I remember a time, as a child, when friends brought over boxes of food for our family. In my 11- or 12-year-old mind, I thought, “How nice that they brought us all this great stuff!”
Looking back, I recognized that my parents had been going through a rough patch, financially, and they had needed the unsolicited help of others. I tried to imagine how humbling it must have been for my mom, as she looked into the eyes of her friend, and thanked her for their thoughtfulness. I also thought, given the role of my dad as the provider, how hard it must have been for him to graciously accept the charity, especially with his son looking on.
When I think of my own wife and children, it’s hard to imagine the many feelings associated with that event. But I also recognize that none of us are immune from need of some type.
I am one of those philanthropy professionals who, like many, wandered into the fundraising field rather than aiming for it. I fell into it, but I do not believe it was by accident. My time as a fundraising professional has been exciting, with ups and downs, but overall, it has been an amazing journey.
One of the many things I love about my chosen field is it has afforded me experiences and opportunities I might not have had otherwise. Educating others in philanthropy is definitely a labor of love, but I genuinely enjoy engaging new and existing acquaintances in the process of giving.
In fact, I love philanthropy and everything about it.
The word philanthropy is defined as the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes. I have found one of the major challenges to philanthropy is continuity—ongoing giving that is perpetuated year after year.
This challenge is resolved when people give out of a genuine desire to promote the welfare of others, along with having a clear sense that their giving actually achieves that end. It is a concept that is reinforced when a nonprofit follows up with impact reports demonstrating how a donor’s philanthropy has made a positive impact on solving a specific problem.
My first time giving money outside of church felt strange, and I was not sure why. Later, I realized I had never been educated, specifically, on what my giving would accomplish.
That is why I encourage my professional colleagues in the field to seek first to listen, then understand and, from that vantage point, educate as necessary.
The best philanthropy provides an immediate benefit, as well as a long-term remedy to a problem that will not go away on its own. The gift of time, talent and treasure, though it may sound cliché, is really what philanthropy is all about.
Making oneself available for service on behalf of a charitable organization is the heartbeat of fundraising. Lending one’s talent to a cause that is worthy to one’s heart and spirit is the power organizations need not only to survive but to improve and thrive: the power of philanthropy to fearlessly forge ahead and advance the mission.
P. Kevin Williamson