Think Philanthropically

At the beginning of every year many of us have a habit of articulating something we call resolutions.  Some of us even write them down.  In this context, the word “resolution” is defined as “a firm decision to do, or not do, something.” In reality, many of our resolutions amount to little more than wishful thinking because we lack the discipline to take the steps necessary to actively pursue them. A resolution that never gets any traction is of little value. We’ll joke about it or bemoan our ability to achieve it.

“A resolution that never gets any traction is of little value.”

Interestingly, according to a survey conducted by US News and World Report, 80% of the New Years resolutions of a representative sample of Americans are abandoned within 60 days, usually by the end of February. The Canadian experience is likely similar. Psychologists who have studied this phenomenon have attributed it to the tendency to fail to break down big goals into achievable milestones. Another reason that has been identified is that people are often able to point out what they want to achieve but are not committed to the “why” – the reason and purpose behind the “what”.

A typical resolution at the start of each new year might include losing weight or spending more time with family. Another common resolution is to get involved with a non-profit by volunteering or giving financially. Quite a few people say things to me like; “this is the year when I want to be more active with charity XYZ”. This sort of statement can be more of a wish than a resolution unless it is coupled with a plan to take action. A wish has been described as a passive form of hope.  A person can hope to win the lottery or hope to enjoy good health.  A resolution, on the other hand, is specific and active.  It aims to progressively move towards an ultimate objective.

So let’s talk about philanthropy! Very few people will claim that they have no intention of helping other people or contributing to the betterment of society. Most of us want to do good.  Most of us are captivated by some cause. Does it stop with being captivated? Does it progress to a vague wish to be helpful? How can we move beyond a wish? How can we actually contribute?

“Most of us want to do good. Most of us are captivated by some cause.”

Readers of this column will know that I believe that philanthropy is rooted in a deep commitment to generosity. It is not merely about wise tax planning! It always starts by looking beyond ourselves and our own desires. I am always fascinated when I encounter people who are passionate about issues as varied as preserving wetland habitats, maintaining the operations of a local theatre, or rescuing animals. Without exception, these people are dedicated to improving some aspect of the world around them.  They are able to imagine an outcome they want to see. They look beyond their own personal well being and they take actions to address the cause that they care about. Those who are successful are very deliberate and strategic.

“Do you want to act philanthropically in 2024? All of us can be philanthropists!”

Do you want to act philanthropically in 2024? All of us can be philanthropists! Begin by honestly assessing your capacity. It is very important to know the limits of your resources and your energy level so that you do not over-commit. Find ways to partner with an established organization that is doing effective work. Finally, seek to inspire others. Some of the most effective philanthropists are people who encourage their friends and contacts to participate with them in their resolution.

Sam Watts serves as the CEO of Welcome Hall Mission  He serves on several non-profit boards and is an appointed member of the National Housing Council of Canada.  He is the author of Good Work…Done Better

Related Posts