The Value of Reciprocity: How Philanthropists are Changing Lives

Whether it’s to ensure equitable access to world-class education, pioneer innovative solutions to healthcare, or fight for justice and fair treatment, giving back is an expression of values. It’s also a source of meaning and purpose.

When we give back, our brains secrete feel-good chemicals. Learn the many ways philanthropists are changing lives!

Inspiring Others

Many people are inspired to become philanthropists after witnessing the positive impact of giving. Businesses that integrate philanthropy into their mission can create a powerful ripple effect. They can serve as role models for their customers and employees and help solve critical issues.

Those who’ve benefitted from scholarships may inspire other students to pursue their dreams. People with a medical setbacks may be drawn to the fight against the disease. And those who have a passion for art may be inspired to share their love with others.

These are only a few examples of people using their unique gifts and talents to improve the world. But what about those who don’t have the means to support their favorite causes? They may have a limiting belief that philanthropy is a practice reserved only for wealthy people. Luckily, studies show that anyone can be a philanthropist if they make an effort.

Strengthening Communities

Whether shoveling a neighbor’s driveway after a snowstorm or helping that mom in line at the grocery store with all of her bags, giving back helps build stronger communities. Research shows that generous people feel more socially connected, fostering a sense of interdependence and cooperation.

Many philanthropists, such as Barbara Picower, focus on global issues, which has led them to invest in the well-being and empowerment of people who live thousands of miles away from their homes. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has rightly turned their attention to the severe inequities in their backyards, leading them to launch local community-focused philanthropic funds at record speed and with fewer conditions than ever before.

The key to this accelerated and more transparent granting is a willingness to admit when a nonprofit hasn’t performed as expected or is not addressing its mission effectively. This openness can help a philanthropist shift their support to a new organization better aligned with their values and, thus, more likely to create change.

Creating a Better World

In addition to financial giving, philanthropists give back through social activism. This can include volunteering, advocating for a cause, and even protesting against injustice. It’s important to remember that while donating money is a great way to show support, the most influential philanthropic activity often involves volunteers.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, philanthropy is at its best in crisis. From establishing community-based rapid response funds to tackling the inequities the problem will exacerbate over time, generosity has made real and significant contributions to the lives of many worldwide.

But, despite the best efforts of philanthropists and nonprofits, the gap between good intentions and positive impact remains to be solved. This is leading many in the field to reconsider how they approach the problem, and some are shifting their emphasis from funding long-life institutions to promoting the principles of systems change.

This new approach focuses on identifying existing organizations that are working on a particular problem, helping them join forces and scale their impact.

Inspiring Change

Philanthropists are at the heart of many of our most important social-impact success stories—everything from virtually eradicating polio globally to ensuring everyone can access free and low-cost school lunches in the United States. These inconceivable moonshots were only possible because private philanthropy invests in citizen partnerships outside the government.

Today’s philanthropists are reshaping priorities and practices with an eye to more significant impact and collaboration. They’re giving with fewer strings attached and supporting new kinds of projects.

You don’t need to experience a life-altering event to find your purpose and give back. Even the smallest gestures can make a difference. And, if you’re wondering why it feels so good to help others, research has proven that giving releases endorphins and elevates moods.

Companies incorporating philanthropy into their business models build consumer trust, align employees, and improve profitability. That’s why it is critical that we continue to invest in this vital sector and that governments rethink their tax incentives and regulations policies.