A Look in the Mirror

I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s post, A New Kind of Philanthropy. Today I wanted to talk little bit about a reflection that has been on my mind for a long time. Author Bill Somerville highlights in a few places in his book, Grassroots Philanthropy, what I have seen as a huge disconnect in true philanthropy.

A question I have asked myself many times is, “Isn’t philanthropy only possible because of a flawed economic system where a very few wealthy people have more than many unwealthy people?” Bill Summerville quotes an individual by the name of Luther King, “‘Philanthropy is commendable,’ wrote King, ‘but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.'”

I’ve always struggled when people talk about “ending hunger” or “ending poverty.” I absolutely believe we have the ability within ourselves and the economic means to solve hunger, poverty, or an other significant global problems. However, I have found that I do not have the own means of personal sacrifice necessary to make this come to fruition.

“In the world as it is now,” asserts the philosopher Peter Singer, “I can see no escape from the conclusion that each of us with wealth surplus to his or her essential needs should be giving most of it to help people suffering from poverty so dire as to be life-threatening. That’s right: I’m saying that you shouldn’t by that new car, take that cruise… whatever money you’re spending on luxuries, not necessities, should be given away.”

Those thoughts have stuck with me very strongly as I spend my life in fundraising trying to make the world a better place. Bill’s response to Peter is, “That’s a stiff standard, one that few of us are willing to embrace. But its severity also puts philanthropy in perspective. Aren’t we obligated to make greater efforts to ameliorate the lot of people suffering in our midst?”

I’ve made a pretty bold statement one that I acknowledge I am guilty of myself. So what is your response and what should my response be? What kind of “greater efforts” can we make to “ameliorate the lot of people suffering in our midst?”


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