Two Surprising Philanthropists Inspire

In the USA, we recently celebrated the national holiday of Thanksgiving. In the spirit of the occasion, I want to express my gratitude to some of those who inspire me.

To begin, I thank you for visiting my blog site and reading my posts. If not for you, and thousands just like you around the world, I would be just a crazy guy talking to himself. Thank you for inspiring me to write, and for honoring me by reading my articles. If you’ve ever commented on a post, I also thank you for that; if you haven’t, I encourage you to feel free to do so in the future.

I also want to thank you for everything you do to help make the world a better place. Working in, with or for the nonprofit sector is noble work. You should take pride in that.

I also want to share my appreciation for the diverse philanthropic community around the globe that supplies the passion, ideas, volunteer resources, and funding that make the work of the nonprofit sector possible. Philanthropists come in all shapes and sizes. Their interests and abilities vary. The one thing they mostly have in common is heart.

Consider these two very different examples of recent philanthropy:

Shoichi Kondoh presents donation for Typhoon Yolanda relief at the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo.

Shoichi Kondoh presents donation for Typhoon Yolanda relief at the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo.

Typhoon Yolanda recently struck Asia. The storm ravaged the Philippines first and hardest. The death toll is still unclear, and hundreds of thousands have been made homeless. In Japan, six-year-old Shoichi Kondoh saw the news coverage of Typhoon Yolanda on television. The images moved him. So, this little philanthropist emptied his piggybank of his childhood savings, and asked his mother to take him to the Embassy of the Philippines. In an Embassy conference room, with his proud mother by his side, Kondoh formally handed Consul Bryan Dexter Lao an envelope containing JPY 5,000 (approximately $50 USD).

On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, people who knew Jack MacDonald knew him as a frugal man. He had holes in his clothes, took buses instead of taxis, and lived modestly.

Jack MacDonald makes largest gift for pediatric research in the US.

Jack MacDonald makes largest gift for pediatric research in the US.

Recently, MacDonald, 98, stunned Seattle’s nonprofit community when he died leaving a charitable trust worth approximately $188 million. The Seattle Children’s Research Institute is the largest beneficiary of the trust; the Institute believes this to be the largest individual donation ever to pediatric research in the US.

Seemingly, MacDonald and Kondoh could not be more different. Yet, they have something profound in common: They both love humankind, the very definition of philanthropy. They both were motivated by a desire to help others have a better life.

These philanthropists were not looking for a free coffee mug, a listing in a donor honor roll, or publicity. They were motivated by what was in their hearts.

I’m grateful to Kondoh and MacDonald because of the good their money will do as well as the inspiration they have provided to others around the world.

I’m also grateful that these two very different philanthropists have reminded us of something very important.

As fundraising professionals, we often focus on the how-to of our business. We work to enhance our skills, look at performance numbers, strive to hit goals, study how to achieve more for our organizations. It’s easy for us to lose sight of what we truly are. We are not professional beggars. Instead, we are philanthropy facilitators. Yes, the other things I’ve just mentioned are important. However, what is most important to remember is that our job is to show people how they can do their part to make the world a better place and help them to realize their philanthropic aspirations.

At this holiday season, I’m thankful for many things. I’ve just shared a few. What are you thankful for?

And, if you have not already done so, I invite you to subscribe for free to this site (at the right, toward the top). As a free subscriber, you’ll receive email alerts so you will be the first to learn of new posts, and be informed of periodic “Special Report” posts that are not widely promoted elsewhere. In addition, beginning in the coming weeks, subscribers will receive periodic, private bonus posts and special offers from me.

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

5 Responses to “Two Surprising Philanthropists Inspire”

  1. Michael,

    The philanthropists you use are excellent examples of the people who make the charitable sector continue its good work. I have heard many stories over the years of unexpected gifts from unlikely resources that fundraisers and organizations ignored in search of big name donors like Gates and Buffet. What we fundraisers need to remember is that it doesn’t matter what the outside looks like, it is the content of the heart and the character we should be attending to.

    Hope you have enjoyed your Thanksgiving and Chanukah.

    • Richard, thank you for your comment. Years ago, the book The Millionaire Next Door reminded us of the age-old axiom: You can’t judge a book by its cover. When interacting with prospects and donors, we always need to look beyond the superficial, and we need to do a lot of listening. As you said here and as your own recent blog post indicates, donors give to organizations with which they have an affinity and/or that address issues that are near and dear to them. That’s why being donor centered is so important.

      My Thanksgiving was great. However, I didn’t get enough pumpkin pie, so baked another one last night. Mmmmmm. I hope you had a terrific Thanksgiving weekend, too.

  2. Michael,

    An excellent post reminding us that to be a philanthropist you can be young or old, rich or of little means–and anywhere in our world. Connecting people with big hearts to heal the world’s hurt is a wonderful thing to help facilitate.

    • Richard, thank you for the kind feedback. I’m glad to know you liked this post. One of the things I’ve always found interesting is that folks often think “philanthropists” are those people who make mega-donations. A few years back, I was presenting the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning–Greater Philadelphia’s Legacy Award for Planned Giving Philanthropist of the Year. While the award recipient and I were waiting in the wings for our introduction, she confided in me that she was still a bit confused about why she was getting the award. She said she did not think of herself as a “philanthropist.” I quickly assured her that she is indeed a “philanthropist.” I explained the term and mentioned that philanthropists come in all shapes and sizes. I think this donor might have taken greater pride in the label “philanthropist” than the award itself. We need to help folks understand that anyone can be a philanthropist. Conversely, we need to understand that “philanthropist” and “philanthropy” are words that will not immediately resonate with everyone.


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