Robbie Brenner

Many people each giving something can have a significant impact, and monetarily isn’t the only way to give.

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Profession: Fundraiser

What was the first gift you ever gave?:

My first gift was to the Jewish National Fund, and it was 25 cents. From the time I was in Kindergarten, I attended Hebrew School each Sunday, and we were asked to bring a monetary donation and a can of food. At the start of class, we placed the can of food in a box and the money in a blue-and-white tzedakah (in Hebrew, “charitable giving”) box on the teacher’s desk. Like me, most of my classmates gave a quarter and yet, pretty soon the box grew heavy. This introduced me to the ideas that many people each giving something can have a significant impact, and that monetarily isn’t the only way to give.

What is your charity of choice?:

This is a question I’m currently asking myself. I believe strongly in supporting people at their most vulnerable, which is why I work for a system of hospitals. Historically, I have spread my philanthropy among numerous organizations, with an emphasis on institutions that have served me well. These include my alma maters, my synagogue, an after-school program, an arts organization and environmental organizations. However, I’m beginning to think about honing my commitments towards the privilege and responsibility of board membership. For this, I am approaching the idea of vulnerability from another angle, and considering organizations which alleviate poverty in a transformational, sustainable way.

Who inspires you to give?:

Friends, family, my colleagues in development at other organizations, my mentors, my teachers, my coaches.

What motivates you to give?:

Organizations which are very good at what they do motivate me to give, and organizations which take an efficient, cost-effective approach to fundraising. If I receive a marketing piece by mail or e-mail which is timely, and smartly and compellingly designed and written, I am going to draw certain conclusions about the organization. If I receive a marketing piece that is poorly designed or written, or near to bursting its envelope with content or blank greeting cards for my personal use or–my favorite–a glued nickel in an envelope window, I am likewise going to draw certain conclusions about the organization. I do believe, however, that timing is crucial and that in this way luck is often a factor.

How do you give  time?:

I volunteer at galas and other fundraising events, advise development colleagues, introduce friends and family to non-profits related to their interests and try to bring friends and family to the fundraising events I attend. The majority of these activities require little more than e-mailing, and I would expect to give significantly more time in a board member role.

What advice do you have for others to consider giving?:

I believe many people think of charity as a one-way street: They give money and expect little if anything in return, aside from charitable feelings and a tax-deduction. I think many of the most innovative and forward-thinking organizations give back, through social and/or professional and/or educational opportunities related to their work or their cause. I recommend seeking an organization that makes it a point to connect you with new people or educate you. If you pick an innovative organization aligned with your values, chances are you will meet like-minded, generous people and be exposed to content you will appreciate, and both you and the organization will benefit from a deeper, longer-term relationship.

Lauren Shoolman


Lauren is a development professional with five years of experience in Canada and the United States in individual and institutional giving, and special events. She is an Emerging Leaders of New York Arts (ELNYA) Fellow, a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in New York, and has been invited to deliver guest lectures at St. Lawrence University, NY, on fundraising. Lauren holds a BA Specialized Honors in Marketing and a Certificate in Management from York University, Canada.

'Robbie Brenner' have 1 comment

  1. December 21, 2014 @ 9:51 pm June

    Robbie Brenner inspires me to GIVE more each time I have the honor of being in his conpany. God has gifted him the power of rhetoric, but he actually does practice what he preaches. Bravo, RB : )


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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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