tHe Power of tHe Purse
what does it mean to be a philanthropist? Do you need to have large amounts of money to be a philanthropist? When I asked
Jacque BoyD phD
these questions of some of my high school students they all answered
that money was indeed a prerequisite to being a philanthropist. And, much to my dismay,
it appeared that they assigned the major role of philanthropy to men more than women.
Thus began more than a week’s worth of debate on the issue.
We started by taking a look at good old Mr. Webster’s New
World College Dictionary. A philanthropist is defined as “a
person, especially a wealthy one, who practices philanthropy.” The students gave me the “ah-ha”
However, the definition right above
philanthropist is philanthropic. Philanthropic is defined as “showing or
constituting philanthropy; charitable;
benevolent; humane.” The citation goes
on to explain “philanthropic implies interest in the general human welfare esp.
as shown in large-scale gifts to charities or the endowment of institutions
for human advancement; humanitarian implies more direct concern with
promoting the welfare of humanity esp.
through reducing pain and suffering;
charitable implies the giving of money
or other help to those in need; altruistic
implies a putting of the welfare of others before one’s own interest and therefore stresses freedom from selfishness.” Now I
had some ammunition that had little to do with money.
My high school requires accumulating 40 hours of “com-
munity service” as a graduation requirement. It’s easy for
some students and others are left scrambling in April of their
senior year, when graduation looms large. Because we were
concerned that some of the “service” opportunities were little
more than filing paperwork, we’ve also instituted opportuni-
ties for service learning projects during the school year. We’ve
had everything from general clean-up and recycling work to
helping the village build major extensions to the walking trail
system in our valley. When I brought our own work into the
discussion of philanthropy, the conversation began to morph
into something more realistic as a use of giving time and ef-
fort, rather than basing it completely on having to be mon-
etarily wealthy. By moving money to a lower rung on the
“qualifier” listing we put philanthropy into a much more at-
tainable state for these teenagers. Our discussion also took on
different qualities when they believed they could realistically
be philanthropists on their own. The emphasis shifted to ac-
tive participation, which then brought in volunteerism. With-
in a week we had pretty much come full-circle and instead of
feeling that philanthropy was the realm
of rich adults they decided that “poor”
teenagers could be included.
In general, women
give differently than
men. We are less
likely to want our
names on things and
more likely to give as
part of “drives” that
include other women.