Blog | Mar 16, 2012 | 2 Comments

[you are a philanthropist]

So you’re not rich! If you give anything to charity–time, talent, or treasure–you still call yourself a philanthropist. And it might be time to change your mindset about giving.

“Making your giving matter more.”

These ideas come from Laura Arrillaga Andreeson, who just published a new book about democratizing philanthropy, called Giving 2.0. She spoke at a recent luncheon of the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Laura comes from a family with a long history of philanthropy and interest in social change. And she believes that the concept of “philanthropist” is ripe to be democratized. It should no longer belong to an elite class of wealthy people. Laura wants it to belong to the 99% as well as the 1%.

The meaning of “philanthropy” is love, not money. (The Greek word is philanthrōpía: “love for mankind.”) Laura believes that the only thing you need to become a philanthropist is generosity and a special moment in which you feel called to give. How much you give is not what’s important. I loved this statement she made:

“If your gift matters to you, it will matter to others.”

Laura also showed us some amazing statistics.

Of the $290 billion or so given to charity last year in the U.S., $235 billion was given by individuals. People like you and me. And research has shown that in terms of relative value, low-income people give a larger percentage of their assets.

Laura also talked about the value of time and talent. She said that last year, 63 million people in the U.S. gave time and energy to nonprofits that added up to 8.1 billion hours or about $170 billion in additional value.

Laura begged us—as I’m sure she does at all of her speaking engagements—to please keep it up. She cited these statistics:

Sympathy will only carry us so far.

Thinking about these horrifying realities prompted Laura to think about ways to make our giving matter more. She suggests that we treat our philanthropic contributions like investments and give them the same attention we give our for-profit investments, like our stock purchases and retirement accounts. She says we should be more proactive in our giving—which means to let it express our own concerns, values, and passions. She contrasts this with reactive giving, such as when you see a sad child’s face on the TV and send a few dollars on impulse.

Emotions such as guilt or fear won’t lead us to make lasting change. Instead, if we are passionate about who and what we support, and approach our contributions strategically, we will have a great impact—especially if we pool our resources with others who as passionate about the same issues.

Lastly, here’s why giving matters so much to us, personally.

Laura says:

“What we do for other people defines who we are.”

What do you think about giving? How do you decide which causes to support?

P.S. After composing this blog, I came across an interesting article on the same subject by the Nonprofit Quarterly. This is much more academic and detailed, and will probably appeal more to those of you working in philanthropy.

Image credit: golden zebra on flickr.






Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.


I’ve always felt that society undervalues donations of “time”. As a serial volunteer, I occasionally think about what things would cost (education…), what groups would fall through the cracks (hungry, homeless, etc., etc.), what important issues would be unattended (environment, politics, etc.), how much worse the world would be, if people didn’t step in and step up to make a contribution of their time and talents. Think of what would be effected in your world if every volunteer just STOPPED.


Claire Wagner Reply:

The effect would be devastating! I thought the numbers Laura showed about this were impressive. This is the major way each of us takes responsibility for others in our community – by volunteering at community-based organizations and churches.


Lisa H. -Smith


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