By Kelly Braniff with Matt Karst

In order to make the distinction being philanthropy and charity, it is important to have a clear understanding of the definition of philanthropy.

Philanthropy is goodwill to fellow members of humanity. Philanthropy is an active effort to promote human welfare, it’s a love of mankind.

To expand on that, Philanthropy involves matching people (volunteers or donors) with an opportunity to make change in the world and leave a legacy of kindness. Philanthropy is acknowledging the people who made your life, career, academics and awards possible and in turn making sure the same is available for future generations.

Philanthropy is not the same as charity or welfare. Philanthropy does not involve strong-arming donations or begging for money. Philanthropy is, at its core, offering something to create a positive change or solution.

Kelly Braniff

What does philanthropy mean to you? There are two standard schools of thought that a person has when considering the word “philanthropy”. The first is a fear of philanthropy. Philanthropy is a foreign topic to many, and the thought of diving into the unknown can scare some people. The other school of thought is thinking that philanthropy just isn’t “for them.” Philanthropy has a stigma of only being for celebrities or wildly wealthy individuals. People think “philanthropy” and the first thought to pop up is the names on buildings at Ivy League schools.

Philanthropy is far more inclusive than simply monetary donations. Time, energy, and knowledge are just some of the tools that can be used to foster positive philanthropic change. Philanthropy is very scientific and if approached correctly, most people feel honored to be asked and appreciate the opportunity to make a difference.

Distinguishing between Charity and Philanthropy

A key distinction to philanthropy is the difference between philanthropy and charity. Steve Gunderson, former President and CEO of the Council of Foundations gave an insightful response when asked about the distinction between philanthropy and charity.

“Charity tends to be a short-term, emotional, immediate response, focused primarily on rescue and relief, whereas philanthropy is much more long-term, more strategic, focused on rebuilding. There is charity, which is good, and then there is problem-solving charity, which is called philanthropy.”

The differentiating factor between the two lies in the depth of the intention. Charity is the equivalent of giving a hungry man a fish, while philanthropy is teaching the hungry man how to fish. Philanthropy is a lasting effort, focused on completing a mission to have a lasting impact.

Philanthropy is an invigorating topic that has the capabilities to change the world. Philanthropic individuals embody the most desirable traits in a person, and it doesn’t take multiple zeros in the bank account to be philanthropic. Philanthropy is much more accessible than many realize and is a pillar of goodness in the world.

How You Can Start a Philanthropic Campaign for Your Association

Sometimes the hardest part of a voyage can simply be getting started. After providing an analysis of philanthropy, we want to take the next step and show how to get started. There isn’t a clear-cut “best course of action” plan. Philanthropy is subjective to the individual association. However, there are several steps you can take to get your association started down the philanthropy path.

  1. Recruiting a philanthropy development committee is a great place to get your association started. Find a group of individuals within your association who are full of passion and who are ready to make a difference. This group of individuals will be the lifeline for all philanthropy-related activities. Members should have a track record of serving on boards, being generous individuals, and having an interest in making a difference. Finding the right people is important to establishing a strong base for future philanthropic endeavors.

  2. Starting a marketing plan to show philanthropic impact can have immeasurable impact. People want to see goodness in the world and establishing your association as someone who provides that is important. This is done through virtual marketing, specifically social media. When creating a philanthropic marketing plan, it’s important to know your audience. Understanding your demographic and how to appeal to them is a large part of successful marketing. This, in turn, plays a large hand in philanthropy.

  3. Finding and segmenting potential constituents is an incredibly valuable step in getting started in philanthropy. Constituents are donors, staff, prospects, or members—essentially anyone with involvement in your association’s plans for philanthropy. These are people who will be the lifeline of your philanthropic activities and it’s important to spend time on this step. It’s important to segment constituents into what they provide your association. Doing this fosters organization and a clear plan for your association’s philanthropic activities.

Once these steps have been taken, it’s time to start asking potential donors. Keep in mind that “donors” refers to donors of money, time, or resources. Anyone who will provide for your association’s philanthropic needs. When determining who to ask for contributions, keep in mind that most people want to contribute to philanthropic practices, they just might not know how to. This is where the previous steps come into play. Having a dedicated development committee, a marketing plan and an organized group of constituents are all tools that will help a potential donor feel more at ease. These resources can help inform what philanthropy is, and how each potential donor can do their part.

We have taken a dive into what philanthropy really is and how your association can get started. Now, it’s time for action. Refer to the steps previously listed and start planning. It is important to remember that while philanthropy can be a daunting topic, it’s not unapproachable. People want to make a difference, but sometimes it just takes a strategic push.