We make ourselves so crazy during the holidays that we forget important things. We get easily caught up in the giving season and forget to give of ourselves–we forget why we give. Don't get me started on the commercialization of this time of year and how we have been trained to buy our way into and out of the holidays. We all know in our hearts that material things can never repair or advance our relationships. We know that a single time of year of superficial contact will not sustain our network. Yet we fall into this trap, into this mental deception, on a pavlovian annual basis.
Presents will never replace our presence.
Let's be more philanthropic.
This fancy P word can seem foreign and inappropriate for us who occupy the lower 99%. But let me assert that if you understand its true meaning we all need to adopt it as part of our lifestyle and habits all year long.
φιλάνθρωπος philanthropos, combined two words: φίλος philos, "loving" in the sense of benefitting, caring for, nourishing; and ἄνθρωπος anthropos, "human being" in the sense of "humanity", or "human-ness".
When we care about each other, about our fellow human beings–when we love each other–this is philanthropy.
Giving is not a chore it is a habit. It is not a list of things to buy. It is your readiness and willingness to help others unconditionally.
It is not a task to unburden our guilt. It is the joy of loving another. Of responding to needs with openness and kindness.
Here are four quick tips to become more philanthropic:
1.Write a note: One of my greatest peeves is the un-signed holiday card. The mass mailed card that contains nothing human–not even the label is hand written! Yes the photo cards are nicer than a card with a pre-printed name, but wow have we lost our humanity. Writing a note that is personal and thoughtful is a beautiful thing and a lost art.
The thought does count, but you have to act on your thoughts.
2. Give the gift of time: Where you spend your attention and time defines what is important to you. Make a commitment to spend more time with those you care about and love. Don't just say it to yourself, but make a commitment to them. You need this as much as those you care about. Don't regret time lost with others. It will be you who loses.
3. Give to your passions: Align your financial and volunteer giving with your passions–with the issues that are most important to you. Don't get stuck with giving because you "always" give to them. Or because someone else asked you to. Make your giving reflect who you are and who you care about. You will give more and get more. Your giving will have meaning to you and others.
4. Give more: As a nation we give about 4% of our income to charity. Actually, the middle class is the most generous and gives almost twice the percentage of their incomes as the super rich. However, we all need to give a little more. We can afford it. There is a growing population at the bottom of our economy that is really hurting and suffering. Pick an issue or cause that resonates with you and give! You can make a difference with any amount of money. Give what you can.
These are the most important investments into your network. Networking your passions and care for others multiplies your impact and your opportunity to make a difference.
A few weeks ago I had the great honor of meeting Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Laureate, the creator of micro-lending and the founder of the incredibly successful Grameen Bank. He was asked what corporations could do to be more philanthropic–how could their corporate social responsibility be more successful? He said, "If every corporation adopted 50 or 500 families in poverty and helped them, we would end poverty. We need to help each other."
We can easily get caught up in complex campaigns, strategies, and efforts that yield little change. Helping each other, helping people in need–will always make a difference.
Who do we know that needs our help? Who needs our help that we need to know?
We change the world one person at a time. We do.
You have so much more to share and to give to others.
Let's be more philanthropic, in the true sense of the word– during the holidays and through the next year and the next.
Thank you for all you do for others and what you will do in the future!
Thanks for reading. John
PS: Interviewed for LA Magazine's website on trends in philanthropy in Los Angeles.