Everyday Philanthropy: The Power and Joy of Giving Back
Philanthropy is one of the most powerful ways to drive social change. Yet, there is a common misconception that you must be wealthy to donate to charitable organizations. The reality, as nonprofit leaders and their teams know all too well, is that every gift matters and makes a difference to the communities nonprofits serve.
But philanthropy isn’t limited to giving money. There are many ways to be a philanthropist and advance the causes that are important to you.
The Meaning Behind Philanthropy
Philanthropy can be broadly defined as “love for humankind.” It is derived from the Greek words “philos,” which means loving, and “anthropos,” which means humankind.
Practically, philanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by a generous donation to social causes.
Individuals Drive Charitable Giving
In 2021, Americans gave $484.85 billion to charitable organizations. That is an extraordinary sum of money and a signal of society’s collective commitment to realize a more just, equitable and inclusive world for all.
It is important to recognize that individuals drive philanthropy. People of all backgrounds and incomes made more than $326 billion, or 67%, of total charitable giving, showing they care about addressing some of the most pressing social challenges of our time.
Whether you donate $100, $1,000 or more, you are part of this global movement.
4 Ways to Improve the World Through Philanthropy
The beauty of giving back is that it is an expression of your values and the causes you care about. Perhaps you want to ensure equitable access to world-class education. Or pioneer innovative solutions to healthcare. Or ensure justice and fair treatment for all.
Philanthropy combines the issues that you prioritize with the activities that bring you purpose and joy. Here are four ways to be an everyday philanthropist and advance the charities that are important to you.
Donate any amount to a nonprofit whose mission meets the moment. Whether you can contribute $50 or $500 or whether you make your gift all at once or through a monthly giving program, give back. Each gift collectively contributes to the $484.85 billion that is changing the world.
Volunteer with an organization to advance its programs and services. Dedicate time to service through volunteer opportunities that build community and energy around an organization and its critical work. Join a committee. Serve on a board. Host an event. Contribute your unique skills and perspectives while building relationships with peers that are committed to similar causes.
3. Be an Activist
Engage in social activism to realize the change you wish to see. Become a champion for issues that are important to you and your community. Use your voice to fight injustice and advocate for those in need. Ask tough questions, march to raise awareness or lobby for meaningful change.
4. Be Compassionate
Show compassion to yourself and others. The world needs more kindness. Consider the small acts of kindness that you can offer to others — family, friends, colleagues, community members and strangers. Hold the door for someone whose hands are full. Give a compliment to someone just because. Don’t forget to show that same compassion to yourself.
To give back is to invest in our collective future and demonstrate “love for humankind.”
Whatever approach to philanthropy you choose to take, consider how it will bring you energy, meet the moment, and inspire positive change!
Elizabeth Abel is a senior vice president at CCS Fundraising and expert in philanthropy. In her role at CCS, she has led capital campaigns and development initiatives that have collectively raised half a billion dollars for education, health care, arts and culture, and advocacy organizations.
Elizabeth provides counsel on strategic planning, major gifts fundraising and board engagement. She is an Instructor at the University of Pennsylvania where she teaches “Fundraising and Philanthropy: The Donor Journey” to graduate students in the Nonprofit Leadership Program. Elizabeth has been recognized by BELLA Magazine as a “Woman of Influence in Philanthropy.”
You can find Elizabeth offering her fundraising expertise at industry conferences, on nonprofit podcasts and on social media platforms, including LinkedIn and Instagram. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter, and she is an avid hiker, traveler and tea drinker.