Joel Omansky

If I can help the world be a more positive place through giving of time or money, even if i’m only a tiny tiny part, I’m living a purposeful live…
Location: New York, New York
What was the first gift you ever made?: 
The first gift I can remember giving as an adult was to the Mayor’s fund for September 11.  Having been close to the WTC on 9/11 and seen the horror, I still get very emotional about it and wanted to help anyway I could.

What’s your charity of choice today?: 

I currently give regularly to the New York Public Library and Giving Opportunities to Others (GOTO).  The NYPL is a vibrant resource that is, like many libraries, sadly underutilized nowadays.  It has every book and cd you can imagine and great lectures.  This past year they had an exhibit commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles coming to America at the Julliard library.  As a Beatles nut, I was excited to be able to see the exhibit with other donors, but I’m more excited when I go to take out items and see the great programs they have for kids.

GOTO is an organization I’m involved with that funds scholarships for kids to go to an arts camp in New Jersey.  It’s amazing seeing the kids who are now grownups who went to the camp when the scholarship program started about 12 years ago. They love talking about how the program helped them develop social skills and maturity. It’s a real thrill to see an organization you donate to and involved in making a real impact on others.

Who inspires you  to give?:

I think seeing the results of your donations or participation, be it through GOTO that I described above, or seeing my Little Buddy mature and grow up in the Big Brother program is the best inspiration. I like programs where you feel like you’re making a direct difference rather than being just an person and a dollar amount.

What motivates you to give?:

Helping others helps us feel good and puts positive energy into the world. I believe in the “pay if forward” concept and if I can help the world be a more positive place through giving of time or money, even if i’m only a tiny tiny part, I’m living a purposeful live.

How do you give of your time?:

I am a Big Brother in the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services Big Brother program, where I meet with my Little Buddy, a 9 year old boy, every other week.  I’m also involved with GOTO where I help out with programs and play piano at an event showcasing the talent of the scholars in the program. I play the piano for low income folks at a dinner in the city from time to time.  Finally, I’m a member of the board of ACCESS, the young professionals division of the American Jewish Committee.
What advice do you have for others to consider giving?: 
There are so many charities out there. Think about what you want to achieve and do lots of research. I personally like the organizations where I feel I have a direct impact  (as opposed to a small one compared to larger donors) or have a strong and respected say in the direction of the organization.  I also found programs that were tailored to my personal interests in mentoring, music, books and lectures.  Like anything in life, if you’re enjoying what you’re doing, you’re more motivated.


Julia Levy, Founder, has a decade of development experience, including working for a philanthropist, a small nonprofit and now a large nonprofit. She has raised significant dollars for numerous causes, from education to religion and from donors of all ages. Julia holds a Certificate in Fundraising from NYU’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and an undergraduate degree from Cornell University. Julia has taught fundraising workshops, most recently at Brooklyn Brainery and coached development professionals.

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Why We Give tells stories of ordinary philanthropists, making a difference, dollar by dollar and hour by hour.  

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