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National Philanthropy Day: A time to celebrate giving

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National Philanthropy Day® celebrates giving of all kinds—donations, volunteering, and charitable engagement. It celebrates charitable accomplishments and encourages all of us to strengthen and support our communities—around the corner or across the globe.

When former Senator Terry Mercer introduced the National Philanthropy Day Act in 2012, he made Canada the first country in the world to assign November 15 as National Philanthropy Day into law. Mercer retired from the Senate of Canada on May 6, 2022, his 75th birthday after 19 years in the Senate Chamber where he was an advocate for the charitable sector.

Almost every social cause over the past century has been driven by the charitable sector and the support generated by fundraisers who inspire donors to give of their money and time. NPD is a day to highlight the accomplishments, large and small, that philanthropy makes to our society. AFP chapters throughout Canada and around the world do just that through celebrations where they honour individuals and organizations for their outstanding charitable work in their local communities. Events include award ceremonies, galas, luncheons, seminars, and other special events.

Allison“National Philanthropy Day is important to celebrate because of the amazing impact the sector makes in each of our lives,” says Alison Clements, manager of strategic engagement of the Health Services Foundation of the South Shore in Nova Scotia. Clements began her career in radio and, after years of being involved with her station’s radio-thon, she says something “clicked” so she joined the Foundation of the South Shore as a development officer and never looked back. She is chair of the AFP Nova Scotia chapter’s National Philanthropy Day.

“On top of the charitable sector accounting for over 8% of Canada’s GDP, there are amazing acts of generosity (of all sizes) that take place daily throughout our communities,” she says. “It’s rare that we take a moment to embrace the amount of good and positive change we are bringing to the lives of other humans. National Philanthropy Day is a day to take a healthy pause and reflect on philanthropic stories and actions. Honestly, we can use a little more of that in today’s world.”

EmilieEmilie Lamoureux is chair of the AFP Quebec chapter’s National Philanthropy Day celebration. Her route to fundraising was also circuitous. With a graduate degree in literature, she found herself job hunting and ended up running the Montreal’s Kettle Campaign for the Salvation Army, achieving the best net results in Montreal up to that time. That experience eventually propelled her into a fundraising position with École de technologie supérieure where she continues to contribute her skills and expertise in a meaningful field.

“National Philanthropy Day is important because it serves as a reminder of the positive impact philanthropy has on our society,” says Lamoureux. “By celebrating this day, we hope to offer recognition, inspiration, and community building. It is important to recognize and appreciate the generosity of those who contribute to the betterment of society. We need to inspire others to get involved in philanthropic activities. Building community among fundraisers allows us to celebrate their achievements and to show unity within the philanthropic community.”

Both chapters have a packed schedule to celebrate the day.

In Montreal, the AFP Quebec chapter will be awarding Excellence in Philanthropy, which recognizes outstanding leadership and community involvement of individuals, businesses, and organizations. And, in commemoration of the chapter's 25th anniversary, an evening soiree has been planned which has received an overwhelmingly positive response with tickets already sold out.

Meanwhile in Halifax, the AFP Nova Scotia chapter says it will be continuing its work and conversation around the IDEA pillar. It is inviting members and their associated community to kick-off the day with a coffee break panel to further the conversations about inclusion, diversity, equity and access. The discussion will focus on mobilizing the knowledge and skills they have learned around IDEA.

“There has been a refreshing focus on diversity and inclusion over the past few years, but many find it hard to know where or how to start making a positive change and putting these ideas to work,” says Clements. “Our goal is that the AFP Nova Scotia chapter’s National Philanthropy Day event will help attendees further their professional and personal journeys with IDEA.”

Both Clements and Lamoureux believe philanthropy can be a means to achieving a more just society.

“Philanthropy can play a significant role in mitigating injustice,” says Lamoureux. “It can provide resources to organizations and initiatives that focus on addressing inequalities and injustices. And it can raise awareness about social injustices, which is often a critical first step in mobilizing change.”

“And just as important, it has the power to influence lasting change socially,” says Clements. “Philanthropic acts, no matter the size, can make waves that touch many and inspire generosity. While these acts may not be able to correct the past, they can potentially inspire positive change for generations.”

“While it may be associated with the wealthy, philanthropy’s relevance to the community is profound,” adds Lamoureux. “It plays a crucial role in addressing social issues, such as poverty, education, and healthcare. It supports the betterment of society by funding initiatives that may not receive adequate government support and it empowers individuals and organizations to create positive change.”

Philanthropy has multiple meanings to many, says Clements.  

“The view of settler culture philanthropy to those of Indigenous communities and those of other backgrounds is different,” she notes. “To me, philanthropy is giving in a meaningful way to improve life for something or someone. Some people associate the word philanthropy and think of multi-million-dollar gifts. But philanthropy can be the act of donating a loaf of bread to a local food bank or donating your time to volunteer. We live in a world where philanthropy and the work of charities and nonprofits has never been more needed.”

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