For Ira Malis and His Family,
Giving is Investing

What is multigenerational philanthropy? The best way to define this may be to state what it is not. It is not one generation dictating how the younger generation should give back. Rather, it is families coming together collaboratively to discuss philanthropy that engages each family member in a way that is most impactful.

In 2003, Ira and his wife Shelly, started a donor advised fund with The Associated. They felt this would be a great and meaningful way to involve their children and grandchildren in their family’s tradition of charitable giving and allow each to choose causes that are near and dear to them.

We spoke with Ira, who is the current chairman of the investment management committee at The Associated and his daughter, Abigail Malischostak, partnerships manager at Jewish Volunteer Connection.

Can you briefly tell us what is a Donor Advised Fund?

Ira: Donor advised funds offer a great way to support your favorite causes while also taking advantage of certain tax benefits. You can look at it as a giving vehicle that you establish with The Associated. From the investment that you make initially, you are able to recommend grants to be donated to your favorite charities.

Can you give us an example?

Ira: The majority of the things that we are doing are related to the Jewish community. We give our gift to The Associated, which is the biggest by far. We also support the Jewish National Fund and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Through Shelly, we support My Sister’s Circle. Shelly was mentoring a young woman. It’s an amazing story…no one in her family ever graduated high school before and Kierra graduated college and is now working at T Rowe Price. And she’s a wonderful, wonderful, bright, engaged woman. And it’s been a huge success story. This is just one of many charities that we are able to support.

You recently established a donor advised fund for your daughter Abigail and her husband Alex.

Ira: Yes. Abby’s involved in many social justice initiatives through her work with Jewish Volunteer Connection and she sees a lot of places where there are needs. Shelly and I thought it would be nice for her to have a little, let’s call it a charitable piggy bank to draw from. And the bigger picture would be, while I would like to live forever, especially given my grandchildren, I don’t think it’s going to happen. So, to the extent that the performance continues and we’re able to we manage our grant recommendations and keep a good amount of principal in there, there could theoretically be a lot of money on our demise for them to really have more money to give. We thought this was a good way for them to get their foot in the door with this kind of charitable giving.

Any thoughts on how you would like to allocate your funds?

Abigail: I’m excited first to be able to amplify the current giving we are doing. We were not giving at a high level, but have been consistently given to our alma maters, both for me, high school and college. And to a place that I worked called College Possible, where I served as an AmeriCorps member. I think education access is important and it’s certainly something that was instilled in me from my parents. I think that we probably will look to maybe do some things around women’s health because it is a big issue right now that I care a lot about.

What has been your family’s giving philosophy?

Abigail: I think my parents are a lot about putting their money where their mouth is…they recognize that money makes a difference? You can support an organization, you can volunteer, you can do whatever, but it’s funding that ultimately makes a big difference in the operation. I think this will be some of the philosophy that we will share, which is that if you find a cause you believe in, you support it in as many ways as you can. And that means with your time. And it also means with your resources.

Ira: Not everyone can do it with their resources, they can just give time and that’s wonderful. But to the extent you can do both, that’s wonderful as well. So hopefully, by opening this donor advised fund, it will put Abby and Alex in the position to be able to do a little of both.

I had a fifth-grade teacher named Mrs. Lesser. She said something that I will never forget. And she said, charity only counts if you feel it, if it hurts a little. It can’t just be a couple of dollars you find in the sofa, it needs to be the understanding that maybe I’ll deprive myself of something, not everything, to make someone else’s life better who doesn’t have that option. And I think Shelly and I have always felt that way. And we’ve been very blessed in our personal lives in every way, and feel it’s our duty to share, to give back.

Abigail: I think that families should consider doing this kind of model (donor advised funds) or doing some form of multi-generational giving. I’m grateful that we can do this now and that we can have the conversations about our values and what we care about. Because one day, assuming everything is managed well, we may end up managing my parents’ legacy. And I want to have these conversations now about what’s important. And not in the future be left wondering what would have made them proud.

Ira: Well, it’s also about Abigail building her own… not just fulfilling ours, but growing her own as well.

Abigail: Well, I think it is the start of us being able to think about how we can make some impact with our money. And that will be something that will continue for the rest of our lives and that we’ll be able to then involve our children when they’re older.

Any advice for future generations about charitable giving?

Ira:Just to start early making charitable giving a part of your budget. Unfortunately, we learned that late. I wish I would’ve known early on how much more I got out of giving than getting stuff. And we’ve been spending the last five- or ten-years kind of getting rid of stuff and spending more of our time on experiences, on charity…because at the end of the day, that’s really what matters. You learn over time and hopefully, I’ll pass on to my children and grandchildren, that it feels good to be able make a difference in someone else’s life.

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The Associated is a home for everyone in the Baltimore Jewish community. We offer several email lists to help people find a community, engage with their peers and support Jewish journeys around the world.

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