Philanthropy: An American Legacy

posted by Talk About Giving blog team

August 15, 2011 @ 3:31 pm

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Philanthropist. It’s a descriptor that many people don’t think applies to them. Only people like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and other bazillionaires or socialites can be philanthropists, right?

So simply, as Merriam-Webster defines it, philanthropy and all its goodness is nothing more than goodwill. It can be an act or a gift and it can be big or small. So the guy that gives $100,000 to his favorite university is a philanthropist. The child that puts one dollar of her allowance in the offering plate at church is a philanthropist. The volunteer that reads to children each week at the local family shelter is a philanthropist. The family that donates canned goods to the local food bank is philanthropic.

Philanthropy is a defining characteristic of American culture. It has been so since the earliest days; historical references date a focus on “helping one another” back to our colonial roots, where social responsibility became a distinguishing feature of the new country’s character and a key facet of American democracy. It remains true today when you consider the measurable monetary donations made each year. In 2008, 84 percent of Americans gave to charitable organizations. In 2009, 75 percent of philanthropic gifts were made by individuals and families, totaling nearly $228 billion. (Source: Giving USA Foundation)

Yes, Americans give generously. What’s more is that we value giving and want future generations to give, as well. In a recent poll, 90 percent of parents placed importance on their children becoming charitable adults. It’s a value believed to exemplify kindness, compassion, sharing and empathy — traits we look for as today’s youngsters grow into tomorrow’s leaders. But what will happen if we neglect to teach our children to give? Research indicates that if we don’t teach them, it is less likely that giving will become part of their value system.

Philanthropy. Let’s get comfortable with the word. Chances are pretty good that YOU are a philanthropist.

Join us in the conversation below: What motivates you to give?

2 Responses to Philanthropy: An American Legacy

  1. Kristie Schultz says:

    Hi, bottom line is that it is important to give, it changes you even though you may not realize it at first. You become a better and more productive citizen and you grow in character as in an individual.

    • Kristin Williamson says:

      Thanks, Kristie! Great points. It’s amazing how helping others subsequently helps us personally, too.