“You want to be the pebble in the pond that creates the ripple for change.”
One of the biggest components of implementing a philanthropy lifestyle is to recognize that life is not all about you; there is a bigger picture out there, more people and things that are much bigger than you are as an individual. To be a philanthropist means that you willingly give of your time, talents, and resources for the betterment of others. In fact, to be a philanthropist doesn’t come with stringent requirements that you are to adhere to, such as having copious amounts of money at your disposal, fame or even a multi-million-dollar empire. Every single person, who has the desire to make a difference and make the world and their community a better place has the ability and power to be a philanthropist in their own way.
Being a philanthropist in our everyday lives is easier than you might initially realize. I’d wager that every single person, whether consciously or subconsciously has made the decision to be a philanthropist at one time or another. Think back on all the times you’ve been standing in the checkout line and asked if you would like to round your purchase up to the next whole dollar, or the time that you dropped a couple of bucks or spare pocket change into the Salvation Army’s collection cup, or the time that you selected an ornament off the Angel tree around Christmas. All of these small, seemingly insignificant actions on your part, were all acts of kindness, generosity, to promote the greater good of others—the definition of a philanthropist.
Whether you recognize it or not, chances are you’ve already made steps towards being a philanthropist, which illustrates that every single person has the ability and the power within themselves to make a difference, with or without monetary donations. It starts with small, seemingly insignificant choices that add up to big changes over time. It is the extra spare change that rounds your purchase up to a whole dollar, that contributes to making a difference. It’s the spare pocket change, that means you forgo your morning cup of coffee to donate to a cause that is striving to make the world a better place. It is the child whose life you are having a positive impact on when you select their ornament off the Angel Tree, bringing the spirit of Christmas into their young life; letting them know there is good in the world. Because all of these small actions we make on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, our impact and the difference we make is unmeasurable. David Rockefeller once said: “Philanthropy is involved with basic innovations that transform society.”. When everyone takes these same small steps and implements them into their daily life, every single person is being a philanthropist, whether they realize it or not.
Reasons to Be a Philanthropist
There are countless reasons why people feel the desire to implement philanthropy into their own life. It could be, because they have personally benefited from someone else’s generosity, therefore, seeing someone else in need tugs at their heart strings. A good example of this would be, when you hear about someone who has a need that you can fulfill. In my own life, there was a period of time when my husband was away for work and I was dealing with some health issues, at the same time, my yard quickly got out of control. Before I could arrange for a landscape company to come and remedy the situation, I had multiple neighbors who came over and mowed my yard, sprayed weeds and performed other generous acts for me that I was unable to take care on my own. For others, they feel as though they have been richly blessed, they too must use what they have been given to bless and benefit others lives. To be considered richly blessed, doesn’t mean that you are necessarily blessed with money, it could be that you are blessed with patience, that allows for you to sit and visit with dementia patients, blessed with a caring heart that moves you to volunteer at a soup kitchen; there are a multitude of ways in which you can be richly blessed that allows for you to help others without relying on money to do so. Aside from feeling as though you need to pay it forward there are reasons why people choose to implement the idea of philanthropy into their life. These reasons can include improving your community, your belief system, making a difference and many other things. Whatever, your personal reasons for wanting to be a philanthropist I would recommend you pursue it and allow it to be fueled by your passion for wanting to help others.
Giving Back/Paying It Forward
Whether or not you have personally fallen on hard times, chances are you know someone who has. You’ve seen how friends, family and even complete strangers rally together to provide assistance, financial relief, meals or anything else that people or families may stand in need of. Often times these instances are brought to our attention via social media, text from a close family member or friend, or other media sources. Regardless of where we learn of a need, it is natural for many to want to pitch in, provide help and give back where possible. Some people have a desire to provide support out of the kindness of their hearts, as a means of paying it forward for help they received in their own life, as a way to give back to others hoping that someday those whom they help will continue the trend to pay it forward; or with the hope that they will be blessed for helping others.
A perfect example of this would be an eighty-eight-year-old woman who made sure that she smiled and waved to all the school children that would pass her home on their way to and from school for the past twelve years. Over the years, many students would return her wave and continue on their way. When students learned that the woman would be moving out of her home into an assisted living, nearly four-hundred children showed up on her front law, most came with flowers and cards to express their gratitude to her for the kindness that she showed them over the years through her simple, yet caring gesture of waving as they passed her home.
Improving Your Community
Generally speaking, when you perform an act of generosity and kindness towards another person or group, you are doing so as a means to make a positive change or impact. Sometimes, these actions impact an entire community and not a single person. Prime examples of this includes, feeding the homeless, starting a community garden, volunteering at a local food pantry, or donating clothing and toiletries to a local shelter. All of these actions work to improve your community, by bringing neighbors and citizens together to promote the welfare and greater good of those you live around. You too will notice that your community has an increased sense of community and friendship towards one another.
