For many of us, our local community—our hometown—is where our heart is. We love our hometown! We want to see all of our community neighbors prosper, feel good, and go beyond surviving to thrive. But it is a struggle. Almost all hometowns have their challenges, whether those be housing, jobs, environmental issues, or the myriad number of other human needs that some face.

The key question we have all wrestled with at some point is how can we make our community better? What can we do as an individual, a family, and a business to enlist and leverage our strengths to make our hometowns better?

It is time for a paradigm shift in thinking. Once again, we need to approach our hometown challenges a little differently, which is a concept that will be explored in future blogs.

As a start, let me share with you the five local pillars of hometown philanthropy. They are:

  • Citizens (Individuals)
  • Foundations
  • Nonprofits
  • Government
  • Businesses

Citizens: Everyone has an inherent desire to give to something greater than self. It is in our DNA. No matter what our background is, we have both inherent and accumulated gifts to give to causes greater than self. In most cases, people recognize their emotional need to help others, yet they may feel they are giving on their own without the benefit of sound guidance. Many individuals “wing-it” with their giving; donating generously to feel good but yet unsure if they are giving in a smart, impactful way. Individual donors may wonder who they should give to, how much to give, and how best to give. Oftentimes, individual donors are confused and would like a little help to understand how to give meaningfully to make a greater impact.

Foundations: In most cases, the premier foundation in most any hometown is the local Community Foundation. According to the Council on Foundations, there are more than 750 community foundations in both rural and urban communities in the United States. These community foundations serve as the central hub and resource for local philanthropy. In addition to local community foundations, oftentimes there are other types of foundation support. These can include either private family foundations that are tied to the local community or grant funding provided by bigger, regional or national foundations that are designated for the local community.

Nonprofits: In many cases, local nonprofits are started, funded, and championed by local individuals who have a passion for a specific cause. In some cases, such as the Boys and Girls Clubs, they are local branches of national organizations that serve a specific need. In most cases, the number one challenge for local nonprofits is funding. They can be funded by grants or revenues generated from events and sponsorships. Also included in this nonprofit category are churches, social groups such as local women’s groups, and others that engage in community outreach. In many cases, these nonprofits and groups have their own community outreach activities and may reach out to others in the local community for additional resourcing and collaboration.

Government: Many people do not think of the local government as a “pillar” of philanthropy, but they are. Local government oftentimes does not recognize their own philanthropic role and importance as a pillar for hometown philanthropy. This change in government thinking is a needed paradigm shift to advance local community philanthropy. The local government agencies can be more pro-active to advance effective community development philanthropy. In later blogs, I will share ideas and specific steps on how local government can be more effective in community development philanthropy through collaborative partnering with the other pillars of hometown philanthropy.

Businesses: For many communities, local businesses serve as a key pillar for local philanthropy. They often provide support to nonprofits within the communities in the form of sponsorships, in-kind donations, and employee support. Business community outreach is well-intentioned to better the community and serves as goodwill marketing. But local businesses can do more and be more effective in filling their role for community development philanthropy. Again, this notion of how local businesses can be much more effective and be smarter with community outreach will be discussed more in-depth in future blogs as well.

So, now you have an understanding of the five pillars of hometown philanthropy. Each pillar strives to meet its own mission and “do good” within the community. However, in many cases, these pillars operate independently as “silos;” with a laser-focus on their specific mission.

In my next blog, I will introduce and share with you another pillar that is sorely needed for community development philanthropy. This pillar is absolutely essential if we are to awaken, inspire, and effectively engage the unique strengths and resources of the five existing pillars.

Meanwhile, if you would like to learn more about community development through hometown philanthropy, check out my article published in Legacy Arts Magazine, “Community Development through Grassroots, Place-based Philanthrocapitalism.”

Stay tuned!

Let's do some good!


Coming Next:How Servant Leadership can Advance 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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