Had enough of celebrity diets for 2014? Here are some tips from our experts for getting your giving in shape for the coming year.
It’s January—makeover time. To get the inside skinny on putting a philanthropic plan into shape for the new year, we put aside our calorie counters and spoke to five Liberty Hill donor-activists who are known by peers as particularly thoughtful, strategic givers.
Bill Resnick, Anne-Marie Jones, Jed Dannenbaum, Doe Mayer, and Pilar Diaz all have deep ties to Liberty Hill and support us through financial contributions, Board service, volunteering and as advisers and ambassadors. Bill and Pilar have been Liberty Hill honorees (Bill received the 2005 Founders Award; Pilar received the 2011 NextGen Leadership Award). Anne-Marie has been an Uplifting Change participant, and Doe who has been a valued coach and mentor to our grantees through the Wally Marks Leadership Institute and has recently joined Liberty Hill’s Board.
We asked what the year ahead looks like from their personal philanthropic perspectives as they support their causes, contribute to our communities, and build power positive change in L.A. and the world.
Do you have a plan for the coming year? “I don’t have a formal plan for my individual giving but I do have areas of interest and also I have relationships with organizations. In recent years I’ve had somewhat of a focus on creative arts and art therapy, for helping people make changes and build community. One thing that’s important to me is that I’ve been giving with my siblings in addition to individually. We’ve been getting some money from our parents’ foundation. Last year we expanded our formal grant giving. We’ve been working with a consultant and have been going through a whole learning process, looking at things critically. It’s been a kind of training. One thing we have focused on is community building and looking at how organizations can foster building social ties among the people they serve.”
Ways of giving: Bill volunteers as a psychiatrist with Venice Family Clinic and serves on its board. He chairs the board at Beit T’Shuvah, a spiritual community and residential treatment center for addiction, where he also volunteers and is a Friday night attendee at services with his fiancée Michael. He teaches first year medical students and supervises psychiatry residents at UCLA and chairs the board of The Relational Center. He also serves on the boards of American Jewish World Service and Center Theatre Group.
Why Liberty Hill is part of his plan: “I appreciate the vision Liberty Hill has of a more just and equitable Los Angeles and its theory of change resonates with me—that deep wisdom resides in the communities and that the people affected by injustice often have—with proper support—the keys to change. There is a community built at Liberty Hill and these ties built between donor-supporters and grantees are important. It feels in a certain way like a home base for me.”
Heart of the plan: “Part of a giving plan is you have to bring yourself to it. There are many ways to be leaderful in areas you care about.”
Do you have a plan for the coming year? “In 2014 I want to ramp it up. I need to free up funds for contributions which could happen by cutting back on my restaurant bills a bit. It would be better for my waistline as well as for organizations I support! To come up with a plan, I forecast. I know there are two or three times a year when I come into a little cash. In March or April when my tax refund comes, I’ll figure I have this much to contribute from that check. And then because of how pay periods work, I’ll know there are a couple months each year when I get three paychecks instead of two and I designate some of that “extra” paycheck for contributions. Then with our Angelenos for L.A. giving circle, I make a monthly contribution. Also, whenever a donation I make qualifies, my company will match it, and I do that.”
Ways of giving: Anne-Marie is a member of the Angelenos for L.A. giving circle, which is housed at Liberty Hill and primarily focuses on the African American community in L.A. She is also a part of Liberty Hill’s Uplifting Change initiative to connect local donor-activists and help them leverage community assets to strengthen Black Los Angeles through philanthropic investment in grassroots community organizing. She is a proud Trojan and has volunteered through USC’s Joint Educational Project and participates in group volunteer activities through the giving circle and at her workplace.
Why Liberty Hill is part of her plan: “Liberty Hill’s good work crosses all sectors and all boundaries. And the groups it supports fit in the center of issues that concern me such as equity and social justice, in particular for low income communities of color and LGBT youth, groups that are doing such really good work on advocacy. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of bringing equity to Los Angeles.”
