Do you give homeless people a buck here and there, drop money in the Salvation Army bell at Walmart, or give up your change at the local truck stop to help Timmy buy a wooden leg? If so, does this qualify you as a philanthropist?
In the spirit of the holidays, and my 2016, yet unwritten, new year’s resolution to write more, I thought I would start early by tossing around the true definition of a philanthropist. Years ago I was interviewed for a trade magazine, and was asked “What is your dream job?” Well surely I was in my dream job, but in reality, my dream job was to be the executive director of the Red Cross. Silly me, I was really young and later realized that I would need to be the wife of a US President to get that job. Then, in graduate school, I was asked again, “What is your dream job?” My answer was to be a grant writer, which, after I learned how meager the pay would be, I decided I wanted to be a philanthropist. But how can I be a philanthropist if I don’t have any money? Alas, I can get a job giving away millions of dollars to grant applicants. It didn’t matter who or what corporation I worked for, I just wanted to give away their money. Maybe one day someone will hire me to do just that.
For now, I donate to various charities whenever I can, and hope it makes a difference. But do I qualify as a philanthropist?
Philanthropy is described as . . . .”the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.”
Does buying a pack of cigarettes for a homeless guy count as generous or a good cause? How about feeding the homeless cats next to my office? Does our generosity have to be large? Synonyms of the word “philanthropy” are “benevolence, generosity, public-spiritedness (whatever that means), kindheartedness, compassion, unselfishness,” etc. Considering the price of a pack of cigarettes, I would say that counts as philanthropy.
Most of us are not able to give away millions or dollars or be the executive director of a well-known charity, but our contributions add up. And if you only make $20,000 a year and still find a way to live and help out the Timmy’s of the world, then I certainly consider you a fellow philanthropist.
Make 2016 a good one! Carpe Diem fellow philanthropists.