In the world of charitable organizations, we talk a great deal about this fantastic word “philanthropy” that we love to throw around and each of us define in our own way. At ACF in particular, we often call ourselves a statewide platform for philanthropy.
What on earth does that mean?
At four syllables, the word even sounds intimidating. Who are these philanthropists? At the very least, they can sound unapproachable. And when the goal is to unite givers and doers, using a big word like this can separate, rather than connect people.
In fact, I’ve discovered that unless you’re in the world of nonprofits and fundraising, this word can have the same effect as the fancy acronyms engineers and accountants use so easily, but are foreign to the rest of us – at the very best it sounds like jargon. At worst, it sounds a bit, well – Greek to us, as they say.
Actually, you’d be right if you used that comparison. Etymologically, the word is Greek. It means “love of people,” from the words philos, which means brotherly love (the same word as in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love) and anthros, which means humankind.
Simply put, when we are philanthropic, we are loving each other.
It’s beautifully simple, isn’t it? And who hasn’t acted in a way that expresses love of humankind?
While this is such a lovely concept, a discussion of true philanthropy encompasses so much more.
When we give charitably, be it of our talents, our resources, or our finances, we are not only loving each other, but we are uniting ourselves to one another and building identity at the same time. Giving charitably allows us to connect to communities – communities in the myriad of ways in which we define them. Philanthropy is not dependent upon the size of the contribution. It’s a matter of attitude and intent. More importantly, philanthropy does not mean “a gift of money.” It means “a gift of love.” When you think about it this way, the concept carries much greater meaning.
We may choose to give to our hometown or our state, to a museum we love, or to a cause that is particularly close to our heart – such as the elderly, resources for those suffering from substance abuse, or parks and outdoor spaces. By giving to organizations that support the causes we care about, we connect with like-minded individuals. At the same time, we identify and solidify who we are by where we choose to devote our time and resources.
Even more broadly, charitable giving allows us to define our world. That is, we give to create the world we idealize by the causes we support. Whether that’s a world without homelessness, or one where beautiful works of art or natural spaces are accessible to all, our charitable goals help us realize our dreams and our visions of an ideal world. Through our giving, we define ourselves and seek to define and improve the world in which we live.
At ACF, our tagline is connecting people who care with causes that matter. This is philanthropy in our own words. We help you – and all Alaskans – love humankind by enabling you to support the causes and organizations most dear to all of us – those that matter to all of us.
What hopes and dreams do you have for our world? For our community? For each other? How do you give to realize those dreams?