“Happiness is not made by what we own. It is what we share.”
– Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation designating the 15th of November to be National Philanthropy Day. The goal of this day was to provide citizens an opportunity to reflect on the value of giving and the positive outcomes that can occur when we all contribute to the common good. We are encouraged to be generous in communities, in our nation and around the world. The timing for such a message is particularly ideal as this day allows all of us to reflect on our own generosity as we enter a season of Thanksgiving, celebration and giving.
While this day is designed to engage every citizen in the conversation of generosity and acts of giving, the term “philanthropy” can sometimes have a limiting tone to it. It is common for individuals to think of philanthropy as something formal, a process reserved for wealthy donors and institutions. But that could not be further from the truth.
We all can practice philanthropy every day by being charitable of spirit. Recent data shows that individual citizens contributed about six times as much as foundations in 2019, a number that is on the rise. We can all have a positive impact on our community when we give and give generously.
- When you buy a round of groceries for your neighbor who lost her job in the pandemic, that’s philanthropy.
- When you make a donation of $25, $125, $250 or more to your local charity, that’s philanthropy.
- When you renew your subscription to your local theatre company before they announce the shows they are planning for the coming year, that’s philanthropy.
- When you agree to round up your total and donate your change to a charity when checking out at the grocery store, that’s philanthropy.
- When you drop some cash in the Salvation Army red bucket, that’s philanthropy.
- When you bring in canned goods to your office or neighborhood food drive, that’s philanthropy.
- When you give your time to read to children at your local school, that’s philanthropy.
- When you donate blood or plasma, that’s philanthropy.
- When you contribute to your local community foundation, United Way or House of Worship that’s philanthropy.
- When you contribute to the work of your church, synagogue, mosque or house of worship, that’s philanthropy.
- When we donate.
- When we give.
- When we offer support.
When we are generous of spirit in small ways, medium ways and large ways, these come together to form a mosaic of generosity: the heartbeat of philanthropy.
Philanthropy includes volunteering, sharing with your neighbor, sharing with those impacted by disaster or sharing with those impacted around the world. Philanthropy is not about a specific dollar amount. Philanthropy is about a charitable heart, a way of being in the world.
We are fortunate in that our team gets to work side-by-side with many individuals and organizations who practice philanthropy every day by serving and supporting the nonprofit sector. We get to see the innovative solutions deployed by a wide array of organizations serving the diverse needs of our region. We get to see the real world impact of creative opportunities that allow individuals to give over time, such as donor advised funds that delivered more than $23 billion to nonprofits in 2018 and community foundations that delivered more than $5 billion to nonprofits in 2017.
In honor of National Philanthropy Day, we want to say THANK YOU to all of the foundations, corporate partners, community foundations and most importantly to individual donors who give generously throughout the year and to our government partners who help support that work to serve the common good. That’s what makes a difference today, tomorrow and in the future we hope for our children and our children’s children.
We will remember 2020 for many reasons, but let it be said that this year will be remembered most as a year overflowing with generosity of every kind.
Happy National Philanthropy Day!