This month, Jewish Communal Fund is privileged to interview our Charity Champion Michael Meltzer, a portfolio manager at Tocqueville Asset Management who is very involved with charitable causes. A 2015 Five Star Wealth Manager, Michael supports a wide range of organizations, from UJA-Federation of New York to the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation and Kids of Courage. He received a 2015 “Advisors with Heart” Award from WealthManagement.com. Here, he talks with JCF about why he likes to support causes that are important to colleagues and friends and his deep involvement as the Treasurer and Chairman of the Board of Maya’s Hope, a charity that provides basic needs to poor children around the globe.
Jewish Communal Fund: What values drive your involvement in charitable giving? Why is it important to you personally?
Michael Meltzer: It really comes from my childhood. My dad passed away suddenly when I was four years old from a heart attack. Due to my dad’s death, things weren’t as easy for my mom financially as they expected them to be. But she always maintained her charitable giving. She worked extra jobs in order to be able to retain her synagogue membership and pay for tuition for Jewish religious school for myself and my older sister. She taught by example the importance of supporting alumni institutions. She made other sacrifices in order to keep doing her philanthropy, even if it was on a smaller scale. She strongly felt that a charity is counting on every donor’s contributions, even if it is just $50. Those values made an impression on me and I still feel that way to this day. We spent many summers at the Jersey Shore. Years later, when my mother remarried, she ended up spending summers on Long Island instead. Yet she continued to maintain her synagogue membership in Jersey out of a sense of gratitude that they were so helpful during the shiva [Jewish mourning period] when she was first widowed, since Dad had died in the summer.
JCF: Can you share with us some of the charitable causes that are meaningful to you?
MM: Like my mother, I like to support the synagogue I attended growing up, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, and the synagogue in my neighborhood now. I also support local museums and my alma maters, including high school (Ramaz), college (New York University) and law school (Fordham University School of Law). Often, causes that are important to my friends and my family become important to me. UJA-Federation of New York does so much for the Jewish community in New York and at large. I’m also very involved in a charity called Maya’s Hope, which helps orphans and children with disabilities all over the world. A close friend of mine started that charity and I helped out with the legal and financial aspects of it. I currently serve as Chairman of the board and help with fundraising. When you’re living in New York, everyone’s got a different charity they are involved in. I try to support the ones that are important to the people that are important to me, even if it’s just a small amount. For example, one of my colleagues at Tocqueville, Heather Perlmutter, is very involved in Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter, which helps out homeless youth in New York. I attend their events where kids talk about the impact the charity has had on their lives; you can really see a difference. It’s the same thing with Maya’s Hope. We receive videos and letters from the kids, and you can see how genuinely appreciative they are and see how their lives have improved due to the help we have given.
JCF: How do you approach conversations around charitable giving with your clients?
MM: I approach these conversations more from a tax perspective and the ease of administration. As most wealthy people are going to be philanthropic anyway, when we get into the conversations it is often in the context of appreciated securities in the portfolio that the client no longer wants but doesn’t want to pay the tax bill. I often talk about ways you can support your local charities in a more efficient way than writing a check. If a client has a stock that made five times their initial investment, this is a great asset to donate to a donor advised fund, where they’ll receive an immediate tax deduction and won’t have to pay capital gains tax. I often recommend JCF since I have my own personal fund there and many of my clients have JCF funds. Tocqueville is one of the investments on the JCF investment platform, so that makes it simple. Plus, the ease of use of JCF’s website and the staff are great. DAFs are a great way for our clients to easily administer their charitable giving. By streamlining the process, clients do end up being more charitable than they would otherwise.
JCF: Do you have a philosophy that guides your charitable giving? Is this something you share with your clients?
MM: For me, it’s really about community, integrity, and family. I enjoy causes that help out children in need in the local community or abroad. I talk with my clients about my involvement in Maya’s Hope and other charities and by example, clients see what we do. My colleagues are all very charitable and this often rubs off on our clients. Over time, charitable giving becomes something that is important to them as well.