Philanthropy means the love of human beings.
It does NOT mean the giving of time, money and talent to the aid of others or broken conditions.
But for most of us, loving doesn’t seem to be enough.
So when we see a need to be met, a person in need, or a situation that could be improved, most humans want to take action other than loving, to make things better. My personal adventure today is about combining the love of giving with the art of asking.
How I began
When was 5 years old my mother took me to her mother’s home in Guatemala, the Finca Los Tarrales.
It was my first encounter with the visceral power of hopeless poverty.
A baby who was less than a year old stood naked, near his mother, cryng for attention and reassurance. His mom continued to make corn tortillas on the flat rock in the dirt where the chickens were pecking, searching for food. She ignored his crying so he began to wail louder and louder.
I was face to face with life, and my tender heart wanted the baby to stop crying, the mom to comfort him and sing to him, and the chickens to stop pecking! I had no control over the mom, the child or the chickens, and that powerlessness, even at my young age, scarred me – but in a good way.
The following Thanksgiving, my mom took me and a hamper of food to The Cabbage Patch Settlement House, a place in Louisville, KY for mothers and their children who could no longer live at home. I remember the eyes of the mothers and the children; they looked shell-shocked and vacant, and bereft of hope. I felt too young and too little to help, too incapable of making a difference to them.
But that ALL changed by age 7
On Halloween 1962, I had my first fundraising gig, and I felt the power of fundraising to change the world!
“Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF!” I repeated that mantra for hours, going door to door to collect for others – not for myself. My goal was to fill the dull-orange, house-shaped cardboard box with as many quarters it could hold. I loved the size of the box, how it fit in my hand; I loved the sound of the quarters as I shook the box, and I loved the weight of it as the money amounted.
I wanted to raise the most money I could for those children throughout the world and I haven’t stopped caring about women and children since. Fundraising has been a way for me to calm the cry of that hungry, naked baby. It has given me power to change the world, to relive pain, and to make hope an option for people I have never met.
Some days, you and I are the only hope someone else encounters. And for us to be effective in our philanthropy, we need to believe in hope, live hopeful lives and be hope for others. This does not mean being happy-go-lucky, angel-on-my-shoulder perky. It means overcoming our doubts and our fears and using our woundedness to show tender compassion for others.
Today I have the pleasure of volunteering throughout the world, encouraging women to keep moving forward, even when they don’t want to or have given up on life. I know what that despair feels like, so I know how important it is to sit with folks, to meet them where they are (not where I would have them be) and treat them with kindness, dignity and patience.
In 2012 I returned to Guatemala and went to Transitions in Antigua. I learned about the effects of gang warfare and gun-related shootings on the people of Guatemala. It was a homecoming of sorts for me because I was able to revisit the place of my youth where I had first learned of and experienced searing pain, and I was able to be there with people who believe that they can make a difference in the world.
I gave thanks for that child and that woman and that chicken because it was through that experience I learned that the combination of hopelessness and helplessness is the most devastating human condition. Add in poverty, gender inequity and neglect, and we have the living situation of two thirds of the world today who live at or below a poverty level that would force most humans to give up. And yet we don’t. They don’t.
Together, we can create a boundary-less society where all who want to love others are treasured. And those who need love can receive it. And those who have can give easily and joyfully to those who don’t.
This is the kind of world in which true philanthropy prospers.
Want to learn more?
Call Annie to determine how you can accomplish more – more effectively.
Great presentation. Thought provoking – on target with your message. I took away several new ideas. – Denise, King College, Johnson City TN
Thanks for the great insight into my own mind (and heart) as a donor and how I can relate my experience to my own donors in my organization. – AFP Mountain Empire
Good discussion about engaging donors by asking them how we can better meet their partnership needs? Also enjoyed discussion regarding “superstitious” giving and other donor motivations. – AFP Mountain Empire
Every year for the past 8 years I have traveled to a rural, rice-growing area of North India, to be with the women and children of Durgapur, India. It is an extremely poor part of India although it was the steel capital of the British Empire generations ago. The air quality is terrible and resources are slim. It is my joy to be in conversation with these women, sit with them while they sing and knit or watch the children dance, pray with and for them and offer healing prayer and the laying on of hands and anointing with holy oil. It is a sacred time for me to be in relationship with people literally on the other side of the earth, be present with them and listen to their concerns, needs and joys. It is this state of being, participation and love of peoples’ that ignite the philanthropic part of me.
Philanthropy simply means by definition the love of human beings. I believe in philanthropy and practice this belief by:
- teaching others how to give
- working with organizations to develop methodologies that help people and communities around the world