Philanthropic work can be tremendously rewarding if done right. As lay and pro-leaders, we are trying to figure out how to maximize the meaningfulness — the joy of giving — for others. We’d love to have a conversation with Wexner fellows and alumni about positive (and negative) experiences and what you are hoping for when you get involved in philanthropy. It’s so important that we get this right!

Here are a few thoughts, and some opportunities we, at the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), are working to create that we share in a collaborative spirit (and a dash of “leaning-in”, admittedly).

Thought: There are people who want to get more hands-on involved, and who are interested in matching their outside expertise with the work that we do. We have many people asking what they can do, in addition to writing a check.

Opportunity: For those interested in more strategic involvement, JDC Impact Networks are exclusive opportunities for groups of like-minded donors to explore and impact an issue of special concern within JDC’s purview, such as children at risk, Jewish or worldwide hunger, or understanding the renewal of Jewish communities in places where Jewish culture has been decimated. Impact Networks, like the giving circle model, pool resources to make a difference in their area of focus. Are your organizations also gaining traction with this model?

Thought: On a basic level, philanthropy can open your eyes and heart to different realities that coexist with what might seem like everyday life. Perhaps the elderly woman you see in the street goes home to an inadequate meal, or there is a child you’ll never meet because his parents hide his disability (and him to boot), or you see a family going through the motions of work and school but you are unaware that they have slipped into the specter of homelessness.

Opportunity: There is little more powerful than meeting the people you are helping, seeing their situation first-hand and knowing you can make a difference. We have tried to offer these opportunities through trips overseas and by bringing stories of those we serve back home through video, articles and in-person events. How do you share the narratives of your donors and participants – can you share some inspiring videos?

Thought: In Jewish giving, we feel a stronger and more poignant sense of community and peoplehood. After all, if it weren’t for an act of fate, that grandmother might be our own, victim to forces of history beyond her knowledge or control. Jews have been subject to so much over the decades and beyond — helping one another feels like an act of solidarity; a response to inhumanity by strengthening bonds of caring and decency.

Opportunity: We’ve been listening to rabbis and other Jewish leaders across the country and world, including some within the JDC ranks, to make sure our giving is inspired and connected to something much bigger than ourselves. And we are reaching out to different generations — separately, but also bringing them together — to discuss and understand what Jewish community means over the ages and today. How do you connect your mission to Jewish values? What are you doing to engage different generations?

Fellow Wexnerians, please let us know what inspires you in philanthropic giving, and what challenges and opportunities you are experiencing. Leave a comment below and if there is interest, we can plan a conference call to share best practices. For more info on JDC’s impact networks, contact Rebecca Neuwirth, Director, JDC Ambassadors, at

Betsy R. Sheerr, a Wexner Heritage Alumna (Philadelphia 2), serves on the JDC Board and has chaired its International Development (non-sectarian) Program and Marketing & Communications Committee, was Vice-Chair of the Israel Committee, and led the Israel work group of the Strategic Visioning process. Betsy was also a National Chairman of the UJA Young Women’s Leadership Cabinet. Betsy can be reached at

Laura Spitzer, a Wexner Heritage Alumna from NewYork I, serves as JDC’s Assistant Executive Vice President for Strategic Partnerships.  Laura can be reached at