You get to meet the people behind the [homeless] signs. For example, there is one client named Tom who loves to play chess. He’s way better than me. He consistently kicks my butt. You wouldn’t know that until you spent the time to meet him. It makes it so much more meaningful to get involved when you can have that personal connection.
Location: New York, New York
Profession: Corporate Finance
What was your first memory of giving back?:
My math teacher asked me to help tutor other kids in math. She thought I’d be well suited to helping them. I think it worked well, both because there was just one more person to help with explain material and because it is sometimes easier to say you don’t understand something to a peer than a teacher. That was the first time I gave my time and it was a really rewarding experience.
Who inspires you to give?:
My parents instilled in me a sense that while material things are great, it is important to recognize that not everyone has the same privileges. They made me think about the concept of marginal utility at a young age. For example, did I need another X Box game? It would have been fun to play with, but I already had dozens, and was the benefit I would get from one more game more significant from what someone else would get from having their first? To that end, I have always respected high profile givers, Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett, etc. but I think they are doing what they should be doing.
What is one cause you care deeply about?:
One organization I volunteer with is called iMentor, and it matches underprivileged high school students with college graduates with the goal of getting every student in the program through college. I strongly believe that education is an extremely important equalizer. Empowering people to seek education is essential to a meritocracy. If people’s access to education is limited by race or socioeconomic status, you will end up in a society with limited social mobility, which I think is a tragedy. Providing these students with a support system in iMentor is very important to helping them attain a professional job later in life. These students often don’t have people in their lives to coach them professionally and academically. My mentee is from Guinea and he only moved to the U.S. a couple of years ago. I am able to answer questions for him and his family – like how a college athletic scholarship works – that his family might not be able to help him with.
In addition, you serve serve on the Junior Board of a nonprofit. Tell us more about why.
Yes, I also serve on the Junior Board for Urban Pathways, an organization which seeks to provide supportive housing to the permanently homeless population in New York City. Homeless shelters are important, but many shelters do very little to address the underlying issues that cause homeless, usually psychological illnesses. I actually found the organization while searching online for ways to help veterans, a population for whom homeless is a significant problem. because they are such an important community and a lot of people take them for granted. But homelessness is an issue that has always bothered me. It feels like discussions of homelessness often end in people taking sides about the appropriate size of government or the need for fiscal responsibility. When in fact, study after study has shown that not only is it humane to put the chronically homeless into supportive housing, but it also saves money. Homeless populations are often extremely expensive for municipalities, once you add up the costs of police visits, emergency room visits, etc. Putting people in supportive housing where they can get the treatment they need, actually costs taxpayers less money. It is just such a no brainer to me.
Can you share an example of how you give back?:
With Urban Pathways (UP), we have a client night every couple of weeks. We play games and talk to them. I think most people go their whole lives thinking of the homeless as people on the sidewalk with a cardboard side asking for money. People don’t think about the fact that they are unique individuals. They all have their own personalities and quirks, despite being in similar situations.
Going to these events, you get to meet the people behind the signs. For example, there is one client named Tom who loves to play chess. He’s way better than me. He consistently kicks my butt. You wouldn’t know that until you spent the time to meet him. It makes it so much more meaningful to get involved when you can have that personal connection.
What would you say to encourage others to give?:
Most people have a cause they care about. Something that makes you annoyed when someone disagrees with you over it at a cocktail party. The key to giving back is to find what incites your passion, and find a way to harness that. Find that cause that you genuinely care about and find a way to make that your charitable giving.