Madeleine Lesser Novack '10
Madeleine Lesser Novack '10 is well-versed in the world of philanthropy. She has spent the past 10 years working "to keep our world safer, more just and more sustainable" by fundraising and grant writing for nonprofits. When it came to supporting her beloved alma mater, she wanted to make sure that her gift made a lasting impact and was one that would grow with time.
"I wish I were a billionaire so I could give all of my money away to causes that I care about," Lesser Novack said. "When I think about my legacy, I think about Muhlenberg and the way that it shaped my worldview. I want to use my legacy to help Muhlenberg continue to have that effect on future generations of students." The legacy gift allocated in her will allows her to leave "a much more significant gift" than she could have during her lifetime. Gifts from younger alumni are extremely important, because most people who put Muhlenberg in their "First Will and Testament" keep the College there through their Last Will and Testament, and also usually increase the gift amount over time.
Lesser Novack entered Muhlenberg thinking she wanted to be a psychologist, but a transformative experience in her freshman year writing seminar led her to change her major to international relations and philosophy. Muhlenberg professors and the international affairs curriculum helped her to shift her goal from helping people one-on-one to helping on a grander scale.
Madeleine with her colleagues at FreeWill.
As a program and development officer for the Rainforest Fund and major gifts officer at the Environmental Defense Fund, Lesser Novack's career educated her on the role she could play supporting vulnerable people. Through the guidance of her mentor, Franca Sciuto, executive director at the Rainforest Fund, Lesser Novack said she learned that through philanthropy, people with resources can give platforms to, and help amplify, those voices in society.
In early 2020, Lesser Novack started a new role as partnerships lead at FreeWill, a company that provides online tools that help people create a will for free and to leave a gift to charity along the way. Lesser Novack used FreeWill to create her own will and to set a percentage of her estate to Muhlenberg. "A legacy gift is the best way to be financially philanthropic because it costs you nothing today," Lesser Novack said. "It's a really strong way to let Muhlenberg know that you care, that you want to be engaged and that you are committed to the longevity of the College."