Master’s students who converge at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy come from across the world, bringing diverse perspectives and experiences. They graduate, some in two years as full-time students, and others from an executive master’s program where individuals who work full-time can take classes part-time and still graduate in 3-4 years. One such alumna of the executive program is Ronit Segelman.
Segelman is Israeli and had been working in Israeli philanthropy for many years. She entered the school as an executive student while continuing her role in Israel as vice president of partnerships for the Rashi Foundation. The foundation focuses on building capital projects and establishing programs in Israel’s periphery. In that role, she identified and developed relationships with other funders around the world.
“We created joint investments with other funders, where we put together ideas and questions about philanthropy and nonprofits. At one point, the foundation had more than 90 philanthropic partners from around the world,” Segelman said.
However, she knew she wanted to further her education and professional development.
“I hungered to add a theoretical and academic side to my field experience. I started researching and asking questions,” Segelman said. “People pointed me to the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and IUPUI. I originally asked about a summer program, but then I found out about the executive master’s (option). I knew that was the right program for me.”
The Rashi Foundation recognized the importance of bringing back a philanthropic education to Israel.
“They assisted in paying for my tuition, gave me time off, and sponsored my residency periods,” Segelman explained. (The executive master’s option consists of taking online classes during the school year, with weeklong residency courses offered during the summer.)
But what brought her to a United States program to complete her education?
“There were no opportunities for programs like this in Israel,” Segelman said. “In Israel, there is no culture of philanthropy. Judaism places the emphasis on individual giving, not cultural or societal giving. We pay high taxes to fund a welfare government, which uses those payments to fulfill its obligation by providing services to citizens.
“People believe that when you conduct strategic philanthropy, you release government from its responsibility to its citizens and that’s not a good thing.”
She also pointed out two other ideas about Israel and philanthropy. One is a suspicion of rich people and how they made their money.
“It’s not OK to show wealth,” Segelman said. “There’s also a growth in the number of wealthy people and a growth in disparity between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’ ”
In addition, the state of Israel was born on an ethos that rejected charity.
“Before the state of Israel was established, the settlements in the area needed support to survive,” she said. “After the establishment of the state, people rejected the idea of being dependent on charity and stressed living according to your means.”
All of these perceptions influence Israeli philanthropy, and they are some of the reasons that drove Segelman to study philanthropy in the U.S. at the first school of philanthropy. Over a period of three years, with three summers on campus, she learned about a wide variety of topics and ideas related to philanthropy.
“I studied social entrepreneurship, venture philanthropy, grantmaking from the economic and cost benefit side, the donor intent side of things, how to work with philanthropic advisors, relationships between grantors and grantees, and ethics, among other topics,” she said.
“I was in a cohort of 15 students who had practical experience and came from all over the world. Together, we talked about and collaborated on issues related to philanthropy. For me, I learned to understand the U.S. and its deep history with philanthropy. That knowledge brings a depth to my conversations about Israeli philanthropy and what it can become.”
After graduating from the master’s degree program, Segelman began working as the director of philanthropy at Sheatufim, a nonprofit focused on developing Israeli philanthropy by educating Israeli nonprofits and working with the government to help it better understand philanthropy.
“There’s a hunger to know more about philanthropy by Israeli nonprofits,” she said. “In addition, we’ve started conversations with prominent Israeli philanthropists to show them productive ways to talk about their philanthropy.”
In addition, Segelman has worked with Dr. Leslie Lenkowsky and Dr. Jamie Levine Daniel on the creation of the Israeli Philanthropy Initiative, a program that brings together senior managers from the government, corporate, and nonprofit sectors.
“The sectors collaborate in shared learning experiences while discussing the status of global philanthropy and how we can increase philanthropy in Israel,” she said.
For Segelman herself, her goals include finding platforms such as seminars, education sessions, and workshops to talk about philanthropy: “When I talked about my experiences studying and working with philanthropy, the interest level was high. I know people want to learn more.”
In the future, she hopes to work in international philanthropy and create cross-sector partnerships that work to move the needle on social issues.
“I wish that others from around the globe would have the opportunity to do what I did,” Segelman said. “The school has played and should continue to play a terrific role in making the world a better place by educating international students from around the world in the topic of philanthropy.”
Abby Rolland is the blog content coordinator for the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.