With three degrees from three countries, Pazit Levitan calls herself “the eternal student.”
A bachelor’s degree in art history and journalism, and two master’s degrees (an MA in film & television studies and an MBA in media management) led her from her home country in Israel to working in higher education in the U.S. After settling in New York City and having children, Levitan began volunteering with various nonprofits.
“Being a parent changed my perspective. I began to think about how I wanted to raise my children in a multicultural and diverse environment,” she said. “It was the first turning point in my career.”
Soon after she began volunteering, Levitan became the chairwoman of “Israeliness,” the Israeli programs at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan.
“I worked with a very specific Hebrew-speaking program. I formed committees, planned and ran events and program development, and worked in fundraising because we had to fund some of it ourselves,” she said.
“We applied for and received a grant to start the organization. Then, they voted me as the organization’s executive director,” Levitan said.
That resulted in the second turning point of her career.
“I was working in nonprofits and philanthropy in a professional role, not just a volunteer one,” she continued. “As the executive director of a small nonprofit (Moatza later merged into the Israeli American Council), I also realized not only how important fundraising is, but how there’s a professional way to do it. You really have to learn and study how to do it.”
When a position titled Director of Development for the American Friends of Soroka Medical Center (a major Israeli hospital in the Negev Desert region) opened, Levitan applied.
“In preparation for my interview, I learned about a book called Achieving Excellence in Fundraising, which is edited by Drs. Gene Tempel, Tim Seiler, and Dwight Burlingame,” she said. “I found that while I had been doing fundraising intuitively, there was much more substantial research and practice behind it and I could learn to do so much more.”
When Levitan was offered the job, she knew she wanted to pursue a better understanding of fundraising.
“I wanted to go full in and be the best development director I could be,” she said. “So, I knew that I needed to start with learning more about the academia that the editors of the book were involved in.”
“I wanted to learn about fundraising from all angles, so I knew that one course would not be enough,” Levitan said.
She completed her courses in about seven months, flying to Indianapolis three times and completing one online course.
“For the most part, I wanted to immerse myself in the environment of The Fund Raising School, which is why I chose the courses in Indianapolis,” Levitan said. “I did take one online course because I’m very interested in instructional technology. It was a good, thorough course online and it’s great for people who live remotely.”
She graduated last April, certificate in hand.
The Certificate in Fund Raising Management gave Levitan the skills and background knowledge she needed to become even more successful in her current role.
“It was the right integration of academics and practice with an added emphasis on experiential learning. Through this experience, I learned that every course is different,” she said. “Not only do you learn from the lectures, but you learn from peers and colleagues that you don’t get to meet in your everyday encounters or interactions. The course itself is a hub where people can exchange ideas with other fundraising professionals, who bring their own experiences and knowledge.”
And Levitan uses that knowledge as well as information she learned from the courses in her current work.
“From The Fund Raising School, I learned that the planning phase is very important. Whether it’s with the board of directors, the executive director, or prospective and existing donors, I have the language and confidence to articulate myself in a much more convincing way that’s grounded in research and practice,” she said. “That confidence projects trust and credibility, and these individuals know they’re in good hands.”
With her new education in mind and a great team at her side, Levitan recently planned the most successful gala the American Friends of Soroka Medical Center has seen. She is also working on a crowdfunding campaign to support a major art installation at the Soroka Medical Center.
Levitan also regularly encourages other development professionals to get involved, take the courses, and strengthen their skills as fundraisers.
“I’m a firm believer in self-growth, professional development, and investing in yourself for the long-term,” she said.
“Whatever you do, do it in the best way you can. Fundraising is a challenging, complex, multi-disciplinary profession. You’re speaking with people about their deepest values, which is very personal. You have to be delicate and sensitive but also strategic in how you speak to them. You learn those skills, as well as many others, from The Fund Raising School. I truly believe that the school is the best there is for this profession.
“I’m so glad to have been involved and become more a part of this philanthropy professional mosaic. Whenever I have a chance, I would like to return to The Fund Raising School and learn more.”
For now, though, Levitan is excited to use her skills and growing network in her work. And with The Fund Raising School beginning classes in New York City, she’s encouraging her friends and colleagues to get involved: “They’re very interested in the courses, so more people can become trained in this profession and continue to help others invest in the causes they believe in.”