When we think of literacy we typically think of the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic. It is sad to say that there are still people in our communities that have not had the opportunity to master those basic life skills let alone the skills of different types of literacy. For example, these days we hear about the importance of financial literacy, computer literacy, and health literacy. In fact, after doing a quick Google search, I discovered a chart of 50 different types of literacies! And guess what? The concept of philanthropic literacy was not among the 50; which makes me believe philanthropic literacy is not even given a passing thought by most people. Just like new parents who are left to figure out basic skills on their own, there is very little—if any—guidance for each of us in our individual giving quest. Currently, when it comes to our donations, we have to figure out how to best help those in need, our communities, and our nation. So, let's take a closer look at philanthropic literacy and the challenges before it.

Literacy is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as “competence or knowledge in a specified area.” Hence, philanthropic literacy is learning about how to become a better donor. It is about being smart in your giving choices because, with knowledge and awareness, you can make more meaningful, informed, and impactful donations to those causes that are important to you.

There are challenges to becoming philanthropically literate. Of the approximate 290 or so programs (grantspace.org) nationwide for philanthropy, there are few, if any, with a focus on helping individuals become better donors.

Have you ever seen educational courses or literacy programs to help you align your charitable passions with your purpose, how to choose and vet organizations, or the best way to donate your money?

Existing philanthropic education emphasis concentrates on the traditional top-down approach—invariably on the “ask” end - how to raise funds, finding volunteers, or how to manage a nonprofit board. There is little focus on helping donors become better in giving their money, time, talents, and trust. Charitable donors want to learn more about vetting organizations and their donor options, and they want to ensure their generosity is making a real impact.

It is inherent in each of us - it is in our DNA - to be generous in our giving to families and others. Most of us strive to become better and aspire to thrive; not just survive. We want to enjoy and gain meaning from our giving - it really feels good to do good! We also want to reach out to help others to thrive as well, and not just survive. If we are fortunate and in a position where we can unleash our own human potential to give back and help those in need, then we should do so in a smart, informed, and educated way. By becoming more philanthropically literate, we can also pass on these values of goodness and generosity to our children and grandchildren so they too may grow up to “do good” in this world.

At Aspire to Give®, we believe there is tremendous potential in each individual, no matter what their life journey, their background, or current life situation. We strive to awaken the giving spirit and unleash this giving potential through donor education, social innovation, and collaboration with others.

As a final note, one interesting aspect that has become increasingly clear is that small business owners and professionals want to give to causes that are important to them within their local communities as well. Once again, business owners feel good by doing good! Small business owners want to take an active role to improve their local communities; their “Hometown”... and they want to do it in a business-smart, effective, and impactful way. I invite you to stay tuned for coming blogs and new donor courses on how both the individual and the small business owner can improve upon their community outreach to achieve more meaning and impact in serving others.

Let’s do some good!


Coming Next:The Five Traditional Pillars of Hometown Philanthropy


©2020 Aspire to Give®. All Rights Reserved. Greg Doepke is a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® and a Certified Financial Planner®. Greg serves on the Board of Directors for the International Association for Advisors in Philanthropy and as the Philanthropist in Residence at Auburn University’s Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies. As the founder of Aspire to Give® Greg educates and equips individuals, families, business owners, and foundations with both traditional and leading-edge philanthropic tools and techniques for smart, meaningful, and impactful giving. You can contact Greg at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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If you are interested in learning more about Aspire to Give®'s pursuit to advance philanthropy through donor-focused education, social innovation, collaboration, and advocacy, please reach out to Greg Doepke: Greg@AspiretoGive.com

Disclosure: Greg Doepke is the founder and principal of Aspire to Give®, a social enterprise that donates 100% of all profits to charity and is dedicated to unleashing the human spirit to advance philanthropy through donor education, social innovation, collaboration, and advocacy.
The thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are not representative of the views of ACG Advisory Services, Inc. or the Actuarial Consulting Group, Inc. of Midlothian, Virginia. Each client and prospective client agrees, as a condition of precedent to his/her/its access to Aspire to Give®’s website to release and hold harmless ACG Advisory Services, Inc. and Actuarial Consulting Group, Inc., their officers, directors, owners, employees, and agents from any and all adverse consequences resulting from any of his/her/its actions and/or omissions which are independent of his/her/its receipt of personalized advice from Aspire to Give® or Gregory W. Doepke.