Redefining philanthropy: It’s about more than money

Nebraskans are generous. We help our neighbors, sponsor the local soccer team, attend the annual pancake feed, and support our communities in many other ways. But we may not consider this philanthropy, the growing and sustaining the places we love. That only applies to wealthy people giving oversized checks to organizations and causes, we may think. It’s just about the money.

That definition, though, leaves out essential aspects of philanthropy and how it can take people from generous to philanthropic. A broader definition helps caring people take the next step in giving back and more fully serve.

Communities can unleash their Nebraska generosity by redefining philanthropy as giving your time, talent, and treasure. This definition speaks to philanthropy’s potential to shape communities’ futures. It encompasses all parts of giving, includes all people in the process, and makes it an accessible part of civic life. Giving your time, talent, and treasure opens the door to giving and service, and invites everyone to come on in.

Giving shows that at the root of it all, philanthropy is about giving back. Giving linked to more than just money broadens what is possible by helping more people see they have something to share. Giving is often linked to feelings of gratitude, happiness, and connectedness to others, which can have a powerful effect on the recipient and the giver. When we give, we share a part of ourselves outside of our little world. In doing so, we create mighty connections with the potential to do good.

Time can be given to help someone or something and to make a difference in communities and the others’ lives. When we think of time, we often think of volunteering. Volunteers give their time and may receive a variety of “gifts” in return: new relationships, a sense of accomplishment, a connection to the community and other people, or new skills and abilities. Volunteers often express how much they love to give their time and that they receive so much in return. That’s why we’re familiar with the phrase “The more you give, the more you receive.”

Without volunteers our nonprofits, churches, schools, neighborhood organizations, and other associations might not exist. Including time in our definition of philanthropy highlights the value of participating in our common life together and leaving things a better than you found them.

Talent means sharing your skills to make a difference. Some are physical and obvious like painting a neighbor’s fence, serving at a soup kitchen, or raking leaves for a senior citizen. Other talents are more intellectual, such as serving as the treasurer for your parent-teacher organization, teaching Sunday school, or reading to preschoolers. Still other talents are more of the heart – visiting nursing homes, calling homebound church members, or mentoring youth. In its many forms, talent is a gift that fills unmet needs and wants in community life. And skills become community assets when they serve the greater good and contribute to quality of life.

Treasure makes most people think of money. Giving funds to projects and organizations is certainly a way to participate in philanthropy, and it has the power to do a lot of good. But a new, broader definition of philanthropy considers money as one part of an equally balanced three-legged stool of gifts. Here, money is not the focus or sole purpose of philanthropy; it is just one more way to give back.

Using treasure rather than money also casts a wider net of possibility. Treasure can refer to money but also to anything of high value or worth. Giving treasure could mean donating food to the food bank, taking clothes to the mission, or giving a used car to a charitable organization. Taking something of value and giving it to another is sharing your treasure. Treasure also implies that this gift is of great worth to the giver. So, what might be considered small amounts of money or goods are treated with the respect they deserve when we call them treasures. Although this will look different to everyone, every bit can make a difference when added to the virtuous cycle of giving.

Accepting philanthropy as giving your time, talent, and treasure invites everyone to contribute in some way. Embracing all the ways philanthropy is not just about the money but so much more can tap into a force for community change. Redefining philanthropy helps generous Nebraskans participate more fully in their communities and give back in ways that make a difference for generations to come.

Tammy Day of Norfolk and her husband Brandon own and operate Daycos Inc. Tammy’s work focuses on Daycos4Good, which uses the business as a force for good in the world. She is a member of the Norfolk Public Schools Board of Education and is active in the Connie Fund, Stand for Schools, and Women’s Network of Nebraska.

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