Lesson of a Novice Philanthropist

For some reason Hashem decided to rain some money on my head. The money, I felt, was never really mine so on August 1, 2018 I set up a Donor Advised fund and went about finding causes to give this money to.

When I found a cause I liked, I sent an email to the organization to set up a meeting with someone behind the cause. I would talk with them a bit, I’d tell a little about me, they’d talk a bit about themselves and about their cause. Eventually we would talk about money. Giving the money seemed almost an afterthought in my mind.

What was foremost was the amazing and empowering experience that preceded the act of charity itself.

This experience has taught me many lessons in giving charity and I would like to share them with you.

Lesson 1 – You start by looking for the cause but you end up investing in the people

I have met many amazingly passionate people during the past month. They spoke about their cause with fire in their eyes. They work a lot harder than they have to, but will never say that they work more than they should because the cause is so important to them. I don’t know how much they get paid but I do know that whatever it is, it is not enough. If you find a cause you like but don’t find a person like this somewhere in the organization, keep looking.

Lesson 2 – It is not only money

I have received many replies after the meeting and my subsequent contribution. The contribution is never the first thing mentioned or the second or even the third. The best ones don’t even mention the money.

Examples of their comments: “Thank you for the meeting.” I left our meeting newly energized.” Thank you for your belief in me and our shared cause” “I hope I will not disappoint the trust you have placed in me” Thank you for your involvement and partnership” If you meet someone and feel that they are looking at a dollar sign, you are not in the right place. There has to be a meeting of hearts, if they don’t bring theirs, leave. If they bring theirs but the connection doesn’t click, think hard before giving.

Lesson 3 – Plaques do not effect change, people do

At my first meeting I said can we perhaps we can dedicate something to my Dad z”l. The minute I said those words I realized how unimportant it was to me and have never mentioned the idea again. I am here to be an agent of change together with the people I believe in and trust. My meetings focus on that, my contributions focus on that. Everything else is inconsequential.

I have learned so much in the past month. I have gained so much in the past month. It has been the best month in my life. I cannot understand how anybody with a little extra money would not do the same thing my spouse and I did. So I don’t think I need to write the obvious fourth lesson but it bears repeating:

Lesson 4 – It is as much about receiving as giving

About the Author
Martin Herskovitz was born in 1955 a child of a Holocaust Survivor. In 1986 he and his spouse made Aliyah. He worked for 30 years in the IDF in Occupational Safety and Health and made early retirement to run his family tzedaka fund which consists mostly on the settlement he and his wife received from the Arab Bank Case.
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