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Investing in an Ethical Future

Dec 12, 2011 by Sasha  |  Everyone is a Philanthropist

Tonight the Pursue City Team is hosting an event at the Nathan Cummings Foundation for a night exploring the possibilities of ethically-oriented investment, motivated by Judaism’s imperative to pursue economic justice. As a preview for tonight’s event, we asked two presenters, Sonia Alexander and Anya Rous, to tell us about how they got involved with Resource Generation and Jewish ethical giving. Check out their responses below and RSVP to join the discussion tonight.

Sonia has worked in food justice as an organizer and educator, is a facilitator for the Jewish Dialogue Group, and has recently started leading social justice trainings for the Adamah community. Anya works for the Nathan Cummings Foundation and is a member of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and the North Star Fund Community Funding Committee.

Below is part two of two – be sure to read the first part of the interview here.

What giving strategies do you think young people should be experimenting with now, that will help them become better givers in the future?

1.  Develop a giving plan. Resource Generation’s Social Change Giving Plan Notebook is an incredible step-by-step guide for putting your values on paper. Elie Kaunfer’s series is another helpful online tool that discusses ideas about tzedakah. Consider giving in a way that is accountable to yourself and to the change you’re seeking to contribute to. Develop a realistic timeline, and evaluate your overall plan.

2.  Hold your giving practice up to a Social Change Giving framework:
-Does the work you are supporting address the underlying, root causes of inequality and injustice?
-Can the people most impacted by inequality and injustice play a more active role in the decision making around where your money goes?
-Is there transparency and accountability about how much money is going where, and why, particularly in grant making?
-Can you be an ally to the movement by also donating time, connections, knowledge and skills?
-See if you want to make any adjustments to how you make decisions about how, where, and how much you give in the coming year.

3.  Really consider who/where you give to in relation to what you think are the most important things that need to happen to heal and improve our society and world – and how your money can contribute to work that people are already doing to make that happen.

4.  Consider your roles as a donor in its different permutations: When do you choose to be anonymous? When do you choose to be open so as to inspire other donors, or to allow the organization to let you know how to best support their work?

5.  Ask organizations you’ve been supporting about the best timing for your giving or whether there are campaigns coming up where they can leverage your gift; make a pledge to support their work for multiple years so that they have less uncertainty about being able to rely on your support and follow through before they have to remind you to.

6.  Forgive yourself in advance for not doing it exactly right and keep trying and improving upon your giving.

Since it’s almost the end of year, do you have a smart philanthropy tip for making year-end donations?

-Call organizations you support and ask if you can help them make phone calls to their donors to remind them to give. There is often a really big push at the end of the year for non-profits to bring in all their donations and this extra help can go a long way.

-Give more than feels totally comfortable – notice what feels like a stretch and reach for it.

-Think about sharing your giving plan or ideas about giving with others, encourage them to be more generous in their giving, and introduce them to what social change giving can look like.

-Keep track of where you give your money; it’s helpful for taxes and also in identifying whether your contributions are really as intentional as you want them to be.

-Revisit the list you made last year and decide whether you want to support any organizations at higher levels.

-Develop a giving plan and plan to give earlier in the year so that next year you don’t have to give everything at the end of the year since that can be stressful for organizations.

-Build relationships with the people at the organizations you support: don’t be invisible; it’s helpful for organizations to understand who their donors are, what motivates them to give, and whether they can broaden awareness about that organization’s work. It also helps them to feel strengthened that their work is reaching and inspiring others.

-Spend some time doing donor organizing: think about fundraising for the organizations you support, tap into your networks and build broader support for the organization.

-Remember that this work is sacred.

This article was posted at the Pursue blog, Pursue: Action for a Just World.

Photo courtesy Cathdew.


Sasha Feldstein is a program associate in the education and community engagement department at AJWS, where she manages WhereDoYouGive.org. Aside from wanting to be and play outside all of the time, she is interested in radical reconceptualizations of ancient traditions and in deeply exploring why we give, where we give, how we give and what it means to define giving tzedakah as pursuing justice. Sasha can be reached at sfeldstein@ajws.org.

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