February, 2018 | Strategic Philanthropy Blog

During one of our class discussions a quote was spoken that stuck with me: “Social change is messy.” It is one thing to donate to a philanthropic cause, but it is another to dive into the root cause of the situation and enact change. It is not uncommon to hear others wanting to “make a difference,” but I think we often underestimate that goal. In order to bring about change, we must be willing to “get messy” and discover the dirty details behind the situation we are trying to mitigate.

Apart from just researching the in’s and out’s of philanthropy, we must also be willing to engage with all necessary stakeholders surrounding the problem at hand. In order to ensure philanthropic funds are used properly we must not only do our own research on the organizations’ financials, historical track, and mission, but partner with those behind the wheels as another rider. As we begin to communicate transparency between organizations, we will not only gain a stronger sense of the organization’s legitimacy, but learn what it is the organization needs to do good. While everyday donations are always appreciated, it is the partnership between those with resources and those with knowledge that enables real change to occur.

Additionally, we must begin to interact with those who are being helped. Further engagement will not only give us a sense of the root cause of the problem, but enable us to see what it is that others really need, despite what they are given. Furthermore, at the root of every person is the desire to feel connected to others. One of the best things we can do is to give our time and attention to the people we are helping. We may find that the thing they actually needed cannot be bought at all.

After we have begun interacting with a philanthropic cause on a deeper level, we will have gained a better sense of the problem, but we cannot stop here. Apart from understanding our own donating habits, we must encourage our community to buy into this as well. In a world where we are interconnected and listen to one another, we will be able to work together creatively to solve real problems. Instead of putting band-aids on different situations, we will be able to communicate proactively and impact efficiently.

As much as we want to believe, philanthropy and social change cannot be accomplished with excellence apart from a messy endeavor. Time must be invested, relationships must be built, and engagement must be present. Although this will not happen all at once, I believe that if we all contribute what we can with the time we have, we will collectively begin to make a magnificent mess of the world around us.

by Chelsea Rios ’18

Categories: Uncategorized

I cannot think of a time in my past that I really asked myself, “What does philanthropy mean to me?” Although I would like to consider myself to be a “service-minded” person, I do not think I ever versed this thought in terms of “philanthropy.” Growing up, giving seemed to be something that was the job of my parents, as they were the ones who made money, and then giving to me was more in the currency of time, but even that was often in fulfillment of required community service hours. There was one summer when I fell in love with the senior citizens who played games at The Friendship Center in my town and my heart for service transcended past my required hours. Yet, philanthropy was more of a word that I associated with the places I would go. Before further consideration, I do not believe I viewed philanthropy as I do now. To me, philanthropy is an integral part of society that fills in the gaps where people fall through—often for reasons not self-imposed.

Philanthropy serves to return to humanism and the true meaning of community—humans helping humans for no other reason than the fact that we are all in this life together and all need helping hands.Philanthropy does what we all should be doing in some capacity or another, and that is providing the means to fulfill others’ basic human rights either by relief, improvement, social reform, or civic engagement. It is the institutions set in place to serve others, and it is the mindset that others have to give selflessly. Philanthropy is the decision to live on less so that someone else may live on more. I think if everyone looked at life with a philanthropic mindset over our natural selfish inclinations, our world would look very different.

So that’s my new view of philanthropy as a whole, but what does that tangibly look like in my life today and in the future is another question. If I see such purpose in philanthropy, should I not be actively participating in it, in any small means I have? The answer to that is yes, yet the reality of that is that I could be doing a much better job. I am grateful that this class has changed the way I look at philanthropy. I pride myself in “strategic thinking” being one of my Strengths Quest verified strengths, yet I failed to look at philanthropy as something that could be applied to. I viewed philanthropy as a social obligation, yet I wrapped myself into the exclusion principle of “but I’m a student.” But the truth is, I will not be a student forever, nor do I not currently have the capacity to still give regularly regardless. For the price of a coffee which I mindlessly purchase, my money could be managed better to establish more capacity to give. I do not believe it is healthy to take an extremist view and live in self-deprivation, but living modestly so that money can be budgeted to give is what I believe will be my mantra, so that giving can assert itself as one of my non-negotiable values.

By Sarah Swift ’20

Categories: Uncategorized