used to give small contributions to groups I knew about-from
the PTA at my daughter's school to Greenpeace. Then one
day I learned from my mother that I had a charitable lead
trust of $20,000 to give away that year. It seemed like
an unbelievable fortune. None of my friends had that much
money. No one I knew-not even me-had even heard of a charitable
lead trust. My mother had always been considered irresponsible
by her wealthy family. They gave her an allowance, but
had kept us in the dark about any trust funds set up for
When my daughter's school
needed financial support, I was happy to put some of that
trust money to good use. Then, suddenly, I became very
popular. "Would you like to lead the auction committee?"
"Would you like to be on the board of the school?"
I was soon asked to be on other boards. The
Each year the amount to
give away increased. "How do I give this money responsibly
and well?" I wondered. When I heard about the Philanthropy
Workshop, a year-long philanthropy course at the Rockefeller
Foundation, I decided to take it. But I was nervous about
what kind of people were likely
to show up. I didn't think I'd fit in.
The Philanthropy Workshop
provided great networking opportunities, taught me how
vital site visits are for smart grantmaking,
and how to make a funding plan built around my own interest
in girls' issues. The best lesson I learned from the course
is that a philanthropist's job is not simply to be kind,
but to be diligent, and to honestly assess the strengths
and weaknesses of any project. After the program, I gave
myself four years to seriously learn about philanthropy.
I became experienced with site visits by joining the grants
allocation committee of the New York Women's Foundation.
After we discussed all the written materials from the
grant applicants, teams of three to five women would meet
with the executive directors, board, and staff members.
"What keeps you coming here? What's your biggest
challenge? Who are your funders? Do you find it easy to
tell your story to potential supporters? What sustains
you day after day?" Those were the kinds of questions
Next I joined a national
group of women philanthropists called the Women Donors'
Network. I was inspired by many of the energetic women
philanthropists there, who marched forward with such incredible
abandon. Now I'm proud to hear people say that they, too,
are inspired by my example. Ten years of giving has added
up. I've funded economic development, women's health,
girls' programs, environmental concerns, and juvenile
justice. While I enjoy this diversity, I also have a lens
through which I focus my financial support. I ask myself
repeatedly: What will raise and strengthen the voices
of girls? This single question serves as a powerful guide
as I choose how to support my many interest areas.
I used to think significant
support equaled big donations, but it doesn't. It is not
the amount that is important, it's the relationship. I
know from a totally egotistical view what I want from
my giving: I want to be a charter or initiating member
of a group, and I want to help people be successful. I
check in with my executive directors once every month
or two and try to find out what they most need. I also
pay for trainings, send chocolates on Valentine's Day,
and ask if they are getting vacations.
It has taken me an inordinate
amount of time to come to terms with the fact that I am
still a good person, even though I am rich. I had Cruella
DeVil (that rich villainess from 101 Dalmatians) in my
head, along with multiple stereotypes of wealthy women.
Now I take full pleasure in having a lot of money. There
are such wonderful things to do with it! I figure I have
only one life to live now, so why not give boldly? If
I don't have any funds to give next year, so what?
I draw about $300,000 per year- 4.5% of my assets-and
have a lot of fun. I have to remind my money managers
to keep me to that percent so I don't get my family too
upset. I love philanthropy. It's like sharing with an
- anonymous author
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