I had something of an off-message moment Thursday morning.
There are about 200 men also attending the Lion of Judah Conference. The significant others of Lion of Judah members, the men are part of the conference, but have their own program track titled “The Lion Kings.” (I know, I know.)
This morning I skipped the women’s breakout sessions to attend breakfast with the guys, primarily because the UJC had lined up Benny Landa as a speaker.
Landa, the Israeli who revolutionized laser color printing and then sold his company, Indigo, to Hewlett Packard in 2002 when it was worth about $1 billion, is one of my favorite interviews on the philanthropy beat. He gave an extensive interview to the Fundermentalist in July.
He grew up dirt poor, built his printing empire, and has since become a pretty fascinating philanthropist.
Landa gives away about $5 million a year, almost exclusively to causes that are designed to narrow the gap between Israel’s rich and poor; sp far, he’s doled out about $50 million.
Here’s the off-message part…
The federation system now needs to figure out how to boost its campaigns – specifically the money that it collects from donors for general needs, and to pay for their operating costs and the operating costs of JAFI and the Joint.
Landa, though, decided to give his advice on how one should design his or her own philanthropy:
"I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with making your donations to a federation or within the federation system. That’s fine. But if you really want to feel that you are doing something. Take a specific project and say this is my mission," he said. During his closing remarks, he added: “I feel very, very strongly it is a difficult thing to say no to everything else, to the worthiness and the desperation of other projects, but you have to focus on the one. Focus on one thing that is really going to influence the future.”
Probably not the pitch that UJC President and CEO Howard Rieger – who spoke before Landa – wanted to hear.