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What philanthropy is — and why it matters more than ever

Early in my career, I contemplated leaving. Thousands of Gulf Coast families were navigating political unrest, a housing market crash and the unrelenting annual assault of hurricanes. Every hard-raised dollar vanished as quickly as a bead of sweat on the heads of the parents I helped support. 

Henri Nouwen’s “The Spirituality of Giving” bolstered me at this time, and Tempel, Seiler and Burlingame’s “Achieving Excellence in Fundraising” also has been impactful. Both address the concept of philanthropy, defined as voluntary action, association and giving for the public good. 

Philanthropy entered the English language from the Greek philos (“loving”) and anthrōpos (“human”), demonstrating an obligation to care as a means of achieving community. Today, Mississippians manifest a philanthropic concern as old as the Gulf Coastal plain where the Biloxi and Choctaw once worked, worshipped and gave. 

Mississippi Alliance for Nonprofits and Philanthropy’s 2019 report indicates that nearly $100 million from 299 grantmaking foundations went to Mississippi recipients. More than $26 million funded early and secondary education, colleges, public libraries and financial aid; $10 million supported research hospitals and medical centers. The philanthropy landscape shifted in 2020 and 2021, with $1.25 billion contributed in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) funding. 

As we face an active hurricane season amid recession forecasts and fluctuating COVID-19 protocols, shall we revisit our charitable goals and what’s happening in the world of philanthropy? 

A great U.S. wealth transfer of $85 trillion to heirs and charities is expected by 2045 through planned gifts of stocks, IRAs, life insurance and trusts. Members of the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers are leaving legacy gifts for administration by their Gen X children, who are in their peak earning years. Gen Y and Millennials are ushering in new technology-based donor opportunities. 

Meanwhile, The Children’s Foundation of Mississippi reminds us that families surmounting structural barriers to wealth need high-quality support to power up their economic, physical and educational well-being. 

Financial advisors and community foundations can advise us on cash and legacy giving. Local nonprofits welcome non-cash gifts, as well as annual monetary donations, volunteerism and board service. 

The benefits of giving go beyond tax incentives and include building social bonds and creating positive feelings. In times like these, couldn’t we all use a mood booster? 

Join me in giving for our own well-being, and for the well-being of the entire Gulf Coast. 

 

Alisha Johnson Perry, certified fundraising executive (CFRE), is director of donor programs at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community Foundation. She is celebrating her 15th anniversary as a fundraising professional, supporting social justice and human rights organizations in the Gulf South region. Reach her ajperry@mgccf.org. 


Nonprofits need donors — and volunteers 

Philanthropy involves raising money through an activity or endeavor that supports a charitable cause. Community service involves hands-on service to an organization, cause or community. 

Nonprofits often rely solely or mostly on volunteers and have few, if any, paid staff members. The generosity of volunteers allows their everyday operations to run smoothly and helps nonprofits meet their philanthropic goals. 

Today, philanthropy means generosity in all its forms and often is defined as giving gifts or time, talent and treasure to help make life better for others. You can practice philanthropy by making a monetary gift, such as a donation to a cause you deem worthy. There are many nonprofits on the Gulf Coast that would be happy to accept any contribution of money, time or other resources you would like to give. 

Even if you volunteer your time rather than funds, this contribution helps the nonprofit meet its philanthropic goals. 

I encourage everyone to get involved and serve causes that are close to their hearts. Whether those causes are animals, children, mental health, human trafficking, etc., there most likely is a nonprofit that would love your help. It’s all about where your heart and passion lie as to where you would want to give funds or be a volunteer. Always remember that contributing time is just as important as giving monetarily. 

 

Bridget Turan is a Women of Wisdom community liaison and former HUB directror with Gulf Coast Community Foundation. Reach her at bridget@wowcommunity.org. 

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