Raising Philanthropists (Celebrating National Philanthropy Day)

November 15, 2017 - 9:01am

A few months ago I started working at the Red Deer & District Community Foundation. Until that time, the word ‘philanthropy’ was not an everyday word in our home. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying philanthropic acts weren’t everyday behaviours in our home, but the word itself wasn’t regularly rolling off my tongue. 

Shortly after I began working at the Foundation, my boss sent a program my way saying she wanted to begin implementing it as soon as we could get the wheels turning. The program was called Youth in Philanthropy - an easily adaptable program giving students the opportunity to seek out charitable needs within their community and then, as a committee, determine how to make the most impact with their monetary contribution. 

I felt as though I had hit the workplace jackpot. Speaking candidly, this program is gold. 

Thankfully, the principal at St. Francis of Assisi Middle School, Gary Gylander, recognized the same value. It wasn’t long before I was in the doors of the school and speaking to a group of fresh-faced grade nine students about a word I had hardly used for most of my life. 

“Philanthropy is fun,” I heard myself say. I’m not kidding you, I could hear crickets. Not only did I open with an incredibly lame, I’m-kinda-old-and-I-just-made-myself-sound-that-way sentence, but I also used the same word that I, as an adult, had almost no experience with. I found myself trudging forward through the mud of insecurity while I worked to convince these beautiful young minds they were going to enjoy philanthropy. 

Because, my friends, philanthropy is fun. 

Philanthropy can basically be defined as ‘love for humankind’. We show our love for humankind by giving of ourselves. I needed to explain to the students the purpose of philanthropy is to improve the wellbeing of humankind by preventing and solving social problems.

So I served it to them this way: 

“When we, as giving humans, see an individual who is hungry, how can we help that person?” I asked. 

More crickets. 

“Maybe we feed that person a fish,” I answered for them. “That is a charitable act. But if we fed that person and then proceeded to teach him/her how to fish - that is philanthropy.”

And it went from there. I told the students the Red Deer & District Community Foundation was giving them $500 to give as grants to local charities. They have to do research to discover what registered charities we have within our community and once they’re well versed, they can determine their area of focus and criteria for who they would like to support. 

It was an easy sell. Without any real prompting, the kids dove into the necessary research to decide where to put the money. You know why? Because giving is fun. 

You know what else is fun? Having insightful, curious conversations with these students about the social programs they discovered. Listening to a group of tomorrow’s citizens telling each other about the wide range of philanthropy within our community wasn’t just fun – it was exciting.

“But wait!” I warned them. “You can’t just give money away. Part of ensuring our charities are taken care of is planning for money to always be there for them.”

I quickly went over the concept of an endowment fund and how part of the Youth in Philanthropy (YIP) program is to develop funds. 

“It’s a matching program,” I explained. “The Foundation will match your donations dollar for dollar up to $500.”

One young scholar looks and me and says, “So if we raise $500, then $1000 goes into the endowment fund?”

“Exactly,” I respond. 

“So what’s the interest then? What type of return will there be after one year?” he asks. 

That was fun, too. 

It was proof that our youth are exactly where we need to start when it comes to taking care of our society. They are our future caregivers, policy makers and game-changers. Hearing them want to know more about the problems we face and then watching them choose how they will make impact in their own community is proof to me that we’re all going to survive this hard world.  

Because we are raising philanthropists. 

November 15 is National Philanthropy Day. I encourage you to join us, the Red Deer & District Community Foundation, in teaching our community ‘how to fish’. Partake in an action that shows your love for humankind. Visit a charity and ask questions. Buy a stranger a coffee or help a neighbour shovel the walk. Maybe you want to go big and nominate someone for Women of Excellence, or create an endowment fund in memory of a loved one. Whatever it is, I encourage you to make ‘philanthropy’ an everyday word and a forever action.

I promise you, the inside ‘feels’ of one giving act will quickly remind you that philanthropy actually is fun. 

Erin Peden
Grants and Administration Coordinator
​Red Deer & District Community Foundation

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