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Why Philanthropy?

Posted by SDSVP

Written by Partner Richard Bockoff

What motivates some people to want to share? Others want to help and still others choose to do very little or nothing at all.  When “sharers” are questioned the answer frequently is simply “I just wanted to give something back”. Where does this sense of giving back come from? Certainly religion is part of the answer? Tithing is instilled in every religion. When I was a kid we had a tin box in the kitchen and the kids put change in it every week end. Where the money went I haven’t a clue but I thought we were helping someone less fortunate. Certainly my parents had an influence although I never thought of them as particularly charitable.

Along with religion there are social, philosophical and ideological explanations for the desire to share. Many feel that they have been so fortunate along the way that they almost feel a sense of obligation to give something back. For me the most fulfilling way to give back is to volunteer my time and talents. Touching the animals is entirely different than going to the gala. Both are needed and wonderful but I discovered gratifying philanthropy through hands on volunteering. I’ve done everything from blowing up balloons to serving on committees and boards. At every step along this philanthropic journey I met and built friendships and partnerships that I know will last a lifetime. Those relationships are grounded on trust. The volunteers I know are the most passionate, dedicated folks I’ve ever had the good fortune to be associated with. These relationships fulfill a social explanation for being philanthropic.

Each of us makes our contributions for different reasons that in some small way fulfill a desire for recognition while we build our legacy. We are all writing our own autobiography.  Many are driven by an ideological desire to teach values and goals to their children. Parents want to teach family members the importance of helping others. Others are motivated by a desire to encourage positive change in society by supporting causes they feel strongly about. Church, alma mater, health research are the largest beneficiaries.  By incorporating giving into one’s personal life it may also satisfy financial and estate planning needs. It is no secret that the government encourages philanthropy by allowing charitable deductions. There is a portion of every dollar you make that is going to support social causes through either taxes or charitable deductions.

In short, philanthropy fulfills a basic need to attach meaning to one’s life .To know that our lives matter and that we tried to make a difference in the world while we were here, that is the essence of philanthropy.


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