Philanthropy and indulgence


Pope Leo XWhen Pope Leo X (whose birthday was earlier this week) rebuilt the Basilica of St Peter, he had a trick up his embroidered sleeve.  He offered indulgences (essentially the forgiveness of sins) in exchange for contributions.  History does not look kindly on him.

21st century fund raisers don’t tend to offers escape from hellfire in exchange for a donation.  But we are in the spirituality business.

There is no shortage of marketeers trying to persuade each of us that we will be happier if we buy their product.  “You deserve it” is a refrain that we hear with mind numbing frequency about a vast array of THINGS.

Yet, over and over again, people stare at that dollar which they earned or inherited — that dollar which is safely in their own possession — and decide to put it to work making the world a better place for someone else.

And we fund raisers are the conduits of that decision.  We do not make the decision, but we invite, encourage, facilitate, honor, recognize, and celebrate it.

The literal meaning of philanthropy – the love of humankind – seems more and more aptly to describe the business we are in.  So take a moment away from reconciling bank deposits, entering gifts in your database, and mail-merging thank you letters.  And bask in the delight of knowing how important you are.