How Today’s Donors are Leaving Legacies for What They Care About Most
By Jay Angeletti and Andrew Dugan
In today’s world, a growing concern is stirring regarding the idea that philanthropy – the concept of charitable giving to support nonprofit organizations and, in turn, people – is detrimental to our society. Critics question the abilities and motivation of philanthropists. They also question the needs of recipient organizations.
Public perception of philanthropists characterizes these “do-gooders” as distant from the problems they seek to alleviate. But philanthropists are no different than the people we interact with every day. Before they were philanthropists they were immigrants, the children of our neighbors; they reflect every religion and race.
To generalize their identities is impossible and a disservice to them – and what this country represents. While the causes they support vary, uniting all benefactors is a spirit insubordinate of any place of residence, social class.
Often forgotten is that many big-name philanthropists come from the communities they support. Many, in fact, benefited from the scholarships, arts initiatives, and public welfare set up by the philanthropists who came before them.
To maintain a society as diverse in interests and needs as the United States, it is essential that our philanthropy remain tailored to each benefactor’s passions so that the stretch of benefit can be wide and varied. To begin telling people that certain institutions are unworthy of receiving aid is to begin limiting our society’s great expanse of non-profit programs that have sparked many of our nation’s great success stories. Philanthropy, in fact, has spawned the world’s best system of higher education; local and international organizations that fight disease; still others that feed and clothe those in need and help women in third world countries begin businesses. And there are myriad other important causes that benefit from philanthropy. Some say an institution as wealthy as Harvard University should be left without continuing philanthropic support in favor of benefitting other seemingly poorer institutions. What this fails to acknowledge is that the university’s students rely heavily on its significant financial aid program. In addition, the University’s faculty conduct world class basic and translational research that saves lives and impacts all of us. Furthermore, the University educates many of the best and brightest who go on to serve as leaders in commerce, government and the nonprofit sector.
Now more than ever, we require a strong society that celebrates philanthropy and the many ways it complements government funding. By its definition, philanthropy is voluntary and can’t be legislated. Giving back has and will always remain one of the pillars that made our country into an epicenter of opportunity and greatness.