Philanthropy is big business and an enormous contributor to the American economy: It provides over 5 percent of the nation’s entire GDP or roughly $800 billion worth of output. Non-profits employ roughly 10 percent of the American workforce. Today there are over 1.5 million registered non-profit organizations in the U.S.
Who are the people that keep this engine running? Today’s philanthropists are young, passionate and have varying levels of wealth/income; and a growing number are women. Gone are the days of philanthropist being men with white hair and oodles of money. Philanthropists Beverly Bond, founder/executive director of Black Girls Rock, Jayna Cooke, founder of Closet Angels and Lindsay Avner, founder/CEO of Bright Pink are among today’s young new agents for change.
It;s true, “Philanthropy is being redefined, and so is our impression of what it means to be a philanthropist,” says Lisa Dietlin, founder of Lisa M. Dietlin and Associates – a Chicago based consultancy that specializes in transformational philanthropy. Today’s philanthropists are younger because “the younger generation wants to make a difference and the speed of communication makes people more aware of the need to give. Technology has also made giving much easier.”
Betsy Rubenstein, co-chair of the LBTQ Giving Council of Chicago Foundation for Women, agrees that philanthropy is a lifestyle that involves intentionality about where you give and why you give. She explains that what makes her a philanthropist is her belief that she can use her money to create social change. “Anyone can be a philanthropist. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. I am a social worker and really don’t make very much money. But, I am still a philanthropist because I am intentional about where I give my money.”
Women are more likely to give, and give more to charity, than their male counterparts. The formal distinction between charity and philanthropy, is charity targets relief of social pains, while philanthropy’s goal is creating social change that addresses pain’s root causes. Ms. Dietlin suggests that “women see philanthropy more holistically” and are inclined to give what they can in a variety of ways. They may volunteer their time, donate money or invite a family in need over for dinner.
Technology, access to information and catalysts like Ashoka and Echoing Green are shaping the future of philanthropy by getting new players into the game. Today’s philanthropists give of their time, talents and treasure while modeling the very change they hope to see in the world.