Philanthropist: Dirtiest word in town.
Philanthropist. Just look at theword. Looks fancy. Just picture it… ball gowns, clinking cocktails, diamonds,furs, hobnobbing, chit-chatting, schmoozing, old money, family secrets,billowing cigars, bellowing laughter, big names on big buildings, morediamonds, private jets, chauffeurs, white haired men posing for pictures withoversized checks, golf tournaments and galas, men in tails, trophy wives, goldwatches, scotch, butlers, big hair, firm handshakes, blue bloods, mansions, andcrystal. I can see it now. Allthose philanthropists, doing all that philanthropy…
Iasked a few friends what they thought of when they picturephilanthropists. They wereinitially concerned why my image of philanthropists resembled a cross between80's TV saga, "Dallas" and the WB's Manhattan prep school drama "Gossip Girl".Good question. Great shows. However, upon further encouragement(threatening email, I have a deadline people!) I finally got some answers. Iwasn't so far off. Yes… so most people had a less dramatic version of what aphilanthropist looked like. While my friends didn't automatically think bigTexas hair or Park Avenue cat fights, the central theme was the same. Aphilanthropist is someone who has the resources to really make a difference.Big money. Name-on-a-building money. Money that would start literacy programs,build hospitals, cure diseases, build schools, hire scientists, build parks, cure babies, createjobs. Money that could…change theworld? Not the kind of money hanging around in our checking accounts. Most ofmy friends did manage to squeeze in a little something about how they do givetowards an employee giving program, belong to a Young Professional Organizationor are involved lots of volunteer work. And therefore, are not without a soul.Good for you, guys. So why doesn't this count?
It's almost like this title of"philanthropist" is too overwhelming, it's hard to live up to.
We all like to get lost in fiction…to imagineourselves in another life, with different circumstances. With those clothes!For many of us, the more ridiculous, the better. It's make-believe, right? Now,I realize that I may be in the minority with my affection for stories of amodern day Park Avenue prep school or a Dallas ranch in the 80's. Blame myGrandmother and my early exposure to her favorite TV shows. But, we all haveone thing in common. We're lucky. We live here! And we love it. Most of us areshocked to find out that Austin ranks 48th out of 50 in citiesit's size when it comes to charitable giving. What? Yes ma'am. And, you can betyour boots that it's not because of Austin's lack of big spenders and colorfulcharacters. So, are we so scared of what it means to be a "philanthropist" thatwe are willing to just do nothing?
The more Ithought about it, the more it made sense. My idea of what it looks like to be aphilanthropist is as bad as my taste in television. A philanthropist is simplysomeone who cares about a cause, and uses what they have to help. In some casesthis may mean big parties, big dollars, big hair. But a philanthropist is alsosomeone who gives what they can, when they can, and is proud to be able tosupport what they believe in. It is not important that you are dripping indiamonds to give. It is important that you find something that you believe in,and feel good about the contribution that you make. You can be a part ofbuilding hospitals, curing diseases, building schools…and feel just as goodabout it as if your name was right there on the building.
Each month, ILive Here, I Give Here will be spotlighting an issue that affects people inyour community. We invite you to attend the panel discussions, held each month,on the fourth Monday of the month. These panels will include people who areexperts on the issue. After the panel you are invited to "continue theconversation" at a different local bar or restaurant each month. It's your opportunity to become yourown kind of philanthropist. And to have a free drink. Wear your ball gown ifyou want to…but it is certainly not required. Get to know the issues, discoverwhat moves you, and find out how you can help. Check the website for details oremail me at
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