Globe Syndicate

for release November 16, 2001

Another Way

by Melodie Davis

It Feels Good to Give

There's a day for everything and anything: did you know that November 15 was National Philanthropy Day, celebrated by chapters of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in both the U.S. and Canada?

I never knew anything about either the day or the organization but I got a quick education when I was asked to judge the submissions for our local chapter's nominees of businesses and persons who were outstanding givers or volunteers for various causes. I have worked for non-profit agencies my entire adult life so I deeply appreciate the work that philanthropists and fund-raising professionals do for our agencies. They help feed hungry children -- mine included!

Of course, most of us don't think about the fact that a lot of the money we give to charities goes to support the employees who give their energies and passion to the cause at hand. We like to think of our money buying boards and bricks to build homes or hospitals, pay for medicines, pay for food for real starving children, for Bibles or other literature to help persons in need.

The fact is that all organizations need people dedicated to the cause, who help to organize so that the end results happen. Organizations need electricity and staff and computers, so that is part of what our money goes for. However, some organizations take too much money for all that "overhead" and we are wise when we look carefully at the organizations to which we give. In this season of endless appeals to help so many causes, be smart and find out something about an organization before you give your first dollar.

Philanthropy is a big word that refers to giving not only money, but also basic goodwill or acts of kindness toward others. The root of the first part of the word, "phil" or "philos" comes from Greek meaning friendly, loving or dear. We know it from its use in the city name, Philadelphia, which traditionally translated from the Greek means "city of brotherly love." Not too politically correct these days, but you get the idea.

The people who served on the judging committee for our local philanthropy day commented on how wonderful it is that we live in a community where people contribute so much. And I know that the nominations didn't begin to scratch the surface of hundreds of others just in our community who give every day of their time, gifts and money.

It was noted that one nominee had taken to just leaving phone messages saying "I'm giving your school another half a million." Wouldn't it be fun to be able to give like that, and also to treat your wealth that lightly? I think such an attitude says, commendably, the giver doesn't think of himself more highly than he ought to think: that he's leaving just another message on the answering machine.

I know our community is not alone in being generous. This fall especially we've seen an enormous outpouring of bigheartedness for the families of the September 11 victims.

In every community, year round, there are volunteers and people who give their time and money to help everything from the peewee football league, to blood drives, to AIDS education, to construct houses, to print Bibles in China. There are women who spend hours each week hefting huge garbage bags of donated clothing in order to hang it up nicely so people can pick out free clothes. There are women who painstakingly quilt beautiful works of art which are sold at auction. There are men who get up at 3 a.m. to barbecue chicken for scholarships for needy college-bound students. There are college students who help children with disabilities ride horseback for their therapy, and take time out of their schedules to give out free food at the food pantry. I know a woman who, after putting in long hours teaching school, preparing lessons and participating in the normal extracurricular school activities, still finds time to volunteer at the public television station.

Givers come in all shapes and sizes. Children can learn to give even a part of their allowance, whether that is only a dime out of a dollar. In the philanthropy nominations I helped to judge, one giver was cited not so much for the amount of his gifts, but because proportionally they represented a significant part of his rather average income.

During this season we rightfully spend time reflecting on all that we have been given, and thanking God for that. It feels good to count one's blessings. But it also feels really good to give back. Like the verse in the Bible that says, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). And remember: you give not for glory or to be recognized, or even to "feel good." To be a true philanthropist, you give because you love others, and because it is the right thing to do.

Comments? Write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail:

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Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.

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