What’s Philanthropy

As you grow older you will discover
that you have two hands.
One for helping yourself,
the other for helping others.

Abraham Lincoln

Virtually every book on money or wealth building teaches the same basic principles. The words and small details may vary, but the bottom line requirements for attaining financial freedom are always the same.

Live Within your Means + Save/Invest + Give Your $ Away = Financial Freedom

Philanthropy is just the dressed up name for giving your money away*. There are three primary reasons why philanthropy should be part of your life. It’s the

1. Key to the Flow of Money

2. Key to Social Wealth

3. Key to Bigger Hearts

Key to the The Flow of Money

When I first began learning about “wealth accumulation” I had this funny picture in my my mind of the Looney Toon version of A Christmas Carol. Scrooge Duck is sitting in his counting house surrounded by piles and piles of money while he spends all his time hoarding and protecting his money from would-be thieves.

There is a misconception in our society that money is a static thing; we gather and hoard it in our savings accounts or investment accounts, and that’s how we build wealth.

My dear friend and financial mentor, Janine Bolon, broke this misconception for me when she taught me that money actually flows through the Universe.

“Simply put, money is not static. If you accept this one universal principle, that money flows, you are on your way to understanding wealth accumulation.

“There are three firmly entwined arms that comprise the cycle of money. These three elements keep money moving through the Universe. If at any time all three are not being implemented, you’ll see a break in the flow of money into and through your life . . . The three arms that determine the flow of money are Living, Saving, and Giving.” (Janine Bolon, Money . . . It’s Not Just For Rich People, Janine Bolon, 2005, 50.)

Philanthropy is a critical element to the flow of wealth into our lives. If we have any intention of improving our financial health in any degree, we simply cannot afford to fear or ignore the principle of giving.

Key to Social Wealth

Let’s first define social wealth as the health of a community physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. The more socially wealthy a community is the more free, creative and productive the people are. A socially wealthy people have an overall increased quality of life, and have fewer barriers that hinder the fulfillment of their true potential.

There are a whole host of social ills that surround us–homelessness, child and spousal abuse, addictions, parentless children, Aids, poverty, hunger, and bondage of all kinds, just to name a few.

Philanthropy is one of the best solutions for curing “social poverty,” if you will. If we wish to build true social wealth, in other words heal the gaping wounds in our neighborhoods, communities, and world, philanthropy has proven to be a critical element of the equation.

Take for example Tom Siebel’s philanthropic work of the Montana Meth Project. “Two years after launching the Meth Project in Montana, adult Meth use had declined by 72% and Meth-related crime had decreased 62%.” Wow! I’d say that’s some major community healing.

Another example is Brad Pitt’s, Make It Right Foundationwhich has committed to help rebuild the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans. Brad’s foundation, funded largely from his own pocket, has committed to build 150 safe, sustainable, affordable homes. “Beyond building new homes for residents who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina, Make It Right is a unique laboratory for testing and implementing new construction techniques, technologies and materials that will make green, storm resistant homes affordable and broadly available to working families in communities across America.” To date almost 50 houses have been built and over 200 people brought home.

As one of my favorite examples, consider Heifer International, whose mission is to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth.

“By giving families a hand-up, not just a hand-out, we empower them to turn lives of hunger and poverty into self-reliance and hope.

“With gifts of livestock and training, we help families improve their nutrition and generate income in sustainable ways. We refer to the animals as “living loans” because in exchange for their livestock and training, families agree to give one of its animal’s offspring to another family in need.”

“In Tanzania, evaluators found most partner families were initially undernourished, but within a couple years after receiving an animal, were able to maintain a healthy diet. Many started to accumulate livestock and other assets, and soon could better afford medical expenses and keep their children in school longer and more consistently (particularly girls).”

And finally, there’s Greg Mortenson’s efforts to promote peace by building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“In July 1992, Mortenson’s sister, Christa, died from a massive seizure after a lifelong struggle with epilepsy on the eve of a trip to visit Dysersville, Iowa, where the baseball movie, ‘Field of Dreams’, was filmed in a cornfield.

“To honor his sister’s memory, in 1993, Mortenson climbed Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second highest mountain in the Karakoram range.

“While recovering from the climb in a village called Korphe, Mortenson met a group of children sitting in the dirt writing with sticks in the sand, and made a promise to help them build a school.

“From that rash promise, grew a remarkable humanitarian campaign, in which Mortenson has dedicated his life to promote education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“As of 2009, Mortenson has established or significantly supports 131 schools in rural and often volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide education to over 58,000 children, including 44,000 girls, where few education opportunities existed before.”

Regular people, honoring the principle of giving can, do and will make the greatest impact for good in the world.

Key to Bigger Hearts

“All the Whos down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot, But the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, did not. The Grinch hated Christmas ó the whole Christmas season. Oh, please don’t ask why, no one quite knows the reason. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. Or maybe his head wasn’t screwed on just right. But I think that the best reason of all May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”

Philanthropy simply makes us better, happier people. It expands our hearts. Science say’s it’s so, but more importantly, experience bears it out.

Here’s a great video on how money can make us happy . . . when we don’t spend it on ourselves.

How To Buy Happiness

Philanthropy specifically breaks down our walls of fear and scarcity. Fear and scarcity breed poverty of heart, mind, body and resources. We see it all over the world. However, hope and abundance (the emotion and belief nourished by philanthropy) bare us freedom, prosperity and happiness. Again, my friend Janine reminded me that it’s simply the Law of Cause and Effect. “Depending on our religious or cultural bacgrounds we might have heard it described as:

“The Law of Cause and Effect”

“The Law of the Harvest”

“What you sow, that you shall reap.”

“What goes around comes around.”

“Birds of a feather flock together.”

“To him that has, more shall be given”

“Like begets like.”

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

We simply can’t do good and not have it affect us for good, both inside and out.

Try an experiment of your own. Next time you’re feeling depressed, afraid, victimized, or of a scarcity mentality determine to reach out and help someone. Plant the seed and see for yourself what kind of fruit it bears.

“And what happened then…?
Well…in Who-ville they say
That the Grinch’s small heart
Grew three sizes that day!”

Why Family Philanthropy?

As children our character and our worldview are largely created through our family culture. Adult philanthropists who are full of hope and abundance, who are healing society, and who are generally happier people are more likely to come from homes that practice philanthropy.

Children learn by watching and participating. Families can multiply their efforts for good by engaging their whole family in their philanthropic work.

Family philanthropy projects are deposits into the character and happiness of our children. Children might only be adding pennies toward a particular project, but don’t underestimate the priceless value of those pennies as a generation of philanthropists is trained.

Bottom line, philanthropy is good for our pocketbooks; it’s good for our neighborhoods, community and world; and, it’s good for our hearts.

“Give said the little stream, give o give, give o give. Give said the little stream as it hurried down the hill. I’m small I know but wherever I go the grass grows greener still. Singing, singing all the day, give away o give away. Singing, singing all the day, give o give away.”

We hope that Maggie’s Month will become one of your family’s favorite annual philanthropic projects.

*Financial gurus, including God, agree that tithing is a fundamental aspect of philanthropy, or the “giving” arm of money.

Special thanks to the philanthropic contributions of Charlie Pabst from Charfish Designfor his fabulous Maggie’s Month header, and Abe Fawson from GoodFront for his expertise in WordPress.

  1. […] Family Philanthropy is a really terrific way for your family to work together to make a difference in the world. Click here to learn more about FAMILY PHILANTHROPY. […]

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