- Get Involved
On May 6th, Robin Hood launched a new program—Philanthropic Young Things (PYT)—aimed at engaging the next generation of poverty fighting New Yorkers. For an annual membership of $365 ($1 a day), PYTs can make a tangible difference in our great city, gathering frequently for volunteer opportunities, sharing ideas through social events, a speaker series, and more.
The driving force behind this initiative was Robin Hood Leadership Council Member Dan Michalow. For the past year, Dan worked with Robin Hood staff to build this program aimed at broadening the base of Robin Hood’s supporters and engaging the next generation of New Yorkers in philanthropy. We are grateful to have found such an energetic new voice in Robin Hood’s leadership and are delighted to share a recent conversation we had with Dan.
Q & A
Q: How did you first learn about Robin Hood?
A: I first learned about Robin Hood 6-7 years ago thanks to some of my colleagues at D. E. Shaw & Co., in particular Max Stone and Anne Dinning who sit on the Robin Hood Board. I attended Robin Hood's Big Benefit and was moved by the mission and the power of the organization.
Q: What has been your favorite Robin Hood "moment"?
A: My favorite would have to be announcing the PYT program (along with others who worked so hard on the project) at our launch party. We had nearly 400 people there, most of them new to Robin Hood, fired up by what they heard about us and excited about the potential of PYT. On the flipside, my saddest Robin Hood “moment” was missing 12/12/12 The Concert for Sandy Relief. Not going to that might be the worst decision I’ve ever made… And people are never going to forget that concert, which means I will never forget how much I missed out!
Q: What is the most compelling thing about Robin Hood?
A: First, Robin Hood’s local focus—it’s important to support the community we live in and enjoy every day. As we all know there’s a real need in New York City. Second, Robin Hood’s signature commitment to efficiency—being scientific and thoughtful about disbursing grants, and optimizing the impact of our donations is laudable and gives me a great deal of comfort as a donor. Finally, the people involved are outstanding, and it’s a real pleasure to work with them. Robin Hood’s Board and Leadership Council are filled with philanthropically-minded leaders of New York City. And as I’ve gotten to know the Robin Hood staff better over the last year, I’ve been consistently impressed with their creativity, vision, and overall extraordinary commitment to the cause.
Q: How do you define success for Robin Hood?
A: Ultimately, I would quantify success in terms of the improvements we make in the lives and future of poor New Yorkers. And I would define success for us as an organization based on how well we take advantage of our opportunity to maximize that impact. It’s challenging—counterfactuals are important here, just as they are important when we assess the impact of our grants. For example, how do you compare how much Robin Hood increases the total dollar amount donated to fighting poverty in New York versus if it didn’t exist in the first place? How much more impact does each dollar contributed have because of Robin Hood? These are difficult questions to answer.
Q: What could Robin Hood do better?
A: We’re talking about an incredibly successful organization, so I approach this question with humility. Robin Hood has a stellar reputation and brand, and as a result I believe has wide, untapped appeal. We’re great at accessing the generous support of the established finance community because of our founders. Nevertheless, the cause of fighting poverty in New York City is one that resonates with all New Yorkers, including those in technology, marketing, fashion, entertainment, law, and medicine. I believe that what we’re doing with Philanthropic Young Things will help us broaden our base by attracting future RH donors and leaders across a range of industries.
Q: Are you influenced by specific philanthropists? Or, do you have a philanthropic role model?
A: I am fortunate to work for Max Stone, a Robin Hood Board member and he has become my philanthropic role model. Max sat me down a couple of years ago to discuss philanthropy, and began the conversation by saying he believed philanthropy isn’t just “an important thing,” but is “the most important thing.” He’s incredibly thoughtful in his approach, both in terms of how he decides which organizations to support and in how he engages with them. And he’s characteristically low key and understated about the whole thing.
Q: What is one thing everyone should do/visit at least once in NYC?
A: I’ve always enjoyed catching a glimpse of the roller dancers in Central Park – it’s hilarious and such an unabashedly New York spectacle.
Q: If you could go back in time and give advice to your 21-year-old self, what would it be?
A: I would tell myself to take a year off before you start working; time is precious and to live life to the fullest. And buy Google stock when it IPOs!