Encouraging the Global Growth of Philanthropy

By Jerry Henry

Who said this?:

“To give away money is an easy matter, and in any person’s power. But to decide to whom to give it, and how large and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in everyone’s power, nor an easy matter. Hence it is that such excellence is rare, praiseworthy and noble.”

I often begin introductory fundraising workshops by asking this question about the quote.

People generally respond that it sounds like something John D. Rockefeller would’ve said. Others suggest its Andrew Carnegie. And yet others say Mother Theresa, Bill Gates, or Warren Buffett.

The correct answer:  Aristotle.

That’s right. Aristotle, who wrote those words many centuries prior to any of the people listed – 360 BCE, in fact — was talking about the challenges of being philanthropic.

In the workshops, I always tie this quote back to the Greek words philia (virtuous love) and anthropos (humans), and explain that at its core, philanthropy is “the love of humankind.” In one form or another, philanthropy is not a uniquely American concept, nor is it something that began only in the last few centuries. On the contrary, as Aristotle can attest, it’s actually a concept that is quite ancient and global.

Part of what we do as non-profit professionals is help others understand how to engage donors (i.e. philanthropists of all sizes, shapes, and backgrounds). In our ever-growing understanding of how interconnected we all are globally, it is important to help others understand what we’ve learned.

For example:

My colleague, Jim Hackney, experienced this first hand when he was invited by the State Department of the United States to serve as an arts envoy to Greece this past year. He was invited specifically to share his expertise in helping arts and cultural groups understand the basics of developing individual philanthropy versus dependence upon government. Follow this link to read an account of his experience.

Last fall, the YMCA of the USA recruited Jamie Inman, Vice President of Association Development at the Y of Greenville (one of our current clients) to share best practices of philanthropy with YMCA professionals in southern India. In Jamie’s words, “In India, the YMCA is heavily dependent on international philanthropy, and what we’re trying to teach and facilitate is local philanthropy.”  A full article on Jamie’s experiences is found in the Summer 2013 issue of NAYDO (North American YMCA Development Organization) Developments:

(As an aside, Jamie will be speaking about her experiences of sharing best practices in India at the 2014 NAYDO Conference, April 9-12, 2014 in San Antonio, TX. Jamie and I will also be leading a workshop on the three successful capital campaigns we’ve collaborated on for the Y of Greenville over the past 7 years – raising over $20 million and still counting!)

The Association of Fundraising Professionals, likewise, is doing extraordinary things to link those of us in North America with our neighbors around the globe. “Supporting the International Community” is one of the priorities in the AFP 2011-2013 Strategic Plan.  As the plan states: “AFP will be a leader in establishing the most effective environment for fundraising communities worldwide by ensuring that best practice knowledge, experience and expertise are accessible to fundraisers.”

Encouraging the growth of individual philanthropy is at the core of what we do as professional fundraisers, whether here in the United States, or half-way around the world. We work hard at that every day for our individual organizations whose missions we support through our time, talent, and treasure.

Because of our “love of humankind”, hopefully, we’re making this world a much better place daily – here in Atlanta…in Athens, Greece…in Trivandrum, India…and around the globe!

It’s not always easy, but, as Aristotle said, “…such excellence is rare, praiseworthy and noble.”