Don Katz and Rebecca Krantz’s Talk at the 11/11/11 award ceremony of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Madison Chapter

Don: Why we give

“Happiness is not an individual matter.” Those words of our Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, express the truth that, because we are profoundly interconnected, the happiness of others is our own happiness, and the suffering of others is our own suffering. This is a radical view in a society that believes that our wealth and our circumstances belong to ourselves alone, are due to our own effort alone, in which we say “my money”, “your poverty”.

It was my father, Irv Katz, who accumulated the wealth we use in our giving.  He was raised in a family that lived hand to mouth in the Bronx in New York, and was able to go to college during the depression only because he attended City College of New York, a public institution with free tuition, and because his brother dropped out of college, because the family could only afford to have one person who was not working. Later, when he became successful as an accountant, he paid the college tuition for all his siblings’ children and their children.

He was acutely aware that his wealth was the result of the labor of his entire family, and the resources of his community, not just his own. I inherited that view, along with his wealth.

We view wealth as a gift, and a shared resource, that must be stewarded wisely.

Giving itself is a deep spiritual practice. Both Judaism and Buddhism, the two traditions Becca and I rely on, teach this.

Buddhism teaches that holding on to things is a key source of suffering in our lives. The practice of generosity allows us to work with the parts of ourselves that are clinging to things out of fear and other negative emotions so those part of ourselves can be healed. In this way, giving to others supports our own happiness and transformation.

In Judaism, Tzedakah, which we translate as charity, is not a generous, magnanimous act, it is an religious obligation. In the words of Rabbi Israel Salanter, “The material needs of my neighbor become my spiritual needs.”It is not an accident that in every list of the top charitable donors, there are a disproportionate number of Jews – giving is a central aspect of our culture and our faith. And we are proud and blessed to be among them.

Becca: Why we focus on capacity building/ leadership development

Don and I have both spent a lot of time as activists and as organizational leaders, including stints serving as executive director. We have experienced first hand the struggles of trying to make change without adequate training, knowledge, or support. Today, I as a consultant, and both of us as volunteers and donors, see many others in similar situations.

This is why when we began to focus our philanthropy a few years ago, one of the primary areas we chose was leadership and organizational development.

Some funders prefer to focus on direct services and areas where there are clearly tangible outcomes. The outcomes from funding leadership and organizational capacity building can be indirect, but they are potentially greater in the long run. They are what we view as high leverage investments; rather than giving a hungry person a fish, you teach them how to fish.

Another reason we like to fund leadership and organizational development is that they are not very well funded in this geographic region. There seems to be an assumption here that non-profits can and should get strategic planning, legal advice, and even IT support pro bono, from board members, or from University Extension. Unfortunately, sometimes this means groups don’t get help at all, or don’t get help that is well-suited to their needs. Many times, unfortunately, you get what you pay for. I am told that in at least some other parts of the country like Washington DC and California, it is much more common for funders to pay for consulting, training, and other forms of organizational capacity building. I have been working with a collaboration of consultants, organizations, and funders here in Dane County called CORE, Consulting for Organizational Reflection and Effectiveness, to address this set of issues. Our vision is that one day, everyone in our area doing good works will have the help they need to be sustainable, effective and powerful in their missions to make the world a better place for all.  We are providing networking and learning opportunities for both consultants and organizations, and are developing a matching fund to provide grants to organizations to pay for consulting and training. I’d love to talk with you afterwards if you’d like more information about this effort.

Don: Thank You

We are very grateful to AFP for honoring us in this way.

We also want to thank Salli Martyniak, Jill Muenich of FCI for nominating, and Paul Terranova, Amy Mondloch, and Bruce Moffatt  for their generous letters of support

Finally we wanted to thank Grant Abert, Art and Sue Lloyd, Joe and Mary Ellyn Sensenbrenner, and Jackie Boynton, for modeling the kind of principled, activist donor engagement that we strive to emulate.