Blog Post #6: What it means to be a philanthropist.

23 Dec

Courtney of Feministing writes about her views on what being a philanthropist really  means. According to Webster Dictionary, a philanthropist is one who makes an active effort to promote human welfare. In today’s society, being a philanthropist means being able to give money. Of course having money and being able to give it to others is a great way to help, but there are also other things we can do as a society. Courtney lists seven tips to how we, too, can be philanthropists, no matter how great or or small our contribution.

“1. Reflect, then redistribute.
This means evaluating what is most important to you. If there are a few organization and causes you would like to give to, think about which one needs more help at this point in time. You can donate or volunteer to multiple places even if that means a lesser amount, so long as you know you are helping the cause.

2. Don’t overlook your self-interest, but don’t get stuck in it either.
While it’s good to benefit directly from giving to certain organizations, it’s also important to take into consideration others that need help. You never know when it may actually help you later on. I once volunteered to do taxes for low income families because I had the training for it. Without thinking much about it, I ended up meeting people that later on helped with my job search. Sometimes it’s important to give without expecting something in return.

“3. Think locally and globally, simultaneously.
I like to give to orgs like Girls Write Now and GEMS, which are aiding young women in my own community, but also give to The Global Fund for Women, which helps girls and women far away from my personal world.

4. Give as gifts.
I find that, despite our societal emphasis on goods and services, people really are touched when I give a philanthropic gift in their name. Make it more personal by identifying an organization that really speaks to what you love about the person you are honoring.

5. Look for opportunities to leverage your gift.
Sometimes employers will match your gifts (I’ve never actually had one, so I don’t know much about this), and/or the nonprofit orgs, themselves, are participating in a matching program (like the National Network of Abortion Funds, which currently has a $30,000 matching gift.)

6. If you don’t have your own money to give, ask your aunt who always gets you a bad sweater to donate in your name instead.
Pretty self-explanatory. Do you want another Beanie Baby or Bath & Body Works nose explosion, or do you want to feel like you helped forward the work of activists and advocates your really care about?

7. Assume the best.
There’s a lot of talk in the philanthropic world about due diligence–making sure that an organization isn’t spending your money on overhead and not on direct service. I get why this is important, but I also like to live my life operating on the assumption that people have good intentions. Sure, check the org out on Charity Navigator or Guidestar, but don’t hold the organizations you give to up to impossible standards of reporting and perfection. It actually takes away energy and time from the real work.

8. Make a party of it.
Sometimes it can feel kind of weird and clinical to sit at your computer and give money away solo. Find a friend who also wants to give away some money, again, no matter how small the amount, and make a little party of it. Break out the hot toddies, bake a batch of cookies, and celebrate.”

I think all of these are good tips to follow and keep in  mind, especially this holiday season. We don’t have to be Bill Gates in order to make a difference. In the process, we can better ourselves and have a good time. Without giving back to society, how will we improve and grow as a whole?

-Diana Situ

 

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