This column is offered in honor of Black Philanthropy Month.
We are forever pushing our children to become entrepreneurs, to start and run their own businesses. We encourage this because we believe it is good for our children as individuals, and good for the Black community. Entrepreneurism is all about becoming financially independent, and building wealth and assets.
What we don’t always remember is the value of teaching our children to be philanthropists. In fact, very few of us use this word. We speak instead of giving back, being a blessing to others, and caring for our neighbors. Philanthropists do all those things: they give their time, talent, and treasure (including money). As individuals they can be catalysts, and collectively their work can be transformational.
Philanthropy also includes strategy. As philanthropists, children can examine what is important to them, and uncover the different ways they can make an impact. For example, a young person may be emotionally touched by seeing children in their class who are sick and cannot come to school all the time. They may wonder about the homeless family they see sleeping in a car, or the line for food at church or a community center. A friend who comes out as LGBTQ may inspire them to create a more accepting school environment. An aunt living with HIV may catalyze their efforts to help others living with the disease.
Adults and teens can guide those who are younger in asking questions that can help define a young person’s philanthropy. For example, do you want to help one person, or a group of people? Do you want to support people in your community, or are you open to supporting those you may never personally know? Should the focus be helping with an immediate need, or addressing a systemic problem?
Other questions can go deeper. Are you giving to be of service and because you “should,” or because it makes you feel good? Or is it a combination of both? Are you open to the idea that you may not know what is the best way to make an impact? How will you be led by facts and feelings? Are there ways that you can engage others in giving? How would you approach them? How do you prioritize what is important to you versus what is important to others? How do you prioritize competing needs, and create a balance that feels right?
The great thing about being a philanthropist is that you are always engaged in the process of learning, feeling, responding, being creative and innovative, researching, and evaluating. Philanthropy starts with a spark within a child and can be nurtured into something wonderful. We want our children to “think big” in terms of creating a business, we can also teach them to “think big” in terms of philanthropy.
The skills learned today can lay the foundation for a career in philanthropy managing assets, raising money, evaluating programs, developing strategy, and/or advocating for policy changes. The passion ignited can inspire a lifetime of giving and leadership.
Black Philanthropy Month was founded by the Pan-African Women’s Philanthropy Network August 2011. Learn more at http://www.blackphilanthropymonth.com /
Copyright 2019 – Mel and Pearl Shaw
When you are ready to build a fund development program, grow your fundraising, or increase board engagement we are here to help. (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.
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