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