Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, everyone knows the name Stephen Jobs, the co-founder and former chairman and CEO of Apple, Inc. As a creative thinker, pioneer, and innovator, he changed the world we live in with Apple’s introduction of multiple products including iTunes and the iPod, iPad and iPhone. One of my favorite quotes comes from a very successful Apple advertising slogan— “Think different” . . . it was so simple yet profound!
If you give it some thought, you realize our beliefs about philanthropy and concepts of doing good have been etched in our mind by both family and societal norms. The constant bombardment of the media—whether publications, television, or social media—has greatly shaped our philanthropic views. But if we reflect on all that we have been told about giving, including how to act, we can see that many of our traditions, while well-meaning in their inception, have morphed in light of today's technology revolution, the constant media onslaught, and the societal need for instant gratification and easy access to information.
Let’s “think different” and flip the script on three core philanthropic concepts of:
- The Philanthropist
- The Philanthropic Approach
- The Nonprofit.
The Philanthropist…let's think different and flip the script!
We are inundated by the media with the idea that philanthropists are the rich and famous with gobs of money trying to solve societal problems. As shared in previous blogs, this limiting concept of a “philanthropist” is far from the absolute truth. It is newsworthy to cite the rich and famous giving to organizations and conveying those often-inspiring stories through multiple media outlets. But if you look deep within your soul, you will understand that you, too, are a philanthropist at heart.
We do care about something greater than self. We care about our families. We care about our neighbors. We care about our communities. We care about our nation. We care about serving and working together to solve others’ issues so that they too can thrive. In flipping the script, we realize we are each a philanthropist and have an inherent responsibility to act and to do good. This brings meaning to our lives while helping others and serving causes greater than self.
The Philanthropic Approach …let's think different and flip the script!
Once again, when talking about solving our societal issues, we look to others whether that be government, big business, or large foundations. The thought that someone else can solve our problems is often the go-to response. I have often been asked from founders of new nonprofits: “Where do I find some grant money?” This question reflects and perpetuates the concept of the “haves” versus the “have nots” and reinforces the notion that you have to rely on others.
There are challenges with this current philanthropic approach. One challenge is the “top-down” funding. We have billions and trillions of dollars flowing from big philanthropists, big business, and big government down to the little people at the local level with the hopes it will help solve local problems. And while this funding is vitally important and an appreciated need filled, it fails to instill the importance and value of “picking yourself up by the bootstraps” and using ALL our individual gifts of time, treasure, talents, and trusted relationships to solve local challenges. If we return to our roots as individual philanthropists, we can address our issues—whether that be family, neighbors, or local community—with our own gifts of goodwill. By including diverse stakeholders who are involved in the issue at hand, we can leverage the positive strengths, talents, and gifts of each and begin to solve all kinds of local community issues. And it starts with us as individuals.
The Nonprofit…let's think different and flip the script!
Traditionally when we think of doing good, we think of the typical “nonprofit 501c (3) organization. Let me explicitly propose that the word “nonprofit” is a very archaic term and is counterproductive in today’s rapidly changing world. The term “nonprofit” was societally ingrained in our psyche over the years and was derived from the IRS tax code. In today’s world, the term does not reflect all the various types of entities striving to solve our societal challenges. Let me be very clear, I am referring to the term “nonprofit” as being archaic …not the organizations or the missions which so many nonprofits ardently and successfully pursue.
Yes, nonprofit 501c (3) organizations do fabulous work, but we need a new term that more accurately describes the emerging trend of all types of organizations – whether they be nonprofits or for-profits - that are doing social good. We need to “think different” and start by adopting “social enterprise” as a much more fitting descriptor; especially after surveying the leading-edge of philanthropy with impact investing, social entrepreneurship, and the hybrid entities (B Corp, L3C, etc.) that are being created to solve societal challenges.
At Aspire to Give®, it is our mission to advance philanthropy by unleashing the human spirit. We seek to stay abreast of social innovation and the new tools and techniques of philanthropy. We strive to advance philanthropy with paradigm shifts in thinking and new approaches and processes. In coming blogs, we will look more closely at how we can each make a difference and what we can do for ourselves, our families, our community, and our nation.
Let’s do some good!
Coming Next:Are you Philanthropically Literate?