Recently, while sipping my morning coffee, I read an article from a higher education publication that listed the skill set needs for college students. One of the skill sets mentioned was the need for digital fluency – “the ability to use technology tools efficiently and effectively.” It was one of those “Aha!” moments that struck me.

Having been a financial advisor in one of my previous careers, I am a strong proponent of financial literacy and have most recently advocated for the need for philanthropic literacy. It occurred to me that we, as life-long learners, should aspire to grow and become:

  • Financially Literate, and
  • Philanthropically Literate, and…. In everyday application…
  • Philanthropically Fluent.

With that said, due to media and cultural semantics, the word philanthropic or philanthropist is often interpreted differently, depending on the individual. Instead of the word philanthropic, I prefer to use the practical, more relatable word donor as we explore the association with fluency. Let me explain what I mean by donor fluency.

When you think of fluency, you think of the ability to be skilled in some topics. It could be you are fluent in a language, such as Spanish, or it could be that you have digital fluency, as I defined above. In this instance, let’s take a closer look at philanthropic fluency.

I would define philanthropic fluency as the “ability to recognize, appreciate, and apply philanthropic tools to the efficient and effective gifting of a donor’s wheelhouse of gifts for the benefit of a cause greater than self.” Let’s break this definition down for clarity.

If you are not familiar with the concept of a wheelhouse, let me clarify. Our wheelhouse of gifts includes the gifts we all carry with us. These gifts include time, talents, treasure, and trusted relationships, which include personal, social, and professional relationships. In simpler terms, we will abbreviate trusted relationships to trust.

In a more academic, economic setting, we might refer to these terms as time, human, financial, and social capital. When I addressed the concept of philanthropic tools, I referred to the structure and means to wisely transfer talents (human capital), treasure (financial capital), trust (social capital), and time (time is a capital asset) for the common good.

Let’s recognize that, each day, we carry with us our wheelhouse of gifts that we can use for good.

Let’s take this one step further. When you bring together the wheelhouses of self and others and recognize and awaken a common understanding, you will be able to accomplish more toward your common cause. When you agree to work together, you show that you understand the power of each unique individual and the beauty of our diversity. Uniqueness and diversity are often trite and overused words, but they convey our differences in the philanthropic sector. This understanding of self and others makes us fluent as a donor.

So, there you have it! We talked about language fluency, digital fluency, and a new concept — donor fluency. So my final question to you who are reading this blog: if we are to be the best we can be for our families, friends, neighbors, communities, and nation, should we not all strive for, aspire to, and become as philanthropically fluent as we can be?

Let’s Do Some Good!



©2020 Aspire to Give®. All Rights Reserved. Greg Doepke is a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® and a Certified Financial Planner®. Greg serves as the Philanthropist in Residence at Auburn University’s Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies; as well as on the Board of Directors for the International Association for Advisors in Philanthropy. As an author and founder of Aspire to Give® Greg empowers individual donors with the road-map and know-how to give more effectively and gain more meaning from their generosity. You can contact Greg at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Disclosure: Greg Doepke is the founder and principal of Aspire to Give®, a social enterprise that donates 100% of profits to charity.
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.