by Jasmine McCabe-Gossett, Donor Services Director
en·dow·ment - [inˈdoumənt, enˈdoumənt]: A quality or ability possessed or inherited by someone.
This definition excites me because you truly have the ability to “pass on” what you’ve learned and acquired over the course of your life. That could be in a monetary sense, of course, but I also think about my ability to endow my neighbors, co-workers, friends, family, even the next generation with my philanthropic spirit. I mainly focus on leaving my mark in some capacity and that allows me to set realistic goals. The spirit of philanthropic endowment leaves me inspired, optimistic, and energized! It can be liberating to remember that we have the freedom to leave as much or as little as we want in this life.
What will our communities look like after we are gone from this earth? I must admit that I think about this often. As morbid as that thought may seem, I have an increasing desire to see my community left better off than when I arrived. I would love to see my community thriving, but what can we do to ensure, even in a small way, that we have left a legacy in our communities?
In the film titled Pay It Forward, Haley Joel Osment plays a 7th grader tasked with an assignment to figure out a plan to “change the world for the better”. Rather than a person leaving their hand out in hopes of receiving some form of “pay back” for a favor provided, it encourages viewers to simply “pay it forward” to the next person. This film encapsulates the concept of philanthropic giving in the sense that an individual can have so much love for their fellow human being that they are willing to give without recognition. This genuine spirit and heart that exists within a 7th grader is one that exists within all of us. Whether in big or small ways, we can be the difference that changed the trajectory of someone’s life.
Take a moment to reflect about the different ways that a grandparent may have inspired you, a random neighbor looked out for you, a friend shared life changing advice with you, or perhaps a mentor helped guide you in a career choice. In the spirit of “paying it forward”, what can you do now to make a difference? Here are some ideas to consider and get excited about:
I used to think that endowments were only for the “high society” within a community. I recently read an article that essentially ranked billionaires, assigned them a “philanthropy score” and measured the billionaires’ generosity level. The article left me cringing because it gave the impression that one’s individual worth had a direct correlation with their monetary “rank”. On the contrary, giving does not have to be flashy, and pitting individuals up against one another dilutes the root definition of philanthropy - the desire to promote the welfare of others. The article served as a reminder that our lives are defined by our own perspective. It can be easy to read an article like that and feel discouraged or dismissive when pondering our role in this society. There is no amount of “ranking” that can provided a weighted score for our heart, intent and impact.
I once thought that “those billionaires” have a greater responsibility to contribute to society than the rest of us, however, I will admit that this sentiment could not have been further from the truth. The truth is that we ALL have a role to play and the lens from which we view the world can appear restricting or plentiful depending on our own perspective. Endowments, just like a retirement plan, a will, or any other tool in place to preserve and sustain the saving of money, are for everyone-not just the “uber” wealthy. Starting an endowment is just another way to “pay it forward”. Anyone can work toward a goal of financial stability and security for their family and community impact.
Philanthropic generosity reminds us of the importance of being a part of a community, loving your neighbor and simply appreciating one another. In whatever way you decide to “pay it forward”, do it with a spirit of philanthropy!