A philanthropist is a person who gives money or time or expertise (or a combination) to help create a better world. Anyone can be a philanthropist, regardless of their status or net worth. It is easy to think of philanthropy as something done only by the very wealthy or big foundations or successful companies, yet every donation, whether money, used clothing & furniture, or time, makes a difference to the person or organisation receiving it. The non-profit community needs the support of donors at all giving levels. It’s not about how much you give; it’s about why and how you give. All you need is a heart of giving and a passion for a cause, to have the mindset of a philanthropist.
Just as it’s important to start saving and investing for your long-term financial wellbeing, it is also important to nurture an attitude of ‘giving’ and to include a philanthropy strategy in your current and future financial plans.
In this era of Covid-19, across the world, individuals, families, and grassroots groups have risen in response to the crisis, offering help to those negatively impacted by the pandemic — from giving out food parcels and delivering medication, to offering a sympathetic ear and safe haven to shelter from the increased incidence of domestic abuse in many homes and families. Philanthropy has been called into action on a major scale around the world. What exactly is the role of philanthropy in society at times like this? Whilst philanthropy is not meant to replace the government, it can play a role that transcends what we might expect from the government. In a democratic society, philanthropy should in fact complement government action and resources.
So hopefully, you’re stirred into action by the evident need created by the negative impact of Covid-19, or you have a passion for a cause you’d like to support?
Here are 5 ways to unleash your inner philanthropist to take action:
1. Pick your cause to support: Once you have decided what cause to support, you can research up to 3 existing organisations that already support this same cause and who will ensure that your donations make the maximum impact;
2. Decide how you would like to give: You could make a one-off donation or a monthly or yearly recurring donation. It is often more impactful to give regularly (by direct debit or standing order from your bank account) as most organisations benefit from regular gifts that support their cashflow. You could also give your time and/or expertise by setting aside hours or days each month to assist a community or organisation that would benefit from your advice and expertise for free.
3. Organise or participate in a fundraiser or charity event: You can do this by getting involved in the planning and hosting of an event that will raise money for a cause and highlight that cause to your friends and family to encourage them to give.
4. Measure success by results and not just by money: Even though money is an essential means of philanthropy, if that money is not being used in a practical way to meet the needs of the people you’re trying to help, then it is a waste of that money. For example, when it comes to curbing poverty, the solution is not just to give more money to the poor. Lack of money is a symptom of poverty, but it is not what causes poverty. Poor people are poor because they lack the ability to make a living. And for many of them, that is due to their basic needs not being met. For example, supporting disadvantaged children’s education would probably have a bigger impact than just giving out cash to buy food or clothes.
5. Be consistent with your giving: Philanthropy is not just a single action or a one-off donation, but rather an ideology, and it is something that you should engage in throughout your life. To be consistent with your giving, factor it into both your spending and your savings i.e., budget for it. Think of philanthropy as an investment into your happiness and mental wellbeing. Research shows that those who donate money and time to good causes feel better about themselves and tend to have a more positive outlook on life.
We can learn a lot about philanthropy from entrepreneurs, who are problem solvers with the dogged determination it takes to build a new business and who understand (and thrive) the challenge of fundraising. These are also essential characteristics of a philanthropist. One inspiring example of an entrepreneur-philanthropist is Tom Ilube CBE, founder & Chair of the African Gifted Foundation a UK education charity that has established the Africa Science Academy (ASA), Africa’s first all-girls science and maths academy, focused on educating girls (some from disadvantaged backgrounds) from various African countries, to become Africa’s future STEM leaders. The academy is based in Ghana.
When investing, the value of your investment may rise or fall and there are no guarantees you will get back all the capital you have invested.