The Current State of Philanthropy... and Why We Need a Revolution!
Hi guys! Thanks for joining me for our inaugural episode! I’m super excited to be here.
Before we get started, I want to tell you a little bit about the show, and how it’s going to work:
Every 2 weeks, I’ll air a new episode. The 1st few episodes will talk about the Revolution in depth, then I’ll start adding guests,
talking about trends and patterns, things that drive me bonkers (because they’re holding us back!), solutions to the challenges we face, tips on how to raise more money, and lots of other juicy stuff!
I’ll talk for about 20 minutes, then we’ll have a Q&A. If you’ve got questions or comments during the show, feel free to drop them in the chat – we’ll spend 10 minutes at the end, answering your questions!
Today, I want to talk about the current state of philanthropy and why we need a revolution. I might get a little ranty, and I’ll probably swear, but with me, it’s all part of the package! I’m super passionate about the nonprofit sector and the amazing work that’s happening here but I also see so many ways in which we could – collectively – do more. So, let’s get started!
I recently traveled to India as part of a business leadership program I’m in. The 1st day we were there, we went to a Sikh temple, where they feed 100,000 people/day. 100,000! Every day!
Before walking into the community kitchen, my tiny little human brain was struggling to wrap my brain around how that was even possible. By the end of the day, I totally got it. We started in the wood kitchen, where we stirred lentils and
rice in that were cooking in 6 huge cauldrons, which were set on a cement fire box. We had to stir the water constantly, or the food would sink to the bottom and stick. Even though there was good air circulation and a hose covering the floor in cool water, it was hot! And after a while, my arms got tired. Lucky for me, there was someone waiting to take over!
From there, we went to the chapati kitchen, where we sat at low tables and either helped roll dough into balls, or roll it flat for cooking. Every time our basket was full, it was taken to the oven to be cooked – it was like a conveyer belt over flames, and the chapati shot out the other end, into a basket. The baskets were then taken downstairs, to the food kitchen.
When we got to the food kitchen, we were given 50 lb. Buckets of rice or lentils, or a basket of chapati, which we then distributed to the 900 people seated on the floor of the dining room. They’d been given a plate on the way in, which we
filled. When everyone was done eating, they left, leaving their plates in a metal bin. While the downstairs dining room was being cleaned, they repeated this process upstairs.
When we were done in the dining room, we headed to the dishwashing room. It was noisy and hectic as people put the dishes through a series of sudsy to clean trough. We were at the final rinse trough, and handed the clean plates to a guy, who placed them in a metal cart so they could be used again.
THIS is how you feed 100,000 people each day!
What really blew my mind is that everyone there is a volunteer and the place runs on donations!
As we headed back into the main part of the temple, my mentor asked what I thought. “We suck” I said. And while I was partially joking, I wasn’t. Here I was, in a “developing” country, where they were feeding 100,000 people a day, each and every day in this one place. Each Sikh temple has a community kitchen, because they believe that you can’t have any kind of spiritual life if your basic needs aren’t being met. Excellent point!
And yes, I get that part of this is the Sikh religion. And part of it is their culture. There are nonprofits in India, but there is also a lot of mutual aid – people taking are of one another. They are warm and welcoming, and seem to have a stronger sense of community than we do.
So to get back to the “we suck” comment, I left that kitchen thinking that here in the US, we have SO much food – much of which goes to waste! -- and so many people who are going hungry. In a country that’s so innovative and modern, surely there’s a way to close that gap!
I felt this way before my trip, but I feel even more strongly now that it’s time to move the needle on the problems that have been plaguing us for decades.
Post-pandemic, people are still suffering. People lost their jobs, and more are losing them as massive layoffs take place. People have lost their homes and most places are seeing an increase in the number of people who are unhoused.
Animals are suffering. Shelters are overwhelmed. They’re being forced out of their habitats due to urban and suburban sprawl, deforestation and pollution.
Our environment is suffering, in all sorts of ways. It is now ok to pollute our drinking water.
I could go on and on about the problems we’re facing, but I know I don’t need to, because:
You see it with your own eyes.
You feel it in your heart.
Every. Single. Day.
So let’s do something about it!
All of us together are better than any of us alone.
History shows us that when we band together, we can accomplish great things.
We can end slavery.
We can ensure that people have the right to vote.
We can cure polio.
We can end segregation.
We can send the 1st man to the moon.
We can make sure that people can marry who they want.
Together, anything is possible!
I’m sparking the philanthropy revolution, because philanthropy has been – and can be! – Revolutionary!
If each of the 1.5M US nonprofits had the funding it needed to fulfill its mission, people would be fed. Well. Happy. Thriving. People would be able to realize their potential. Entire communities would be uplifted.
Is that the world you want to live in? I sure do!
I’m here to tell you that this kind of change is possible.
It will take time – the American Revolution took about 10 years. The French Revolution lasted around 8. The Revolution in Haiti, 12. Revolutions don’t happen overnight. They take hard work, done by many hands, but revolutionizing philanthropy – a system that’s rooted in Calvinism and dates back to the 1630s -- is doable. Achievable. In so many ways, the Revolution is already here.
Contrary to popular belief, there is plenty of money out there to make change happen!
In 2021, US nonprofits received $484.85 BILLION in contributions, up from $472.44B in 2020.That’s a 10.6% increase -- during a pandemic! AND, that figure represent a 5.1% increase over 2019!
INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTIONS account for about 79% of those dollars – does that surprise you? Yup, philanthropy is fueled by PEOPLE. This money isn’t coming from the millionaires and billionaires, either – 85% of people who give to charity make less than $75,000 per year!
And, the majority of people in the US donate money to charities and people generally give to between 5-10 nonprofits per year!
That means donors are EVERYWHERE! We don’t have to train or convince them to donate – you simply have to invite them to join you. ‘Cuz philanthropy isn’t about asking, it’s about issuing the invitation.
So – what does it take to be a Revolutionary?
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to:
- Stand in your worth; not only as a person who’s here to make the world a better place, but as someone who works in a sector that’s dedicated to helping people, animals, and the environment; to ensuring that there’s a basic quality of life for everyone in the US and that there’s hope for a better future. Stand tall. Stand proud. Wear that superhero cape! Get yourself a crown!
- Make a commitment to being the best at what you do! Learn what you need to learn. Insist on using best practices – and then iterate your way to better practices!
- Brag about the amazing, transformational work you’re doing. Every. Damn. Day. People need to hear about the magic that’s happening, because it’s inspiring; and lord knows we could all use a little inspiration these days!
- Stop settling for less! Because when you settle for less, your clients are forced to, too. We need to stop setting the bar so low – it’s demoralizing, and it isn’t going to help move the needle on changing the problems that our organization was born to address. Say it with me: No more crumbs!
- Join the Revolution. I’m here to revolutionize philanthropy, so philanthropy can be revolutionary! I’m sure you’re as tired as I am of chipping away at the same old problems and not seeing any real progress. I don’t want my son to inherit the same set of problems that I did! It’s time to move the needle; to build the kind of world we want to live in. People are tired of settling for less. They’re ready and waiting – we simply have to invite them to join us!
- You can start your own revolution, wherever you are, with whatever you have. See something that needs to change? Find one thing that you can change about the situation, and change it. Then find another thing that needs to change and change that. Enlist others in your efforts – all of us are better together than any of us alone! I know that change can feel scary, but making the right changes lead to better outcomes.
Together, we can move the needle on the problems that have been plaguing our society for decades and make this world a better place for those who have been left behind!