Ruthie Ackerman

I live by the motto “We are what we create.” I am trying to create the world I want to live in for myself and my community…

Location: New York, New York

Profession: Vice President of Philanthropy, BerlinRosen

Twitter: @ruackerman

What was the first charitable gift you ever gave?:

When I was seven years old I set up a lemonade stand on my block and all of the money I raised went to support the local Ronald McDonald House. It was probably just a few hundred dollars, but it set me on a life long journey to give back to my community.

What is your charity of choice?:

I can’t pick just one! Right now I am very excited about She’s the First, which sponsors girls’ education in the developing world, and The Adventure Project, which creates jobs in the developing world. I believe strongly that jobs and education are the path to a better future.

Who inspires you to give?:

Currently, Benjamin Franklin. After reading Franklin’s autobiography earlier this year I started a Mutual Improvement Club modeled after the one he had for over 40 years. Our club, like Franklin’s, brings together civically engaged and community-minded individuals to work towards improving themselves and their community. The foundation of the Mutual Improvement Club is the same 13 virtues Franklin and his cohort followed –Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, and Humility. Almost 300 years later, we are using these virtues as a launching off point to re-imagine community engagement, leadership and values for the 21st century.

What motivates you to give?:

I live by the motto “We are what we create.” I am trying to create the world I want to live in for myself and my community.

How do you give of your time?:

So many ways! Through the Mutual Improvement Club I already mentioned. This summer I volunteered in the community garden in Harlem. I host monthly breakfasts with my friend Becky to bring together women across many sectors in NYC to share ideas and help each other get to the next level in our careers and lives.

If you could start your own charity, what would it be?:

I don’t think we necessarily need more charities. I believe in bringing together the charities we already have to work toward common goals.

What advice do you have for others when they consider giving?:

Before you give there are some key questions to ask yourself: What moves you? Which charities connect deeply to your values? Which charities help create the word you want to live in? I often give to causes because my friend is involved or has asked me to. That’s a great reason to give! I also try to find new organizations that are looking at challenges in innovative ways.

For example, this year I gave to The Dinner Party because I love how this group is bringing people in local communities together to share their feelings on grief and loss over a home-cooked meal. I also try to give to organizations in my neighborhood in Harlem because I believe in supporting local efforts. So this year I gave to Harlem Grown, an organization that operates urban farms in Harlem to teach residents about healthy food. They also have free yoga classes that bring the whole neighborhood together.


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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