Q&A: Wanda Shirk


How did you initially get interested in philanthropy? Why do you like giving back?

I have always had the heart of a giver. I was brought up that you always plan to give at least 10% of what you earn, and you give more if you can.

One of the books that influenced me greatly was First Things First by Stephen Covey where he talks about “living with the end in sight.” He suggests that you visualize the memorial service at the end of your life – who comes, what are people saying, and is everyone overflowing with praise for how you lived.

I’ve always really wanted to be a real giver. If I’m taking a hike or thinking in bed, I go over my priority checklist to make sure I’m on track in how I want to live my life.

Why does TechnoServe’s work inspire you?

I studied what I thought would be wise organizations to give to. I’m concerned about science, education, and the environment. I’m also really concerned about people who live in poverty and don’t have the opportunity that we have here. It kinda goes along with the philosophy that “if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” I realized that if you help people get started with a business or agriculture, especially women, it is one of the best ways to help people.

Why did you choose to designate TechnoServe as a beneficiary in your will?

TechnoServe is one of the places that I think would be very worthwhile to leave a significant legacy. TechnoServe is in my will, but I’m really hoping to do my giving while I’m alive. My extravagant plan is to give away a million dollars on my 90th birthday to causes that I’m interested in. If I have this big party to donate, I hope to set an example for my children and grandchildren. I lived simply and made some reasonable investments with my salary as a high school English teacher to enable this dream and hope to create other givers.