JJ: What are the biggest mistakes Jewish philanthropists make?
AS: They don’t fund enough capacity building. They are very afraid of overhead, and that’s extremely problematic because we’re starving Jewish nonprofits of the capacity they need to operate. And it’s an obsession we have, by the way, only when it comes to nonprofits: When I go to Starbucks, I don’t tell them, ‘Deduct 50 cents, because I don’t want to pay for your rent.’ The second mistake [funders make] is that they try to go at it alone. Even Bill Gates, with the billions of dollars he gives away, partners up with other people. Networking and collaboration is critical if you want to really move the needle. Another one is that philanthropy doesn’t have any built-in feedback mechanism. If you have a business and you’re bad at it, you go bankrupt. If you are a grant-maker and you make a bad grant, what happens? You get a gala in your honor. No one tells funders the truth. They need their money. They’re intimidated.
Andrés Spokoiny, as quoted in Danielle Berrin, “Inside the Mind of a Philanthropist”, Jewish Journal (20-26 November 2015), 46-47.