We all know someone we would describe as ‘kind’. Often these people are democratically kind, that is they are kind to pretty much everyone, their default attitude is one of kindness. That kindness runs the full spectrum, from the biggest gestures to the tiny everyday things that no one else sees. Kind people do kind things, all the time.
Ideally a culture of philanthropy is similar, it implies of behavior of ongoing generosity as well. Countless gallons of ink and inestimable billions of pixels have been spent telling us how much we need to instill a Culture of Philanthropy at our organizations and among our constituents. That installation of that culture will then drive a change in behavior and attitude that can vastly improve not only the bank account, but will attract more good toward us like flypaper.
Philanthropy is defined as the love of humanity, in the sense of caring, nourishing, developing, and enhancing what it means to be human. This expands kindness as it involves both the benefactor in acting on their beliefs and values, and the beneficiary when they receive and benefit from the service or goods provided. The Ancient Greek view of philanthropy—that the “love of what it is to be human” is the essential nature and purpose of humanity, culture and civilization is the high concept, the actions of support and engagement are the demonstrations of philanthropy.
The same thing must be true for the idea of a ‘culture of philanthropy’. This also can’t really be a one time thing, it has to be part of the DNA of your organization; more an attitude and habit than the occasinal high profile event.
Changing the Way You See Things
Sometimes that means standing a step or two back and re-considering what philanthropy really means to you in real life. It is not just the gift of money, it is not a gift. Philanthropy t is a mind set, a perspective that allows you to see the world a little differently. It invokes a habit of kindness allowing us to notice opportunities to do something, to make things better; and not necessarily only in response to a request. It is not the jacket over the dog, it is the awareness that a a kindness could be offered, and the choice to do so.
In the Real World
In this day and age, and especially with nonprofits, philanthropy often does equal money. What gets overlooked with this limited view of philanthropy is the fuller more vibrant and inclusive definition of acts philanthropy. Philanthropy is as much engaging and thanking a donor as it is volunteering to work the desk at registration for the conference. It is the presence of mind to see those moments and act upon them. It is be aware of what is around us and in front of us, and the desire to be part of the engine of change. No doubt, money lubricates lots and lots of forward movement, but money alone is not kindness or philanthropy.
Demonstrate philanthropy as you demonstrate kindness; see what others have to offer your organization besides money; decide what philanthropy you have to offer out as well.
I don’t believe you can teach philanthropy, any more than you can teach kindness; yet, it is so easy to do, start with something small and see how it not only feels but how it looks.
It is the little things that are vital. Little things make big things happen.
If it’s true that no act of kindness, however small is wasted, the same will be true for the experience of philanthropy.
Actions speak louder than words, let your culture and actions show and model your philanthropy; embody the concept of the more you give away, the more you will get.
image credit: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2015/08/26/16/2BABC4EA00000578-0-image-m-60_1440602059676.jpg