I was happily working as a reference librarian for many years when serious money came to me. This threw me for a loop. Suddenly I was faced with questions like, “What is real work?” and “Could I be more pro-active in the things I say I care about?” and “What’s the best thing I can do with my dumb luck?” I decided to wade into the world of social change philanthropy and become a, gulp, philanthropist.
What motivated me? Certainly my family: growing up, we had serious dinner conversations on topics like the maldistribution of wealth. We never expected to be wealthy ourselves. (My parents said they simply “overshot the mark” while manufacturing tiny inductors, and ended up passing millions to each of their children.) I was strongly affected by the year my husband, kids, and I spent in Mississippi, forming deep friendships with people in stressed communities. Later, donor education groups like More Than Money and the Social Justice Fund helped me grow as a giver. For all those reasons and more, five years ago I left my comfortable library work and started volunteering full-time with organizations like the Algebra Project and Quality Education as a Civil Right, and now, three days a week, in a minority-majority elementary school.
My husband and I committed to contributing 75% of our assets to social justice issues. I’ve had fun moments in my philanthropist identity, but I’ve also had to face the discomfort of being close to people and organizations who are struggling financially when I am not. I’ve had to accept that once you start writing large checks, you are seen as someone who writes large checks, and that this attribute looms larger than qualities more personally meaningful. Ah well. The challenge is to take the opportunity – but not myself – seriously.
| West | 40 to 59 Years Old | $1-$10M | at least 50% | Inheritance |
| Education | Social Justice | Fairness | Joy |