Michael Waterman: Why I Give

My father ran our family foundation until he passed away. It was based on his interests in social and economic justice. He came out of the 60’s and was a product of the progressive movement of that time. He was really into giving to smaller groups that were making a difference—or had the potential to—in the community. That was his thing. After he passed away, we were advised to turn the foundation into a donor advised fund. We needed a home for the fund that was right for us. After meeting with Hugh and the staff at North Star, it was a really easy decision. The North Star Fund represented our family’s values. North Star also has serious expertise. They make you feel really comfortable in their advice. They have a history with, and a dedication to, these groups. They know who is doing what, who the up-and-coming stars of the movement are. North Star is the single entity that can coalesce all of this information into one place and give potential donors the information they need to make the right choices for themselves.

The process was really easy, too. After we decided to create the donor advised fund, I talked to Hugh. He learned what we were interested in, then his team put together a list of the groups they thought we might want to support. Together we culled it down, figured out how much we wanted to give to each group, and decided on a timeline. North Star took it from there. One year later, we got reports on how the money was spent to affect change. It couldn’t have been any simpler.

Some grants stand out in my mind. For example, after the earthquake in Haiti, Lakou New York went to North Star looking for money. There was a dearth of reporting in the provinces; everything was focused on Port Au Prince. Lakou was looking to send someone out to report on what the situation was outside of the capital. They weren’t looking for much money; they needed a motorcycle, a cell phone, and food, basically. While I couldn’t understand the reporting that happened because I don’t speak Creole, I’d like to think that that was a really important project at an important time.

North Star has been a really important place for me to feel connected to grassroots activism. I’ve always been very interested in, and committed to supporting, community organizing. That is not where my professional life has led me. So it’s inspiring to know how our support makes a difference.

We spent down our fund, and now I’m on the Board of Directors. Another very easy decision. I was thrilled and honored to have another way to work with North Star. It’s great to watch them grow and chalk up the victories.


tags: Donor Voices
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