What Does it Mean to be a Philanthropist?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines philanthropy as the practice of giving time and money to help improve other people’s lives. Coined by the Greek playwright Aeschylus in 5th century BCE, the term is derived from the Greek words philos, meaning “love,” and anthropos, meaning “humankind.” In short, philanthropy means “love of humanity.”
Philanthropy is essential in society because it provides opportunities. It supports projects and endeavors that aim to address social problems and empowers communities to flourish. Some of the world’s most generous philanthropists, such as Andrew Carnegie and Oprah Winfrey, have given not only financial aid but also time, experience, and talent to make life better for others.
Philanthropists in Present-Day Society
Modern philanthropists often set up their own foundations to centralize their efforts and inspire further support. Foundations can focus on education, health, culture, poverty, nutrition, gender empowerment, and more.
Some of the richest people in the United States frequently make headlines for their successful foundations and generous donations to society.
For instance, Bill Gates and Melinda Gates are reported to have donated $35.8 billion worth of Microsoft stock to their own non-profit organization called the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Every year, the foundation spends billions of dollars on initiatives aimed at fighting disease, poverty, and inequity around the world.
Another famous philanthropist is Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor behind multinational holding company Berkshire Hathaway. He’s known for his quest to donate more than 99% of his wealth to various charities. So far, he’s given away more than $45 billion to the Gates Foundation, supporting various healthcare initiatives in the U.S. and developing nations. He has also distributed billions in stock to the four charities launched by his late wife and children.
One can’t talk about American philanthropists without mentioning Oprah Winfrey. In 2004, Oprah became the first African-American philanthropist to be included in Business Week’s list of the 50 most generous Americans. In 2020, she donated over $10 million to COVID-19 relief efforts.
She has also been a strong supporter of various causes, including Time’s Up and N Street Village. Over the years, Oprah has proven two things: (1) you don’t have to come from a wealthy family to be philanthropic, and (2) you can support whatever charities and issues matter the most to you.
Why Philanthropy Matters
Many people think that only billionaires can be philanthropic. The truth is, anyone can practice philanthropy regardless of skill, status, or net worth. There are endless ways to make a positive impact on a person, a community, and the world.
Part of what makes philanthropy so powerful is its ability to create a snowball effect. When someone does something good, other people take notice. Philanthropists can influence others to create a healthier, fairer, and more productive society.
Additionally, having a philanthropic mindset sharpens your empathy and helps you learn more about the world. It’s not enough to simply donate money to a cause or organization. Real philanthropists are dedicated to understanding social issues and creating solutions that will leave a lasting impact.
My Journey with Philanthropy
As someone who has experienced her fair share of adversities, I understand the importance of helping and giving freely with a pure heart. My pathway to success has been anything but straightforward. That said, whatever challenges I’ve faced in the past only made me stronger. They also inspired me to help others overcome hardships and envision a better future.
As a philanthropist, I am passionate about helping families and children who are living in poverty. I believe that no person should ever be deprived of food and clean water.
I volunteer at the L.A. food bank, a non-profit organization that aims to fight hunger in Los Angeles. They source food items and distribute them to vulnerable households and individuals. As a volunteer, I help pack, restock, and distribute food bags which usually contain staples like grains, beans, milk, and fruits and vegetables. I also help maintain crowd control and social distancing.
My family and I also do fundraising for and sponsorship of underprivileged children and families. I am signed up to sponsor 20 families living in poverty via the L.A. DPSS (Department of Public Social Services). My responsibilities include contacting the families, learning about their wish lists, and having food and Christmas presents delivered to their doorsteps.
If there’s one thing that philanthropy has taught me, it’s how giving and sharing can change someone’s life. No matter how big or small, your philanthropic contributions can make a real difference in the world.