Anyone Can be a Philanthropist (Yes, Even You!)

One day last week Success in the City hosted the monthly CEO Chick Chat, where Cynthia de Lorenzi interviewed Community Foundation for the National Capital Region Executive Director Terri Lee Freeman. The two discussed how philanthropy has changed over the years. In the past, philanthropists were thought of as being super rich people, like Rockefeller or Getty or Vanderbilt. Today, anyone who can contribute can be considered a philanthropist, regardless of how much or how little they have to give.

That’s kind of cool. Anne Frank wrote she believed that people are basically good at heart. I agree. And I think they truly want to help others. Look at the outpouring of support that comes whenever there is a natural disaster somewhere in the world. People donate their time and money no matter what the economy is doing; maybe how much they give is affected, but the fact that they give at all doesn’t change.

Terri Lee Freeman encourages people to donate whatever they can because even small donations can have a big impact. So often I find people don’t know what they can do or don’t think they can do “enough,” which makes them feel a bit powerless. The big lesson from the CEO Chick Chat conversation is really that “together we can do so much more than we can alone.” Just do something!

I recently participated in a campaign Marie Forleo was promoting with Kiva. Are you familiar with Kiva? It’s a non-profit microfinance program that allows you, as an individual, to lend as little as $25 to someone who needs capital to create a better life for him/herself and family. How amazing is it that you can contribute even a few dollars and make a big difference in someone’s life?! Of course that’s just one cause and there are thousands of good ones.

You may have heard me talk about my personal (and thus Zen Rabbit’s) commitment to improving worldwide literacy. If you have a business, are you using your business as a vehicle for promoting philanthropy? There are so many good role models in this arena now. Think Ben & Jerry’s, Tom’s Shoes and Newman’s Own. Those three are all using different strategies in their efforts and they all work. It’s about what is authentic for your business.

What is your philanthropic philosophy?