President's Perspective Blog

Monday Message: Philanthropy—It’s Not About Raising Money

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Many years ago, during my children’s early school-age days, I learned about fundraising. I mean, pretty much everything the kids were exposed to required them (read: ME) to raise money in order for them to participate. This concept is what I have learned: Many of us consider philanthropy as fundraising. The irony is it is so much more.

Fast forward about 30 years.
My journey with philanthropy and fundraising has taken me on an adventure that has enlightened me and helped me understand the difference between the two words. Within my organization, my title has the following words “Marketing” and “Philanthropy.” It “sounds” very much like I market myself to raise money. How can a title evoke awe and, at the same time, dread?

The word philanthropy carries with it some misunderstanding. At the first utterance of the word, the thought that crosses the minds of individuals and business owners is often, “How much money are you looking for?”
Here is the thing. Philanthropy is not about raising money at all. It is not fundraising. It is not “begging” you to donate “any amount.”

What Philanthropy Means 
Let me be clear on this by sharing what Oxfords Dictionary defines it to be: Phi-lan-thro-py (noun) “the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to the good causes.”
It would be good to note the first part of that sentence and the critical word in the second half. “The desire to promote the welfare of others.” When promoting the welfare of others, we can traditionally think to be those who are in many cases “vulnerable, in need, under-represented, marginalized, underprivileged, disadvantaged and or discriminated against,” to name a few. They can be individuals or community needs that require our attention to meet the need to promote their welfare.” Often, this requires our attention, but it also requires our monetary action, which then turns to the act of fundraising.

Being an advocate in philanthropy is an opportunity to find a “cause worthy of your attention” and bring other ‘like-minded” individuals and businesses together to share in a cause-effect.

The above statement brings me to the next part of philanthropy: is there a worthy cause that should not be on that list? No, I do not believe there should be anything off this list. All those things in our world that promote the welfare of others require our attention. Every community and every person will resonate with different causes. Some will resonate more with one, while others will find a few that they want to support.

How will they support the things that promote the welfare of others? In part, money plays a role. In many other aspects, the donation of time or connections will provide an even more significant impact. Volunteering your time is a huge resource in philanthropy and fundraising. Many organizations do not have the financial ability to pay for human resources. Others may already financially give to other worthy causes that promote the welfare of others, but they may be able to connect people and organizations to grow the outreach. Outside of literally giving money to a cause, these two areas can and usually do provide the best help one can provide in the realm of philanthropy. 
Also, as a final note – remember, if you believe in a worthy cause, never be ashamed to give your chosen organization the reason why you believe. A short testimonial about why you care can help that organization reach so many more people. It doesn’t have to cost you a single nickel, but you must support them somehow. Either financially, as a volunteer or as a connector for that short 1-2 sentence testimonial to have a real impact. To give the value of gold, consider allowing that organization to take your picture along with your name to enable them to thank you for all you do to further the worthy cause!

Professionalism and Philanthropy
Over the last four years, I have been on an extensive journey of focusing on my passion for philanthropy. I am immersing myself wholeheartedly in growing my knowledge on how best to serve donors along with forwarding the mission of the YMCA of Saskatoon.  

Recently, it has taken the better part of over two years of reviewing fund development areas, Constituent Relationship Management systems, surveying donors, and segmenting information received from our donors. Doing this has allowed me to better match donors to the causes that are worthy to them to promote the welfare of others as it resonates for them. Anyone interested in giving to a cause should expect professionalism from the organization and the person serving the organization; this enables me to be the best in my profession—the best in my organization.  But most importantly, the best for those looking to understand the mission of the YMCA of Saskatoon.

Filled with awe and wonder, how cool is it that I work in the field of philanthropy for a cause of which I am deeply passionate? The values of the YMCA of Saskatoon, which include Respect, Fairness, Caring, Trust, Honesty and Acceptance, are reaching the community to ensure that no one is left behind. No one denied participating in the various programs they offer due to their inability to pay. We are leaders in the community as advocates of worthy causes, such as Strong Kids® with healthy families, Community Program Access partnering with various not-for-profits, Adult health, fitness, and aquatics programs -YChampions, Before and After School programs and even being leaders in Child Care Centres in Saskatoon.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your philanthropic cause and shedding light on what philanthropy is. Until next time.

serenaSerena is a native of Montreal, Quebec, but has called Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, home since 2011.  She has been in philanthropy for over 30 years, but has been actively been working in the nonprofit community in Saskatoon since 2017.  Serena developed a strong sense of devotion for the nonprofit sector as a beneficiary of Dress for Success Calgary.  She now volunteers with Dress for Success Saskatoon. They provided her with informal development that led her to her dream role at the YMCA of Saskatoon as a manager of marketing and philanthropy.  Building on her past experiences, Serena studied at the Indiana University Lily Family School of Philanthropy and now the University of Regina and the Nonprofit Leadership and Innovation Certificate program. She has also a current mentee in the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA): Alford Group Mentoring and Leadership Development Program through AFP Global.

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