Is this philanthropy?

I think my fellow fundraisers would agree that our feeling about philanthropy isn’t that you should try to give, give, and give to every organization that approaches you. In fact, my fellow fundraisers would probably say, “JUST SUPPORT OUR ORGANIZATION!” But I digress…

I just read a great piece by Julie Blais Comeau (a.k.a. @EtiquetteJulie) in the Huffington Post, entitled: “Sticky Situations: Saying No to Charity”. Thank you to my sister @arundelgibson for tweeting about this article.

In @EtiquetteJulie’s piece, she talks about the steady flow of requests for donations in her workplace – one colleague is doing a run for the cure, another has a child whose school is selling chocolate bars to fundraise… the list goes on. I’m sure this has happened to you, or something similar. Julie discusses appropriate ways to say “no” to your coworkers when this occurs, all of which are very tactful and helpful.

This article made me think about something I once heard James Fleck, Canadian businessman and philanthropist, say:

Philanthropy is balancing your passion and your resources.

Would you consider it philanthropy if you dropped a loonie into one of those Salvation Army collection boxes? Would you consider it philanthropy if you gave a homeless person your spare change? I’m not saying it isn’t helpful or worthwhile to do this, but I’m asking:

Is this philanthropy???

My thought is that I’d rather make one meaningful contribution per year to an organization that I feel passionately about, and that I want to invest in.

What do you think? Please comment here with your thoughts, ideas, and musings.

OR, even better, email me at to discuss getting involved with What Gives??? as a guest blogger.  I’d love to have you on board!

Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising since 2007.

Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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1 thought on “Is this philanthropy?

  1. Another great entry, Maeve.

    My view of true philanthropy meets two general standards:

    1. Does the donor (or volunteer) have anything to gain by giving of their time, talent, or treasure? – If they receive something in addition to the personal satisfaction brought about by supporting a cause they believe in, I think it moves away from the true meaning of philanthropy.
    I’m not implying that stewardship isn’t important, because absolutely it is, I’m referring here more to those who intentionally seek publicity or marketing via charitable giving. Such sponsorships/gifts are important and appreciated, but not philanthropic.

    2. Did the donor have to make a sacrifice to make the gift or to give up their time? I mean, did they really have to think about how their gift might impact their bank account or the time they might otherwise spend with loved ones? – If the answer is no, then I would hesitate to label the action philanthropy, instead I’d view it as an act of kindness (again, acts of kindness are crucial, but not necessarily philanthropic).

    In it’s purest sense, philanthropy is an altruistic act that comes about from a deep-seeded passion for a cause. It’s a gift that reflects what the individual is about and the kind of personal values they hold.

    Gifts of all kind are welcome and necessary for charities to thrive, and as fundraisers, we obviously need to steward each and every donor well. Early on, however, the most important role we play is identifying those individuals for whom our cause sparks philanthropic interest – they’re the ones who will make the ultimate gifts, and in turn, we meet their need/desire to further the causes that make them tick.

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