For a lot of people, their belief system plays a huge factor in a lot of the things that they do in their daily lives. This can be the belief in a Higher Power that expects them to serve their fellow men, it can be the belief in what goes around comes around, or it can be a belief that you can make a difference. Regardless of what your belief system is, or what motivates you, many people claim that it is their belief system that motivated them to perform an act of kindness, generosity or philanthropy. Most are motivated to do these various things because they are commanded to do good, spread joy, lift one another’s burdens, and overall be a good person.
Making a Difference
Another big reason why people adopt and look for opportunities to be a philanthropist, is so they can make a difference in their community, the lives of others, and even the world. Simple acts such as, donating spare change to someone begging on the street corners, or participating in service or charitable projects in your community. Though they may seem like small, insignificant actions on your part, when combined with the efforts of others over a period of time, change begins to happen. It is a good reminder not only to yourself but to those in need, that there is still good in the world. You can be a part of that change, representing the good through implementing philanthropist style actions and choices into your daily life.
A good example of seeing a need, taking initiative and making a difference would be the example of Jennifer Maddox, who was featured on the Today Show and womansday.com. Maddox, a Chicago native who was also a single mom of two young boys, was working as a police officer, who became a security guard at one of Chicago’s sprawling housing projects as a means to bring in more income. While working as a security guard, Maddox realized that many of the children living in the projects would get into trouble simply because they were bored. Most children did not have access to a safe place to play and to be kids. After a while, Maddox was able to provide after-school activities for the children when she wasn’t working. In 2011, she was able to officially establish the nonprofit organization Future Ties, which provides after-school, summer and mentorship for children aged eighteen and under. As a result of her efforts, crime has decreased, and many children who benefited from her efforts have returned to volunteer and help mentor other young children growing up in the projects.
Finding Satisfaction as a Philanthropist
Now that we know why people decide to engage in philanthropy actions, what is it about philanthropy that entices people to keep doing good? I’d argue that one of the biggest reasons why people have a hard time going back to their pre-philanthropy ways is that it is addicting. When you do a good deed for others, it becomes addicting as you feel good doing it. Perhaps part of the good feeling that comes along with it, is the idea of karma or “what goes around, comes around”. When you do a good deed for others, it is then put out into the universe and good deeds will find their way back to you.
Real Life Philanthropist Examples
There are ample opportunities and ways in which you can help others and be a philanthropist in your own way. This makes finding real life examples that you can emulate in your life easy to find. These examples can range from your favorite celebrities, religious figures, professional athletes, people in your own community and neighborhood, along with family members or even complete strangers. When you seen an example of someone implementing a philanthropist lifestyle, and it resonates with you; use it as motivation to make changes in your own life. The most important thing to remember when looking for examples to emulate, is that there is no requirement saying you need copious amounts of money at your disposal to live a philanthropist lifestyle.
Ronald McDonald House
While most of us have not had the experience of staying at or taking advantage of the resources provided at the Ronald McDonald House. The Ronald McDonald House not only provides services and goods to those who need a place to stay, but also provides an opportunity for those in the community to serve and provide service for those who are staying at the Ronald McDonald House.
The mission of the Ronald McDonald House is to provide a way for families to stay close to their critically ill or injured child, while they receive treatments in a hospital setting. When a child is injured or ill, receiving help and treatment is paramount to a family, which is where the Ronald McDonald House can help. They provide a place for parents and family to stay, where they are close to the hospital without adding to the worry of where they are going to stay, or if they can afford to find a place to stay.
In addition, to providing a place for families to stay at little to no cost, the Ronald McDonald Houses rely on volunteers to provide families with home-cooked meals, a listening ear, nurturing or simply just by being there. This allows for families to focus on their child, without worrying about where their next meal is going to come from. Anyone can donate their time, resources or talents to a local Ronald McDonald House in your own community. You can volunteer to go in and make a home cooked meal, spend time talking to families and being a listening ear. There are countless ways in which you can be a philanthropist for those who are going through a difficult time.
Rotary International is a phenomenal organization that is dedicated to improving their communities and the world. The stated purpose of Rotary International is “to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian service and to advance goodwill and peace around the world.”. This is achieved through the efforts of average, everyday people who work together to make changes that impact the biggest majority. Rotary International has worked tirelessly through the help of dedicated members to eradicate the world from polio, by bringing the polio vaccine to remote parts of the globe.
