A former teacher and local business owner, Naomi Eisenberger began a new quest for meaning following a cancer diagnosis in 1991 and a chance meeting with an author focused on everyday heroes who help better the lives of others. Captured by a philosophy about how we can all use our talents to make a difference, Naomi invited him to speak at her synagogue, and her second career calling became clear.
Shortly after, she became a volunteer at this non-profit and eventually moved from a part-time employee to a full-time Managing Director role. When that organization closed with the founder’s retirement, she saw a rebirth opportunity. In 2008, she assumed the role of co-founder and executive director of The Good People Fund and demonstrated tremendous leadership capacity in evolving this new non-profit to where it stands today.
The Good People Fund (GPF) was founded to support small grassroots organizations(mostly volunteer-run) engaged in repairing the world. At the center of each program is a single visionary or a group of Good People who have chosen to dedicate themselves to fixing some societal issue. Each of them, in fact, can be considered an entrepreneur in their own right.
Naomi spends her time serving as a mentor, coach, resource, connector and lifeline to the grantees. Her work takes her from remote corners of the US to countries abroad where she gives a voice to programs and people that operate under the radar and work directly on the ground to ease poverty, hunger, disability, social isolation and other forms of human suffering. She lives and breathes this work “commuting” to a home office 20 feet from her bedroom.
Who Are Some Of These Good People
Jacob Sztokman is the founder of Gabriel Project Mumbai which works to foster health, nutrition, literacy and empowerment among families living in Mumbai’s slums. Barry Hoffner founded Caravan to Class with the goal of rebuilding the educational infrastructure in the villages around Timbuktu, Mali and Sub-Sahara, Africa. Erin Zaikis is the founder of Sundara which focuses on reducing preventable hygiene-related deaths and disease by creating sustainable soap recycling programs for underserved populations in India(read her inspiring story here) and now worldwide. Gloria Baker Feinstein founded Change the Truth which provides kids in Uganda, most of whom were orphaned by the AIDS epidemic, with food, scholarships, books, a library, music education, medical care and other essentials. Linda Smith founded Reading Village in Guatemala which empowers Mayan teenagers to serve as reading promoters in villages around the region to help eradicate illiteracy and lead their communities out of poverty.
Naomi’s efforts with these grantees in India, South America, Africa and with others throughout the U.S. and Israel exemplify how unique an organization she has built. She has inspired the visionaries behind each to persevere despite the challenges of running a small non-profit. She nurtures their good work and navigates them through crises, helping them gain solid footing with her wisdom and GPF funds. Naomi’s unwavering support translates into the lives of many vulnerable people changed for the better. She has inspired people to connect to The Good People that she holds out as role models, reflected by the $8,000,000 raised in 8 years. Grantees believe that GPF is more than just a source of money. They value the strategic perspective the Fund brings, in addition to its deep network and general knowledge of the nonprofit world. GPF takes pride in facilitating partnerships, connecting people and programs, and offering guidance and expertise.
More Than Just A Business
Naomi has a deep emotional connection to the stories of the Good People and their causes. “The grantees I work with all have unique problems and situations that need to be resolved. My business experience coupled with my creativity and love of networking allows me to offer them concrete advice on how best they can develop their work and operate with efficiency and transparency. For most of the programs we work with, there is a very strong personal relationship, and we’re with them through the good times and the rough days as well. Ultimately, our wish is that every program we support eventually outgrow us and flourish without our funds and support,” explains Naomi.
Traditionally funders donate and step away, but for her, it is highly personal. It is not just about site-visits and grant reports, but relationship building, hands-on support and being a partner, collaborator, advocate and sounding board. Since co-founding Good People Fund, she has helped steward more than 150 grassroots organizations with both grants and
One grantee may have said it best: “Don’t try to save the world alone! Surround yourself with trustworthy advisers who are experienced in non-profit management and want to help you succeed.”