikely prelude to Mihai Lehene’s current journey as an entrepreneur focused on social impact. “After 10 fruitful years running my own investment firm, I felt an inner calling to pivot toward creating a more meaningful legacy,” said Lehene.
His shift in focus began gradually, pooling resources and ideating projects that could foster positive change. By 2019, these endeavors coalesced into the Romanian United Fund.
Romanian United Fund is an international charity organization with a mission to unite the Romanian Diaspora and to inspire Romanians worldwide to create positive change in the world. In just a few years, the entity has burgeoned into the foremost Romanian Diaspora organization globally by raising close to $1 million during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic, allocating funds to numerous projects that benefited over 900 hospitals.
“When crisis struck again in the form of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, RUF leapt into action and collaborated with the Red Cross, United Way, Unicef and Habitat for Humanity,” said Lehene. “We extended a lifeline to tens of thousands of refugees, supplying essentials ranging from clothing and medication to housing and food.”
Under Lehene’s leadership, the organization channeled nearly $3 million into 72 transformational projects spanning education, healthcare, environmental conservation and community building. “Taking the helm of the Romanian United Fund compelled me to step away from my corporate commitments,” said Lehene. “I have since dedicated myself entirely, working pro-bono, to the noble cause of community upliftment.”
His efforts have not gone unnoticed. Lehene has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Romanians by Repatriot and the 10 Romani de 10 Award. He also volunteers to teach mathematics, computer science and financial education to youth in the community.
Looking forward, he said the goal is to constantly train staff and push the bill on what’s achievable through technology. “Managing a globally scattered team of volunteers is a challenge for any organization and keeping people connected to our mission requires mixing innovative approaches with plain old personal touches and live networking events,” said Lehene.
Lehene said you have to belief that if no one else will do it, then it needs to be done. “When your vision is so important that you start breathing it and absorbing it at every step of the way, when you give yourself into it fully, understanding that you will have to make significant sacrifices along the way, passion and leadership follow,” he said.
For his ability to dream and inspire others, Lehen has been named a titan.
My ability to love, dream, and inspire people.