Why Philanthropy?

Doing philanthropy right is hard work. And the first task at hand is figuring out why you want to do it in the first place.

The answer isn’t simple. But when you figure it out, the personal satisfaction that results is what philanthropy is really all about.

It is one matter to give. It is another to give well. That’s why before you embark on your philanthropic journey, it’s important to first understand why you want to give. Resources from Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, and the booklet, Your Jewish Philanthropy Roadmap, produced by JFN and the Jewish Communal Fund, are especially valuable in helping you set priorities that can enable you to have more productive conversations about philanthropy with your family and financial advisers.

During such conversations, these are some of the motivating factors behind philanthropy that frequently come into play.

  • There may be a specific charity or institution you want to support. Or it could be a particular issue, artistic project or even helping a city or region. The possibilities really are endless.
  • Maybe you want to change the world or at least the small piece of it where you live. In doing so you hope to inspire others to follow suit.
  • There may be a family legacy you want to preserve. Your social, cultural or political values will inevitably play a prominent role in your philanthropic decision-making. So might the causes and affiliations you are already a part of.
  • Religious practices and spiritual beliefs. This goes beyond supporting a synagogue. Tzedakah is a tenet of Jewish tradition. So is the commitment to maintain a vibrant Jewish community. Many Jewish philanthropists work hard to maintain a balance between supporting Jewish and secular causes and organizations. Other funders may focus on Jewish organizations that provide non-sectarian aid through a Jewish lens.

Let’s face it: successful philanthropy also lends itself to a certain level of recognition. You might want to be known for your hard work and generosity. A pat on the back never hurt anyone. And your largesse can lend greater credibility to a cause. Keep in mind, though, an anonymous gift can be just as effective, in case you want to steer clear of the spotlight.

A successful giving program requires a balance of knowledge and passion. It must also be treated like a business. After all, your giving is an investment whose dividends are reaped when the organization or cause you back has a meaningful impact. Merely writing a check or attending a gala won’t ensure that. You need to be part of the process. That’s what makes philanthropy such a rewarding endeavor. You, not just your money, can make a difference.

That’s as good an answer as any.

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