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New Canaan Country School Panel Discusses 'The Art Of Giving Back'

“The Art of Giving Back” panelists from left: Jeff Erdmann of Norwalk, Holly Donaldson of New Canaan; Willy Oppenheim, a New Canaan native now living in Seattle; Joe Toce; Linda Marshall of New Canaan; and moderator Paul Sullivan of Stamford.
“The Art of Giving Back” panelists from left: Jeff Erdmann of Norwalk, Holly Donaldson of New Canaan; Willy Oppenheim, a New Canaan native now living in Seattle; Joe Toce; Linda Marshall of New Canaan; and moderator Paul Sullivan of Stamford. Photo Credit: Submitted

NEW CANAAN, Conn. -- New York Times columnist Paul Sullivan moderated a panel discussion on "The Art of Giving Back" at New Canaan Country School on Nov. 5.

The panel, which featured three Country School alumni, discussed their experiences giving "time, talent and treasure" in various ways and what "giving" means to them. They agreed that donors today want to invest in solving root causes of problems rather than addressing short-term fixes.

“It’s not about just charity and writing a check and checking off a to-do list. It’s about supporting an organization that shares your values,” said Holly Donaldson, Class of 2004, a youth and community leader at AmeriCares. “AmeriCares is thinking about how we can prepare and respond, but then also recover and prepare for the next disasters. Organizations are really becoming much more sophisticated. It’s not just about charity and putting a band-aid on the problem. It’s about looking at the problem holistically.”

“It’s about creating a positive business model that is sustainable. … How do we take a dollar and turn it into three dollars from a philanthropic standpoint,' said Jeff Erdmann on the difference between charity and philanthropy. Erdmann is managing director at Merrill Lynch and a member of the Country School Class of 1978.

“What giving means to me is to try to be a responsible citizen,” said Willy Oppenheim, Class of 2001, Rhodes Scholar and founder of the nonprofit organization Omprakash. “That’s something I try to let inform the decisions I make as an educator and as a consumer; what I eat, what I wear, where I go; and by the way I engage with politics and ideas. It’s not just one section of my life, it’s how I try to be in this world.”

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