Do we have a moral responsibility to help others? Why does Ms. Smith decide to donate her fortune? Do you wake up one day and say: “Okay, I have enough, it’s time to start giving it away?” I doubt it! It’s probably a combination of upbringing, of character and of maybe a bit of luck.
I don’t think I’m alone in pondering the importance of philanthropy. As a special 30th anniversary issue, Forbes magazine decided to highlight The Titans of Philanthropy instead of just highlighting the list of richest people in America. It suggests the belief of others has an important impact on how we view philanthropy and what we do. Would Bill Gates have created the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation if he hadn’t married Melinda? I honestly don’t think he would have. Or at least he wouldn’t have done it at the age that he did. I think that Melinda was instrumental in softening Bill’s competitive edge (which was a tad destructive) and encouraging a desire to give back.
As a parent, I often wonder how to encourage my children to be generous. From a financial perspective, it’s pretty easy. They know about the concept of tithe. At a basic level, I like to think of tithing as a moral bar of what you need to contribute to charity. Take 10% and that’s what you need to contribute. Of course, more is better. But philanthropy is not just about money.
Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, says it well when she defines philanthropy as giving of time, money, expertise or compassion. This definition feels more relevant today and can help make the concept more meaningful. Bottom line, we don’t need to be rich to give. We just need to be passionate about the cause so that it’s heartfelt. Encourage your child to leave a toy for Santa to give to another child. An older child can be encouraged to donate a toy to Toys for Tots or to another local charity. A teenager can volunteer at a local Ronald McDonald House or at a hospital. A parent can start a food drive for the local food pantry. Start with something that you are passionate about and start in your community so that it’s more tangible.
When asked, my youngest daughter said that charity is about helping others. How do you give back? Let us know in the comment section below.