Celebrating National Philanthropy Day: Making a Difference One Person at a Time

By Linda DeWolf, Co-Founder, GoPhilanthropic Foundation

National Philanthropy Day, November 15th, is a special day set aside to thank and celebrate philanthropists for their many contributions to the world. We at GoPhil want to add our voices to that celebration by recognizing a few of ‘our own,’ all of whom do some pretty incredible things.

But this might beg a deeper question relating to one’s personal definition of philanthropy and how it might differ, for example, from charity. Most people would say that charity is aimed at relieving the pains of social problems (often more of a band aid approach), whereas philanthropy typically goes ‘upstream’ to try and solve problems more at their root cause. And, that’s something we at GoPhil can get our arms around. Philanthropy is in effect a way of promoting positive change in society. I like this approach because it’s positive, it’s action oriented — not prescriptive. In other words, it leaves a world of room for individuals to express their own unique intentions to do good and to make a difference in a way that is most meaningful to them. I also like this definition because it parallels GoPhil’s own practical yet strategic view of philanthropy as active, engaged and collaborative.

Another take on philanthropy comes from the Chicago based social entrepreneur Liza Yntema: “You hone in on the causes that you connect with the most and then within those arenas, put all of your energy, support and skill behind new projects. Not all projects will work. But when they do, it’s a thrill – you learn a ton, hopefully create a positive change, and then move on to the next effort while staying connected to the contacts and friends you have made.”

A perfect blend of these various approaches to philanthropy is exemplified by GoPhil Community members Peggy and Brian. Right after their recent GoPhil journey to Guatemala in July 2017, they found themselves so moved by what they learned and saw that they felt compelled to issue a matching campaign to their friends in order to raise funds for a special organization they visited, Centro Maya, which provides services for the disabled in a rural setting near Lake Atitlan. Within a few weeks they amazed us, and themselves. As they shared, “We were very grateful for the outpouring of support from our network of friends to our matching campaign. Their level of generosity, support and interest far surpassed all our expectations.”


Another great example of active, engaged and collaborative philanthropy is Robin and Bob. Bob notes: “We did what we knew best, which is to bring ourselves as well as our resources to bear on programs that we felt passionately about. With oversight from GoPhil we have implemented two successful matching grant initiatives with partner NGOs. We watched as these organizations leveraged the opportunity to draw in many new donors—especially small donors and visiting school groups — and multiplied the fundraising. Many of these donors were also new to GoPhil and the broader mission, creating a wonderful win-win-win from what started out as a very simple idea.”


As we have all learned over time, philanthropy is not just about writing a check, as we at GoPhil know too well. Philanthropy is also about actively sharing one’s time and talents — both of which can bear amazing fruit. For example, Amy is a volunteer and an amazing ambassador for GoPhil, currently organizing and hosting the newly launched Denver GoPhil Hub (learn more about the upcoming Denver Hub here) and Amy is even beginning to organize a group of GoPhil travelers to Asia in early 2018.


Greg, too, serves as an informal ambassador as he has brought countless friends into the GoPhil circle through his enthusiastic sharing of his experiences with us, and our partners in SE Asia. He has a special passion for supporting education and mentoring of young people.


Christina, our newest Program Manager for Guatemala, gives generously of her time, even though she has a full-time job. She volunteers at GoPhil approximately 10 hours a week and it is amazing to see what she achieves with her energy and big heart. As she recounts: “I decided to partner with GoPhil in a very limited manner, offering to do some program translation for some of the GoPhil NGO partners. After just a few interactions with these creative, caring and dedicated NGOs, I was absolutely hooked and found the experience transformational. I was blown away by what can be achieved with limited funds and by the partners’ tenacity, their incredible hearts, and their dedication to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people in their communities.”


Karen is an articulate, compassionate professional who cares deeply about children’s issues. She derives great satisfaction from actually touching people’s lives through acting as a volunteer liaison with our eight different sponsorship programs. Her affiliation with GoPhilanthropic began as a friend and donor, where she not only helped so many but gained “valuable insights into the many issues surrounding women and children throughout the world.” As a donor, she also understands how GoPhilanthropic sponsorship is much different than most other organizations, and the integral relationship between the sponsor, the sponsored child, and GoPhilanthropic.


Laura recently came on board bringing her programmatic and grant-making skills to help us organize our fundraising research and diversify our funding sources. As she notes, “I don’t’ know why I didn’t start volunteering with GoPhil sooner! It’s a perfect match and I found that volunteering in an area I was passionate about actually led me to my next career opportunity.”

To me, these stories all humanize what can seem like a near impossible task sometimes, but reinforcing one point for sure, i.e. it is possible for just one person, or a group of persons, to make a big difference in the world.

So much can be accomplished if one is motivated to promote positive change and is simply given the opportunity to shine that light on others. Now, that’s something well worth celebrating on this special day!