Professional Advisor Profile: David Katznelson

Immanuel Kant once suggested that there is no such thing as true altruism, because by giving – of yourself, of your time, of your Donor Advised Fund – the personal reward is significant. It is that reward that draws me to my work in philanthropy. Healing the world. Tikun Olam. Our moral mandate as a people is both necessary and life-affirming. As a senior philanthropic advisor at the Federation, I am blessed by being able to work with individuals and families to explore, develop and celebrate their deeply held philanthropic interests.

What makes my job even better is that I truly like the people that I get to work with and am inspired daily by the conversations I get to have. When I started working at the Federation in 2008, Phyllis Cook told me that friendships will come from the people I connect with around their philanthropic paths, and I have found out how true that is. Friendships aside, the power of the work can be seen every day by the real impact in the community through funding for programs and organizations.

When people open a Donor Advised Fund, they are paving the way for a future in philanthropy – they are planning and putting money aside for future gifts. This act creates an opportunity for a conversation between the fund holder and me, a conversation about values, passions, life visions, music, history, philosophy, and family. These conversations, which end up arriving at a wonderful place, more often than not become the stories of our lives framed by a desire for good. That is inspiring, and I could spend every work day listening to them.

That wonderful place most of these conversations arrive at is a place of philanthropic vision. There are right and righter ways of doing good through your Donor Advised Fund. There is the idea of giving small amounts to many organizations. There is the idea of giving larger amounts to fewer organizations. And then there is the idea of giving impactful amounts to organizations that emulate the value and passion of the donor. That is the place I hope the conversations arrive at – a place for potential longterm impact around a chosen interest area.

Not all paths lead easily to a final outcome. My job is to be an advisor with a light touch and an open ear. At the end of the day, the philanthropic process needs to be enjoyable for the DAF holder with the hopes that it becomes easy and habitual. There are many paths connecting A to B, and it is my job to find the one that best suits the donor.

Recently, I have been enjoying leading families through early stages of their group philanthropic process. Families are complex structures made up of different personalities interconnected with long histories. When gathered around the table of giving, it is my job to facilitate a conversation that provides the framework and language for a family to begin to think about common values and passions. To help the family research different types of philanthropic pursuits and visions, to make one their own. To offer suggestions as to organizations that might interest them, and help them connect with thought leaders in their interest area.

Having helped fund dozens of local, national and international organizations, and having participated in community surveys and convenings, philanthropic advisors at the Federation, like myself, are in a wonderful place to offer educated information to aid in a Donor Advised Fund holder’s philanthropic pursuits. And, with the quarterly salon series that I am lucky to help plan, there are even more opportunities for DAF holders to meet like-minded philanthropists and learn about organizations in their interest areas. It is an excellent system that we are continually trying to make even better and more engaging!

Categories: Community, Philanthropy


September 18, 2015