Not only do they work on a large, global scale, each local chapter works hard to bring change and be a philanthropist in their own communities. Frequently local chapters organize various service projects that enable them to improve their community. This is accomplished through cleaning up local roadways, delivering dictionaries to local school children, or building covered bus stops. There are countless ways in which members of Rotary International perform acts of philanthropy around their communities, states and the world. All it takes is a desire to make a change and everyone can be a philanthropist.
Neighborhoods and Communities
We are all surrounded by neighbors, or live in communities that are known to rally together to support and lend a hand when one of our own is in need. Sometimes this takes on the form of a charity auction, fundraising, bake sales, or other monetary donations. Sometimes, people in our communities and neighborhoods need help, but not monetary help. This is the perfect opportunity for people to practice philanthropy by helping in other ways. Every time a meal is taken into a family that had a new baby, a family member has been in the hospital or experienced a death in the family. Other examples include helping a family to pack up their belongings preparing for a move, helping to clean the home of a family who has fallen on hard times or unable to do so themselves, helping with yard work for the elderly in your community, and paying for someone else’s meal at a restaurant or drive thru.
Recently, there was a family from my hometown who unexpectedly lost their father in a tragic accident. The accident occurred a couple of weeks before his youngest daughter’s wedding. Amidst the tragedy, countless neighbors and community members pitched in to provide meals to the family, time and talents were shared in helping with the final wedding preparations, help with yard work and so much more. The family didn’t ask for help, but those around them saw a need and took the initiative to help and ease their burden during a difficult time.
Friends and Acquaintances
Recently, I had a conversation with a friend, where he was presented with an opportunity to be a philanthropist. He was in the process of quitting his job and moving cross country to go to school. A few days prior to his upcoming move, it was brought to his attention that a coworker of his was struggling financially. The coworker had made decisions in his life that resulted in him having to pay extensive fines, legal fees and along with other financial repercussions as a result of his choices. When my friend initially heard about this situation, he learned that other coworkers were trying to gather donations to help their fellow co-worker out, ensure that he was still able to buy food and cover other necessary expenses. Initially, my friend and others were hesitant to donate any money, feeling as though the situation was the consequence and price that the man had to pay as a result of his careless actions and choices. After taking a couple of days to think about the situation, my friend ended up giving the man some money to help tide him over. The man offered to pay it back out of his next paycheck, as he knew my friend was soon going to be out of work and had extensive moving cost associated with his upcoming move. My friend, refused to be paid back as he would be gone before the next payday; he simply asked that instead of repaying him, the man pay it forward and help someone else in need. Even though he didn’t have to, and wasn’t necessarily in a position to do so, my friend saw that the other man’s needs outweighed his own; his small monetary donation was done for the betterment of someone else, something bigger than himself.
How Can I Be a Philanthropist?
Every single person, regardless of wealth, social status, occupation, race, gender or location has the ability to be a philanthropist in their own way. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, philanthropist is defined as “one who makes an active effort to promote human welfare”. That leaves the ways and possibilities in which you can be a philanthropist wide open. All it takes is for you to see or hear of a need and to do something about it.
It also means that you can be a philanthropist by just being a good person, and spreading joy and kindness to those around you. A simple act of dropping spare change into a homeless person’s cup, can make a world of difference for them. Your actions of being a philanthropist don’t have to be some big, outlandish, earth shattering act; all it needs is to come from your heart and be meaningful. Don’t limit the possibilities of being a philanthropist be capped because of the misconception that the definition of philanthropist includes wealth and money, when in fact every definition I’ve ever found doesn’t mention money as a requirement to define yourself as a philanthropist.
If you want to start living a philanthropist lifestyle but aren’t sure where to start, start small. Start by dropping spare change into charity collection cans at various stores and restaurants around your community, drop off a bag of food to your local food pantry, offer to pay for someone’s meal, bake cookies for the new neighbors that moved in down the road from you. The possibilities for how you can be a philanthropist are only limited by your imagination and your willingness to do something for someone else. Even a simple act such as giving someone a hug, can have a huge impact on their day, not to mention you generally feel better for it as well. At the grocery store, offer to return someone’s cart for them, hold the door open for someone, all these small actions that require very little effort on your part all add up to make a difference. No act of kindness is too small, no generous deed goes unnoticed.
Just imagine how much better off our world would be, if we all acted out of kindness and performed seemingly small, insignificant acts of philanthropy. There would be more smiles, more laughter, more joy. It is possible, all it takes is small actions to implement change for the better. In the infamous words of world-renowned philanthropist Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”. Start today, by doing small philanthropy type actions that you can build on over time, building a legacy of thoughtful and caring actions that have a positive impact on those around you.
Author: Ashley Christensen