Marshall McNott

Phone: 301-502-6957


Maimonides Ladder of Giving

During my nearly 40 years in the nonprofit sector, I met many wonderful and generous people.  Among those, Jewish donors to the organizations I served made a particularly strong impression.  Here’s why. 

First, I learned of "Tzedakah." One meaning of the word is "righteousness -- doing the right thing."

And one motivating example of that, which I often heard from Jewish donors, is from the Talmud: “He who saves one soul it's as if he saved the entire world."
- Sanhedrin 37a

As well, charity should reach beyond boundaries.  Again, our Jewish friends have a wonderful teaching about from Rabbi Jacob Ben Asher’s great code of law, the Tur.  It states simply, “We give charity to anyone who stretches out his hand in need. This includes gentiles as well as Jews.” 

The most meaningful fundamentals on philanthropy that I have ever read come from the teachings of Maimonides, a 12th century Jewish scholar, who wrote the following “Ladder of Giving.”  Each rung up represents a higher degree of virtue:


1. The lowest: Giving begrudgingly and making the recipient feel disgraced or embarrassed.

2. Giving cheerfully but giving too little.

3. Giving cheerfully and adequately but only after being asked.

4. Giving before being asked.

5. Giving when you do not know who is the individual benefiting, but the recipient knows your identity.

6. Giving when you know who is the individual benefiting, but the recipient does not know your identity.

7. Giving when neither the donor nor the recipient is aware of the other's identity.

8. The Highest: Giving money, a loan, your time or whatever else it takes to enable an individual to be self-reliant.




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