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Jonah Engler: Perspectives on Philanthropy

Philanthropists organize events where donors meet beneficiaries in an effort to understand how their money will be spent, and where exactly their money is going. The beneficiary uses such an event to explain his or her specific needs. They talk about why they do what they do, what their needs are, the gap that philanthropists […]

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Philanthropists organize events where donors meet beneficiaries in an effort to understand how their money will be spent, and where exactly their money is going. The beneficiary uses such an event to explain his or her specific needs. They talk about why they do what they do, what their needs are, the gap that philanthropists fill, etc. Their aim is to demonstrate why they are rallying contributors, and what they are rallying for. Philanthropists come face-to-face with those they are supporting. Such events are meant for all involved.

These events are described by Jonah Engler, a philanthropist himself. Understanding different views on philanthropy can help you realize and accept the motivation that empowers and emboldens philanthropists and patrons alike.

Jonah Engler views philanthropy as power

The rich and powerful pride themselves on their ability to achieve and attain wealth. Some belief in redistributing that wealth. This view of philanthropy revolves around gift-giving that has its roots in ancient times, wherein a person of higher status gifted something to a person as a mark of benevolence. According to this view of philanthropy, the wealthy person occupies a position of power by virtue of their richness. While this does not entirely encompass modern-day philanthropy, it certainly does not sound unfamiliar or completely foreign.

Philanthropy is a basic human need

Another view of philanthropy is that it is a basic human need; people simply need to be philanthropic, and there will always be people in need. Giving is a trait in human nature, and everyone has the ability to pursue it. Regardless of their socioeconomic status or employment history, all people experience and express concern for others. They show their concern by being empathetic and helping others in accessible ways. It is easy for the rich to be philanthropic, by giving away a sum in order to achieve a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. But for those who have very little, contributions and actions go very far. Such actions say more than money can. These are big-hearted efforts which are often lacking within the top 1% who pursue philanthropy for personal, and perhaps selfish, reasons.

Philanthropy as communication

Philanthropy helps bring people together. That is why many donors perceive it as a channel for communication. Philanthropic events that bring donor families face-to-face with the beneficiary allow the contributors to hear the beneficiary’s story. The beneficiary might be battling a dreaded disease. Such events are often eye-openers for the donors, as they come to understand the privileges they didn’t know they had. By hearing the beneficiary’s struggles, the donors come to understand the importance and value of their contributions. This reaffirms their belief in doing good for others.

Despite such varied views on philanthropy, the real reason philanthropy is universal is that we all feel the need and urge to give back. Humans are a social species. We rely on community building and bonding. Philanthropy brings people together, it helps people from all walks of life, and it is a simple act of good. It is important, and something that should be practiced for years to come.

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