Got Philanthropy?

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Why do we use a hard to spell, hard to pronounce, four-syllable word like philanthropy to describe the basic human quality of caring? To me, philanthropy is the basic concept of people helping people. Philanthropy can be helping a neighbor rake their yard, visiting someone’s CaringBridge site and leaving a message or cheering someone on at a race.

“I’m not Philanthropic”

Six months after CaringBridge became a nonprofit, a woman called and simply said “What CaringBridge does has been amazing for my friend; I want to know more about how I can help.” That woman was Barb Farrell.  We decided to meet and talk.

Barb told me how she was able to support a friend as her friend went through a surgery and ongoing treatment for a brain tumor. By using CaringBridge, her friend never felt isolated and wasn’t overburdened with letting others know her updates.

Barb also said to me, “I’m not philanthropic, but I want to give you a donation.” She handed me a $1,000 check. Barb wanted to do even more. She became a board member, an everyday advocate for CaringBridge, started the CaringBridge Advisory Council and is a shining example of someone who certainly “got philanthropy.”  Yet, to this day, she still does not say she is a philanthropist.

Helping Others Use CaringBridge

Another philanthropic soul for CaringBridge was a volunteer name Cindy Kyser. Just a month or two after Barb called CaringBridge, Cindy called CaringBridge with a similar story – she wanted to help.

Cindy lived across the country and was an expert in customer service. Cindy established CaringBridge’s first customer care center – all as a volunteer. She answered calls, responded to emails and provided online assistance to others who used CaringBridge. Cindy has “got philanthropy.”

Young Philanthropists

Finally, philanthropy has no age parameters. A group of 4th graders in Mount Vernon, New York, collected pennies until they reached $100 to donate to CaringBridge.  One of their classmates had a CaringBridge website. With their teacher, they read updates and left messages of support that helped them all ‘be there’ for their friend. The note the class wrote to go with their $100 (they did *not* send in the pennies) simply said “We want any 4th grader who is sick to have a CaringBridge site.”   Those 4th graders certainly “got philanthropy.”

Many people do great things to help other people and yet they don’t consider themselves to be philanthropists.

How have you been a philanthropist in your community? Share your story in the comments below.

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