ThanksGIVING: The Power of Philanthropy

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giving5On Thursday, November 28, 2013, Americans will sit down at tables in restaurants, churches, shelters, and kitchens across the country to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends. It is a day to acknowledge and to appreciate what we each have, a day to feed our souls with the company of others, and to fill our bellies with turkey and pumpkin pie. For many Americans, Thanksgiving stands as the gateway of the holiday season, and so Thanksgiving provides a fitting time to ponder philanthropy.
What is philanthropy? What are examples of philanthropy? And, how might you be philanthropic? This week, consider those questions.

What it isgiving3

How would you answer, “What is philanthropy?” posed that question to a collection of pedestrians. Watch the video and hear their responses. Continue watching to hear philanthropists share why they choose to be philanthropic.
The video focuses on monetary donations. How else might someone be philanthropic? What else is there to share? Watch The Philanthropy Rap. What three things are identified as ones you might donate?
Organizations created to help others are nonprofits. Their purpose is not to make a profit but to provide a service. Many philanthropists volunteer for, work for, or fund nonprofit organizations. Visit’s Smart Choices feature to learn more about ways you can support nonprofits in your community. Visit all five chapters in the section. In the next section, Running a Nonprofit, learn more about the components, including programming and budgeting, necessary to lead a nonprofit.


Who is a philanthropist? When and how have you been a philanthropist? If you think philanthropy is best suited for older, wealthier people, think again. Most anyone can give time or talents, and monetary donations need not be large to be helpful. For some youth, community service and volunteering extends well beyond the hours required by their school. A new generation of philanthro-teens is demonstrating that they have skills and talents that make them valuable assets to nonprofits. Discover what by listening to the NPR Marketplace article, More Youth Become Involved in Philanthropy.
There is also a growing crop of philanthro-teens who combine their civic passion, talents, and social-media savviness with strong research and organizational skills to create and to lead nonprofits. Consider Lucas Metropulos, a Duke University student who, at 15, founded Fishing for Families in Need. The program teaches children and teens how to fish, and about marine ecology. It also works with local agencies to share freshly caught fish with food banks. Visit the Fishing for Families in Need Web site. Learn more about Metropulos’ goals for his organization. View photos of the classes and excursions it offers and videos of news coverage and FFN events. Read the list of donation requests.giving2
NPR’s Frank Stacio interviewed Metropulos on November 15, 2011. Listen to Metropulos’ speak about how he began Fishing for Families in Need, the purpose of his organization, and what it offers participants. What questions would you ask Metropulos?

Bringing it Home

For what (or whom) are you grateful? For what do you hope? What are you good at? These seemingly simple questions lay at the heart of philanthropy. How you answer will help guide you to a cause about which you are passionate. Of course, a good website can come in handy, too. Try This site helps youth under 25 “harness their energy” and “release” it in productive ways. Its aim is to help you convert a desire to help into action. It achieves this with several helpful features.
giving1If you are interested in donating time or talent and need help finding a program, it can help. Enter your zip code in the box under “Project of the Day” along the right margin of the homepage, to see a list of locally registered programs,. Not sure what cause is the best fit for you? Visit what’s your thing? and scroll through the topics. When you find one that excites you, click on it to read relevant information and ways to help. If you would like to start small, try an idea from the’s list of 65 ways  to make a difference.
Perhaps your philanthropy will be tied to the needs of your community. To research this, go to Enter your zip code in the upper right search box and watch the map zoom in on your community. Then, read the pop-up box of statistics. What are the statistics for your community on education, permanent housing, and unemployment? What needs do these statistics suggest?
Interested in a leadership role in an organization? Return to and attend Do Something U, a free, online database of guides and videos designed for youth interested in a range of service arenas, including activism, fundraising, marketing, legal, and public relations. For an intense day of training in project planning, consider attending Do Something Boot Camp in New York or Los Angeles. also provides grant money to fund new projects. For more grant options, read through the listings at
Those interested in leadership and philanthropy may want to investigate Grab the Torch. Grab the Torch camps aim to train the next generation of philanthropists and civic leaders. Listen to the NPR story, Camp Motivates Teens to Consider Philanthropy.
Finally, during this week of community, take a moment for yourself and read the O. Henry short story, Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen. Consider: who is the real “gentleman,” and who the philanthropist in the story? How would you describe their actions? And, perhaps, most importantly, why are we so ready to help others on this day and not others? There exist many ways to improve our communities. Each bit of time, talent, and money helps to fulfill a need. You can help. How will you make a difference?
Newspaper Activities
Read the news in the local newspaper . Look for articles about people acting philanthropically. Who is helping and how are they helping? What needs are being met? Identify articles about a need for help. What help is needed? Why is this need necessary? What would be improved and for whom? What could you give and how would it help?
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