And, yes, I realize that sounds very self-serving coming from the CEO of one of the largest philanthropic bodies in our region, not to mention the only local philanthropic body with the ability to provide granting dollars to all nonprofit organizations serving Stephenson County. But that’s my point, really. Philanthropy shouldn’t be for the few, but for everyone.
Philanthropy has for generations been viewed as a sort of club, restricted to those with great means to the eventual benefit of the many without. But philanthropy should not be viewed as an elite and elusive club restricted to only those who have and have a lot, nor should it be concentrated to one day of awareness.
Philanthropy, at its original Greek core, literally translates to “loving people”. It should be a great equalizer. An equalizer not only in the literal sense that the nonprofit organizations and programs funded through philanthropic endeavors provide services that in multiple ways improve quality of life. But also, a great equalizer in the sense that anyone, anywhere, at anytime can be a philanthropist.
It does not take six-figure donations to be a philanthropist. Being kind to others makes you a philanthropist. Buying a cup of coffee for a stranger makes you a philanthropist. Buying Friday night pizza for your local fire department makes you a philanthropist. Sending a random Amazon order of warm, fuzzy slippers and personal care items to your local woman’s shelter makes you a philanthropist. Buying a couple of extra CSA subscriptions and directing them to local food pantries makes you a philanthropist. Giving up your daily Mocha Loca Latte for a week and directing those funds to support children’s programs at the local museum makes you a philanthropist.
The point of philanthropy is not about how much you give, but THAT you give. That you give of yourself for the betterment of humanity.
So, this GivingTuesday, and every Tuesday or every day, please try at least once, every day, to give of yourself to others, to be a true philanthropist. And, yes, if you make some of those gifts in the form of monetary donations to local non-profits, fantastic! But again, remember, the point is to give, not feel you cannot give because “your gift isn’t big enough.”
Only when we all start thinking and acting from a true place of philanthropy will we start raising the boat for all.
Michelle DeHaven Quast is the executive director of the Foundation for Northwest Illinois.