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Are You a Philanthropist?

Posted April 16, 2014 by Lindsay Bosch in Building Your Brand


Are you a philanthropist?  The question may seem laughable to many women in their early careers.  Most of us still consider cabs a luxury and we never order a cocktail without glancing at the price.  While we believe in, and work for, many great causes, most of us are not yet in financial the position to serve as major personal donors.  Philanthropy can seem a sphere that is entirely outside our day-to-day world (where we are eating thai takeout, and wearing our high-heels down to the nails.)

However, based on a number of recent publications, we may want to rethink this self-conception. A March 29th Op-Ed in the New York Times, “Why Fund-Raising Is Fun” by Arthur C. Brooks points to the reasons why it may be useful to get in touch with our inner Melinda Gates. While charitable giving greatly benefits worthy non-profit causes, economists are also finding myriad secondary benefits that accrue to the giver herself.  Contributing to worthy causes can lead to positive mental and physical outcomes.  Most surprisingly, Brooks maintains that there is “solid evidence that giving stimulates prosperity.”  As Brooks conducted his research, he found his data indicated that donors ended up with more income, not less, after making their gifts.  He states:

Charitable giving improves what psychologists call “self-efficacy,” one’s belief that one is capable of handling a situation and bringing about a desired outcome. When people give their time or money to a cause they believe in, they become problem solvers. Problem solvers are happier than bystanders and victims of circumstance.

As a donor, even on a small scale, you reap the benefit of seeing yourself in a role of influencer and change-maker.  This shifted self conception can lead to new  self-esteem and even professional opportunities that can grow your own earning potential.  This sense of self worth and efficacy is particular crucial for women, who may not receive the same sort validation in their professional lives. The topic of  “Women in Philanthropy” is currently a major trend in philanthropic circles. Organization such as Chicago Women in Philanthropy  (CWIP) exist to “educate and encourage philanthropy by facilitating dialogue and uncommon connections that positively impact the lives of women and girls.”

CWIP and other such organizations recognize that philanthropy can be a key way for women to exert their influence and foster change.   These organizations often run leadership and mentoring programs focusing on women in their early careers;  recognizing the benefits of charitable giving for women’s career trajectories. Even if you don’t have the means to set up your own private foundation, small-scale philanthropy at any level can be an action with rewards that accrue to both the recipient and the giver.  Career girls are not self-serving to understand that they can grow their position, confidence, and networks through giving back as donors.


About the Author

Lindsay Bosch

Lindsay Bosch is an arts and nonprofit manager who has worked in cultural institutions for over decade including the American Library Association, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Film Festival. Lindsay is interested in the self-driven (and often self taught) trajectory of women’s careers in nonprofits and writes about issues related to leadership, branding and work culture. Lindsay holds a Bachelors degree in Film and Media from Northwestern Univ. and a Masters in Art History, Theory and Criticism from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is the coauthor of the art history textbook Icons of Beauty: Art, Culture and the Image of Women.