Heart of the plan: “The giving circle is great because like-minded folks can come together and give a bigger gift and amplify their impact. If you have ten people giving even $600 a year, that’s already six grand. It’s doable and feasible and some organization is going to appreciate that.”
DOE MAYER AND JED DANNENBAUM
Do you have a plan for the coming year? Doe: “For contributions, we sit down in December and go through everything to decide which groups to give what to. We make contributions to a variety of organizations around the world.” Jed: “When we first got married, there were several years when it was more haphazard. But rather than giving small amounts to a whole lot of organizations, we wanted to figure out which ones were the most effective and reflective of our values and increase our contributions to those organizations.”
Ways of Giving: When Doe and Jed sent out their wedding invitations in 1993, they sent along a request that friends and family honor them with donations instead of gifts, and suggested Liberty Hill. Both teach at the University of Southern California, where Jed is active in efforts to improve working conditions for part-time and non-tenure-track faculty. Doe volunteers and consults for Liberty Hill as a communications and media coach through our Wally Marks Leadership Institute, a role she also fulfills with other nonprofits internationally, largely in developing countries. Doe has recently joined Liberty Hill’s Board, and both are members of Liberty Hill’s Advisory Council. They have made provisions in their will for a number of nonprofits organizations that are important to them.
Why Liberty Hill is part of their plan: Doe: "I've been with Liberty Hill from the very beginning. Sarah Pillsbury [a founder] and I have been part of a women's group for almost 40 years. When she and her family first had the idea, it was meaningful to me and has become even more so as the organization has grown. I love the idea that it's such an L.A.- based organization. And I've always gravitated toward its "change, not charity" philosophy, which is part of my own work: giving people tools to use for themselves." Jed: I hadn’t been living in L.A. long when I met Doe 22 years ago, but the civil unrest that followed the Rodney King verdict made me realize that I thought of this as my city and I really cared about it. When I learned about Liberty Hill through Doe and then went on some of the bus trips to meet and learn about community organizing groups they were supporting, I was completely won over. As someone who had been a historian of social reform, I was a big believer in the idea that real change starts at the community level.”
Heart of the plan: Doe: “I feel like I’m much more in control of my giving than when I’m giving five dollars here and twenty dollars there. The result is I’m much more strategic about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.”
Do you have a plan for the coming year? “As I was gathering my tax deductions together and was looking at the contributions I’ve made in the past year, I noticed that my contributions were all over the place. I wanted to help everyone. Moving forward, I want to focus my giving and make a bigger impact. I’m concentrating on a very few personal causes: breast cancer, veterans (especially organizations like Team Rubicon, a disaster-response veterans service organization), and Liberty Hill.”
Ways of Giving: Pilar is a core member of Liberty Hill’s Change L.A. supporters group. She is on the leadership board of “The Fringe,” Center Theater Group’s young professional supporters. She is an active member of Asian American/ Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy and volunteers with Southern California Golf Association Foundation’s Girls Committee. She also helps organize fundraisers for various groups. She tells the world about causes she supports on her blog.
Why Liberty Hill is part of her plan: “For the last 13 years, I have worked with community organizations that represent some of the most underserved communities in L.A. Liberty Hill supports the work of most of these organizations. Liberty Hill's staff and leadership have also guided my growth in the field, especially as I transitioned from community organizing to grantmaking. In addition to their guidance, the passion of their staff, board members, and donor-activists to create change inspires me. I can’t just sit on the sidelines. Last summer, I spent a gorgeous sunny Saturday at the Commissions Training Program, aka, the best workshop ever. I am super-involved in L.A. partly because of Liberty Hill. Liberty Hill is part of my plan because it is an important institution in this city.”
Heart of the plan: “I want to give in a more meaningful way. Beyond the dollars, I want to learn more about the issues and then get more involved, with the hope of making an impact.”