This #MentalHealthMatters blog post was written by Kristine Frankenberry, Development Director at Ravenwood Health.

Phi·lan·thro·py is pronounced /fəˈlanTHrəpē/
Okay, I see how it is pronounced, but what does it mean?

According to Investopedia.com, “Philanthropy involves charitable giving to worthy causes … more than just a charitable donation. It is an effort an individual or organization undertakes based on an altruistic desire to improve human welfare.”

Are you a philanthropist? Ask yourself these questions:

– Have you given money to a local—or international—nonprofit? How about a friend or a family in your community?

– What about donating items for individuals receiving support from a charity?

– You volunteered your time, or professional talent for one hour a week, one day a month, one week a year?

– Maybe you are a member of a Board of Directors?

– Think about that time you researched a cause, then headed out into the community as an advocate of a mission? Or at least virtually!

Congratulations, you are a philanthropist! What an honorable title to hold. Now go out and tell the world!

Did you know that many organizations thrive from monthly donations? Generally, these can easily start—and stop—on your terms. This may also be easier than leaving a larger gift at year-end. Many employers, large and small businesses, have a matching gift program as well. If your charity is a registered 501(c)(3) and you are an active donor, volunteer, or otherwise, often your gift can be doubled—at minimum!

I always wondered what it meant for a charity to be a 123(a)(bc), or whatever. Basically, you want to ensure where you are giving is credible, and ethical with respect to programs and services. How are your dollars of best use in support of the charity mission? As a 501(c)(3), we are approved by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a tax-exempt, charitable organization. An expressed need from the community was discovered and therefore, a nonprofit was born. Your contributions can be more than just a cash gift now. Think of yourself as an investor in support of a cause. Funding varies from one organization to the next, but individual giving is important to all. Every dollar counts. All voices matter.

– Support a local levy? Those are your tax-dollars at work. Thank you!

– Have a family Foundation or a Donor Advised Fund? You are wise investor, and we are grateful much is allocated for the greater good.

– You work for a corporation that sponsors an event, or provides grants to charities that are within a certain radius of your workplace? Thank you for spreading the word for those that need our support.

– Kids grown up and your caretaker duties for parents is balanced? Consider leaving a legacy with intent to give later, after life. A sensitive thought, yes, but imagine the impact you will have on future generational giving.

Okay, so I give, but now I want to learn more. How do I discover exactly how my contribution makes a lasting impact? If you have any question about what an organization does, give them a call. Speak to a human. A program leader, community relations professional, a Board Member—that is tied to the mission. A brand ambassador, more or less. You have a right as a donor to understand exactly how your dollars are at work. Check out websites, social media platforms, annual reports, 990s, and online platforms that display credibility of a nonprofit such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals, GuideStar, the Better Business Bureau or Charity Navigator. Ask your financial advisor, or even other donors. Know that there are lots of organizations, near and far—and all would love to have you as a donor in support of their community need. I recommend starting local. Review resources that can directly help in YOUR community. Make your gifts feel manageable. Remember to do what you can, but do not forget every penny makes a difference. Be the change.

Essentially, an individual like me is at the front of the line ready to help you fulfill your philanthropic desires. Now go continue to create good in this world. Do not let anything stop you.

I am currently reading a slightly overdue book from the Geauga County Public Library, The Power of Habit: Why We do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg.