Philanthropy is not a 4-letter word

It’s part horror, part bewilderment – the look I usually get when I tell people I am a development director (a.k.a. “a fundraiser”). This sour lemon face is usually followed by some variation of, “Wow, I would never want your job.”

I get it. Mainly because I know for many, “fundraising” brings up images and bad memories of solicitors calling at dinnertime and aggressive door-knockers guilting you into writing a check. True, this is fundraising (although not the kind I believe in). But it’s not philanthropy.

Merriam-Webster’s definition of philanthropy is “goodwill to fellow members of the human race.” Making a gift to an organization you believe in is simply that – goodwill to others. And best of all, it should feel good.

Fundraising guru Susan Howlett eloquently described what (not how much) a meaningful gift should be – large enough that you feel like it represents your deep belief in the work, that it signals to your children or your close friends that this is a priority in your life, and that it manifests to others that you’re proud to be part of this organization.

For some, a meaningful gift may be $10,000. For others of us, it may be $25. But the intention and the meaning are indistinguishable. And as one of Arts Corps’ board members once said – we all bring what we can and together we make a feast.

My basic philosophy of philanthropy is this: when done right, with authenticity, listening and respect, everyone feels good – the donor, the organization, the clients, the community. It’s not about charity, it’s about being part of work that you believe in.

It’s the season of giving and most likely you are finding an onslaught of requests for donations in your mailbox. But before you toss them in the recycling, take a look. Find the one or ones that move you, that make you feel hopeful. And then join the feast.