For almost 20 years, hundreds of communities across North America have come together to recognize the countless ways philanthropy has affected our world. Officially recognized, each year on November 15, National Philanthropy Day is celebrated by numerous fundraising professionals, government leaders, foundations, businesses, individual donors, and others who wish to honour all the contributions philanthropy has made. The day provides an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of giving and all that it has accomplished, as well as what there is still left to do. It is a time to reflect – how it has enhanced our civic society and the importance of working together for the common good.
Non-profit and charitable organizations have long been a crucial partner in responding to the needs of the most vulnerable segments of our society. Philanthropy seeks to assess and respond in real-time to areas which demand more attention, whether it is the environment, human rights or even upholding democratic values. Working alongside governments and the private sector, these organizations provide resources for public good – harnessing the capabilities, scale, and benefits of philanthropic investment to affect positive change.
We are also living in a time where people question the impact their actions have on the world beyond themselves. This varies from the kinds of products they buy, who they buy it from, to the ecological footprint they pay for. People want to ensure that there is a net gain in the world as a whole because of the choices made in their lives. However, there is a great disconnect here that causes great frustration for most: the work many of us do for two-thirds of our waking lives (our full-time jobs) feels entirely meaningless. Far too many jobs today do not clearly provide a net gain to the world, or at best a minimal one. Meanwhile, great problems exist in our society that very few of us are tackling. For many companies, it is not profitable to solve homelessness, substance addiction, depression, human trafficking, or food insecurity.
How often do we think of those, who are in need of somebody’s help? There are plenty of people worldwide, who suffer, lack money and other things for a sustainable everyday life. Among these people are those, who have no relatives or parents and lack sufficient resources to access the help they need. All of us can help at least a little bit, but most people do not think about it all, though it is worth thinking about. At the same time, there are people, who created special non- profit organizations, which unite people, desiring to help others.
Philanthropic deeds come in all different shapes and sizes — charitable giving, volunteering, etc. — and on National Philanthropy Day, no act of kindness goes unnoticed. This year, tens of thousands of people showed the world that the spirit of giving is alive and well, and stronger than ever. Most charities rely on private donations to do their work. Although many receive institutional funding (mostly from governments), they prefer private donations because the latter are much less onerous and essentially ‘unrestricted’. Which is to say, unlike typical institutional funding, private donations can be spent freely, allowing the charity to react quickly as we most recently witnessed during the pandemic. Most private donations come from four main sources: individuals who pay a regular (annually, set amount); individuals who do one-off pledges (at events, etc.); allocations made in wills of deceased; and major gifts made by high net-worth individuals or families.
Now here is a hard, cold fact… all four models are a Boomers thing. Younger generations are simply not into any of these models. To them, they seem outdated and detached. As the kind, consistent paying boomers are dying out, charities are left facing an uncertain future as their bread and butter models are simply irrelevant to the new generations. It would be easy to blame this on millennials – but the truth is, the younger generations are just as generous as their seniors. They are more purpose driven, informed, better educated in the complexities of aid and more knowledgeable of global affairs and keenly aware of the urgency of social impact. Generosity is consistent across generations… it must be.
In the 2020 Canadian Charitable Giving Index, despite the economic disruption caused by COVID-19, Canadians continue to show themselves to be a generous group. 83 per cent of Canadians surveyed have either already donated or plan to donate to a charitable cause in 2020. Furthermore, the average estimated amount donated per person is $585. However, coronavirus has impacted people’s ability to give, with 40 per cent stating that they have to reduce the amount they planned to give this year, as a result of the financial impact caused by the pandemic. The need is greater than ever, so we all have a role to play in helping others and in ensuring that we are maximizing the impact of our giving.
The sense of National Philanthropy Day is not just to recognize these organizations, and to donate once a year. Rather, it is to teach people to do it all year-round, not depending on a holiday schedule or a special occasion. More so, it is a reminder to just be kind whenever it is possible for you. We should all be cognizant of the fact that there are plenty of people, who have no help near them and lack the support system required to live the same ‘normal life’ as you live. Do good things, provide help and you will see that it brings positive emotions both to those, who help and those, who are helped.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that the old traditional means of doing things are not working. Yet, the solutions to our country’s problems are all around us. If we are willing to believe in people, empower them from the bottom-up, and unite with anybody to do right, we can work together to build a society where everyone can rise, and find happiness.
In closing, I join charities around the world to THANK YOU for your support. Your involvement whether it’s volunteering, giving, mentoring, staffing an event or showing your support through social media makes philanthropy possible. National Philanthropy Day pays tribute and recognizes the contributions made to our Portuguese community.
“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” – Mother Teresa