Effective Philanthropy

While my intent is to shine the light on inspirational philanthropists and provide clear, straightforward guidance on how you can maximize your philanthropy through this blog, perhaps we should start at the beginning, and explore what it means to be a philanthropist. 

Some people cringe at the word philanthropy, believing only the super-wealthy should be called philanthropists, finding it stuffy or even elitist, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The word philanthropy has Greek origins and comes from the Greek word “philos” – meaning to love, and “Anthropos” – meaning, humankind

We can think of philanthropy as loving humanity and a philanthropist as one who loves others. To me, then, effective philanthropy is best expressed as, “loving others well.” Thinking of it in this way invites each of us to strive to be philanthropic, utilizing whatever means we have, to share our love of humanity effusively.

Philanthropy is about more than just money. Peter Goldmark, former President of the Rockefeller Foundation, is quoted as saying that “Philanthropy is the practice of applying assets of knowledge, passion, and wealth to bring about constructive change.” In other words, effective philanthropy means lovingly sharing our talent, time, and treasure to benefit others. 

I find that my philanthropy, just like my life, can run in seasons. There are seasons when the best thing I can do is write a check to help another. I do not have the time or bandwidth for anything more. At other times, money is scarce, and my gifts feature service, sharing my wisdom, or working on a project to help another. The best times of my life have been when I could give my time, talent, and treasure together. In these seasons, my philanthropy is the most effective and my heart is full of genuine connection to the people and causes I hold dear.

The idea is to stay open to new opportunities in your philanthropy. It is easy to get stuck in a rut, continually giving to the same type of organization in the same fashion. If you are passionate about a cause or nonprofit organization, this could make sense, but only to a point. 

I would challenge you to think beyond what you have always done and explore new ways to support the causes you love while exploring additional causes to support. For example, a great way to leverage your donation to a particular nonprofit is to invite your friends to learn more about them and contribute themselves. 

This is a win-win-win; a win for your friends as they connect with the important work being done, a win for the nonprofit as it expands its network of donors and new audiences with whom to share their story. A win for you as your relationship with your friends deepens because of a shared philanthropic commitment, while your ties to the nonprofit is also strengthened.

There are many ways to expand your philanthropic reach. I am interested in hearing your favorites. Please share what being an effective philanthropist means to you. Who knows, your guidance may just inspire future philanthropists.

Giving with you,